Crack down on none tax-paying and unregistered private landlords

Housing

Developments like this and a glut in older terraced properties caused by new student accommodation emptying traditional areas are leading to many unlicensed and untaxed properties in places like Liverpool

Recent revelations about the property market in Liverpool have led me to receive a huge e-mail post bag (and snail mail) about problems faced by some tenants in the City and the neighbours who live close to properties where landlords don’t care about the hell their tenants create.

That’s why Liverpool Liberal Democrats are requesting an urgent review by the council of all private landlords in the City in both the residential and holiday let markets.

A recent review by Newham Council revealed that almost half of the private landlords in their borough were not paying tax to the HMRC. This is tax evasion on a huge scale. Reviews of the Land Registry also revealed that significant numbers of people with buy to let mortgages were not registering as landlords with the council and so were not having their properties checked for safety requirements. And probably not paying appropriate tax as well.

There also appears to be a problem in Liverpool with many properties registered on AirBnB not getting the required change in planning permission for using the whole of their premises for year-round, short term letting and thus avoiding safety checks, appropriate levels of council tax and possibly also HMRC evasion. The law is very clear that if properties are to be wholly let for more than 90 days a year planning permission must be changed because these types of tenancy can often cause problems and cumulatively can change the nature of an area.

By working with HMRC and our own excellent licensing staff we can drive up standards; ensure that safety requirements are properly undertaken and ensure that local and national taxes are properly paid.

These moves will also help Liverpool’s many good landlords who compete in the market place against unscrupulous landlords who undercut them and reduce safety standards.

Appended is the full motion submitted to the September council meeting:

 

Private Landlords, Planning permission and payment of tax

Council notes that in a recent exercise conducted by HMRC and the Council in Newham it was found that up to half of all private landlords registered in the Borough appeared not to be declaring their income to the tax authorities. It therefore requests the Mayor to:

  1. conduct a similar exercise with HMRC with a view to cracking down on poor quality landlords who do not pay their fair rate of tax to the Exchequer;

 

  1. Review all buy to let mortgages registered with the Land Registry with a view to ensuring that all landlords are properly registered and their properties checked for safety and other requirements;

 

  1. Review all AirBnB and similar advertised properties to ensure that they are properly registered and that planning permission has been obtained for the conversion of owner or permanent rented properties to short-term lets;

 

  1. Review all properties that are claiming council tax exemption to ensure that all their residents are fully certificated students as required for none payment of tax.

 

 

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How much might we lose over the stalled developments in Liverpool?

Hong Kong

From left to right: Councillor Gary Millar, Simon Law of Hong Kong Homes, and Peter McInnes of North Point Global

I have recently received a number of e-mails from desperate investors from people in Hong Kong and parts of the UK who have invested in the China Town and other three stalled investments in the city.

Here is one of the e-mails which is typical of those that I have received:

Dear Councillor Richard Kemp, CBE

I hope this email finds you well.

I am one of the buyers of the North Point Pall Mall sites and write to seek your assistance in resolving the North Point Global issues with reference to the recent Liverpool Echo publications for your intention to call for inquiry to Liverpool New China Town and council’s approval to the property deals with North Point Global including the North Point Pall Mall Project L3 7DB.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/call-inquiry-new-chinatown-council-13429508

I purchased a unit and a car park in the North Point Pall Mall project in consideration of the potential growth opportunity under the Northern Power House project as well as the presentation by Councillor Gary Miller in North Point Global (NPG) property sales event in Hong Kong.  I perceived that the North Point Pall Mall project should be trustworthy with the Liverpool Council official’s endorsement.  However, I was astonished to learn that all the NPG developments were stalled since December 2016 and the company might cease operation in Liverpool according to NPG’s July Newsletter.

I worry the problem generated by NPG and caused to those investors in NPG’s projects in Liverpool would jeopardise the city’s reputation to attract future investment and the credibility of Liverpool City Council to impose adequate due diligence check on developer approval.  Grateful if you can conduct a thorough investigation of the case and ensure a reputable developer could be appointed to takeover all the NPG sites to continue the development by minimizing the potential loss to all the investors in Liverpool property.

