So it turns out that two of the most read posts on my blog in 2014 were written in… er… 2012.
This is the time when anyone with a WordPress blog gets sent their stats for the year. It’s a chance to take stock of what you’re doing and who’s paying attention to it.
If you’re interested, you can see the complete report here. My ten best read posts of 2014 were:
- 10 things you may not know about the Beveridge report
- Property and the political elite
- Revealing the real Rachman?
- Benefits Street, The Spongers and welfare reality
- Appearance and reality in the 2014 housing market
- The bedroom tax: only fair to private tenants?
- What do Power Lists say about who really has power?
- Minding the gap or moving the government?
- Rachman, rogues and renting
- The West London question
The first of a two-part look back at the issues and people that I’ve been blogging about this year.
1) Groundhog Day on the bedroom tax
The year ended as it began, in a welter of parliamentary accusation and counter-accusation that left tenants in England and Wales still having to pay the under-occupation penalty. A Commons debate in December just before the Christmas recess a classic example: Labour called a vote condemning the bedroom tax that didn’t actually change anything; the Lib Dems voted in favour and produced a weasly justification for the decision; and the Conservatives went from claiming it would save £1 million a day in January to £500 million, £1 billion and even £2 billion by the end of the year.
However, there were at least three occasions during the year when it looked as though significant changes would be achieved.
More than one MP compared Wednesday’s debate on the bedroom tax to Groundhog Day and it was not hard to see why.
Labour calls a debate that will not change anything but is designed to expose the Conservatives as callous and the Liberal Democrats as collaborators. The Conservatives (as personified by pictures of a laughing Iain Duncan Smith) duly live up to their billing. The Lib Dems accuse Labour of playing games but end up seeming to vote for something that they were against before they were in favour of it. We’ve been here many times before.
A Labour motion ‘that this House believes…the bedroom tax should be abolished with immediate effect’ was voted down by 298-266. A coalition amendment approved by 300-262 extols its record on cutting the welfare bill but also ‘notes’ that ‘the part of the coalition led by the deputy prime minister has proposed reforms to introduce other formal exemptions to the policy, including where claimants have not been made a reasonable alternative offer of accommodation’.
The net result of all that politics was that nothing much changed yesterday apart from UKIP’s Douglas Carswell voting against the policy he supported as a Conservative. But the sense of déjà vu hanging over the opposition day debate was about much more than just that. Here are some high (or low) lights:
-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
The New Homes Bonus, the government’s flagship policy on housing supply, is listing badly. Does it deserve to stay afloat?
Labour has pledged to scrap the policy introduced by Grant Shapps as a ‘powerful new incentive’ for local communities to support new homes. The National Audit Office delivered a damning verdict last year. And a Conservative member of the public accounts committee memorably described it as a Rolls Royce idea that ended up as a Reliant Robin in practice.
Now, the government has finally published an evaluation, which summarises the results of internal DCLG and externally commissioned the research. So what’s the verdict?
The government’s plan for starter homes with a 20 per cent discount begs all sorts of questions. Today we got some of the answers.
The scheme announced by David Cameron this morning was first trailed in his conference speech in October as an idea for after the election but has now apparently been brought forward to start early next year.
Some of the details of Dave’s Dream Homes seem to have changed along the way. According to a DCLG consultation also published today, the starter homes initiative seems to amount to an extension of rural exceptions sites to urban areas. So how will it work?
What would it mean if George Osborne succeeds in cutting public spending to its lowest level since the 1930s?
The scale of the cuts for the rest of this decade implied by the deficit reduction targets in the Autumn Statement takes us into territory uncharted since the war. Many people believe Osborne has moved from the realms of the unlikely to the realms of fantasy and it’s not hard to see why. If the chancellor missed the deficit targets he set out in 2010 by a wide margin, why should we accept what he says in 2014? Especially when he says he can cut taxes at the same time.
Osborne must have hoped that all the headlines would be about stamp duty reform. Instead, news coverage has instead been dominated by the Office for Budget Responsibility’s projections of what further austerity would mean for the public sector. This graph on government consumption as a proportion of GDP sums it up:
In the last week parliament has had the chance to tackle two of the most glaring injustices for private tenants and flunked both of them.
After debates in the Lords on Monday and Commons on Friday, letting agents are free to carry on charging outrageous fees to tenants and landlords can continue to evict tenants in retaliation for complaining about unsafe conditions.
The last word on Friday afternoon went to one of the villains of the week proved to be ironically apt. ‘We must not treat the people who enter into these contracts as imbeciles,’ was the very last sentence uttered by Christopher Chope before the debate was terminated and he and Conservative backbench colleague Philip Davies completed their successful attempt to talk out the Tenancies (Reform) Bill.