There is much to enjoy in this little story about budgets for council housing. For while all bien pensant non-thinkers are loudly screaming that very much more of your and my tax money must be spent upon housing for their political constituency the actual mechanism they wish to use, local councils, is returning council housing money to the Treasury. Because they cannot spend what they’ve already got.

Yes, that’s right, council housing budgets are currently too large. Which is something that we should not be allowed to ponder, obviously:

MPs are demanding an urgent explanation from ministers after being told that £817m allocated for desperately needed affordable housing and other projects in cash-strapped local authorities has been returned to the Treasury unspent.

The surrender of the unused cash has astonished members of the cross-party housing, communities and local government select committee at a time when Theresa May has insisted housebuilding is a top priority and when many local authorities are becoming mired in ever deeper financial crises.

On Monday the committee, which discovered the underspend for 2017-18, will interrogate housing minister Dominic Raab and homelessness minister Heather Wheeler on the issue, before Tuesday’s spring statement by the chancellor, Philip Hammond. He is under heavy pressure from MPs, and the Tory-controlled Local Government Association, to signal extra help for the local authority sector, which has seen budget cuts of around 50% since 2010.

From which pondering we can gain several things. The first and most obvious being that there’s no quick solution to whatever you might wish to define as Britain’s housing problem. If even those in receipt of free money, local councils getting central funds, cannot spend the cash in a budgetary year then clearly we’ve weighed down the sector with far too much bureaucracy and red tape. It’s not actually difficult to buy some land and knock up a few hovels. Gaining the paperwork, even if you’re the council issuing the paperwork, does seem to be problematic in any thing less than geological time. Which gives us one answer to Britain’s housing problems, free up the permission process by blowing up the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and successors.

The second is that much more general point, government’s just not very good at spending money. Therefore less of national life should have the money channelled through government. Minarchism rules that is.

The third is that the corollary explains more normal budgetary processes. As we near the end of any budget year funds unspent get thrown out at any plan with a pulse. Exactly to avoid this possibility, that monies will be returned to the Treasury and next year’s budget increase will therefore be difficult to argue for. And what is any bureaucracy without an increasing budget to show its increasing importance?

But to the grand lesson. Government’s not very good at doing things therefore we should only use government to do those things which both must be done and which can only be done by government. Seeing as there are plenty of people who can build houses government shouldn’t be doing that. QED.

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Twatting on Tim
Guest

That got me thinking Timmy whilst the maid was serving me breakfast. What puzzles me is why Corbyn et al and/or LDs don’t go on the offensive, faced with actual Tory policies that defy ‘One Nation’ claims? I haven’t a clue why. Look at some 20th.C political history, although it covers the period when baby boomers grew up. UK public debt in 1955 was 140% of GDP, well above today’s. Harold Macmillan, then Housing Minister, later Prime Minister, was MP for Stockton, a working-class seat. Despite his posh/paternalistic background he was clearly a very one-nation Tory, with economic policies distinctly… Read more »

So Much For Subtlety
Guest
So Much For Subtlety

As some dead American once said, the problem with people is that so much they know ain’t so. Finding the land? Easy; look at how Letchworth or Milton Keynes did it or at how councils in the Netherlands and Germany acquire land, give it planning permission and sell it to developers or self-builders. …. It’s called local democracy;. Most countries have it, the UK doesn’t seem to understand it. As anyone who has looked at the problem has realised, the problem with housing is not money. It is not land. It is planning permission. We could find the money if… Read more »

Rhoda Klapp
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Rhoda Klapp

Don’t mention the I-word. Don’t mention the demand side.

Dave
Guest
Dave

“What puzzles me is why Corbyn et al and/or LDs don’t go on the offensive, faced with actual Tory policies that defy ‘One Nation’ claims? I haven’t a clue why.”

Because the last chap who ran a country on Corbynite lines demolished 2 million homes in the UK between 1939 and 1944.

