Category Archives: Bristol

Less tax for landlords in Bristol?

Should the Bristol City Council be accepting sponsorship from a company whose stated purpose is for landlords to pay less tax?

In October 2016, Mr Rees warned cuts of £92m would have to be made to Bristol City Council’s budget by 2022, with further savings of £33m before the end of the the 2016-17 financial year.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-39526029

So why were they accepting sponsorship for the Landlords Expo held on May 25, from Less Tax for Landlords.

“Less Tax For Landlords is a specialist tax and estate planning service dedicated to the needs of those who are involved in owning commercial property, residential buy-to-lets, HMOs, investment property, or property development.

Our goal is to help you build and run a highly tax efficient professional property business, and to pass on your hard-earned wealth to those you care about most, minimising tax leakage insofar as the law allows, and all whilst keeping  you in full control of your affairs today.”

One of the company’s directors, Malcolm Keith Rose, is associated with 10 other companies including LESS LAW FOR LANDLORDS LIMITED. Less law for landlords sounds like something in line with the legislation that failed to pass last year when Tories rejected a move to ensure rented homes were fit for human habitation. (Read debate on the Housing and Planning Bill here).

An Act that is accused of allowing the selling of housing association properties, subsidising that sale by selling council properties, reducing local authority incomes to build properties by reducing rent, and allowing developers to get away without building any social homes.

Some legislation that affects property owners is that since 2016, “buyers have had to pay an extra stamp duty surcharge of 3pc of the value of a home if it is not their main residence.”

At the same time the general population and the most deprived communities have had to deal with the effects of austerity, which include the slashing of local council funding, “[t[he most deprived all-purpose authorities saw cuts of more than £220 per head compared with under £40 per head for the least deprived.”

And let’s not forget that under the previous mayor, Marvin Rees complained about council homes being sold off and wanted to wait until after the election. In reality, had the council houses been sold any later, the money would have had to be given to the government and not been available to use to fund new council houses.

“[E]xisting council building programmes are often partly financed from the revenue projected from selling a small number of the most expensive council homes. Most of that revenue will now be seized by central government to fund discounts under the new Right to Buy instead.”

In a city where Labour mayor, Marvin Rees has vowed to build 800 new homes a year until 2020, should there be any support for such a company as ‘Less Tax For Landlords’?

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Colours Along The Floating Harbour, Bristol

Colours Along The Floating Harbour

Baby Boomers, All About Age?

Ed Howker and Shiv Malik were at the Arnolfini as part the Festival of Ideas. Howker and Malik have written the book Jilted Generation: How Britain Has Bankrupted Its Youth.

“Born after September 1979? Struggling to find a decent job, even though you’re a graduate? Can’t afford to buy or even rent a house? No prospects? Welcome to the jilted generation. Things go wrong in society all the time, but rarely do they go wrong for an entire generation” says the summary at the back of the book.

Apparently these two authors did their own research and discovered that today’s young people (31 and under) did actually face a harder time than young people of 30 to 40 years ago. Pardon me for my lack of enthusiasm when Malik told us that he’d had to learn to use Excel and to draw up graphs and everything. Compare that to the 1.38 million hits that social mobility as a search term brings up in Google Scholar.

Some of the issues that young people are facing according to the authors:

  • Being stuck in the rental sector, over 50% of young people rent because they can’t afford to buy;
  • Student fees mean that young people start off their professional lives in debt.
  • General financial situation: increased national debt because of the costs of pensions and the NHS etc.

Why do these things matter?

  • Because young people will stop having children, apparently there is a statistical link to housing and money;
  • Society will lose its communities;
  • People will stop having relationships;
  • People will start leaving the country.

The political part of the discussion focussed on neoliberalism and the rise of Thatcherism. There was some discussion about demographics and market research and how we were now segmented into voters. Politics focuses on short term discussions rather than the real issues apparently.

