Within the ten questions posed to the five party leaders in the MSE Leaders Debate, I put a few deliberate curve balls to see if the politicians would actually answer…
As suspected, they were glossed over and avoided hence why the top of the guide says:
We asked them to answer the whole question – if you think they’re evading – do hold it against them it’s unlikely to be accidental.”
Here are the three:
Q. First Time Buyers. Many first time buyers are finding it increasingly difficult to get on the ladder, not just due to the cost of mortgages, but the huge deposites needed. What practical steps will you take to help them and *****is it wise to encourage people into the property market at the moment?***** (the key bit being between the stars)
All their first time buyers’ answers go on about what they would do to help as you’d expect. Yet most studiously they avoid the housing market issue.
This is no surprise – while many homeowners want house prices up, many wannabee buyers want them to fall, so the politicians can’t win. The question takes it further though – with house prices up another 10% this year, should the Government be encouraging first time buyers to invest in what is ultimately a volatile asset class?
In my view the only one who touchest upon it is Nick Clegg, who says:
They refused to heed Vince Cable’s warnings about this bubble and rejected his proposal to include house price inflation in the Bank of England’s targets in order to prevent homes becoming so unaffordable. We are all paying the price for this mistake, and yet the government is still trying to lever up prices. In a fair society, everyone should be able to afford somewhere decent to live – not necessarily to buy, of course, but at least to rent.”
Q. Council Tax & Water rates. The current council tax banding system has been in place since 1991 in England and Scotland. It’s time for a fair update so that 400,000 homes are no longer in the wrong band. How will you address this? Plus many people still pay water rates based on a valuation of their homes done in 1989 yet they can’t appeal it. Will you change that?
Here it was the whole question that was the issue – my suspicion was many of them would address the issue of council tax itself rather than the banding issue – but I was wrong – see the council tax answers.
Brown, Cameron and Clegg all mentioned banding to some degree – with a large and detailed answer from Cameron especially, though the SNP and Plaid missed it (though to be fair to Plaid, Wales has already been rebanded).
What they were much worse on was the water rates issue, though Brown did say:
We will also review the role of Ofwat the water regulator, to ensure customers are getting and fair deal and their voice is heard when prices are set.”
and Nick Clegg talked about the rollout of meters.
Q. Stamp Duty. The way stamp duty works is ludicrous. When you cross a boundary you pay the tax on the entire cost, not just the marginal rate. It creates an unbalance and unfair system. Are you brave enough to change it?
It seems they didn’t read the question which was not about the cost of stamp duty but the structure (see the stamp duty calculator and stamp duty the most unfair tax blog). All of them studiously avoided that with one exception.
The only one brave enough to answer was again Nick Clegg who, while not sorting the problem, at least acknowledged it:
It certainly is unfair, and we have a long-term ambition to change it. But changing stamp duty would come at with a huge price-tag unless you increased the rates, and – with the black hole threatening to engulf public finances already – this isn’t something we can do right now.”
See the rest of their stamp duty answers.