Clare Foges Anti-Landlord Letter in The Times

Clare Foges Anti-Landlord Letter in The Times

11:12 AM, 9th February 2016, About 8 years ago 50

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Clare Foges Anti-Landlord Letter in The Times

Clare Foges was the speech writer for David Cameron 2011 – 2015

Clare Foges was the speech writer for David Cameron between 2011 and 2015.

This weekend I read her “readers letter” in The Times. If you saw it then you’d probably have been as rattled by it as I was. In fact, I was so annoyed that I decided to write and publish a rebuttal here in the hope that she (Clare Foges), The Times and other National Media will pick up on it. Clare Foges Anti-Landlord Letter in The Times

The article, entitled “Blair’s support for buy-to-let landlords flies in the face of plans to let people buy their homes” is a prime example of the ignorance and opportunism driving a present-day anti-landlord bandwagon, and the absurd destructive policies of Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

The statement within Clare Foges’ contribution to The Times, that I feel best encompasses the dogma in policy-making, which the Omnia Judicial Review is seeking to resolve, is this:

Those “investments” might have been someone’s home.

The problem with both this article and Clause 24 itself is that “those investmentsare someone’s home. They are the homes of millions of renters across the length and breadth of Britain: renters just as entitled to live within the capital (or anywhere in the country) as Ms Foges. Crucially, moreover, they are the homes of which a great many renters will be deprived, should the floundering George Osborne and the article’s cheerleading author be permitted to get their way.

Her dismissal of such renters as “suckers”, says a great deal more of the attitude towards tenants of Ms Foges and her puppeteers in the Conservative Party, than that of landlords themselves. The reality is that tenants are dynamic, valuable and essential to the British economy. They are a mobile workforce, moving and progressing throughout their careers, between multiple geographical locations. Among their number are migrant workers with virtually no desire buy a house in the UK, and a great many young British people who, having just entered the labour market, are dependent upon access to private rental accommodation. Promotion and progress are after all, just as much an issue of geography as well as hard-work.

The reality is that “the knackered commuter head-lolling home on the train, the shift worker, the twenty-something scraping together a deposit” of whom Ms Foges expresses concern, are near one and the same as the 4.6 million “suckers” likely to suffer as a result of the Treasury’s catastrophic short-sightedness  – Towards these critical members of society no such “benevolent winds” will be blown by Clause 24. They will instead suffer from rent rises, evictions, increased competition for contracting rental supply, and the saving-up of that first deposit made more difficult than ever.

Yet in addition to those not seeking to own their own home due to career transition, there is another highly important type of renter: the poor and vulnerable of Britain. For such people, purchasing property will remain a non-option, regardless of house prices, owing to their possession of neither the deposit, income, nor credit record necessary to obtain a mortgage. The sickest irony of George Osborne’s tax grab is that it will be those guaranteed not to buy their own home who will be pushed out of the private rental sector entirely. At a time when demand for social housing is already at record levels, the imposition of Clause 24 promises to utterly overwhelm council housing departments. What does Ms Foges or the Treasury propose be done about this? Neither has deigned to explain.

So what was David Cameron’s former speech writer really cheering on? Wham! Financial pressure for landlords to raise rents. Wallop! Eviction of tenants from rental properties no longer financially viable. Ding-ding! The poorest and most vulnerable renters on the floor and out for the count. And here is your winner… homelessness!

Which brings me to another prevalent trait of Clare Foges’ article: its dishonest stereotyping. Contrary to Ms Foges’ emotive spin, the ruination of mortgaged individual landlords is not a series of blows upon those for whom material comfort rests upon what they already have, where their parents invested, or when they were born. The overwhelming majority of buy-to-let landlords are in reality, industrious and self-sufficient members of the working and middle classes, who own just one rental property. Rather than recognise such people for who they really are, Clare Foges deliberately misrepresents them as a work-shy bourgeoisie, born rich with a silver spoon in their mouths. Well guess what, I inherited none of my properties from my parents: one of whom ran a small pet shop, and the other is a cleaner and dog-walker. To myself, and every buy-to-let landlord I know, such clichés do not apply. This is nothing more than a clumsy attempt to excuse woeful policy making and appeal to left-leaning voters: it’s only success however will be to ensure that every landlord to have voted Conservative in the last election will never do so again.

