End clustering of betting shops on our high streets

First published on The Independent Blogs, Tuesday 28 February

Are clusters of betting shops, fast-food outlets and coffee shops taking over the high street

Are clusters of betting shops, fast-food outlets and coffee shops taking over the high street?

The high streets of the UK have been hit extremely hard from all sides lately. If competing with out of town shopping centres and the boom in internet shopping wasn’t enough, the 5,200 shops that closed last year because of the recession is another example of the old saying that bad news comes in threes.

It has become all too common in the UK to find clusters of similar shops in certain areas. All too often there is a string of bookmakers, kebab houses, tanning salons, with little diversity in between. Very few would argue that streets filled with similar shops make the area appealing to potential buyers.

A ComRes survey found that over half of participants in England and Wales felt that clusters of sex and betting shops had a negative impact on high streets. A further 36 per cent said the same of tanning salons and fast food outlets.

Last week Southwark Borough Councillor Rowenna Davis sent an open letter to Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, highlighting that there are 77 bookmakers in her constituency.

“What’s happening is they are clustering in particularly poor areas,” she explains, “so we are pushing for the government to respond to Mary Portas’s high street review by giving more powers back to councils.”

Davis is not the only person to speak up for our town centres. MP David Lammy has expressed concerned that in his constituency of Tottenham there are 39 bookies and not a single bookshop. And even Boris Johnson has written to Mr Pickles to demand more powers for councils to counter clustering.

Chairman of the LGA, Sir Merrick Cockell explains, “Currently councils are powerless to prevent betting shops setting up.”

Clusters spring-up because of planning laws allow stores with the same ‘use’ license  to replace each. This means that when an independent café, shop or bank closes down, there is nothing the council can do about a new one opening, no matter how many shops of that kind there are already.

The principle is the same for betting shops. Currently they fall into the same category as banks, which are financial services. It means banks can be changed into betting shops without local authorities having any say in it.

The LGA is campaigning for a new ‘use’ class, or ‘super’ planning class as Sir Merrick describes it, for premises of potential future concern to local authorities. Each council would be able to add to this new class premises which their residents believe have a negative impact to their high streets.

This call seems to be widely echoed by the public, 63 per cent said they would be in favour of the government giving more power to councils to tackle clustering. But nearly three quarters of respondents were in favour of giving more powers to councils to help shape the high street based on communities’ wishes.

The public also has some strong opinions about what they would like on their high streets too. Nearly 80 per cent felt local producers would be important to the future success of their high street, followed by over 70 per cent feeling retail stores and local amenities would too.

Last year Mary Portas recommended the government to address the restrictive ‘use class’ system to make changing property uses easier, and suggested that betting shops have a ‘use class’ of their own. The rationale behind this was that many vacant lots were not being filled because changing the use required planning permission. By separating betting from the financial service class this would mean that every betting shop would have to apply for planning permission if they were changing the use of premises.

With the Department for Communities and Local Government building up to launch its response to Portas’s recommendations, a spokesman said: “We are currently reviewing ‘change of use’ and are considering views expressed on this, including betting shops.”

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It’s not pretty, but it works – Why charities use street fundraisers

Charity fundraising is seen as a nuisance but is vital to charities in the UK

Charity muggers - chuggers - at work on the high streets

Charity begins at home,” runs the mantra, and at times almost everyone must have wished for some benevolent benefactor to help them in some way. It is hard to get worked up about famine in Africa, or deforestation in Indonesia when you’re worried about how you’ll afford your winter heating bills.

But these issues are being thrown in the face of shoppers on high streets across the country. Typically touted by long-haired, ever-smiling youths, charities have taken over the streets to win over the hearts and minds of the British public. Commonly dubbed ‘chugging’ (charity mugging), the voluntary sector calls it face-to-face-fundraising.

Almost everyone has gotten annoyed with being harangued in the street. Why anyone would think that because you’re carry a dozen heavy bags, soaked to the skin in the rain, and powering home that you want to stop and discuss world poverty is a mystery. But teams of fundraisers are spread across the country on a daily basis trying to bring supporters into their fold.

