Private landlords double housing benefit haul to £9.3bn

  • 20 August 2016
Flat balconyNearly half of all housing benefit claimants are now in work

Private landlords in the UK received twice as much in housing benefit last year – £9.3bn – as they did a decade ago, a report says.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) study said the increase was due to a big rise in the number of private tenants claiming housing benefit.

The NHF said this particular group of people had grown by 42% since 2008.

In 2006, some £4.6bn in housing benefit was paid to private landlords, a figure which had more than doubled by 2015.

NHF chief executive David Orr said: “It is madness to spend £9bn of taxpayers’ money lining the pockets of private landlords rather than investing in affordable homes.”

“The lack of affordable housing available means that a wider group of people need housing benefit,” he added.

Working poor

Had these housing benefit claimants been living in social housing instead of renting from private landlords, taxpayers would have saved huge sums of money over seven years, the NHF report estimated.

It said that taxpayers paid £1,000 more per year, per family renting in the private rented sector, than they did for those in social housing.

This amounted to an average of £2.2bn a year extra being handed over to private landlords, at a cumulative additional cost of £15.6bn over the past seven years, the NHF analysis says.

If this extra housing benefit bill for just one year had been spent on creating new affordable housing, the NHF added, then nearly 50,000 new homes could have been built.

The report also points out that a larger proportion of families claiming housing benefit in the private rented sector are now in work.

“Today, nearly half (47%) of all families claiming housing benefit in the private rented sector are in work – this is nearly double the proportion it was six years ago (26%),” the NHF said.

‘Tenants failed’

A government spokesman said it had been taking action to bring the housing benefit bill under control.

He said: “Since 2012 the amount going to private sector landlords has actually been falling – something which the National Housing Federation fails to recognise.”

“We are also committed to building the homes this country needs and investing £8bn to build 400,000 more affordable homes.”

Chris Norris, head of policy at the National Landlords Association, said the private rented sector was responding to the increasing demand for homes from a growing proportion of tenants who are being failed by the social housing sector and housing associations.

“The NHF is clearly still reeling from the news that its members have been ordered by government to reduce spending over the next four years, so it comes as no surprise that they are looking to shift the emphasis and point the finger elsewhere,” he said.

“However, the private rented sector plays a pivotal role in providing much-needed homes for tenants so there seems no real purpose in the NHF taking a cheap shot at landlords for what is a failure on behalf of successive governments to adequately allocate its housing budget and to incentivise the building of new homes.”

Queen Elizabeth has vast, secret, Bank of England shareholding

    Tony Gosling Jun 12, 2012 At last making some real headway with this vexing question of who owns the shares of the Bank of England. This ain’t nationalisation ma’am!
    2 Extracts from


    WAR OF THE WINDSORS A Century of Unconstitutional Monarchy

By Lynne Picnett, Clive Prince and Stephen Prior With additional historical research by Robert Brydon Mainstream publishing – 2003 ISBN: 1 84018 766 2