I look forward to hearing your feedback to the inquiry process and the actions to be taken to rectify the NPG issues.

XXXXX  XXXXXX

The point being made in this and the other e-mails is that they considered that the investment must be a safe one because of the involvement of Liverpool City Council. In particular, the fact that this scheme was promoted by the Assistant Mayor of Liverpool Cllr Gary Millar.

This is a point which would have played great emphasis in the minds of those people who were persuaded to invest in the scheme (and others) by people in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong and mainland China, which effectively governs Hong Kong, the involvement of a public body is effectively a guarantee that the scheme will proceed. Public figures will not get involved unless the whole of the state’s machinery is behind the project.

I am now concerned that those people who have lost their money will consider that this is a ‘joint enterprise’ with the Council and that they might seek relief from their losses from the Council and ultimately the taxpayers of Liverpool. There are already talks within the community of a class action being pursued by a number of investors coming together. This could lead to huge repercussions for our finances. My understanding from the Liverpool Chinese Community is that up to £80 million has been invested in the 4 failed projects by people from the Hong Kong and Chinese mainland.

I have asked the council to do three things:

  1. Make clear via the Hong Kong and specialist Chinese media that Liverpool Council has not had a significant role in this matter and the legal limitations of its role;
  2. Ensure that Cllr Millar makes no further forays to China unless and until these matters are cleared up.
  3. Ensure that external legal advice has been taken from specialist lawyers about any contingent liability.

Whatever the liabilities contained here, and who knows what they might be, it is clear that Liverpool’s reputation has been trashed in a part of the world where there is still footloose money around. This is, of course, not the only development with problems. At least four more developments have been developed using the ‘sell a room’ financing method and at least three of those have difficulties according to my e-mail inbox.

Who knows what else is going on out there because unless we are the landowners we have little knowledge of anything but the planning application. In these circumstances, I think that it would be rash to promote any further development using council people or resources.

I also think that the council should be pro-active in establishing a ‘help line’ for people with investment problems in our city. Even if the council have had absolutely nothing to do with the marketing and promotion of investment opportunities it is still the reputation of our City that gets trashed. When I have raised problems with other developments than these four the council has simply refused to involve themselves in any concerted way to deal with issues and seek redress for the investor.

In the meantime, we must ask ourselves whether there is a housing bubble in Liverpool that will burst. Far too many apartments are being planned, of which far too many are for students. We know from last year’s and this year’s intakes that there is a declining number of students both internally and from the EU. I cannot begin to comprehend why we are still allowing developments for a declining market.

I hope that I am wrong but I am sure that the Council needs to do far more to salvage its reputation of we are to get a continued stream of high quality and relevant development.

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UKIP is a Freak Show but the BREXIT debate is even worse!

UKIP

This lot are reaching the end of the line but it’s fear of them that is still preventing Labour and Tory Parties from having a  rational debate about Brexit.

I discovered two things on Radio 4 this morning – that UKIP still exists and that, for some reason known only to themselves 11 people are standing to be its Leader. I had to question why the BBC has chosen once again to give the breath of oxygen to this absurd and ridiculous party but decided it was because UKIP has now become a freak show of the absurd, grotesque and ridiculous.

When I was little every self-respecting circus had a ‘freak show’ of bearded ladies, 9-foot men, ‘performing dwarves’ and 50 stone ladies. This sort of attraction is, of course, a relic of our past and totally unacceptable in the eyes of modern society. But perhaps there is in all of us a yearning for the grotesque so step forward UKIP.

The news bulleting appeared to be predicated by a lady who wasn’t allowed to stand for Parliament for UKIP because of her views but can, apparently, stand to become their Leader! I am not clear precisely what she wanted but it appeared that she disapproves of Moslems and wants them banned. I had never heard of her, not had I heard of UKIPs’s Deputy Leader who I had also never heard of. (Can you be a Deputy- Leader when there is no Leader?) He didn’t argue the specific point about her views but contended that it did not matter what her views were because she was able to stand for the Leadership because she had been cleared by the National Executive of UKIP to do so!