It has now come to a head in Islington. Councillor Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for planning, regeneration and parking, has spoken out against the sheer number of fundraisers operating in the Borough.

People regard it as excessive and a nuisance,” he says. “We’re not talking about hundreds of thousands, but scores of complaints.”

The majority of people of Islington seem tired of charity fundraising in their area. A recent Daily Telegraph poll suggests that 58 per cent of people want it banned in London.

Out on Upper Street, my quick stroll poll found that 64 people thought there were too many fundraisers in Islington, compared to 26 who didn’t. Leaving 10 per cent who said they didn’t think there were more in Islington than anywhere else.

Cllr Convery is clear that they do not want to ban street chugging. They are campaigning for it to be regulated by local authorities rather than independent organisations like the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA).

This is the only type of street canvassing that is regulated privately,” he says. “Every other type of on-the-street activity requires a license except fundraising.”

The PFRA liaises with councils and charities to decide where, when and how often fundraising can take place.

But all this chugger-bashing has obscured why people in out in the street in all weathers, day-in and day-out, in the first place: they are raising the necessary funds for charities to continue their work.

It can be annoying to be approached by a charity, but as PFRA spokesman Ian MacQuillian explains: “It’s a myth that people give to the charities they give to without being asked.”

He highlights that chuggers are not taking donations there and then, but signing members up to regular direct debit payments, pledges of a set amount on a regular basis. These are widely regarded by charities as the most effective way to monitor and budget their contributions. Fundraising in this way breaks-even after two or three years and can return £2.50 for every £1 invested.

PFRA figures show that during 2010-11 street fundraising brought in over 170,000 supporters to their charities. It shows that despite the huffing and puffing of councils and the public, a great many people do stop and contribute to chuggers.

Mike Blakemore, media director at Amnesty international UK says: “It is an important for all organisations and it provides an opportunity to speak to members of the public that we wouldn’t meet otherwise.”

Despite the chagrin that many people experience when approached on the street, Mr Blakemore says only 0.04 per cent of the people their fundraisers spoke to complained.

Amnesty stands firmly behind keeping the PFRA regulating street fundraising.

Council’s shouldn’t be able to decide which charities can fundraise,”says Mr Blakemore.

He believes that to shift regulation from the PFRA would lead to more expensive administration for councils, and could result in arbitary decisions about which charities could fundraise.

Many would argue that the decision to give or not is purely down to the individual. This sentiment is echoed by Mr Blakemore: “It is a very personal thing and people are capable of making that decision on their own.”

Islington Council and the PFRA are in talks over the issue in the Borough. But both, and many other interested parties are awaiting Lord Hodgson’s ongoing review of the 2006 Charities Act. At present he is listening to the parties involved and the general public, and after the consultation period ends in April his final report will be awaited with bated breath before the summer recess.

At a time when the economy is sagging and public sector funding is tight, it seems a no-brainer for councils to take on the regulation of charity fundraising. And with household income being squeezed from all directions, the decision to give or not give to charities might safely be left to the general public.

 

Charity fundraising is seen as a nuisance, but it is vital for charites

Chuggers at work on the UK's high streets

Cait Reilly’s heart’s in the right place, but maybe her head isn’t?

January 13, 2012 1 comment
Cait Reilly rails against workfare by taking coalition to court

Anti-worfare protests have appeared all over the UK, but is this part of a something-for-nothing culture?

My dad always had a saying: “If you’re young and a socialist your heart’s in the right place, but if you’re old and still a socialist, you’re head’s in the wrong place.”

When I was young I used to thin this was a simple platitude. I would bring it out at the pub every now and again as an adage, or prove a point, usually getting an appreciative chortle from the crowd.

In it’s most basic context it says that the young, free of any great burdens, are free to pursue ideological concepts. They can moan about the status quo, and rile against the establishment because they have no vested interest in it yet.

Once you hit a certain age you notice that we all need money to live and do the things that we enjoy. The older you get the more money becomes the necessity needed to allow those dependent on you to live and do the things they enjoy. Hence, poor Karl Marx spent most of his life in poverty.

