Housing benefit

The argument about the housing benefit issue continues unabated.

There are said to be “very real concerns about poorer families being forced out of central London into the outer boroughs” and the Children’s Minister thinks “that’s a very legitimate concern“. Boris Johnson is even talking, in his typically overblown fashion, about the “social cleansing” of central London.

Well, yes. But what about this:

I have been afforded many opportunities in life, some by my parents, some by the State (grammar school, Cambridge University), for which I am very grateful. As a result, and due to good fortune and my own years of hard work, I am lucky enough to be employed and, without looking likely to trouble the 50p income tax rate in the near future, find myself, in the latter half of my 30s, in a position to fund the costs of my family’s accommodation without recourse to State assistance.

I have lived for the last few years with my wife in a small flat in central London. But we now have a 1 year old child, hope to have another baby, and this means that our current accommodation really isn’t suitable any more and we could do with a small house.

And guess what? It appears that I am being “being forced out of central London into the outer boroughs” in order to be able to find one that I can actually afford to buy or rent.

I’ll miss central London, and hate the commute, but this is just the reality of life, isn’t it?

It would be grand if everyone who worked in central London could have a nice family house 10 minutes walk away from work, but given the numbers of people who work here compared with the amount of space and available housing, this aspiration has not been remotely possible for the large majority for a very long time indeed. Given this to be the case, how can it be right that such an aspiration ought to be funded by the taxpayer for benefit claimants as if it were some kind of inalienable right?

I’m still with Grant Schapps on this one.

Posted in UK politics | Comments Off on Housing benefit

IFS, etc

The detailed progressive vs regressive analysis that has dominated the debate recently seems a bit over-complicated. The starting point was whether in cutting spending we were going to mostly reduce benefits and services or mostly increase taxes. As soon as it was decided to go with the former, the consequences were almost inevitably going to be “regressive”. Those who pay no taxes but receive lots of benefits and services are inevitably going to lose out more. Who needs all the analysis? Are progressives saying that we should just have left benefits and services for those who don’t earn alone and focussed all the cuts on areas that were entirely neutral as to the position on the income distribution of their beneficiaries? Could that possibly have worked?

Incidentally, do those mythical beasts who have previously been in receipt of £52,000+ a year in housing benefit count as “the rich” for the progressive/regressive analysis, or are you only rich if you earn it?

Posted in UK politics | Comments Off on IFS, etc

Text spam?

Got a text message at 8:43 this morning from a mobile number that I do not recognise, reading as follows:

Hi. Sorry. Having a shocker on the trains. Can we move our meeting to 2 instead? Thanks

I have no meeting scheduled for today with anyone who would be coming from out of London, and where would they be coming from anyway such that a train problem taking place before 9am would necessitate a move of a meeting to 2pm?

I assume that this is some kind of weird new spam, but what’s the trick?

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Housing benefit cap

One of the items on the BBC Politics Show for London yesterday was the proposal to cap housing benefit at £2,000 a month. Apparently, this may force 82,000 families in London to move. An eye-opening story, that I must confess had previously passed me by.

There was a good interview of Grant Shapps MP (Con.), Minister for Housing and Local Government, by the presenter, Tim Donovan. Mr Shapps’ position was that with housing benefit costing £21bn annually, something has to be done. Transitional funding will be put in place to avoid real hardship but, yes, some families would probably have to move. However, that was not intrinsically objectionable. Such choices about where to live based upon one’s means were no more than the sorts of decisions that people whose housing is not paid for by the State have to make all the time.

Despite the efforts of Mr Donovan to equate being “forced to move” due to affordability of rent with the much more emotive idea of “being made homeless”, a rhetorical line of attack that Mr Shapps was right to reject, I find it hard to believe that many (apart, perhaps, from those currently in receipt of housing benefit in excess of £2,000 a month) would find Mr Schapps’ position unreasonable or oppose this cap. On the contrary, I suspect that many would regard £2,000 as still too much and would be shocked that it is currently possible to get more than that.

Mr Donovan asked slyly whether benefit claimants shouldn’t be allowed to live in Westminster? In theory, yes, but this does not mean they should be entitled to an open-ended State subsidy in order to do so.

This article by Jenny Jones about the effects of the cap demonstrated to me how mad all of this is:

“In central London, the Local Housing Allowance gives families in four bedroom homes up to £1,000 per week to pay their rent. So families in Westminster and parts of boroughs such as Camden could be worse off by up to £600 per week, or £31,200 per year”.

So if you are on benefits, you can get £52,000 a year to pay your central London rent. Around double the national average pre-tax salary. That is insane.  I have to say, when people talk about “regressive cuts that target the sick and the unemployed”, depriving London housing benefit claimants of their £31,200 is not the sort of thing that I had in mind. That appears to me to be simply correcting a manifestly crazy and out-of-control situation.

