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.