I was a naive teenager once. I don’t say this condescendingly, or patronisingly, I say it with a certain degree of melancholia. While studying philosophy I envisaged a country where communism might work. I agreed with Marx’s idea that capitalism, embodied by private property, separates labour, capital and land, degrading the worker to a commodity to be bought and sold.

But poor Cait Reilly takes the biscuit. Her heart is in the right place as she rails ‘forced labour’, these poor graduates and unemployed people who have to do a few hours a week at Poundland. Marx would be pleased at her stand. But to anyone who has worked at places like Poundland, her stance is naïve, insulting and arrogant.

I may sound very Daily Mail here, but I didn’t languish on benefits waiting for an employer to hire me. I got myself a job that was flexible enough that allowed me to earn enough to take a week off here and there to do what I needed to do.

Benefits are for people who cannot find work. They are not a grant for students who think that after their degree they can sit around being paid by the state to volunteer. If you want a specific job, then yeah, you may have to do voluntary work, but a mature adult works to fund their placements.

At present I study two days a week on my NCTJ. I then work four days a week from either 11 or 12:30 until 9pm in a call centre, so that I can afford my rent, pay my bills and buy food.

But I go through this six days a week rigamarole so that every month I can do a week at a local newspaper. This is the pièce de résistance of my time, where I do the work that I want to do, where I use my philosophy degree, and get a stab at proving myself to editors and staff there that I may be a good employee one day.

So I have very little sympathy with someone who sits at home on the dole (sorry jobseeker’s), paying no rent or bills, and enjoying an perpetual work placement in a museum.

I have stacked shelves, waited tables, folded clothes, swept floors, emptied bins and cold-called hundreds, if not thousands of people. I have also chased shoplifters, been verbally abused (both in person and over the phone) and treated like a slave by employers. And you know what, the only ‘value’ this was to me was that I got paid and I’d eat!

It is insulting that there is such expectation out there, that I don’t need to take any job, because the state will provide for me. It is insulting to everyone who has ever had to take any job because they have mouths to feed. It is insulting to those who have had to do voluntary work in their spare time, giving up much of their social life because of the time they’ve missed work. And it isn’t just insulting to all the people who didn’t either go to university, or get the opportunity to do so, it is arrogant to be so presumptive about your qualities. Get the job, then be smug.

And although I have very strong opinions against Workfare, I do not think it breaches a human right to say you have been on benefits for six months, how about doing a bit of work to earn that?

Yes, there should be a less draconian way of getting able-bodied graduates and the long-term unemployed work experience. Yes, it is almost slave labour, and Marx would turn in his grave at the thought of it. But, guess what, in the real world you have to do things you don’t want to. I work with a considerable number of people who have lost good, well-paid jobs due to the recession. Do they sit about on benefits? Like hell, they have responsibilities. I have colleagues on my course who are having to do their work experience during their holidays because they have jobs and responsibilities.

And to cap it all off she seems to want to claim more money off the government by taking them to court? After living on benefits for over six months, she now wants to take more tax-payers funding as compensation? Is she using her jobseeker’s to pay for her lawyer? Or is it a ‘no win, no fee’ claim?

Is sacrificing democracy for the markets worth the cost?

November 17, 2011 1 comment

We were told the other day at work that it is against health and safety to bring a cup of tea upstairs from the kitchen to the call centre. This is because we could spill it on the stairs (or ourselves), and cause someone to slip. Fair enough, I’m not here to argue against that, but would it be an arrestable offence to take a cup of tea upstairs?

I somehow doubt it.

So I was a little shocked with how innocuous the news was that the Occupy Wall Street camp in New York had been evicted. When peaceful protests are being clamped down on by governments I’d think it would get more coverage.

In less than three hours the camp had been dismantled and cleaned and over 200 people arrested. It was explained that the plans had been drawn up a few weeks ago, but it was only yesterday that Mayor, Michael Bloomberg decided that the presence of the protesters was offensive enough for him to give the go-ahead for their removal.

It seems like Bloomberg has cited public health and safety concerns as the reason that people were evicted, but is it now an arrestable offence to breach health and safety?

