Archive for March, 2006

(I decided to rename my series “Future Shock”, had more of a punchy feel to it than “Looking to the Future”, not that I’m pandering to tabloidesque sensationalist headlining or anything you understand!)

So, having had the ‘must buy your house’ idea spoon-fed to us for years and despite the mass repossesion crisis in the late 80s because of the slow-down in the housing market and the rise in interest rates the rate of repossessions is now up 15% and rising. The problem is particularly acute in Ulster and other areas where personal debt is high amongst the working class and lower middle class. Areas where the differential in what can and can’t be bought with a standard workers pay packet is greatest.

You did not have to be an economist to see this one coming. House prices have been rising disproportionately to income for some years forcing people to take out larger mortgages of a higher multiple of their salaries. We have seen the raising of the normal 3.5x annual income as a general rule to anything up to 8x annual income and mortgage periods grow from 25 years to anything up to 50 years. For most the prospect of buying a house is subject to being able to use both family incomes.

Now whilst it is easy to judge in this situation and question the prudence of people taking out such financially punitive agreements one must first look at the fact that house prices in areas like London have gone up by so much as to be unaffordable by any other means. Even in SE London, traditionally the cheaper end a two bedroom flat will still cost you over £150,000. Now you would have to be earning close to £50,000 to be able to buy that under the old rules and most people earning £50k are not the sort of people looking to live in a 2 bedroom terraced in Catford. Furthermore most of the keyworkers: teachers, nurses, fire-fighters, ambulance workers and the like probably will struggle to earn half that amount. It is a well-known fact that fire-fighters in the London area who work 4 days on 3 days off shifts will sleep in the fire station whilst on-shift, then returning to their homes outside London when off. They do this because they cannot afford to buy homes for themselves and their families in London.

As a result people have been forced out of the cities and the surrounding areas prices have in turn risen. Add to this commuter costs etc. and already the problem becomes self-evident. As an alternative to this one can elect to rent (or if you cannot afford a house or have a poor credit rating you are forced to rent) of course renting is not immune from the house price lottery because if people are renting houses out and forced to pay higher monthly mortgage payments they must raise the rents, in turn those who have lower mortgage payments having bought their houses some time ago see the opportunity to make some extra cash and thus the prices rise.

There is another factor here as well, the local council tax, which is a blanket poll tax not charged on an individual or household’s ability to pay, nor even on the local ammenities that a household may receive, is levied based on the value of the property. With property prices inflated the councils are reassessing tax based on the current market value of a house and because the bands are smaller at the lower values the council taxes are rising more for those who can afford it least. This has a fundamental flaw because much like when the Poll Tax was brought in to replace Rates people are going to be expected to pay a great deal more money without any difference in service provision and without a thought for how they were expected to pay the extra. When the Poll Tax was introduced I lived at home with my Mother and Stepfather in a 2 bedroom house. Our rates were approximately £400 annually which seemed pretty fair since we lived in a village with 1 bus a day, no shops, and only refuse collection as a council service. The Poll Tax bill came in at £400 per person and meant £1200 for the household. Longrider writes that he feels punished by the prospected raising in Council Tax assessment values and obviously it is easy to see why. When ones house value goes up it would be a mistake to presume this constitutes in any way an amelioration of income. Naturally were one to sell said house it may be worth substantially more money than one originally paid for it but then so are all the other houses one might be thinking of buying.

As with any flat tax the council tax is based on an unfair premise that somehow one can levy taxation at an arbitrary rate. In this case it is the value of the house that people live in. Of course this neglects to take into any consideration whether the people living in said house are owner-occupiers, 2nd home owners or merely tenants. Whilst it is clear that a rise in house prices does not necessarily benefit owner-occupiers it is in fact quite detrimental to tenants who are likely to see rises in rent coupled with rises in council tax despite this being in no way linked to any changes in income.

The upper and upper middle classes who are better placed to invest in property have now for some time chosen to sink their money into this rather than more traditional savings methods as the buoyancy of the housing market has been seen as offering good capital return. This has meant many more buy to let mortgages as investors have bought houses for their children at university or simply as a means of income. With the pensions system at the moment in a parlous state it is small wonder that many have chosen the property market as their method of safeguarding their future. However many people do not have the initial capital to sink into such investments and therefore once again the deficit between the well-off and comfortably off and badly off widens.

