Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Time to move to West Lothian?
The West Lothian Question is well known, it refers to the fact that MPs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are entitled to vote on matters that only affect people living in England. It was named so because in 1977, Tom Dalyell - MP for West Lothian at the time, asked this question in the House of Commons:
"For how long will English constituencies and English Honourable members tolerate ... at least 119 Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important, and probably often decisive, effect on English politics while they themselves have no say in the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?"
At the time this was an important question, but significantly more so now that these areas of the UK have their own legislative bodies. However, the suggestion that the English move to West Lothian is not to gain superior representation, but because of the astonishing difference in the treatment of the homeless there, and in Scotland generally, compared to those in England.
Now many readers will be inclined to lose interest in this subject in the certainty that they will never be homeless and incline to the view that anyone who becomes homeless only have themselves to blame - sleeping rough is their just deserts. However, recent moves in the housing market might make many feel far less secure.
Based on a Halifax survey, the BBC reports that two thirds of young people without their own home, believe they have no prospect of ever owning one. With deposits of 40% being required for first-time buyers most are not able to save the, around, £50k required in most areas - just to buy a singled bedroom flat.
Clearly as the austerity measures bite, those that might be able to save the necessary deposit will reduce and those that can will continue to be reluctant to lower their standard of living for such a lengthy time, to amass the deposit. The belief is that we are moving towards the practice most common within the EU nations, where it is usual to rent and a far fewer ever own their home.
On the face of it this might not seem too bad, but considering it is estimated that there are around 4m too few homes at present and the singular lack of security of tenure. Most private tenants are guaranteed only six months tenancy, under the present rules governing the private rental market, unlike on the Continent - where long leases are the norm. It seems that the majority will be facing continuing uncertainty over having somewhere to live in the future, in a market where demand far outstrips supply.
Cynics may conclude that the Government is deliberately creating these conditions and are acting in the interests of the private sector, as they have been accused of with their NHS proposals. The private sector has no difficulties in raising deposits and are increasingly out bidding those wishing to buy for their own use.
The Telegraph also reports a significant increase in those who have switched to interest only mortgages, which implies many are having difficulty in paying their existing repayments. The assumption must be that many of these homes will come onto the market in the not too distant future because of mortgage debt - no doubt to be bought by the private sector. This might explain the anticipated rise in house prices, also reported in the Telegraph, which in theory should fall, if it were not for the private sector's distortion of the market.
Most will believe that should they lose their job as a result of the global market for jobs, or for some other reason, and they can no longer afford their rent, they will be kept off the streets by their local council. However, according to ‘Crisis’ - this is a responsibility that most council’s do their best to avoid. This is in stark contrast to those who are homeless in Scotland where much greater concern for the homeless is demonstrated by this ‘Crisis’ report.
Once again we have a clear case of how the English have been seriously disadvantaged by devolution in the fundamental issue of having somewhere to live. What will it take for the English to say 'enough' and stop squabbling amongst themselves and rally around a party that vows to give them equal rights with the Scots?
The answer to your question, Mr Dalyell, seems to be ‘indefinitely’. The ‘Dunkirk’ spirit which once typified the English seems to be gone and has been replaced by one of ‘give up at the first sign of difficulty’ - one that would shame their forefathers.
You may be interested to learn of the considerate treatment that you will receive in West Lothian - largely paid for, of course, by English taxpayers.