Democratic protests are demolished by an integrated ruling elite

As OLSX is threatened eviction, the bankers they campaign against are put in charge in Europe

Like my cup of tea at work, which I continue to take upstairs because I feel that not having a cup of tea at my desk breaches my natural rights, it seems like the rights of protesters are being trampled as equally in the West as they were before the Arab Spring in the East.

Is it behind a wall of health and safety procedures that democracy dies? Is the right to peaceful protest is only available when it’s convenient or if it doesn’t go on too long?

And yesterday the City of London Corporation has re-launched its bid to remove the protesters from outside St Paul’s. Now the protesters are determined to have another go, but with the camps being raided and dismantled across the globe by somewhat surly councillors and politicians, I have my doubts about their likelihood to succeed in achieving anything.

The message from the top, or The US Supreme Court at least, is that our inalienable right to peaceful protest only goes so far as our leaders are willing to let it. This defeats the purpose if our leaders are the ones being complained about. We can protest the war in Iraq, the cuts to tuition fees, anything we like, as long as we are prepared to be clamped down on by the police, or watch our next generation be kettled, or move when the police tell us to.

Last week, the students held another demo against fees, and from the pictures it basically looked like a giant police training exercise in kettling people. The crowd was surrounded by officers, and not allowed to deviate from the path. Any attempt to meet up with other blocks of resistance was nipped in the bud.

Am I the only one who is scared?

And not just because the ruling elite are showing that their silk gloves are actually steel gauntlets, but because the gradual integration of our ruling elite, the media, and the financial sector.

We now have bankers in charge of Italy and Greece, in the shape of Messrs Monti and Papademos. Surely the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008 showed the inability of the financial sector to look out for any interests other than their own? If not, then maybe the outrage at stricter ring-fencing, or just generally their refusal to make any changes to the system that has made a few billions.

The only thing which used to allow me to sleep easy at night is the distinction between the groups that control our world – the financial sector, the politicians, the media, and religion.

Many could claim that the influence of religion is negligible, but what religion and the media both do is perpetuate the myths our society lives by. Our politicians control the legislation our lives are limited by, and the financial sector moves the money our lives rely on. Separate and monitored, we have nothing to fear, but nowadays politicians are unafraid to be religious, or in bed with the media, the protests are being condemned by priests, and financial leaders are now being begged by the markets they control to take charge of governments.

It should worry everyone that market driven leaders are ending up on our political shelves. We have the right to vote our leaders in – even if as pointed out by Archie Bland in the I Paper: “There is nothing to stop total idiots trying to be leader of the free world.” We did not vote for technocrats, and neither did the Italians and Greeks. Although they say it is in everyone’s best interests, it is in the interests of the markets first and foremost that they have taken charge, and these are what they will protect.

I can only see it as a conflict of interests if in any democratic country the needs of the few are subservient to the needs of the many. But this is what is happening. Our Government is determined to keep the markets happy and Europe is begging technocrats to take charge, effectively breaking the democratic process. It may not be the end of the world now, but it sets a scary precedent. And, even if they sort it out, how do we know that power will filter back down?

We should all be afraid, not just youths, students, trade unionists, protesters, communists and anarchists. As I wrote a few weeks ago, it is the quiet acquiescence of the many that allows a minority of partisans, with sycophantic or selfish interests, to take control. We all have our heads so buried in the sand that we can’t see that the foundations of democracy, our most sacred ideology, are being undermined for the needs of capitalism. Surely it should be the other way round.

 

 

People Power only begins with peaceful protests

Occupy the London Stock Exchange is the most recent of many peaceful protests
Lord Kitchener asked the British public to unite, so now do OLSX

 I raise money for a homeless charity at the minute. It’s not glamorous, but I’d say that I am proud of the fact that for now, the fruits of my labour don’t line some fat cats wallet. So, instead of camping outside St Paul’s, I can go to work, knowing in my heart of hearts that I am helping some of the 99 per cent.

Unfortunately, the other reason I’m not down on the picket lines is that it is unlikely to ever influence the government to change anything. It seems like even the most famous peaceful protesters, Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jnr, were assassinated before any kind of long-lasting change was implemented.

