Category Archives: Free Markets

Housing Nightmares

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Kensington: Inner London areas are increasingly only affordable to the super-rich. Picture © Yaanch

As the housing crisis continues, and more and more ordinary people are forced to leave areas where they can no longer afford to pay the astronomical rents, we hear that at the other end of society, the mega-rich are flocking to live in London in ever-greater numbers, as it becomes their destination of choice.* Research just released (the Wealth Report  by Knight Frank) has revealed that London is now the top city in the world for so-called UHNWI’s (Ultra High Net Worth Individuals – people worth more than $30m), coming ahead of even New York and Hong Kong. Despite policies of Austerity being inflicted on the majority of the population, London’s attraction is largely due to the very favourable tax regime for very wealthy people (so much for the government’s claim that ‘we’re all in it together’). The effect of all this money coming in to the London property market is to drive prices ever-higher, forcing up rents (which have increased 10% in the last year alone), and inflicting even more financial pain on the working population, as well as making it harder for those surviving on benefits.

Maybe if the government paid more attention to the daily struggles of ordinary people, rather than providing tax breaks for its wealthy buddies, the living standards of the majority of the population of this country might actually start to improve.

For more detail on how the housing crisis is affecting this country click here.

* References:

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/londons-3bn-ghost-mansions-foreign-investors-are-using-capitals-finest-homes-as-reallife-monopoly-pieces-9128782.html

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/03/05/wealth-report-london-not-new-york-is-world-s-greatest-city.html#url=/articles/2014/03/05/wealth-report-london-not-new-york-is-world-s-greatest-city.html

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British Gas – The Privatisation Con

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Gas – a basic resource which has now become a profit centre for fat-cat utilities. Picture © George Shuklin

Today the flagrant profiteering by Britain’s privatised utility companies was laid bare when Centrica, the owner of British Gas, announced its results, along with a threat to consumers that there would be blackouts if they weren’t allowed to make enough profits. Despite making £2.7bn  last year, Centrica’s Chairman, Rick Haythornthwaite said that if attacks on their business practices continued, they may decide to cut investment in power supplies which could lead to blackouts within 2 years*.

Blackmail? Surely not. The principle of privatisation was sold to us on the basis that competition, and the greater efficiencies of private industry, would lead to better services and reduced prices – not that we would all be held to ransom by fat-cat bosses. Apparently British Gas don’t even like the idea of competition now, and have complained about politicians encouraging consumers to switch supplier in the pursuit of cheaper prices. And to add insult to injury, Centrica Chief-Exec Sam Laidlaw said that criticism of the industry would justify pay-increases for him and his buddies – to make up for their jobs now being less pleasant! (He’s already due to get a £4.6m share bonus this year, and last year the top 5 earners at Centrica took home £16.4m between them.)

Privatisation of public services has been one big con, with the bosses simply using it as a cash-cow for themselves, while we all pay the price.

For more on everything that’s wrong with privatisation click here.

* http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2564328/Stop-bashing-lights-says-British-Gas-owner-Fury-warning-firm-posts-2-7bn-profit.html

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