Legislation in this country favours the property owner over the property dweller. As a tenant you can delay the issue but very rarely do anything about things such as eviction orders. Any rent commissions will only be able to assess rental values based on equivalent rents in equivalent properties all of which are inflated. With utilities in private hands there is no control over bills which have risen astronomically over the last few years. For a 2/3 bedroom house outside London you can now expect to pay £500 per month in rent, add to this £100 for council tax, £30 for gas, £30 for electricity, £30 for water, then there’ll be the phone bill which will be around £25 for line rental . This is £715 so far without having paid for any food and clothing and all the other assorted sundries. That translates to £8580 per year net, and add likely associated costs and you have more than £10,000 annual expenditure for the most cautious of households. That translates to around £15k minimum gross income needed just for subsistence survival, now if you take that down to its hourly rate (based on a 40 hour week) that is £7.21/ hour. At present the minimum wage in Britain is £5.05 per hour for workers aged 22 years and older (*£4.25 per hour for workers aged 18 – 21 years inclusive, £3 per hour which for all workers under the age of 18). It does not take a degree in economics to see that if you are losing 25% per hour that this translates to a massive shortfall week on week and year on year. Rents and other costs do not take into consideration what income you are on.

If childcare is added into the mix it makes the situation far more difficult. I used to pay £50 a week for 1 of my children to do 2 half day sessions at nursery a week. Bear in mind this means more than £1 an hour on a working week, and most parents who are forced to work full-time will pay far more than this. Financially-speaking I was not able to afford for my children to go to nursery any more than the 2 sessions whilst it was equally financially impossible for my ex to return to work because it was unlikely she would be earning more than the childcare costs alone.

I firmly believe that one of the reasons that the birth rate in this country and many other EU countries is going down is because of the financial implications of children on many of the couples that might traditionally have families. For example many couples on medium to low incomes have been forced to combine their incomes in order to afford a mortgage. This means the shortfall in income of one partner for a number of months is simply not viable if mortgage payments are to be met. Maternity payments do exist but only generally for people who have been in a company for a number of years, the remainder of mothers will either get incapacity benefit or be expected to live off their partner’s income.

I could go on about families not being able to afford the unpaid parental leaves to allow father’s to spend time with their children etc. etc. etc but I think the point is already made about what a profound effect the housing situaion has on the demographics of the population at large. It would be easy to think that house ownership has always been the norm but in fact in the time of Charles Dickens even the comfortable middle classes would have rented, some of them and the upper classes may have had family seats that had been passed down but certainly amongst those that had to live off income derived from their labour it would have been fairly unheard of to own a house.

It was to house these people that council housing was invented so that all people had the right to live in security. Sadly greed has resulted in a mass council house sell-off fundamentally started by Thatcher in the 1980s but continued by Labour albeit through slighty more covertly by handing over the rights to private companies. However one felt aboutt hat sell-off at the time the fact is that this was a case of short-termism in the extreme. As councils do not anymore have housing to offer the disenfranchised and dispossessed they will remain in temporary hostels, young people will be forced to remain in the family home for longer and couples will struggle to have a mortgage and children and forced to choose one or the other.

At the time of the initial sell-off one can reasonably argue that those in council housing were largely those that needed to be so, however no such guarantee exists anymore and in popular areas, in particular the metropolitan areas, prices of housing has risen to levels far beyond the reach of those for whom the council housing system was designed to protect.

In conclusion then the knock-on effect purely in the housing crisis is a drop in the birth rates, an absence of key-workers, an increase in the homeless, an increase in the number of tenants in rented accommodation, an increase in those living in temporary housing such as B+Bs and hostels, an increase in houses being reposessed at any increase in interest rates, an increase in 2nd housing used for renting out and holiday accomodation by the more wealthy thus fractionalising communities. I can’t see these consequences being positive for any except the most well-off and they have quite enough advantages already. Whilst one expects the Conservative government of the 1980s to have pandered to the well-off, history will show unfortunately that the 1997-2010 Labour government only furthered the cause of the wealthy and simply added a small handful of people to the plutocracy whilst the majority starved.

Song Of The Day – Mistral – The Wanderer

Original Comments:

The Capt. made this comment,
Red Baron: It’s amazing how the two countries mirror each other. You are on POINT! I think a global revolution is in store for the world, coming from those of the working and middle class jointly setting the agenda. There is power there that hasn’t been `self realized’, but it’s gonna come. Folks better get ready.
The Capt.

-Redbaron responds – I sincerely hope you’re right Capt. I fail to see how continuing in the current vein can have a beneficial effect on most of the population of the world and therefore something has to give.-

comment added :: 29th March 2006, 17:31 GMT+01 ::
john made this comment,
“With the pensions system at the moment in a parlous state it is small wonder that many have chosen the property market as their method of safeguarding their future”…Until they are forced to sell what they have spent a lifetime trying to own when local authorities grab their homes to pay for their residential care in old age. Very interesting post Baron.
-Redbaron responds – Yes indeed it is quite a quandry to which the only answer I can see is for the State to control and administer both housing and care, this way there is no carrot and stick approach where the carrot is taken away just on the point of being captured as there is now.-

comment added :: 31st March 2006, 15:43 GMT+01 ::

Greeting all, I am still about, thank you for your kind comments in the meantime, rest assured even when absent for a while I have not deserted. I can tell it’s been a while since I last posted because the posting window and everything is all different, I don’t know you go away for a little while and everything changes!