An assassination can be a rallying cry to the half-hearted, the meek, and the ignorant. When a death is witnessed and felt by enough people, the shared grief and the anger boil over. It can be a call to arms or simply the straw that broke the poor camel’s back.

It can also be a call for unity like the day Diana died, or 9/11. The world in their shared grief and fear forget their woes and sat glued to the TV watching the news as it came in. The old and young, the rich and poor, the one per cent and the 99 per cent, people of all races, were brought together into a united whole, together in their grief. When a whole people, a whole country, or even the whole world comes together under emotions so strong it boggles the mind the sheer power that collective could have.

It was Marianne Williamson in Return to Love: Reflections on a Course in Miracles, who said it best:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination. It is our light more than our darkness which scares us. We ask ourselves – who are we to be brilliant, beautiful, talented, and fabulous. But honestly, who are you to not be so?”

And who are we not to be so? We have groups of the Occupy the London Stock Exchange in cities throughout our country. The National Association of Head Teachers has for the first time in over 100 years voted to strike, the other unions are rallying as well. The students have twice been out in force and even the uneducated have tried to make their voices heard in this Summer’s riots.

But, it is not enough. Because there are still so many out there who feel inadequate, who are too scared to be powerful beyond imagination.

It is easy to get scared, the world can be terrifying. But in the end it is unsatisfying and hollow, and results in a gradual degradation of the soul. The democratic capitalism we live under, is run by politicians, the markets, civil servants, and diffused through to us by the media, advertising and marketing. It is the people at the top of these trades that want us to feel awful, ugly, untalented and squalid, because they want us to feel brilliant, beautiful, talented and fabulous on their terms, using their products and in a way that perpetuates all the power in their hands. It is about control, and it is so easy to buy into it that we can all be forgiven for doing so.

Their path to beauty, talent, splendour and brilliance is easy to follow. You jump on a career ladder and get a salary. You start to forget how you could be brilliant et al without these things. Suddenly you have a mortgage and a family, a financial and social debt that will never be lifted. By this time you are quite old, and set in your ways, and to imagine the world any differently is scary indeed.

This is why it is only the young, the students, and the unions, as well as a limited number of idealists are the only ones who still believe that a world without the one versus the 99 per cent is less scary than this one. A small group that feel that they have so little to lose that anything will be better than what we have already.

But this leaves a majority who cling on to what they have, proud that they have touched brilliance and talent et al through following the crowd. They have buried their heads in the sand because a change in the fundamental order of things is too scary to behold. ‘Imagine all the things we could lose,’ they think, and to protect what they hold dear, they condemn those who fight for change.

This has turned illiterate children into vandals and thugs, students into anarchists, and unionists into communists. It helps protect the illusory world, because even though it isn’t perfect, it is safe and secure. We have worked so hard to reach the levels of achievement that our leaders and idols have told us to emulate that to try and find those things within ourselves is too hard 

But, with the financial crisis this could change. Maybe it will be the spark that wakes up a nation. When people see their children being kettled by police, or their savings disappear, or their pensions taken, maybe they will realise, like the young and the idealistic, that things aren’t, and never have been, as good as our politicians and co. have painted them.

If we are going to find our light, and our brilliance, we must shrug off the conceptions of these ideas that are forced on us, and accept the ideas of these things we have of our own. Only then will we be able to stand together, humble and proud, yet united. Our media fed ideas of beauty and talent have done nothing to nurture either of these things, but only to make us arrogant, divided and suspicious of each other. So we must shrug off the yoke of the one per cent, and the cronies and sycophants who are their priests, and create something better or at least fairer.

This would, unfortunately, require a lot more than a student protest or a union strike. It would require the biggest mass walkout ever seen, across not just the public, but the private sector too.

It isn’t just for us, for we are too far gone to touch it, only to create it. It is for the future, and the children who will remember us not as the people who accepted greed, hoping we could one day be greedy, but renounced it, so that they could enjoy equality.

Rhetoric: proper debating or unhealthy arguing?

