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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5:07 AM, 15th February 2016, About 8 years ago

I'm not sure about campaigning against tenant tax. Firstly I am extremely sceptical that the government is going to back down on the measures it introduced. Secondly if landlords are saying they will be forced to pass on costs to the tenant, then the obvious no brainer for the government would be to reintroduce rent controls. No rent increases above inflation, above wage rises, or a fixed percentage of the government's choosing.

Others have expressed their natural reluctance to pass on costs to the tenant. I too am very much against the idea. I want to provide decent accommodation at a fair price to both me and the tenant. Many tenants are already struggling and it's not on to wallop them with double digit rent increases.

I wonder what other solutions there are. Obviously I can take the hit myself. The other is to sell up a property and use the capital gains to reduce the mortgages on the others. There is another motive here. The chancellor has a gaping hole in his budget. Commentary seems to suggest there will be a raid on pensions. But why not at some stage ramp up the CGT on BTL properties? Now that would appeal to the popular vote. I can see the gloating headlines in the tabloids already.


7:29 AM, 15th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "W H" at "15/02/2016 - 05:07":

It is imperative to note that rebuttals I have read are right in saying "you are missing the point… THIS IS someone’s home”. Renters are not suckers because they chose to rent or because they have to rent - the tenure is immaterial. It is a home.

In my case the BTL house is a home to many individuals who chose to share a house for a myriad of reasons or are large families. Were I to sell a tenanted house, 5+ beds go to the tip and only 1 will get move in – negative 3 ! Assume it is a FTB which it won’t be as they are not FTB properties. Nonetheless, the house will be less utilized as a home when it is owner occupied than it is today.

A government can have a raid on CGT but do it fairly, across the board and why not have CGT for family homes too if fairness is the objective. I don't agree with this of course but if a society is going to tax then it ought not to pick a fraction of a segment of a sector – especially when it pertains to homes.

There are plenty of places the government can go to have a tax raid if they wish. How about a tax on hand printed wallpaper - making and hanging as it is an utter luxury and something I’ll never need - so taxing it to oblivion is fine with me. What is fundamentally wrong with the Tenant Tax is that it is just that, a Tax on the Tenant. It will not raise the sums claimed to fix the deficit, it is a guessed and made up political tax, it is discriminatory, unfair and against worldwide business principals of taxing profit not turnover. AND, it excludes other players in the exact same market.

The laughable thing is that increased student fees and the Tenant Tax will mean that we, as a country, lend our students more money that we have had to borrow from China so that they can pay fees and rents that can be taxed. The fact is the students will never be able to pay back their student loans and out national debt interest payments on debt we have raised to lend to students will have to be paid for ever. How is Tenant Tax fixing the debt or deficit?

The market has move up with my rent increases and so the Tenant Tax and its creator, not the landlord, is “morally repugnant” - to borrow a phrase from George Osborne.

I am please you can absorb the Tenant Tax for your tenants which kind of suggest you may have been charging too much rent already. Clearly, more than you need. No quip just an observation. If your morals direct you so and your finances are such that you can absorb the Tenant Tax for your tenants then of course… you should. I salute you for it and suggest you are one of the “wealthiest landlords” that the tax is supposed to clobber.

However my tenants can’t and or don't want to buy and so need to rent and I can’t absorb the Tenant tax and I will not go bankrupt so there is only one place the Tenant Tax is coming from and that is the tenant.

I am not basing you WH, I am saying those that will have to pay the Tenant Tax should at least be aware they will have to pay it so they have the chance to do something. At the moment the majority of landlords and tenants are completely unaware. References to AIW or C24 are wrong and counter productive. In truth, if we value our tenants then I believe we are morally obligated to explain it to them. Tell them it is an effective Tenant Tax as it is a tax they will have to pay through higher rents so they have a choice to so something or nothing. The alternative is, as much as you may not like it, that they will pay much more rent very soon. You too will push your rents up to follow the market rents as have done to date.

Big Blue

9:26 AM, 15th February 2016, About 8 years ago

That is a superb post that had me laughing loudly at the tax on hand-printed wallpaper (if only Osborne & Little paid any tax!), and shaking my head in appalled understanding at the brilliant student debt/China explanation.

