British Kakistocracy

Nick Sommerlad of the Daily Mirror, with some help from the GMB research department, has a hell of a scoop: a full third of the Right to Buy properties are owned by private landlords.

And a very substantial chunk of those, in some London boroughs, are owned by Charles Gow, the son of the government minister responsible for the Right to Buy, Ian Gow. And his wife, Karin. And the Gows started buying in 1996, exactly at the low point of UK house price/average earnings ratios, at £100,000 a gaff. Nice trade! They’re now renting some of them for £1,500 a month for four-bedroom properties. All the bullshit about claimants getting eleventy thousand a second in housing benefit? That’s Gow’s kid, that is.

I mean, at this point I struggle to find anything coherent to say. All the guff about RTB as a transforming flagship social policy and nobody thought to find out if it wasn’t just a mammoth exercise in personal kleptocracy.

This quote, from Gow’s kid, is damning, although the photo is stomach-turningly better:

“You aren’t trying to make me feel guilty, are you?”

Beyond loathing, the numbers are fascinating in the light of the Simple Plan. A ton of ex-local authority property in London is controlled by the BTLers and therefore a potential target. 46 per cent of Kingston’s leaseholders give a correspondence address. 42% of KenChel’s. 39% of Wandsworth’s. No London council the Mirror investigated was under a quarter. And the same pattern exists beyond London – 42% in Nottingham, 37% in Leeds.

Better, this rolls up a number of problems with the Simple Plan. We now know that, yes, the BTLers bought the council stock. The councils can hardly refuse property identical to the stuff they own next door on the grounds of quality. And nobody knows better how to maintain and manage them than the people who already do the XRDs on the buildings.

Anyway, next stop is to find out how much Gow’s kid is getting off the taxpayer. KCG Property is certainly a thing, based in Putney, but it ain’t on the British company register…it would also be interesting to know about any overlap with this lot (see here).

11 Comments on "British Kakistocracy"

  1. Let me get this straight. The properties were bought by their tenants, who then sold them on to someone in the open market. And the problem is what exactly? You might argue against the right-to-buy scheme, but what’s wrong with those people that exercised that right selling their own homes – that’s their business surely?


    1. Because it’s a massive policy disaster that’s chiefly enriched the family of its own architect. Also, you are a libertarian; very good, but completely uninteresting.


      1. Are you suggesting that the houses were not purchased on the open market at arm’s length etc? If not, then presumably anyone could have done the same. I really can’t see what the issue with this is. I’d agree that the original policy (back in the 80s or whenever) was seriously flawed, although popular, but it was inevitable that the houses would then get sold on.


        1. Ok we’ll take this one step at a time.

          The right to buy is at a discount, per gov policy, otherwise the carpetbagger former tennant couldn’t buy it.

          The sale by the former tennant to the market is also at a discount, because the former tennant wants to extract the juicy equity he has just been handed and go on a once in a lifetime pissup.

          The former tennant returns after the cash runs out and is given a similar property back to rent, with the rent being paid by the DSS to the new BTL.

          Everyone is happy, except the taxpayer, who has lost the asset, and is now paying an inflated rent.

          By selling the housing stock, they didn’t free the former tennants and improve their lives. All this was is a state enabled, taxpayer ripoff wealth transfer to themselves.

          Tell me which bit is not to love…. Tories, asset stripping, thieving vampires, the lot of em.


  2. Tenants bought their houses at a substantial discount. Many of them sold their houses during the subsequent Lawson Bust. Presumably they got more than they paid for the house, but most of the benefit of this policy turns out to have gone to Buy-to-Let companies. That was hardly the justification of the original policy of a substantial discount for Right-to-Buy.

    I live in such an area. I know how much the estate agents and Buy-to-Let people would like to get their hands on the houses of the remaining tenants. (The original tenants who did noy but have tended to stay. Those who bought their council houses have all left.)


  3. Perhaps Gow junior feels a sense of entitlement after his dad was killed by the IRA in the Brighton Bomb. You can’t take it with you…..


  4. This was entirely predictable at the outset of Right to Buy, and I told anyone who would listen – it was about giving away property to (eventually) large landlords, not empowering tenants. I’m fortunate to live on an estate where most RTB and even sell-ons stay to live; the buy-to-let flats are a nightmare: badly managed, often over-crowded, with landlords who only show up on site to complain about the charges for work done to the building.

    I think it’s interesting that the housing price slump in 1991 coincided with the sell-off of most of the self-contained council houses in my area; and while it was very welcome I suspect that the money Labour pumped into estates repairs and upgrading in the late 1990s/early was as much about making the stock more attractive to buyers as making tenants’ lives easier.

    There’s a very simple solution to this, which would be to repossess all ex-council property which is not lived in by its owner, or if that’s too drastic, at least no further sales allowed except to people for whom it is their only property and they will live in it.

    RTB was Thatcher’s great master stroke – not only a cunning piece of sleight-of-hand selling something to people they already owned, but also a key policy which split and eventually broke up existing working class communities, especially in London.


  5. Independent, Friday 8th March 2013. Page 6, column 5.

    In among the 6 pages of coverage of Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce and the latter’s e-mail correspondence with journalists, the following sentence stood out.

    “Pryce said that her husband was only able to build a property portfolio of ex-council houses to rent out because of her earning power and cheap shares from his father and hinted that she was “uncovering” things about his finances.”

    So portfolios of ex-council houses to rent out are not that uncommon. The “property-owning democracy” has led to more people renting than ever before.


    1. Hardly uncommon, if you ask D^2 he’ll tell you that the key fact about Britain since the early 90s is that financialised housing became the main middle-class investment product.

      Also, Vicky Pryce was touting a number of completely bogus stories to the papers as well as the real one.


  6. The one that got me was Alan Duncan, back in the early 90s. Already a millionaire and renting a council flat in Pimlico (don’t ask me how he got it), he did a deal with his elderly neighbour under RTB – Duncan put up the cash, the neighbour lived rent free but the house went to Duncan when he died.

    (I also hadn’t realised Duncan made his money working for Marc Rich)


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