September 23, 2011 1 comment

Ever fallen victim to Godwin’s Law, also known as the Rule of Nazi Analogies? I have, and it wasn’t very pleasant. Firstly, I was embarrassed, because I’d used the Nazi’s, or Hitler (I don’t remember which) as a comparison, which is extremely lazy. Secondly, it made me bit miffed to have my point shut down by a debating rule. Childish I know, but we all secretly want to throw a temper tantrum at times don’t we?

Anyways, tantrums and feet stamping aside, on reflection, I was a bit disturbed by this run in with Godwin, however trivial.

I realised that GL is just one of many ways to shut down an argument without actually refuting someone’s point. If you go to the Fallacy Files you can research exactly how many logic tricks there are to beat someone in a debate.

We all know that an argument has premises that lead to a conclusion. In its most basic form, modus ponens, it is:

If a then b (if the leaves are golden (a) it’s autumn (b))

It’s a, (the leaves are golden)

Therefore it’s b too (it must be autumn).

(You could argue with this example but I made it up looking out the window and I am not going to find another one, and the fallacious nature of my example shouldn’t retract from my point).

But in an argument you also have two other aspects, which regularly get ignored: The conclusion and the truth.

This is why another example of modus ponens is logically true, but it has no point and can’t be true:

If the sky is pink, I’m a pink elephant. The sky is pink, so therefore I’m a pink elephant.

The argument is valid, but what point does it prove? We can use any number of premises to argue our point, so just because our premises are incorrect, shouldn’t invalidate my point, it just invalidates the way I made the point. And, however logically valid it is, it cannot be said to be true. It seems so basic, but it is often forgotten.

Politicians, businessmen, people at the pub, hoboes in fact, can make a valid argument, but it doesn’t mean that it’s true.

I might have approached this indirectly, but here’s what I mean. Two anti-abortionist could disagree on why they are against terminating a pregnancy, even if they agree with the point in question, abortion should be illegal. To put across this point they can take any of innumerable premises and conclusions. One might think abortions should be illegal because they cost the NHS too much money. The other might feel that the foetus is a human being as soon as the sperm and egg meet. But our first antagonist could think that the foetus is not a person until the baby is born.

The fact is, you could tear apart either of these fictitious debater’s arguments, yet their point could remain valid. Abortion could be totally immoral for all I know. Just pointing out that their argument is a fallacy doesn’t escape the point of the matter, or the truth.

This is why winning a debate is the wrong approach to arguing. When you win a debate, you miss the point, which should be to find the truth. If you disprove someone’s argument, you haven’t disproved the truth – because by definition the truth is the truth and cannot be false (there’s some logic for you). What debate should lead to is a balanced answer, based on the truth, not a winner and a loser.

And the reason, oh very patient reader, that I was disturbed by my encounter with Mr Godwin’s Law, was because shutting down a debate, or winning a debate I should say, applies to all our political lives.

Politicians are the most talented rhetoricians I’ve ever heard. They are very skilled at tearing apart each other’s arguments and winning debates. But, because they have policies and agendas, they are not winning arguments for the sake of finding the truth.

The truth is that the UK is in a very sad place just now and a lot of people are feeling the heat (or the cold if energy prices are anything to go by). Our government should be interested in lessening our burdens and protecting our economy, yet they squabble like school children. By having a process of debate and law enactment based on winning and losing, I wonder if any of their policies actually are ‘truly’ best for our country.

I don’t like using ‘what is best’, but it’s, ironically, the best term I’ve got. There is a range of measures which would be best for our country, but because politicians think so much about re-election, they want to do what pleases their voters or campaign funders.

This was put excellently by Christina Patterson in the I Paper. “Most people in this country support capital punishment. Most people like the idea that teenagers caught up in mass hysteria should have their lives wrecked. Most people even seem to think that people who earn six times as much as they do shouldn’t pay a higher rate of tax. They believe these things because their parents, and the newspapers, and even sometimes because their politicians tell them they should.”

I was the same. I went into my first philosophy tutorial full of opinions that I quickly realised were echoes my mother’s. It happens, but as Christine notes, “we can change our minds”.

We need politicians who are willing to give up everything for the truth, and the truth is constituents don’t know what is good for them, they just know what they want. And politicians sway the masses with promises of what they want (like the Lib Dem promise to freeze tuition fees, nice as an idea, impossible in practice), and behave like experts when they’re not.