Of particular insult is that, the wealthiest landlords – corporate institutions and cash-buyers that such class-jibes perhaps more accurately represent – will be exempted in totality from the increased tax demands of Clause 24. So Clare Foges, will the richest incorporated landlords, who just happen to be donors to, or members of, the Conservative party, be among the 1 in 5 of landlords predicted by the Treasury to be affected by this measure? Will Richard Benyon or the Reuben Brothers pay more tax as result of Clause 24? No of course not. Her article’s stereotypes were cheap, immature and way off the mark.

As an aside, and in light of Ms Foges being Chief speech writer to the Prime Minister during the years 2011-15, I wish to further ask, was it herself that wrote David Cameron’s 29/04/15 speech, featuring the now-broken promise not to raise income tax for the next five years after the upcoming election?

The issues of high price competition, block-viewings, gazumping, and an inference from an estate agent that Clare Foges might consider prostituting herself to secure a property, are the result of a single core problem that Clause 24 fashions an easy scapegoat for instead of resolving: The population growth of London is exceeding its increase in housing supply. Only when this fundamental issue of demand and supply is resolved will the aforementioned obstacles to purchasing (or renting) a home in the capital be mitigated. Stabbing buy-to-let landlords in the back with discriminatory tax-changes is therefore not the solution. It shall serve only as the cause of an even more serious, national housing crisis: a crisis which Cherie Blair’s intervention will be instrumental in avoiding.

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Michael Bond

19:23 PM, 10th February 2016, About 8 years ago

I wouldn't normally presume to try to add to what has already been said; but there is one point which may be worth adding. I remember the late 1980s when the sale of council houses was getting into its swing. At that time the private rented sector hardly existed -- lenders would not knowingly lend on a property which was to be rented out, and tenants had security for life at strictly controlled rents. Housing associations had not emerged as providers of properties for rent. There appeared to be no other option than a council house -- very few available -- or buy your own. Lots of, especially young, people in desperation bought "studio flats" -- rooms with en-suite showers and basic cooking facilities -- at a price which was often twice what the same "studio" would fetch now, and with 100% plus borrowing. It was absurd that these people should be buying their own properties at a time when they needed to be building careers and to be free and flexible to move to find work. Many lost what for them was a huge amount of money. Few councils have now or had then accommodation suitable for young single people. It a lesson I have never forgotten. Now we the PRS provide for these people.

Kate Mellor

13:16 PM, 11th February 2016, About 8 years ago

I imagine like me, many of you have noticed in the past year or more the anger felt by many towards landlords and the feeling that anyone owning more than one property is unbearably greedy. I was at first enormously shocked, offended and angered by this completely ignorant and unfair attitude and the vitriol poured onto us on financial forums etc. This is the overly simplistic approach taken by many unsophisticated people to the growing housing shortage and it has not gone unnoticed by the Powers That Be.

The small landlord is a very convenient scapegoat. Cameron has literally NOTHING to lose by it and everything to gain, which is the very reason it has happened and I believe will unfortunately continue to happen. They will appear to the masses to be ‘Doing Something’ about the housing crisis and making those greedy landlords pay. It’s an easy vote winner with the public as for every one vote it loses them, it probably gains them a thousand. As has been observed many times, they have expressly excluded big business from the affects and thereby removed the only area that could bring any true pressure to bear on them politically.

The sole purpose of these emotive letters written by the likes of Clare Foges, which are short on facts and long on rhetoric, is to reinforce and widen this perception and to incite further hatred. This is so that their wonderful initiatives will be viewed as just that, thereby detracting attention from the real causes of the housing shortage and the true effects of these new ‘wonderful’ initiatives. When we rise to the bait and revile against them in a very high state of emotion and anger, as we all feel like doing after reading this utter tripe, we can be in danger of sounding a bit like spoilt brats who've had our toys taken away. The unfortunate fact is that the general split of feeling out there by Joe Public is either support for the changes ‘cause they hate us, or indifference ‘cause it doesn’t affect them. There’s little wonder our politicians’ logic is so flawed; the truth is these initiatives were never designed to have the touted benefits to housing levels – they’re simply a PR exercise!