Mr Ecks
Guest
Mr Ecks

Cutting all the Murphbollocks fat off Twatty’s contributions would leave him with just the title in most cases. Good. The Fatnecked clone could at least try to make up his own lies.

The list of stuff the govt should do is very, very small. The World would be so much better if looking for such a list WAS the govts only function.

Bernie G.
Guest
Bernie G.

Couple of days ago I listened to an interview with Nigel Wilson, Chief Exec Legal & General. Says they invested £1 billion last year in Built to Let, that there is also an ever-expanding demand for over 55’s housing – that the world and his granny are queuing up to invest in UK housing if only the government would ease up on planning restrictions. Seems all the government has to do is to get out the way and the market will solve everything. Always providing we can import 500,000 Polish brickies, sparkies, plumbers, etc.

Mr Ecks
Guest
Mr Ecks

“That got me thinking Timmy whilst the maid was serving me breakfast.” A patronising cunt isn’t he. Even when you are supposed to think that he is jesting. “What puzzles me is why Corbyn et al and/or LDs don’t go on the offensive, faced with actual Tory policies that defy ‘One Nation’ claims? I haven’t a clue why.” The last sentence is the key. “Look at some 20th.C political history, although it covers the period when baby boomers grew up. ” That wasn’t in the 20th Century then? “UK public debt in 1955 was 140% of GDP, well above today’s.… Read more »

Firefoxx
Guest
Firefoxx

Personally I am very pleased Mr Murphy posts here and find the arguments interesting if sometimes a bit long. He is trying to link several points together in many cases.

Let’s please address the arguments themselves, as we would wish others to do to ours. This could be a really interesting debate.

So Much For Subtlety
Guest
So Much For Subtlety

He doesn’t have any arguments and there is no evidence he reads them. He is just spamming so he can get banned. Then he can say that TW bans people too.

Rhoda Klapp
Guest
Rhoda Klapp

Yep. But I still wish he was banned for bad manners.

Mr Ecks
Guest
Mr Ecks

Don’t ban him. Tim just needs to remove the reprinted Murphy bollocks from each posting. Since that is roughly 100% of Twatty’s output he will get sick of seeing his name with fuckall under it (save perhaps a note from Tim to the effect that “plagiarised materials have been deleted from this post” etc) and he will either fuck off or start at least spewing his own poison.

Spike
Member

Indeed, his very first post here noted we are neoliberal and took that to mean he is invited. He is here solely to wreck the site, and when Tim realizes that we want to read each other’s reactions to Tim’s columns, and not wade past shouting matches with a troll, the troll will return home and bray, as lefties do, “They’re all hypocrites!!!”

PF
Guest
PF

It’s not the Murf. Whatever one might think of Richard – ego, utter bollocks, etc, yes sure – but this looks like someone struggling (looking at the other posts)?

PF
Guest
PF

Ecks

“plagiarised materials have been deleted from this post”

That makes good sense, because no one wants to see all of their “very best material” simply plagiarised on another site… It won’t deal with the problem this poor chap has of course.

Gamecock
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Gamecock

‘The second is that much more general point, government’s just not very good at spending money.’

At risk of repeating myself . . . you have it backwards. Government is fabulous at spending money. They are awful buyers. Since they are spending Other People’s Money, they don’t exercise care, and spend freely.

Absolutely Not the Absolute Boy
Guest
Absolutely Not the Absolute Boy

Re “Twatting on Tim’s” guesstimate. Construction industry cost data for house building indicates that the the national median cost to build a 3-bed, 4-person 2-storey house designed to the Nationally Described Space Standard (i.e. with an internal area of 84 square metres) is about £97,000. This is the cost of building just the house; on to this needs to be added the cost of external landscaping (gardens, footpaths, fences, walls, planting), infrastructure (roads, power, water, gas, sewerage, telecoms) and fees (consultants’ fees, CIL, s.106, s.278, etc.). This varies according to the location and circumstances of the build, but adds about… Read more »

Theophrastus
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Theophrastus

“…free up the permission process by blowing up the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and successors.”