As one very wise commentator stated, rhetoric “is the art of persuasion in courts of law and other assemblies” and that it “creates belief about the just and unjust, but gives no instruction about them.”

He adds, “The rhetorician need not know the truth about things; he has only to discover some way of persuading the ignorant that he has more knowledge than those who do know.”

My commentator is Plato, writing over 2,000 years ago in the Gorgias. But he’s still right. Our business leaders, media moguls, bankers and even people on the streets, are not experts outside their fields. We all know a little this and a little that, but when we stand united, we know a lot about a great many things. Rhetoric in government and business ignores the truth for the sake of comfort and the status quo, to please shareholders or voters.

Politics has lost the truth, the media and banks have lost the truth, and our country has lost the truth. That’s why, over the last few years we’ve endured expense scandals, banks crashing, phone hacking and riots. What we need is to take stock and realise that we can’t live in a country where we’re all trying to survive individually because competition and consumption is finite. We need to live somewhere where cooperation is offered, compromise is welcome and compassion isn’t a lefty ideal. I know which state of affairs would make me happier.

Commuting ‘cheaper’ than buying close to work – but only if you live in London

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

This was my crowning glory at Thisismoney.co.uk. The press release came in and I spent hours going through the figures, making sure I’d got the data right for the piece, which was published first thing on the Saturday as the lead news story – lucky me.

Thanks, as always, to Thisismoney.co.uk for letting me print it.

Report suggests living outside London and commuting is cheaper for commuters.

Cost saving: Commuting into London is often much cheaper than living in the city

London workers are making big savings by commuting rather than living near work, according to a study looking at house prices.

But the same benefits are not seen around all other major cities.

Commuters living in Home Counties – an hour outside of London – own homes £375,000 cheaper than those in the city.

The study found that with a rail season ticket costing £4,400 a year, commuters from towns like Peterborough and Swindon could afford to travel to work in London for over 80 years with the savings they’ve made on their properties.

The average house price in Reading and Milton Keynes, half an hour outside London, is £275,000, while a property in Central London is £620,000.

Travellers from these locations have shorter journey times and cheaper rail tickets of around £3,100 a year. Their homes – and repayments – are typically 66 per cent lower.

 Residents in Wimbledon and other outer boroughs, only 15 minutes from the city centre, are paying on average £300,000 less for their accommodation, with commuting estimated at only £1,400 a year.

The study by mortgage lender Halifax does not take central London tube fare prices into account.

‘It’s no surprise, for London at least, that the longer your commute, the larger the difference in house prices,’ said Nitesh Patel, a housing economist at Halifax.

‘The decision to commute is not simply a trade-off between financial costs and journey times.’

Social factors such as better schools and quality of homes can explain why commuters would prefer to travel greater distances to get to work.

However, commuters living near other major cities in the UK do not always find the same pay-offs.

In Birmingham, the average cost of housing within the city is actually cheaper than in local towns 30 minutes away. Residents in these towns will be paying an extra £1,500 a year to commute on top of an extra £10,000 on their houses.

Of course, those who bought in the centre of London in previous decades are likely to have seen a bigger increase in the value of their home than those in the Home Counties, with those buyers getting an excellent return rather than pumping their hard-earned money into train fares.

The cost of rail travel is set to increase dramatically next year. This is due to changes in the way increases to train ticket fares are calculated.

Whereas previously fare increases were based on the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation, with train firms given leeway to add up to one per cent on top, from July this year, train companies are now allowed to add up to three per cent.

With the RPI inflation figure remaining at five per cent, commuters could see their transport costs soar up to eight per cent next year. But, because the rises can be calculated as an average across all fares, this means that some fares could skyrocket, whilst others remain relatively stable.

This week, the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, added his voice to the clamour, saying that trains have become a ‘rich man’s toy’, with some fares becoming ‘eye-wateringly’ expensive.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the charity Campaign for Better Transport, said: ‘Far from being simply “a rich man’s toy” trains are also vital for many of those on more moderate incomes who need to get to work.’

Original source: Thisismoney.co.uk

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