I thought that they had disappeared because I saw in a recent LGA publication report on the 16 council by-elections since the General Election. UKIP had stood in just two of them where in the same wards last time they stood in 9. Both of their candidates secured a handsome 1.2% of the vote. Whatever point there was to UKIP there is clearly no point now. They caused a massive disruption in the life of our Country by scaring the Tories into a Euro Referendum and have now disappeared beneath the waters leaving hardly a ripple. Incidentally their record was only slightly worse than the Greens who also seem to have disappeared into obscurity.

I had to agree with the UKIP bloke on one point however. The Government are making a mess of the BREXIT talks. He had different reasons for saying so, of course. He thought that they were back-sliding and as part of the British establishment were back-sliding in an attempt to stay in the EU. I don’t see anything so clever and calculated. All I see is a total lack of vision; knowledge and negotiating skills. No matter how people voted last year surely no one voted for the breath-taking incompetence on the scale which we are seeing on a daily basis.

The sad thing is that many of the hard problems which the Government are grappling with were not only predictable but, indeed, predicted.

The hard border with the Republic of Ireland is a major problem for Liverpool and its port. Liverpool is a major import/export port for the Republic. It works well because of its location and the lack of bureaucracy and charges in sending stuff to and from Dublin. Its geography will stay the same but a hard border will impose new costs to the Port and may well mean that goods will go to and from the Republic via continental ports.

Already the debate on immigration is causing huge consequences to our sectors ranging from health to agriculture. Crops are lying un picked in fields because the migrant workers needed to oick them are not coming over and those that are here are beginning to return. The number of nurses recruited from Europe has already gone down by 94% and those medical professionals including doctors and consultants are going home.

Europe is repatriating other jobs in both the public and private sectors. Euratom is going to continental Europe; banks are creating new jobs I Germany and France at the expense of jobs here. The German Stock Exchange is already eyeing up lucrative listings.

Our car industry is in despair. Our one big manufacturing sector is losing out on big investment. It is quite possible that in 5 years we will be hearing that Ellesmere Port will close as General Motors places its base within the customs union. Almost 250,000 manufacturing jobs are dependent on car production and they are good well-paid jobs as well.

So the Government is in disarray with one Minister saying one thing and another Minister saying another. They have no feeling for what is achievable in the case of our departure from the EU. No principles are guiding them just a panicked reaction to circumstances which no longer pertain.

Meanwhile the only reason that huge splits in the Labour Party are not visible is that they have all gone on holiday!! There can be no doubt that Corbyn is pleased with the vote to leave Europe which he thinks is a capitalist club. That is behind his determination not to hold the Tories to account and not to ensure that we stay in the single market and customs union. But that is not the view of two thirds of his voters; two thirds of his members or two thirds of his MPs. Sonner or later there will be a ‘punch up!’

Leaving the EU is bad enough but outside the single market our jobs are defenceless. Labour talk of putting more money into the NHS and other services is totally meaningless when there will be less money in the public and private coffers to deal with new as well as existing problems.

So, the Lib Dems fight on. Amid speculation that there will be another ‘centre’ party formed we will fight our corner. There are only three traditions in UK politics; socialism; conservatism and liberalism. Another party will, in the long term, make no difference to that. We have seen the SDP; Referendum Party and the Greens have brief a flourishing of activity and some prominence but then subside again into irrelevance.

So if you really believe in Europe; if you really area an internationalist; if you really believe that climate change is important; if you believe in a farer society there is already a Party you can join and work for. You can join us here at www.libdems.org.uk.

 

 

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More Bad International Publicity for Liverpool

Ligtning Seeds

Local band the Lightning Seeds who were due to play at the Hope & Glory Festival have now moved to the Zanzibar this evening

I recklessly did a none-political, hopefully amusing blog this morning which I concluded by saying that ‘Normal Service’ would be resumed soon. I didn’t know how soon until I started getting phone calls from journalists and others about the abandoned ‘Hope & Glory’ Festival. I had seen the  chaos of yesterday but had not picked up until about midday that this event had been totally cancelled. I had assumed that lessons would have been learnt from yesterday and that today would go smoothly. However the organisers seem to have totally disappeared leaving a curt response on their web site that today’s event just was not happening.

