Getting the ball rolling

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I’ve been sitting on the url handsoffourfuture.org.uk for a couple of months now, but work pressures have made it very difficult to get things moving.

I’ve been finally spurred into action for two reasons: firstly, Andrew Rawnsley’s article in the Observer this Sunday on the subject of Generational Equity is a clear sign that this issue is increasingly hitting its head against the mainstream. Rawnsley’s namecheck of Tory MP David Willetts suggests that at least he is starting to take these issues on board.Secondly, rumours have been circulating that my own party, the Lib Dems, are on the verge of missing a golden opportunity of taking the initiative on this area with its latest Tax Commission. The Commission is apparently set to water down its proposals for a “Progressive Property Tax” which was to signal a major shift in the burden of taxation away from low income earners and onto property owners.

Frankly, no major party in the UK is tacklingly generational equity in a meaningful way, and why should they when the over-50s are more likely to vote and are more numerous than ever before? What’s more, the old are organised in a way that the young are not. They have their own lobbying groups – Help the Aged, Age Concern, Saga, et al – and they have perfected the whine of the perpetual underdog. For a more perfect example of this, look no further than the campaign against Council Tax. Fixed income pensioners don’t even pay it, and yet it is presented as a social justice issue.

The young are predominently creating the wealth in the UK, and yet they are being stung by the quadruple-whammy of graduate debt, sky-high property values, pensions and income tax. And that’s not counting an uncertain future due to climate change and the fact that the under-20s have been institutionally demonised by a state which has invented the term “anti-social behaviour” as a new tool for keeping the public in a constant state of anxiety. It is time to get our shit together.

This website is intended as a contribution to the debate and as a catalyst for organisation. Although, as editor, I’m a Lib Dem, I’m hoping it will evolve into a truly cross-party initiative (while I’d like to see my own party take a lead on this issue, I’m not convinced it will until the issue is more high profile). If you’re interested then bookmark this page and pay a visit to the accompanying forum.

8 thoughts on “Getting the ball rolling

  1. Sorry, but pensions are still all in favour of the young. Sure, a twenty-year-old will retire three years later than someone retiring now — but he’ll probably live ten years longer, and thus enjoy an extra seven years of retirement. Which is why pensions have been becoming harder to afford, of course. In the long term, if life expectancy continues to rise by two years per decade, then so do retirement ages — adding on three years over a forty year period is nowhere close to keeping up.

  2. I don’t really see how you figure that, because life expectancy is going up, the young are getting a good deal out of pensions. All it means is we have more expensive pensions to pay for.

    20- and 30-somethings are not just having to pay for their own pensions, but indirectly their parents’. Plus, they have vastly higher mortgages/rent and graduate debt to contend with that their parents’ never had to contend with.

    I’m not pretending that the pensions proposals today weren’t a step in the right direction, but it is only a drop in the ocean.

  3. I run an independent web-site for aspring first time buyers and I can tell you that they feel quite helpless. Often saddled with student debt, they foresee a never-ending attempt to save before they might be able to afford to buy a first home – unless they wait to inherit something – which could be a long wait and along period of renting.

    It’s clear that alot of wealth is tied up now in the middle aged people who have seen their properties leap in value. Everything should be done to help youngsters benefit form their parent’s generations’ wealth in order not to simply line landlords’ pockets with all that rent!

    Steps taken by various governments don’t go any where near far enough – the last raise in the stamp duty threshold was laughable – not worth the paper it was written on.

    Small measures can be taken like exempting FTBs from stamp duty, increasing shared ownership possiblities, low cost private housing, reintroducing MIRAS, help with council tax, super-taxing landlords making rent form FTB properties but how about something more radical?

    Helen Adams http://www.FirstRungNow.com

  4. Helen,

    We have conversed before on this subject.

    You portray yourself as the Friend of First Time Buyers. If that were the case, you wouldn’t be pushing schemes that prop up the unstable pyramid that is the UK Housing market.

    Shared ownership schemes, mortgages with friends and parent involvment are a very bad idea at this time.

    Your business makes money out of unsuspecting First Time Buyers.

    Please go away.

  5. I’m keen to explore this debate in more detail Michael. If you would like to send me an article I would be happy to post it here (email semajmaharg-**AT**-gmail-**DOT**-com

  6. I just looked at the FirstRungNow site and it made me feel quite depressed. Is there anybody left who doesn’t realise that shared-ownership schemes are designed to keep house prices high?

    First time buyers don’t need tax subsidies or government charity, they need a housing market that works. In a realistic market, if the customer can’t afford the product, the price has to come down.

    Shared ownership is an expensive way to own very little.

    HOOF – should you not be distancing yourself from this kind of argument?

  7. “HOOF – should you not be distancing yourself from this kind of argument?”

    Given the fact that as a result of Helen’s article I’ve had more traffic on this site than ever before, I’d say no.

    Look, I don’t agree with Helen on the specific point about shared equity, but given that the political mainstream in this country doesn’t consider affordable housing and generational equity as anything more than minority issues, I’m keen to build a sense of solidarity amongst anyone who is prepared to put their head above the parapet on the issue.

    I really do think you are lancing at the wrong target here.

  8. The reason you experienced a spike in traffic was due to me placing a link on the housepricecrash site to here. No thanks required, it provided an interesting debating point.
    Paul Holmes
    Firstrung

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