Readers who have been around here a while, crazy deranged fools that they are, may remember a hoo-ha some while ago, in fact nearly 2 years ago now where I was debating the calling to give blood and lamenting that having made the decision that I would face my fear of needles and attempt it I was cruelly denied because I had a lurgy of some description. The original Bloody Hell! entry. I discussed the fact that I would have to go through the same rigmorol in August, the next time the donor service came.

Since that point I have been signed up for about 5 appointments and I have managed to be ill for every single one of them. I don’t mean seriously ill or anything but of course they can’t take the chance so even a bit of a cold is too much of a risk. I had practically given up on the idea. I presumed I was going to be ill yesterday because it was another appointment, however apart from feeling slightly the worse for wear at having had a skinful at the pub’s quiz night on Wed. I was relatively ok.

So now I have experienced the procedure in its entireity and a sack of my claret has been carried off for some worthy purpose. Yes I do feel a sense of altruism after all the whole giving blood situation seems to me to go against any idea that humans are inherently greedy. After all I did not gain from the experience, apart from a couple of stickers and a cuddly blood drop for the kids, oh and a pack of 3 jammy dodgers, but to get this I had to endure first someone stabbing my finger with the old chesnut “most people tell me this hurts more than the needle giving blood” Oh no, nurse let me tell you that line does not work as a placebo because it is patently bollocks. Then i got the steel equivalent of a hosepipe shoved up my arm and got sucked in a most vampirical and clinical fashion. No, this definitely did not do it for me as a leisure past time. However the sense afterwards that I had survived and consequently someone who might need it may be able in turn to survive their ordeal is the feeling that will make me return to donate again. It is simply the right thing to do, it isn’t pleasant, but equally it isn’t unbearable just 5 minutes of minor discomfort (actually the needle does hurt but it’s those bloody blood pressure type bands, I fecking hate them.) and then you’re done.

Of course even the ‘you’re done’ bit isn’t quite so straight forward since you have to wait for 3 weeks whilst all sorts of tests are carried out to determine that you are neither going to die nor kill anyone else. I am of course presuming that everything is fine, I have no reason to suspect anything less but there is always the fear that you might get a letter saying “Dear Mr Baron, thank you for giving blood at your local session, we regret to inform you that you are going to die and therefore we will be unable to use your blood on this or any subsequent occasion. If you have a penchant for, or are attemtping aversion therapy with regard to needles might we suggest heroin as an option, it’s not as if you’ll be alive long enough for the side effects!”

Oh and I have a new group of people to pour distain on now, the boy blood racers, who sit there timing their pint removal and try to get done as quick as possible. Of course as a first timer I was I’m sure in the slow lane pootling along at the blood equivalent of 70mph as these young hooligans roar past with their 4m 31s, bloody youth of today, no patience!

Anyway, there is a good chance now that some unsuspecting RTA victim will soon receive part of the baron and all that this entails. I had not thought of this before as a potential method to populate the revolution but it is worth further scrutiny. If there is something in my blood that makes up who I am this will presumably be passed on, perhaps not in enough quantity to be of any difference, I shall have to look at that angle but it’s something to think about isn’t it. Bikers and haemophilliacs of the world unite!

Song Of The Day ~ Embrace – No Use Crying

Original Comments:

The Capt. made this comment,
Red Baron: It’s a good to give blood. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Even if Bush is not the `genius’ behind the events – he IS the FACE of the con that’s been pulled. Even with his goofiness HE was the one who got the consensus from the Democrats and the American public to do the things he’s done, with little flack. Don’t let that slow folksy way fool you. The guy is charming, I just can’t stand his policies.
The Capt.

comment added :: 24th March 2006, 14:36 GMT+01 ::
Spike made this comment,
When giving blood I always go for the anisthetic first, that way when my viens move as the needle goes in I don’t feel it!
comment added :: 24th March 2006, 15:24 GMT+01
Kristie made this comment,
Only goes to show that men are wimps. But good on ya, Baron, for going on ahead anyway.
comment added :: 24th March 2006, 16:15 GMT+01
baracuda made this comment,
I haven’t given blood in a few years (since I moved to England) I quite enjoy it though, especially when people faint, that’s always a good laugh.
I Ireland you ger Guinness after giving blood, none of this hoity toity tea and jammy dodgers.

