Sunday, 11 January 2009

Time to move the capital to Hartlepool

Today, the Times reported that senior civil servants are receiving housing allowances of up to £40,000 to work in London. The story provoked a lot of understandable outrage. However, let's leave the indignant commentary to others. For me, the story represents the inevitable endpoint of a misplaced government policy designed to attract the super wealthy to London.

Our current tax laws give a virtual free pass to anyone who calls themselves non-domiciled. The result is an influx of wealthy international tax avoiders, who quickly bought up all available property in central London.

The non-doms hollowed out London. None of the locals, even the comparatively well off senior civil servants, can afford to live there. A senior judge or government minister could not buy anything in central London based on their current generous salaries. The non-doms have forced government workers to the dark corners of the capital with tedious and uncomfortable commutes into work.

A capital city is one where the government sits and works. However, London is a capital that has virtually all the government's key offices but can not provide reasonably priced accommodation for its civil servants. Once that fact is recognized, then it isn't too hard to understand why the government followed up the non-dom tax breaks with another ridiculous policy of giving housing allowances to senior staff.

It is self evident that the country needs a capital where its civil servants can live without impoverishing themselves. This means that rents and property prices in London must fall. In fact, this should be an explicit goal of government policy. This means planning regulations in London should be liberalized. It also means an end to this ridiculous and counterproductive policy of attracting unwanted tax-dodgers.

Otherwise, it is time to move the capital somewhere else. I understand that Hartlepool has a thriving, reasonably priced property market.

23 comments:

Nick von Mises said...

I thought we'd already moved it to Brussels.

Alice Cook said...

Nick,

Fair point. Still, there are some residual responsibilities that could still be moved up to Hartlepool and thus cutting out the need for public sector housing allowances.

Alice

Mitch said...

A few more years of Brownomics and min wage will buy you a house in London.

london estate agent said...

http://property.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/property/buying_and_selling/article5481636.ece

The Russians are leaving....

Sackerson said...

I've often thought that Parliament should do a royal progress round Britain's cities, 5 years at a time, followed by their cooks, hairdressers etc. It would stimulate the local economies and cure the London-centric perspective. Would not the Dome of Doom and the Olympic Stadium, and many other treats for the South-East, have been sited elsewhere if our politicians were more mobile?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Good idea. We can shift the core functions of gummint to Hartlepool, that's about a thousand civil servants, tops, and sack the rest. That'll ease pressures in the housing market.

This bit is over the top though:
The non-doms hollowed out London. None of the locals, even the comparatively well off senior civil servants, can afford to live there... The non-doms have forced government workers to the dark corners of the capital with tedious and uncomfortable commutes into work.

Greater London has a population of 7 million, perhaps ten million if you include areas from which you could reasonable commute into London. How many super rich non-doms are there? A few thousand, tens of thousands.

Now, faced with a juicy target like that, how about Land Value Tax? I agree on liberalising planning laws, of course.

But either way, the NIMBY crowd are against LVt for much the same reasons as they are against liberalising planning laws, so they are both non-starters.

Paul L said...

Mark, yes, there are 7 million people living in London and 90 percent of them are on the tube each morning.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Paul L, don't be silly. About half a million people use the Tube (I think). There are trains as well, of course which might be as many again, and cars and buses and river boats and stuff.

What I said was "areas from which you COULD reasonably commute into London", I did not intend to suggest, imply, hint, infer or otherwise lead anybody to believe that ten million people all work in central London.

mark l said...

Mark, no one lives in central London. People holiday there, work there, shop there, but no one lives there.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Mark L, very few live in 'The City' of on Oxford/Bond Street, but there are loads of flats and houses everywhere else.

Paul L. said...

Mark, how many people live from the tower bridge to westminster bridge? Personally, I don't know the precise number, I doubt if it is more than a few thousand. That is the historical centre of the city going back to the roman times.

Going beyond Westminister, prices of houses are so high that no wage earning UK resident could ever live there. The centre of capital is empty of UK residents.

Vado said...

I would still like to record my outrage at 40 grand housing allowances. Most Londoners don't even earn that much.

AntiCitizenOne said...

LVT - Citizens Dividend.
CD to replace housing benefit.

People will move to the place they can afford.

There should be ZERO long term unemployed in London.

AntiCitizenOne said...

There are vast numbers of people who live in Soho, Holborn and Westminster. Try looking up a bit.

dearieme said...

My own plan has long been for Berwick - far better than Hartlepool. I used to live near Hartlepool.

Sackerson said...

What did they hang in Berwick, though?

Anonymous said...

How about Blyth, just north of Newcastle - greatest sh-thole in England.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mark, and I have lived in London all my life.

electro-kevin said...

Err - what about the obvious ?

Cull the civil service.

Anonymous said...

Cull? Too sensible.

all monkeys must die said...

This blog has become way too negative on hartlepool.

Man in a Shed said...

I sometimes think that Liverpool would be the ideal British capital. Its perhaps the most British of cities in its make up and positioned int he middle of the home nations.

We could have a light federal Govt based near Speake airport with most of the government being done by the home nation devolved governments.

Just a thought.

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