The only hope as I see it is to show Joe Public how these initiatives will hurt them in the pocket in a cool, dispassionate and logical way as I feel Gareth Wilson did excellently in his rebuttal! He has managed to logically and with a wide perspective that non-landlords can relate to show Joe Public how this affects them and how the govt is treating them like idiots. He’s shone a strong light on the many holes in Clare Foges' logic. This is a letter I would dearly love to see published as I think it will raise the awareness and interest of non-landlords rather than preaching to the converted.


9:06 AM, 13th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Isn't Clare Foges essentially doing her (ex) job, which is to peddle the Tory cause? I sincerely hope that any BTL landlord reading this forum, who voted Tory at the last election, will reflect on their folly to do so.

I'm also an IT contractor. So I'm perhaps scum in the eyes of some BTL landlords too. How dare an IT contractor get tax advantages for doing what is basically a permie job?

End of the day we have to get on with it, grow a thicker skin, or get out of the BTL game. No point whining about it. That great little book "Who moved my cheese?" comes to mind.

And remember, don't expect any favours from any government, If they spy an easy sector to scapegoat (BTL landlords, IT contractors), and grab some easy tax money to boot, they will do.

Rachel Hodge

9:38 AM, 13th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Excellent letter Gareth. Have you had confirmation the Times are going to publish it? Was it The Sunday Times?

Sunny Rsa

11:17 AM, 13th February 2016, About 8 years ago

What we know for sure is that the government failed to build enough homes or properties (houses and flats) over the past 30 years or more in order to keep up with the demand and hence property prices have soared forcing first time buyers out of the equation. The government failed to learn valuable lessons from the economic crisis approx ten years ago (that was the time when interest rate were so high that we private landlords had to pay interest out of pocket or risk losing our investments; landlords like myself lost some if not the bulk of their investment properties). If the government had got their stats right, there would be enough properties to go around for a small family to buy a property and set up a home without relying on the private rental sector; and the private landlord would perhaps have been forced out of business or their investments would not be worth the hassle. Now that people want to set up a family home, their salaries will never stack up for them to be able to save for a deposit, meet the lending criteria, and afford a home (house or flat) for themselves. Private landlords are here to help them set up a decent family home since a decent family home in London is 20 fold the salary of a middle class. The government is rocking the ship again by forcing the private landlord out of business. But we won't abandon the ship. The government can try and try but we will hold on to our ship because we've endured the storm already and we know whats it's like to be in one. The solution to the problem is very simple; build more houses (we need at least half a million houses in the UK in order to give everyone a chance to own a decent family home) and everyone will be happy.

Gareth Wilson

11:25 AM, 13th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Rachel Hodge" at "13/02/2016 - 09:38":

Thank you for your reply Rachel. Your 2nd letter to Grant Shapps was right on the money by the way!

I have sent the above to the Times, but had no response. I suspect though that Foges' "letter" was published because like the Government, this paper wants to be seen to be bashing landlords as part of its own PR.

It's finance editor, Ian Cowie, has made no attempt to conceal his pleasure towards landlords feeling "pain"...

Steve B

13:59 PM, 13th February 2016, About 8 years ago

I am inspired by some great writing on this subject and have a few points to raise.

Firstly, the divisive nature of this government can be seen to be succeeding when I read negative comments relating to cash buyer landlords - I am one. Why are we not seen as part of the fold? I worked hard and saved for years to purchase my one property as an investment and pension plan and I am sure there are many just like me. Similarly, those landlords holding the requisite 15 properties did not ask to be excluded from this move and I am sure they are just as annoyed.

Just because I won't be personally affected by clause 24, I do still wholeheartedly support the move to have it overturned because of the genuine reasons so very eloquently stated on this site.

Secondly, following the success of the crowd funding, might it not be a good idea to post a full rebuttal of the government proposals in full page entries in the main press? This could be crowd funded again and linked to various landlord organisations (sponsors?) who knows - we might even get some open debate going with landlords who are not members of any organisation or web forum. There may be a sympathetic editor lurking out there too!