    EXTRACT 1/2: THE BANK OF ENGLAND NOMINEES In early 1973 new legislation governing the ownership of shares was proposed by the Heath Government. This would force stockbroking companies to disclose the names of the individuals on whose behalf they bought shares (to prevent them gaining a controlling interest in a company by buying shares in several different names). The Queen was concerned that this would mean that details of her private investments would be made public, which would allow her personal wealth to be calculated – which the royal family had always strenuously avoided – and asked her Private Secretary, Sir Martin Charteris (who had succeeded Sir Michael Adeane in 1972), to express her anxiety to Edward Heath. The legislation was delayed, but eventually became law – under Labour in 1976 as the Companies Act. However, a special clause was included that exempted a new shareholding company, Bank of England Nominees. This was established with the purpose of handling investments solely on behalf of heads of state and their immediate families. This allowed the Queen’s investments and those of her family – along with those of other heads of state, such as the Sultan of Brunei, who were quick to take advantage of the exemption – to be effectively concealed. Extraordinarily, not even the Chancellor of the Exchequer is permitted to know about the Queen’s personal investments. Andrew Morton writes: The result of this legislation has been to cocoon further the royal finances in a web of mystery. Journalists who delve into dusty share registers find the impenetrable phrase ‘Bank of England Nominees’ staring back at them when they try to find a hint of royal investment in a company. The justification for the clause was that public knowledge about where the Queen invested her money might influence the market. However, that this was just an excuse is revealed by a memo sent from the Palace to the Government saying that it is ‘to be congratulated on a neat and defensible solution’. In other words, the Palace were pleased that the Government had come up with a way of justifying the secrecy.
    EXTRACT 2/2 ……..Thanks to the legal privileges she enjoys – such being able to hide her investments behind the screen of the Bank of England Nominees – the Queen’s personal wealth is literally incalculable. There is no information available to enable it to be calculated with certainty, although a recent analysis by the Independent estimated Elizabeth II’s personal fortune to be around £175 million. Of course, the question can fairly be asked why her subjects need to know about her private means, which are quite separate from the government funds intended to pay for her expenses as Head of State. But the distinction is not always clear: for example, although the estates at Balmoral and Sandringham – acquired in Victoria’s reign – are said to be the Queen’s private property, there is evidence that Victoria and Albert acquired them at least partly with money diverted from the Civil List, in which case surely the state has a claim on them? And when these houses are occupied they are paid for by the taxpayer, on the grounds that wherever the Queen is she is always the Head of State. What of the Royal Collection – the works of art that according to one estimate are worth around £7 billion, and which contain three times as many paintings as the National Gallery? In theory the Queen holds all these ‘in trust’ for the nation; in practice she alone possesses them, while they remain largely unseen by the rest of us (at anyone time, less than a half of a per cent of the collection is on public display). There is also the very vexed question of the ‘grace and favour’ properties, paid for the state but occupied by……
    WAR OF THE WINDSORS CONTENTS Acknowledgements Prologue 1. ‘A Kingly Caste of Germans’ 2. ‘The People’s Prince’ 3. ‘Christ! What’s Going to Happen Next?’ 4. ‘A Kind of English National Socialist’ 5. ‘The Most Unconstitutional Act’ 6. ‘The End of Many Hopes’ 7. ‘The House of Mountbatten Now Reigns!’ 8. ‘That German Princeling’ 9. ‘In Spite of Everything, He was a Great Man’ 10. ‘After All I’ve Done for this F-ing Family’ 11. ‘There are Powers at Work in This Country About Which We Have No Knowledge’ Notes and References Bibliography Index

Empty homes: graphics show shocking extent of Britain’s unnecessary homelessness

Empty Homes in England

Empty Homes in England04 March 2016

Many cities across Britain are becoming more and more like ghost towns as absentee owners push up property prices but fail to contribute to the local economy.
Many cities across Britain are becoming more and more like ghost towns as absentee owners push up property prices but fail to contribute to the local economy.

There are multiple reasons as to why properties are left empty on a long term basis with the top four being:

  • Landlords are unable to afford repairs for it to be suitable for a new tenant
  • It’s an inherited property and the new owners are unsure what to do with it
  • Renovations are taking a long time or they have stalled
  • The owners are waiting for the market value to increase before a sale

Unsurprisingly, more than three quarters of British adults (78%) think that the Government should place a higher priority on tackling empty homes.

In addition, with cuts to housing benefit, welfare reform and a huge lack of affordable housing, homelessness is a crisis that has seen a 26% rise in the last four years. Statistics have shown that if empty homes were put back into use, there would be the equivalent of eleven homes per person registered as being accepted as homeless and in priority need.

Whilst public perception and the vast numbers of homelessness and empty homes instill a sense of urgency, official statistics show that numbers of empty homes have been consistently decreasing over the last 10 years. There’s still much to be done; however, it’s positive that the cities and community groups are making a stronger effort to reduce both numbers.