No doubt the council will blame everyone in sight for the failure of this event and it must be acknowledged that this was not a council run  event. BUT the council has to take responsibility in a number of ways for events like this not least because it owns all the land that the events was staged on and is the licensing and safety authority.

That’s why I have asked the following questions.

Finally, thanks from me to all the organisers and venues who rallied round to put things on for the thousands of disappointed people. The businesses of Liverpool worked hard at very short notice to try and give the punters some value for money.

10 Questions about the Abandoned Hope & Glory Festival

To Liverpool City Council

Will a full report on the problems for this festival be undertaken and will it be made public?

If it is not going to be produced or the report is not going to be made public please explain why.

If it is to be produced and published will it include:

  1. Details of the background checks on the organisers and their company and who conducted them and how.
  2. Details of the assessment of the ability of the arrangements being made by the Company to handle the anticipated number of up to 12,000 on each day.
  3. Details of the assessments of toilet, health and safety facilities and personnel.
  4. Details of any publicity that the Council issues or assisted with which might have given the impression that this was a council supported event.
  5. Details of the insurance for public liability etc of the organisers
  6. Details of all costs levied up to and including the event by the council and whether they are paid.
  7. Details of any contingency liability which might arise to the council from contractors to remove the fencing, staging and sound systems to allow normal free access to the site.
  8.     What number of people was the site licensed for? How was this figure calculated? What checks were made by the council as to numbers allowed in? Why did the Police feel the need to ban sales at the ticket office on Saturday?
  9.    What arrangements were made to protect the listed features of the Garden area?
  10.    What arrangements were made to ensure that disabled people were allowed to access the three permanent facilities on William Brown Street while this event has been assembled, run and taken down?

 

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So That’s Why I Like a Fight!!!

100_0089

Did my ancestors wear one of these I thought to myself after a third gin and tonic on the train home!!

One of the problems with spending a lot of time on the train, as I did during July, was that I am totally disinclined to do any work on the train home from London. I normally read, do the crossword or talk to anyone I am sharing table with but I recently had to invest in a new light weight laptop when my  I-Pad died on me. I also invested in a dangly thing which enables me to turn on to the Internet wherever I am, subject to tunnels etc. This means that I have been spending lot of time looking at things which aren’t terribly important and many which were not important at all.

My eye chanced upon a tweet offering to tell you the meaning of your name. So in for a penny etc. I double clicked and this is what I found!

 

The meaning of the name Kemp

 

English, Scottish, Dutch, and North German: status name for a champion, Middle English and Middle Low German kempe. In the Middle Ages a champion was a professional fighter on behalf of others; for example the King’s Champion, at the coronation, had the duty of issuing a general challenge to battle to anyone who denied the king’s right to the throne. The Middle English word corresponds to Old English cempa and Old Norse kempa ‘warrior’; both these go back to Germanic campo ‘warrior’, which is the source of the Dutch and North German name, corresponding to High German Kampf. Dutch: metonymic occupational name for someone who grew or processed hemp, from Middle Dutch canep ‘hemp’.

 

I am not sure that I particularly liked the second derivation of the name. I have never grown hemp for licit or illicit purposes but the first derivation – the idea of being a professional champion really floated my boat! Now it is of course possible that all the derivations of names given are complimentary as I suspect that if I had looked further the tweet was to entice me into a genealogical service or something like that. I suspect that I would definitely not have been so interested or proud if the derivation went; Kemp derived from the old Saxon Kempa the term for a toilet cleaner!

But it didn’t. The derivation appealed to my sense of self-importance! I like to think of myself as a fighter for people in need. A champion not of the king at a Coronation but of people fighting against injustice. I think of myself more as a Knight in shining armour speaking for the poor and rescuing damsels in distress than a doughty defender of the establishment!

By the time I had consumed my second Gin and Tonic I had sunk into a deeper reverie in which I floated to myself the very possible idea of the armour, the horse, although I have to admit I don’t like horses, the damsels, the castles that needed knocking down the dastardly sheriffs who needed robbing of the wealth they had gained from the poor.