Finally, has anyone thought about a national poll of tenants - they are the ones who will be affected just as directly once this nonsense comes to fruition, perhaps an approach to the RLA or NLA to seek their support in this. If we could drum up support from our tenants our fight might hold even more sway.

Just my 2p worth!

Steve Hards

16:16 PM, 13th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mandy Thomson" at "09/02/2016 - 15:50":

Mandy, I was never an actual civil servant but worked closely with lots of them over 10 years (1995-2005) within the Department of Health. Many were the smartest people I've met and were considerably brighter than the ministers. The anti-civil service attitude of the governments that came and went always amazed me. Each tranche of cuts and staff reductions meant that they were sawing through the branch on which they were sitting. As soon as there was a whiff of a round of forthcoming redundancies the cleverest were able to bail out to better jobs in companies with which they had had dealings, leaving the less able ones to carry on. In terms of civil service competency there has been a long downward spiral. It's really little wonder that we are now battling with nonsensical, ill-considered policies.


20:02 PM, 13th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Stevie B" at "13/02/2016 - 13:59":

In August or September last year I suggested on this forum and in my submissions to the finance bill committees etc, that the then “Restriction of Finance Cost relief” be called TENANT TAX.

I suggested it because that is what it is, and that is who will end up paying the tax. I have no money to pay the tax & so I can either go bankrupt or increase rents - That is not rude, it is just fact!

I understand that back then some thought the pimple may go away on its own and it should be allowed to self heal and they saw no point in squeezing it. I advocated and still do, a full lancing of what, I could clearly see, would evolve into a boil! I met with Anne Milton and Jeremy Hunt. I wrote to John Redwood and the various committees and listened to the alleged debate on the finance bill. I saw and read all that the government and MP’s had to hand. I saw they were not looking at evidence and fact or listening to prominent and eminent Economists and I saw that on fact, Carney, behind closed doors must have said to George “you want to do what?”…..and I realized the futility or trying to reason with this government. I understand how supposed civilized governments create radicals as this government have radicalized me over this issue.

As it happens, with great sadness, I have increased rents by 15% this year and will do so again next year – the market has moved with me - encumbered and unencumbered landlords alike! Go figure!!! And so, for me, Tenant Tax is now neutral financially. My tenants will pay the tax and I will collect it like a good citizen.

Choosing to replace the name “Restriction of Finance Costs Relief for just individual landlords” with “Clause 24” was and is a bad idea. Calling it “Alice in Wonderland Tax Grab” is equally as bad an Idea. Unless you are a member of Santa’s family and are thinking that child 24 my benefit from inheritance better then you or unless you want to shun the Jub-Jub bird rather then fix the issue, then these are useless names that actually work against us in getting traction. - If you just said “what ?” to the above then my point is proven simply.

Pick a name that everybody understands and can relate to and that might make them enquire more and engage. Create a single narrative and repeat it un unison simply and often so that that even an accomplished journalist like Rachel Royce cant share correctly. Traction will only happen when those that have to pay the tax - TENANTS realize that they will have to pay it. And, when those that will not get the work to maintain or improve because the landlord has been squeezed and has no maintenance monies left to employ them realize it.

I proudly paid into crowd funding for the legal challenge and support a national Newspaper rebuttal and advertising campaign. Lets Get Tenant Tax on the radar and then, and probably only then, will our vorpal blade go sincker-snack!

Im in!

Rachel Hodge

0:17 AM, 14th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Brown" at "13/02/2016 - 20:02":

Totally agree, Mark.

I fully support Chris and Steve, and all those on here who are fighting so hard on behalf of all of us (I've donated, am writing to my MP, and am sharing posts on FB, but that pales into insignificance compared to what some are doing), but I always thought the "Alice in Wonderland" tag was so wrong. It does nothing to get the message across, and if anything it boosts contempt for LLs.

"Tenant Tax" should be adopted for the campaign. It really should.

We'll still get the negativity, but that's going to be there whatever we do. If we name it Tenant Tax, then Tenant's (and a wider network) will start to take interest to find out what's going on, and then they and LLs will be campaigning against it.

Out with "Alice in Wonderland" Tag - bad branding!!!

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