We are on hand to support new owners with selling their homes in a swift and effective manner to get properties back on the market and inhabited as soon as possible.

To show further support to the campaign to prevent homelessness and support those without homes, we have made a donation to “Homes from Empty Homes”.

For further information support regarding empty homes in England, you can visit:

For further information about homelessness in England, you can find out more at:

You can download our data visualisations as a PDF by clicking here

Passing Clouds eviction: Supporters of Dalston music venue protest outside court

08 August 2016 –

Passing Clouds supporters outside court. (Picture: Polly Hancock).

Passing Clouds supporters outside court. (Picture: Polly Hancock).

Passing Clouds is the latest music venue to be targeted by developers who want a piece of Hackney’s thriving reputation. Protesters were outside court on Friday morning as the landlord applied for an eviction notice. The Gazette was there too.

Eleanor Wilson (right) heading into court for the hearing. (Picture: Polly Hancock).Eleanor Wilson (right) heading into court for the hearing. (Picture: Polly Hancock).

Anyone who’s walked around Hackney in the last few months will have seen signs in shop windows reading “Passing Clouds forever”.

Passing Clouds is an independent music venue in Dalston, one of the few left in the whole of London. More than 5,000 musicians from 100 countries have performed there in the last 10 years and it’s got huge support from the community, politicians and the music industry.

Jack Yglesias a musician, artist was showing his support. (Picture: Polly Hancock).Jack Yglesias a musician, artist was showing his support. (Picture: Polly Hancock).

On Friday morning, that support was out in force at Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Court, where the landlord, Landhold Developments, was making an application to evict Passing Clouds from the building.

Spirits were high as dozens of protesters lined Gee Street and director Eleanor Wilson was given a rousing reception on her arrival.

Passing Clouds staff Freddy Burls and Sophia Lysaczenko. (Picture: Polly Hancock).Passing Clouds staff Freddy Burls and Sophia Lysaczenko. (Picture: Polly Hancock).

There were people of all ages outside as musicians strummed away and others tried their best to create a genuine carnival atmosphere complete with face painting and fancy dress.

The only thing missing was records playing as people danced (and hula-hooped) in the street in front of bemused builders.

The group celebrate after their show of people power. Picture: www.borisaustin.comThe group celebrate after their show of people power. Picture:

Some then went into court for the hearing, which was swiftly adjourned until Friday.

Sadly, this is just the latest development in a long legal battle between the two parties that started with the “secret sale” of the venue in November – after management had spent years trying to buy it from the previous landlord.

The scheduled events went ahead as planned after the venue was reclaimed. Picture: www.borisaustin.comThe scheduled events went ahead as planned after the venue was reclaimed. Picture:

A lease extension was initially granted until August, but on the night of June 16 bailiffs were sent in to change the locks.

What they didn’t count on was 200 people, mostly musicians, arriving within hours of the discovery to force them back out in a defiant act of people power.

The building has been occupied 24/7 ever since by the Passing Clouds community, who are desperate to stop it going the way of so many other independent music venues. A three-month, 10th birthday celebration featuring concerts from Mercury-prize winning artist Speech Debelle, Lee Scratch Perry, and Maxi Jazz of Faithless has carried on as planned.

Gary McKenzie is the private hire boss at Passing Clouds. Speaking outside the court, he told the Gazette: “It [the venue] is so important for the community and for world music.

“Venues like ours are what attracts people to the area. No one would have wanted to come if the culture wasn’t here in the first place and now they want to destroy it for flats. It’s not just us either, there’s lots of us going under. Everywhere is gonna look like Canary Wharf.”

Supporter Paul Clarke has been going to Passing Clouds since it opened and has witnessed Dalston become a hive of creativity in the last 10 years.

He said: “The transformation of the area is largely down to a small number of businesses that acted as catalysts and Passing Clouds is the longest running, most successful of those. The regeneration is down to them.”