Guinness has lots of iron in it see? So it replenishes your lost stocks…

-Redbaron responds – Mmm yes, yes Guinness is good for you and all that, I could have done with a pint of the old Liffy water me’self, they didn’t tell me they don’t let you have a cup of tea on your first time! I did make a good chicken liver stroganoff for the iron content and now I know that I’m reasonably ok I should be ok for the black stuff next time as well.-

comment added :: 25th March 2006, 08:47 GMT+01 ::

I may be a sporadic visitor and participant over the coming weeks. Times is tough as they say and circumstances require a little more than the very sketchy attention that I customarily pay to these sort of things. Hence evenings now are often a juggling act between spending time with g/f (been over 6 months now!) and cracking the whip to get her to work on her thesis (and that’s not a euphemism, I hasten to add) and trying to extrapolate myself from decades of financial buccaneering.

Besides which it has often been difficult to find proper inspiration, I don’t think I’ve been writing at the top of my game for a little while now it’s been a case of good paragraphs here and there strung together with mediocre bits. Last time I took stock if I recall correctly I returned with a little more vigour and energy.

I am still writing, often tidying up the large library of unpublished entries which will gradually see the light of day in their own time. I also have Thinker For Hire which is a place that I put up some of the old naive stuff I wrote nearly 10 years ago. One day I’ll corrolate it all and sub-edit it but for now it’s up there raw and naked. In addition I’m posting to that blog the parts of a manifesto series that I decided to do, it seemed appropriate for it to be there since it ties in with a re-visiting the sort of material I wrote in the 1990s. It’s an occasional series (as we speak only the first part has been written) and in no way replaces this blog which will come back to its former glory hopefully shortly.

I do have a load of reviews from all the gigs I went to over the preceeding 6 months and I will post them to here and Red Baron Reviews in due course. – [Update – this site is now defunct]

So don’t go anywhere, think of it as a chance to briefly get on with some of those things you need to get on with whilst I do the same. That does not exonerate you from writing comments and shit and if you happen to be the 200,000th visitor who is due in mid-late March then make yourself know to be feted with pretty lights and virtual confetti.

Song Of The Day ~ Captain – This Heart Beats For Me

Original Comments:

Kristie made this comment,
Dogspeed, my liege.
comment added :: 3rd March 2006, 04:33 GMT+01
Lynne made this comment,
😦 Hope things sort easily and you’re back soon.#(hugs)
comment added :: 3rd March 2006, 22:41 GMT+01
Haddock made this comment,
Will you be selling lollies and popcorn in the intermission? 🙂
-Redbaron responds – King Cones, Wrestlers hot dogs and wheelie bin sized containers of popcorn are available in the foyer!-

comment added :: 4th March 2006, 01:37 GMT+01 ::
leah made this comment,
this is jimmy sunshine commenting on leah’s log-in while she is having a poo or something (don’t tell her i said that, she thinks i don’t know she has bodily functions).
keep blogging fella, i don’t comment much i know but i keep reading. and i hope you keep adding vital, poignant and well, slightly smug comments on my blog.


-Redbaron responds – It’s always nice to see you fella and I do enjoy leaving smug comments on your blog. Fear not tho’ I am not gone just busy and very very skint and this is affecting my ability to sit down and write very much with any fluidity. All things must pass tho’-

comment added :: 10th March 2006, 22:39 GMT+01
leah made this comment,
ooh i’m so mad. i just slapped him on the leg for that. and he is laughing but it is not funny.
you wanna talk about poo, sunshine, that’s fine but NOT IN MY NAME.

-Redbaron responds – I found it very funny and also it did in fact lure you into commenting for the first time in I don’t know how long so double whammy!!!-

comment added :: 10th March 2006, 22:44 GMT+01
Jimmy Sunshine made this comment,
for a handy definition of failure, you must try looking here (sorry to change the subject, but this is funny)…

comment added :: 14th March 2006, 15:23 GMT+01
Pimme made this comment,
*Wishing that I could say that I was too busy to blog due to companionship from the opposite sex!*
It’s always fun to read our own thoughts from years past.

Have fun! I’ll be busy doing laundry, or something.

comment added :: 16th March 2006, 04:51 GMT+01 ::
baracuda made this comment,
I assume/hope your blogging hiatus has not affected your TV watching and that you saw the mighty green army crushing the puny English defence on Saturday???
comment added :: 20th March 2006, 08:52 GMT+01 ::
Fallen Angel made this comment,
I know the feeling.. many seem to be taking blog breaks lately.. that being said though, hope to see you back soon 🙂
comment added :: 23rd March 2006, 13:19 GMT+01
Fallen Angel made this comment,
I know the feeling.. many seem to be taking blog breaks lately.. that being said though, hope to see you back soon 🙂
comment added :: 23rd March 2006, 13:20 GMT+01
Spike made this comment,
Thesis writting is horrible, my sympathys to your girlfriend. I enjoyed my Thesis but still hated doing the write up by the end!
comment added :: 23rd March 2006, 17:09 GMT+01