I have met with most of my tenants at least once to explain it all and all so far are understanding and relatively supportive of my position. I'm lucky in that my rents are low - around 25-30% below market value as I've got long term tenants and never put rent up during a tenancy, so there is considerable in-built flexibility going forward, but Id still rather look after my tenants and not cause them this additional financial strain.

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

9:46 AM, 15th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "W H" at "15/02/2016 - 05:07":

Why not "level the playing field" and charge CGT to all owner-occupiers?

Then, either remove the "Rent-A-Room" scheme or give BTL landlords the same tax breaks, again to "level the playing field".

Clearly you are not a landlord and you're here just to cause trouble so I have blocked you from posting further comments.

Dr Rosalind Beck

9:49 AM, 15th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "15/02/2016 - 09:46":

Ha, Mark. You took the words out of my mouth - if they want to tax profit made on properties then it should be profit made on all properties - profit is profit.

And I also recognised the tell-tale signs immediately of an anti-landlord (but only if they have mortgages and are not incorporated). They don't go on about the immensely wealthy property owners - they seem to like the fact that they are so wealthy they don't need finance to run their businesses - it's very old-fashioned to be doffing their caps at the nobs.

Gary Dully

0:41 AM, 16th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "James Fraser" at "15/02/2016 - 09:26":

If you were looking at Osborne's family business and Osborne from outside the UK you could be forgiven for thinking that we are ruled over by a group of thieving corruption riddled parasites that are slowly lining their own pockets with bribes and back handlers like FIFA did.


19:27 PM, 26th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Gary Dully" at "16/02/2016 - 00:41":


Kate Mellor

11:49 AM, 27th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Mark, I think that is disgraceful! Why don't you go back & reread WH's post. You've misinterpreted what was being said. He/she was merely examining the various reactions/options the gov / and us as LLds may have to the current courses discussed. Are you going to block everyone who disagrees with you on anything?? Have you read up on all WH's prior comments on this site in coming to your conclusion that they are purely here to cause trouble, (as that's not my impression!), or is this just a club for Yes-Men??? If so, I'm very disappointed.

Dr Rosalind Beck

13:06 PM, 27th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Kate Mellor" at "27/02/2016 - 11:49":

Hi Kate.
Mark doesn't come to these decisions lightly and has had a lot of experience in dealing with trolls and moles - often their email addresses are a give-away as well as certain themes they pick up on - scare-mongering about rent controls and upping CGT for instance and the idea that we should put up and shut up. It is also his site and he can do what he likes.
Personally, I like this site to be constructive and a resource for landlords. I find defeatism annoying and undermining. I also don't find smugness from people who say they will 'take the hit' helpful as many landlords won't be able to do that.

Kate Mellor

10:27 AM, 28th February 2016, About 8 years ago

Thanks for your reply Ros, I too like this site and I have found a great deal of useful information from Mark and the other members in the past and have been happy to share my own experiences. That is why I probably reacted so badly to Mark blocking someone who had made a very mild comment, which I felt just happened to hit Mark’s hot-button. No one appreciates someone suggesting they maybe shouldn’t be campaigning against something they feel strongly about, but if he hopes this forum to continue to be a place of honest debate, where people can give their true opinions without fear then he can’t ban everyone who says something that makes him angry – although as you point out, it IS his site and he will have to make that choice for himself.

I don’t believe WH is a troll, trolls don’t tend to give any information about themselves and their personal circumstances in their posts as WH did in his earlier post on this thread. I also think much of what he said has been misinterpreted. However, that’s irrelevant, just because you find his comments smug, or negative, is really too bad; others agreed with him as he had 3 likes, I suppose they too are all trolls. Surely in any forum, as in life, there will be plenty of people we don’t like and whose opinions we don’t agree with.

I myself (you may have guessed) am quite opinionated and out-spoken, but I love nothing more than a lively debate, and to hear others genuinely held opinions. I find it helps me to examine another perspective and I am often surprised at how many times people who I would have thought would share my perspective see things vastly differently. I find it important to hear their opinion, challenge it and also challenge my own. There is nothing inherently offensive in someone not agreeing with you surely?

WH has raised some valid points in as far as what further action the govt could take, with little or no opposition from voters against us landlords; and whilst it IS a negative thought, I don’t understand why we should shoot the messenger? I think his post was taking something of the ‘devil’s advocate’ position.

Finally, whilst I still feel as I did, I would like to apologise to Mark for using the word ‘disgraceful’, as it was way over the top!

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