Also, young people just weren’t involved in politics any more, they weren’t striking, they weren’t protesting and they were generally apathetic. The irony of the pair’s own friends who were policy advisers and that at 29 they told us they were themselves too old to advise politicians seemed to pass them by.

The relationship between the media and politics was questioned and we were told that editors are usually much older and this was the problem.

Ed Howker rejected the idea of class as a determinant of how society works. Then when I questioned why they, two 29 year old journalists, who in general are professionals who will have grown up in families that are better off than three in four of all families in the UK, and both married saw themselves as facing the same issues as young kids from Brixton (an example from another audience member) – Shiv got defensive and wondered why his choice to get married should have any affect.

Most of the talk was based on generalisations, 50% of young people are now in higher education we were told. In actual fact the real rate was 45% in 2008/09. But those 45 out of 100 are not randomly plucked out of the population. Female and male young people face a difference at 51% and 40%, respectively. Also, “currently fewer than one in five young people from the most disadvantaged areas enter higher education compared to more than one in two for the most advantaged areas.” (2010, Hefce 10/03).

It was a fascinating talk and most of it was shallow enough to raise many arguments. Some audience members agreed with the ‘analysis’ and told about how their children spent too much money. Another woman nearly had tears in her eyes talking about how she had to go on the dole in January after being very well educated. I was reminded of the David Icke documentary I saw one time where the existence of lizard people was combined with discussions of 9/11 and terrorism. Just because some elements are true does not mean that we need to believe the rest.

Playing On The Side, North St



Playing On The Side, North St, originally uploaded by still awake.

Transported: When Not Waiting

In December 2009, I was running for the morning train through the dark and rainy streets of Bristol. The time was just before seven and the train doors were beginning to close as I sprinted towards the barriers. The guard used his pass to let me through the gate and then pointed towards the end of the train while the manager held the remaining open door for me.

The train left a few seconds late that morning because of the efforts at Bristol Temple Meads. I was so enthused by the wonderful treatment that my compliments were effusive on Twitter. The response from some was that at least the staff were nice this once. I realised, however, that there had been very few bad days overall. That was one magical event in a series of pretty ok travelling over four years.

The inside of the train is usually warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I tend to get a seat and occasionally have the privilege of having a table to myself. The waiting part is the worst because not only is it indeterminate but the standing around is done outside. Buses are more variable in their service probably due to traffic and other urban centre issues. Trains seem to be better at getting there.

This isn’t just anecdotal information; the annual public performance measures by the Office of Rail Regulation backs up my memories with data. A train is defined as being “on time” if it arrives within five minutes or ten minutes of the planned destination arrival time.

The service I use is now run by CrossCountry but was run by Virgin. In Quarter 2, the on time measures were 89.9% for 2008/09 and 91.8% for 2009/10. Compare that to Virgin whose on time statistics were 81.9% for 2008/09, a huge difference, especially for anyone waiting out in the cold. However even they have improved to around 90%.

When everything runs on time, and that includes my waking up, I can be home in Bristol by 6.30pm. Other times, of course, it’s not that easy.

I remember a winter three years ago when I was still reading my Terry Pratchett book at 8pm in the snow while waiting for the Virgin train which didn’t want to arrive. I went home through Newport once because the track to Bristol had to be closed off. There was snow and ice on the tracks that closed off the Severn Tunnel and made a morning’s journey much longer but provided some beautiful Welsh scenery and the slow journey behind a regional train that extended the 42 minutes into over 160. These tales of woe, however, are sparse and in between. In February 2009, the snow in England which shut down most work was mostly ignored by the trains although I was warned to avoid travelling by a colleague who arrived in Cheltenham and couldn’t get to work because the buses had been stopped. He paused for a coffee and then went back home.

The commute may not be as lovely a journey as those on the Orient Express but it’s usually a nice break from reality and punctuated by a cup of coffee and a good book.

on time

The Views From Vauxhall Bridge Are Forever, Bristol

Hiding At The End Of The Day, Bristol