That would soon result in a vast loss of amenities in this crowded isle. The TCP Acts only need amending to allow for ‘directed development’. Every district in the UK has some sites that could be developed for housing without loss of amenity – much of the West Midlands, for example – and where connections to utilities are readily available. Cut the red tape on directed development sites, guarantee approval within 10 working days, and house building will surge.

Molon Labe
Guest
Molon Labe

I’ve been heavily involved in trying to build a £1.5M mixed use development in a posh part of London for 4 years now and we have yet to secure planning permission. The costs and red tape involved are absolutely horrendous and the highest indirect cost imposed on us by the Local Planning Authority is their requirement that we build the non-residential part of the development to BREEAM Excellent standard (BREEAM, in case you don’t know, is a form of virtue signalling eco-lunacy which the Low Carbon Consultancy Industry is milking for all it’s worth). There is also a substantial amount… Read more »

Spike
Member

Likewise, Bruce Bialosky today documents the things California is doing to make housing unaffordable, notably requiring everyone on the job to be paid union wages despite being willing to work for less.

https://townhall.com/columnists/brucebialosky/2018/03/11/california-to-take-over-housing-market-n2458490

If a rollback of regulation preserves a Heritage Statement, where the developer is required to write about whether his use of his land affects anything I consider my cultural birthright, then the rollback has not rolled back far enough.

Dave
Guest
Dave

In California, making housing unaffordable is the _intention_ of those policies. Cranking up house prices is pretty effectively ethnically cleansing the state of Mexican immigrants.

Spike
Member

Too bad about the millions of productive native Californians who were swept away in the cleaning. The Mexicans (no, many did not immigrate) are now in tent cities in LA in someone else’s parking lot or vacant lot, left to their own devices until the stench begins to bother city fathers.

Dave
Guest
Dave

I didn’t think there were that many native Californians left. Weren’t they almost wiped out in the 19th century?

Molon Labe
Guest
Molon Labe

@Spike
Thanks for that link.
In a nutshell, Government intervention to provide more ‘affordable’ housing only serves to make all housing more unaffordable.

And as SMFS alluded to above, local government IS the problem. Take ALL planning decision making away from the LPAs and give it to the National Planning Inspectorate instead (or better still the private sector) and that will prevent the capture of the planning process by NIMBYism.

Spike
Member

Indeed there is little that government can do to lower the price of housing, as even a new regulation with which the builder was already in full compliance must be learned, communicated, and compliance must be documented. I don’t agree on moving planning to a national inspectorate. The problem is government power over the use of private property, having nothing to do with inadvertent trespass such as pollution; not that the power was captured. Give the power to the more remote national level rather than the local, and it will still be “captured,” not by parochial affectations but by global… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Molon Labe>

Try employing a couple of councillors and/or planning officers as ‘planning consultants’. You’ll get everything through without delays. It’s the normal cost of doing property development in the UK these days.

jgh
Guest
jgh

That picture (looks like it) is of houses build by a local council in the 1930s. Back then, local councils could just get a (almost) “normal” mortgage from the Public Works Board, buy land, and build, with the finances structured to pay off the loan, just as any other developer in the 1930s was doing. Many 1930s council and private estates are nearly interchangable, with local councils being “just another” developer. It was after WW2 and the T&CPA that central government started meddling and both making local council house-building harder and imposing speed and quantity requirements. By coincidence, Ivor Smith… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

jgh> Park Hill is an excellent case study if you want to look properly at what was good and bad about that style of housing. One thing is clear, and that’s that they got it mostly right. The problems that estate suffered are not because of the overall design, they’re because of relatively minor aspects of it – things we’ve now learnt not to do, or to do better. Many of the issues were down to the local council running it as slum housing, unmaintained and full of the kind of tenants they couldn’t house elsewhere. Some were inherent to… Read more »