Sunday, 5 January 2014

Labour and infrastructure

How ridiculous is it, as Patrick Collinson rightly says, that out of an infrastructure budget proposal of £100bn this government proposes to spend a mere £3.5bn on housing over the next four years? One can only hope that the election prevents such a situation reaching fruition, but also that Labour comes to its senses and sees that spending over £50bn on reducing train times for a few businessmen, or something like £100bn on a new runway in London, when Gatwick is under-used, is simply wasteful. It`s not just in London, where exhorbitant rents are being pocketed by greedy landlords, and where these "high rents are subsidised by housing benefit", and Labour would be ignoring an electoral boost if it were not to pledge "a cap on rent". Such a cap will be made even more indispensable, should a similar promise be made regarding the living wage, for landlords will be anxious to reap this new harvest! Thousands of newly built or newly re-vamped houses need to be built, mostly for councils to rent out; affordable houses to be sold should only be available to buyers willing to sign a no-rental contract! Councils could send details of their housing plans to a new Housing Ministry, which would decide on funding distribution. Railway and airport development could still take place, but with the emphasis on improvement rather than expansion.
    The late18th, early 19th century scheme for public money used to help the low paid which Collinson mentions, the Speenhamland System, not only provoked agricultural riots in 1816 and 1830 in the areas where it was most entrenched, its cost also persuaded the government to pass the infamous Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834, which brought with it the workhouses.The results of its 21st century equivalent need not be so disastrous, but action is needed urgently, and would be electorally popular; how many voters want their taxes subsidising the wages paid by their vastly profitable, local supermarket, or subsidising the rents paid to wealthy landlords?

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