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Libel reform?

I’m starting to come around to the idea that libel law may be being misused on occasion.

Initially, I had assumed that the libel reform campaign was all a put-up job by the press and various ego-maniac authors and smug comedians in order that they could destroy decent people’s reputations with impunity. I mean, the poor old chiropractors seemed rather hard done by. There they were, just trying to make a quiet living, and suddenly they were all over the papers accused of happily promoting bogus treatments for which there is not a jot of evidence. Which obviously would have been taken be any normal user of English to mean that they were a cynical bunch of con artists. No wonder they were pissed off.

But people ought surely to be able to slag off ‘think-tanks’ without getting sued for slander. If you’re in the business of promulgating controversial ideas in order to get media coverage, surely getting slagged off and/or compared to Hitler is part of the business? You can’t sue people for that!

Having said that, I’m still not sure how reform would work. The law itself seems more or less right as it is. The bad cases seem to lose, if fought. The problem appears to be the chilling effect of rich people or organisations threatening bad cases and getting less well-resourced people to back off. That problem of course exists in the law more generally. How are you going to deal with that?

Posted in Law | Comments Off on Libel reform?


I was confused as to why I had started getting emails attaching resumés and requests for temporary IT staff for short term contracts, but I just wondered whether the change of tag-line to “.foXinternet: a personal website, since 2001” is anything to do with it?

5/11/10 – Comments closed

Posted in Daftness | 3 Comments

Twitter joke trial

So it’s the appeal on the #TwitterJokeTrial tomorrow (details here).

It is interesting how when discussing Mr Chambers’ original twitter posting, many are careful to refer to it as “ill-conceived”, “misjudged”, and/or “admittedly not very funny”, before going on to discuss why it was nevertheless wrong for him to end up with a conviction for it.

I’m not sure if I would even say that. I would have thought that it was the sort of thing that anyone might have posted on somewhere like Twitter. That it was mere light-hearted hyperbole was immediately obvious to anyone reading it. I am quite sure that no-one was genuinely ‘menaced’ by it (if indeed it is even a “message” sent by means of a “public electronic telecommunications system” at all). It is only with hindsight of the ridiculous and frankly totally unforeseeable consequences that ensued that one would even say that it was particularly ill-conceived or misjudged.

It is very regrettable that Mr Chambers has ended up with a criminal conviction for this twitter posting and I wish him and his legal team (at least some of whom I gather are admirably acting pro bono) the best of luck in getting it quashed.

Posted in Law | Comments Off on Twitter joke trial

Consumer victory

Result! The company from which my parents purchased a summer house for their garden are going to compensate them in full for the wasted costs of workmen sat idle on site that arose due to delivery being late. I have been helping them on the strategy, legal analysis and correspondence.

Posted in Life | Comments Off on Consumer victory

What are the odds of that?

My Dad was driving past a golf course this week in his retirement present to himself – a brand new car, which he’d only picked up 10 days ago. Yes, you guessed it, an errant drive at that precise moment has resulted in a big dent in the middle of his roof.

The good news: golf courses are apparently insured against this sort of thing.

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How to get water out of your ear

Right: two days in and back with a vengeance with some seriously useful content.

You know when you have a shower in the gym at work and get water stuck in your ear that won’t come out, no matter how much you tip your head on its side and bang on the other side of your head? And how it’s really annoying when you get a funny hollow echo with every step due to the water that is stuck in your ear?

Well, that is what happened to me this week and so I did some research on the internet to find out how to cure it. I found the cure and I can report that it totally worked, immediately. But that’s just my personal experience: no liability accepted if you try it and it doesn’t work for you, or worse, causes any kind of problem including but not limited to some kind of irreparable harm to your ear or damage to your suit.

What you do is this:

  • Get a paper cup from the coffee area.
  • Fill it three-quarters full with warm water. Not too hot, not too cold. Think of the temperature of water that you would use to bath a baby, then a little colder than that.
  • Carry the cup of water off down the corridor away from the coffee area out into the reception area.
  • Go into the disabled toilet with the cup of water and lock the door.
  • Put the cup of cup of water down on the sink in the disabled toilet.
  • Take off your suit jacket, tie and shirt and hang them on the hook on the back of the door.
  • Go over to the sink and stand in front of the mirror.
  • Roll your head on its side, with the ear that has the water in it towards the top.
  • Take the cup of water and, looking in the mirror out of the corner of your eye in order to see what you are doing, pour the water slowly into the ear until the ear is completely full of water.
  • Wait 5 seconds.
  • Roll your head over the sink so that the ear that has the water in it is towards the bottom.

The water should pour out of the ear into the sink, also taking with it the original water that was stuck in there.

Job done. You can now put your shirt, tie and suit jacket back on, return to your desk and carry on with the working day.

5/11/10 – Comments closed

Posted in Tips and tricks | 2 Comments