By the third gin I was on my horse outside the Cunard challenging the Mayor of Liverpool to a duel on behalf of the people of Liverpool with my heralds blowing trumpets and presenting him a glove of challenge! Of course, my dream didn’t take me as far as the duel itself because by then the train had taken me as far as Lime Street. Of course, I hadn’t got off at Edge Hill (be warned outsiders – that’s a Scouse joke!) but had gone all the way.

So why I have a written an entirely pointless and hopefully mildly amusing blog which will bring sarcastic comments from my many Internet trolls? Well it’s because I have looked at all my recent blogs and decided that they were very, very serious. Of course, much of my life is spent dealing with the maladministration going on inside Liverpool. We have a poorly run, poorly led Council up their necks in property deals which are beyond them and legal issues to which they cannot respond.

But there must be more to life than that. Hence a frivolous blog. Normal service will be resumed next week!!

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Super-Dooper Pooper-Scooper Snooper scheme plan is illegal

dog-poo-03-M72807

So the great move forward from the beloved Leader of Liverpool Mayor Anderson has made us all a laughing stock. We will just have to train the dogs to clear up after all!

So now we have it folks. The plan announced by Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson to offer council tax rebates to people who gave evidence leading to a conviction in court cases where dog owners didn’t clear up their dog’s poo was declared to be illegal at a meeting of the Council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee last night. Cabinet Member Steve Munby gave the meeting this information as part of a response to a ‘call-in motion’ from the Liberal Democrats which was proposed by Me. Cllr Munby made clear that although the council would look at some sort of financial incentives the Mayor’s suggestion was illegal because it is against the law to encourage people to give testimony in court because it could be seen as an inducement.

In moving the motion which asked for a full report to be represented on the scheme before it was put into practice I said, “Liberal Democrats have no objection to the principle of charges and fixed penalty notices etc and agree that we need to act on dog fouling and littering but we believe that this idea is impractical and incapable of delivery. Most of the people who allow their dogs to foul are people with whom most members of the public would not want mix. The idea that they would go to court to give evidence about people who live in their own community was always highly fanciful.

This is an important issue, Dog mess is smelly, unsightly and unhealthy. It can lead to blindness and other conditions because of the diseases contained within it. It is especially dangerous for children. In some areas you have to slalom your way along the pavements to avoid the filth.

What we need to deal with this matter is firm action and not gimmicks. Any money spent on this type of action would be better spent on dog wardens who could give fixed penalty notices and are trained to stand up to abusive people and often poorly controlled dogs”.

Frankly I was amazed that so many headlines had been generated by the Mayor of Liverpool about a policy that is incapable of implementation because it is illegal. He makes a laughing stock of both the himself and the City when he does so. People living in areas beset with dog poo need action not headlines.

I am very pleased that the Cabinet Member agreed to bring back a full report before any incentive schemes are introduced. That way we will all know the costs, the practicality and the legality of any scheme and politicians can take full responsibility for the proposals.

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The Health Debate – Learning from the USA!!

donald-trump-jan-2017

Can we learn from this loathsome reptile the way to have a debate on health by doing the exact opposite of what he does?!

No, I haven’t quite taken leave of the few senses that I have when I suggest that we can look at the United States and learn from the way they are conducting their health debate! The way they are handling it is so bad that perhaps we can hope that by doing the exact opposite we might find a British way forward.

In a nail-biting vote last Friday morning the US Senate voted against a move to scrap Obamacare. Much attention was focused on Senator John McCain. But his vote was the final one of three that kept Obamacare in place. With the Democrats voting 100% for the retention of Obamacare it was the two women senators from Alaska and Maine that really advanced the arguments for good health care for all. They pointed out that it is the poor and especially women who suffer when the state fails to provide health care. They pointed out that planned parenthood activities would particularly suffer.

They argued against an ideology about health which threatened any logical debate about health itself. Significantly the USA is the only developed country where the state does not take the lead in providing health care for all its citizens. The biggest argument seemed to be whether or not Obamacare is damaging the health insurance market. Markets should not be the prime consideration or even a consideration when looking at health issues. The USA spends far more of its GDP in health but has one of the worst outcomes in the developed world.