A petition to save the venue has gathered almost 13,000 signatures so far, while a crowdfunder has received £10,000 in donations.

MP Meg Hillier has also thrown her weight behind the campaign, saying the venue was part of what made Dalston a “magnet for creatives”.

She said: “It is vital developers and planners recognise it is venues like these that contribute so much to make areas desirable. If these are lost, some of the very reasons why Hackney is such a popular place to live and work are undermined.”

Queen Elizabeth: A Look at 90 Years of Vast Wealth and Perks

by    APRIL 21, 2016

It’s good to be in the Royal Family.

April 21 is the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth — the actual birthday, although she gets an official birthday in June because, as a quirk of British history, monarchs since George II have chosen a second date in summer to publicly celebrate when the weather it nice.

That is just one of the many perks of being Queen. There will be happy birthday wishes at a function at the Royal Mail postal system, and a 90-minute program of music, dance, and equestrian displays that run nightly from May 12 through 15.

Buckingham Palace, London, England
Buckingham Palace: Photograph by De Agostini — Getty Images

Ah, it’s good to be the queen. For Queen Elizabeth, the longest-ruling monarch of the U.K. — technically she’s the ruling monarch of 16 individual sovereign states in the Commonwealth of Nations, but who’s counting? — it has meant a life of pomp, circumstance, achievement, disappointment, and a good deal of financial comfort and security.

The Queen is estimated to have a personal net worth of about $425 million, according to Bloomberg. That includes the $65 million Sandringham House and $140 million Balmoral Castle.

Great Britain. Scotland. Aberdeenshire. The Balmoral Castle. Summer Residence of the British Royal Family.
Balmoral Castle, the summer residence of the Royal Family. Photograph by Giuseppe Masci — AGF UIG Getty Images

But that’s what she inherited. As monarch, the true windfall for her and her family comes in vast amounts of property kept in trust for her which generate significant income. Last year her 15% share of the income was valued at approximately $54.5 million.

The trust is called the Crown Estate and includes the Crown Jewels and Buckingham Palace. But also in the trust are major sections of central London, including nearly all of Regent Street and half the buildings in St. James. The Crown Estate has 263,000 farmed acres; billions of dollars in industrial, office, and retail properties; about half of the U.K.’s shoreline, and almost all the seabed to the 12-mile territorial limit. The total value is about $16.5 billion. Queen Elizabeth and family receive 15% of all the money — $363 million annually — made from the rents, lumber, agricultural products, minerals, renewable energy production, licensing of rights to run undersea cables, and more.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Regent Street displays a series of golden sequins, cogs and coils as part of it's Christmas light display on December 8, 2015 in London, England. British retailers are hoping for a rise in sales over the Christmas period after November's Black Friday sales failed to boost turnover. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Regent Stteet at Christmastime. Photograph by Ben Pruchnie 2015 — Getty Images

The structure of the Crown Estate goes back to King George III, who was deeply in debt and traded the management of his properties, and the revenues from them, for an annual income.

But that isn’t the only source of income. The Queen also receives money — $19 million last year — on the income from a parcel of properties totaling 45,549 acres called the Duchy of Lancaster. (Prince Charles takes his pay, more than $27 million, from the income on the Duchy of Cornwall, a separate 53,400 acres.)

Granted, Queen Elizabeth can’t do anything directly with the properties in the Crown Estate or Duchy of Lancaster. But the trust, and its income, pass on to the next monarch, who would be either her son or grandson.

Although many in the U.K., and other parts of the world, are mad about the royals, some critics are just angry, period, and they say that the money spent on keeping royalty in the style to which the members have become accustomed is too much.

You can bet that such people won’t be invited to the picnic lunch for 10,000 that helps close out the celebrations on the official June 11 celebration. Most of the guests will be from organizations of which the Queen is a patron. Private companies are underwriting the event’s expense.

a landrights campaign for Britain

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