There are many reasons for this but one of the main reasons is the cost of the bureaucracy, the cost of running parallel services and the cost of claims and litigation. It is difficult to work out how much money actually gets spent on health and how much is drained out of the system by hangers-on and profit.

In many ways, the level of debate in this Country is little better. We argue about the amount of money that needs to go into the health and social system. Every election we conduct an ‘arms race’ to  try and show how our lot will try and spend more than their lot! But there is very little discussion of the changes that need to be undertaken to improve a system which is creaking at the seams, which needs change more than it needs more money and where society as a whole has failed to come to terms with what increased life-spans mean to the way that society run.

The Community Wellbeing Board of the Local Government Association Board recently received a personation about the financing of the Health & Social Care Services. The presentation showed that since the financial year 2003/04 the spending in the NHS had increased in real terms by 71% whilst spending on Public Health and Adult Social Care had flatlined. The flat lining includes the recently announced extra £2 billion and the precepts which English Councils have been a lowed to raise. Even allowing for the next precept rise next year there will still be a £2.1-£2.3 billion social care deficit by 2020/21.

It seems obvious that the solution lies not in putting more money into the health services but intervening differently in the health/social care life continuum. Looking at two facts from the NHS. At any one time about 10% of beds in hospitals are occupied by people with type II diabetes. This is almost entirely avoidable and is caused by people eating and drinking either the wrong stuff or the wrong amounts and/or not taking enough exercise. Obesity itself costs the NHS £6.1 billion each year. This is entirely avoidable for the same reasons as Diabetes II

At the other end of the spectrum it costs about £550 to keep someone in a hospital bed for one night. Yet it only costs about £650 a week to provide top quality care in a residential home or less for good quality domiciliary care. It is blindingly obvious that huge amounts can be saved, over time, by stopping people becoming ill and getting them out of hospital quickly. Yet these are the areas that have been least supported by Government.

Putting more money into the NHS is needed in the short term but only if it is to give a respite for demand whilst attending to the two local government priorities. Yet it is not only money that is required but a culture change. We need to engage intelligently with the public about the life long social care/health care continuum. We need to establish new grounds and levels at which we take responsibility for our own lives, our children’s lives; our relations’ lives and our community’s lives. We must do more to help ourselves and each other and not rely on an NHS which will run out of money or a new pill or procedure which will become ever more difficult to find.

In the short-term we need to increase the money we pay for adult social care in both residential and domiciliary care. That will deal with poor conditions, chronic under investment and the poor pay for staff which leads to a huge staff turnover (which will get worse because of Brexit for several reasons). In the longer-term innovation is required in the way that we support families at crucial life-changing points; provide housing that is appropriate for all needs and look at the social interactions which can make a person’s life passable or great.

None of this can take place without having a great debate with the people of the Country. We need to show how current perceptions of what the NHS and councils can do is unsustainable given the changing demographics. We need to help people understand their roles and responsibilities. We need to support them with laws and regulations which will limit access to products, practices and lifestyles which ultimately cause them harm and wreck our financial systems.

The Parties in parliament are too myopic and inward looking to retreat from hard ideological nonsense and false promises to always fund everything that is needed and possible. If we cannot expect all-Party co-operation from them then the LGA must provide the necessary leadership.  I believe that the Local Government Association must take the lead in raising the standards of national debate. We work across Party in what is for the most part a pragmatic way looking for practical solutions. Our Councillors and our Councils must become the agents for change without which our much-loved health service will inevitably crumble. We can do this in three ways:

  • Offer to work with the Health and DCLG Select Committees to examine and spread the message of the need for change.
  • Offer to work with the 20 MPs of all Parties brought together by Norman Lamb who together went to meet the Prime Minister.
  • Campaign within our communities for a full and long-term debate about the health and social care continuum and how every single one of us must play our part in doing things differently to care for ourselves, our family, our community and our locality.

Some may say that this is not the job of local councils and their councillors. I disagree. The Health Service was able to get going so quickly in 1948 because it brought together many initiatives that were already being run by local government. For decades, local government was the National Health Service. If the national parties cannot work together for the public good to change our health and social care culture then local government must step into the breach. We have the experience, pragmatism and local knowledge to do this and to do it well. Let’s get on with the job.

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