Buy to Let

19th September 2015

Housing policy

The impact of buy-to-let on housing policy

In this article I look at the budget measure to change the tax benefits on landlords who buy to let.  This forms part of my series of articles and book on housing policy. It looks at the measure in the Chancellor’s summer budget that proposes to change the way that buy-to-let landlords are taxed.

This article is work in progress; more will come later.

What the measure is about

The Chancellor plans to restrict tax relief on landlords of buy-to-let (BTL) properties [HMRC, 2015]
In the 2015 summer budget, The Chancellor proposed to phase out for current 40% tax relief for buy-to-let landlords resident in the UK. These will be individuals rather then companies.
The restrictions will be phased in from April 2014.
This measure will restrict relief for finance costs on residential properties to the basic rate of Income Tax.  Finance costs includes mortgage interest, interest on loans to buy furnishings and fees incurred when taking out or repaying mortgages or loans. No relief is available for capital repayments of a mortgage or loan. [HMRC, 2015]
Landlords who have higher incomes will no longer receive generous tax reliefs.
At the moment, buy-to-let landlords represent 15% of residential property mortgages. The BTL sector has been booming in recent times.
Buy-to-let landlord enjoy an advantage in the market because they can claim relief on the interest they pay for mortgages against their income. People who are buying their own home, to live in, cannot do this. The more income a landlord has the higher the amount of this relief.
Tax relief on finance costs for buy-to-let landlords is to restricted to the basic rate of tax.
The current allowance is set at 40%.
Rental property is taxed more heavily than owner occupied property.

What the measure tries to achieve

The aim of measure was to make taxation fairer for individual residential home owners. George Osborne said that his aim was to create a more level playing field between those buying a home to let and those who are buying a home to live in.
The restrictions are aimed at individuals, presumably meaning sole traders. Some suggest  that this will lead to more people using companies to engage in buy-to-let. The decrease in Corporation tax might further enhance this trend.
The 2015 budget stated that the government will take forward proposals to improve the market for residential property management services in to make tangible improvements in the market to benefit both leaseholders and landlords [Treasury, 2015
The restrictions will not apply to non-resident  investors.

The impact of the measure

The Chancellor’s proposals will not increase the supply of housing.

The budget red book stated that this means that “the current tax system supports landlords over and above ordinary homeowners” and that it “puts investing in a rental property at an advantage”.  According to one analyst, this line of argument is plain wrong. Rental property is taxed more heavily than owner occupied property. [Institute of Fiscal Studies, July 2015]

According to Bill Dodwell of Deloitte this could lead to losses for investors. Rises in bank rate would exacerbate losses.

Some commentators predict that this arrangements will cause rents to rise and would therefore be inflationary. Analysts see this proposal was leading to a shortage of properties to let or an increase in the rate of rents.

The scheme is likely to affect only one in five individual landlords, those in the higher income sector. hence, it is predicted that wealthier landlords will be hardest hit by these proposals and the wealthier they are the harder they will be hit by them. Professional landlords in the higher tax bracket will suffer losses as a result. According to the National Association of Landlords, the measure will affect 204,000 landlords. They state that ‘Right now it is especially crucial as we try to convince the Treasury to amend its Finance Bill to prevent massive financial harm for landlords throughout the UK.’ [NLA, 2015]

The impact of this measure might be that some BTL landlords will sell off their properties in order to avoid the losses that would be incurred as a result of increased taxation.  However, they might find themselves hit by capital gains tax.

Commentators warn that the measure will make BTL investment less attractive, especially for those using it as an alternative way of providing or supplementing pension income. Rapidly rising house prices have attracted investors into the property market and low interest rates have made property a more attractive option for people who have funds to invest. Trends in the availability of mortgages, especially for first-time buyers, affect the number of people seeking rented accommodation. BTL landlords have top be sure that they are getting an income from their lets and this depends on their mortgage costs being relatively low. BTL landlords have to ensure that they avoid periods when a property is empty and they have to be careful about maintenance and repair costs.

Some might transfer their property holdings to companies.  Some see the measure as leading to a hike in rents. Restrictions to BTL will result in less homes being available and this will push rents.

In fact if bank rate rises happen and savings and investment in funds becomes more attractive, investors might begin to move out of the property market. Many invested in BTL because this promises a higher rate of return than putting money into schemes where interest rates were low. Commentators remain divided on the extent to which this measure will affect property as an investment.

Nearly three quarters of renters considered their rents to be good value for money, says the National Landlords Association. Increasing shortages of mortgages for young people and pensioners has led to a large increase in rented accommodation. The proportion of people in the private rented sector is now larger than for those in council housing or in housing association lets. Those renting their homes increasingly claim housing benefits. Renting in the private sector provides little security of tenure. Last of security is particularly hard for older renters whose income is fixed. If this measure does lead to an increase in rents that will lead to increased poverty and hike the amount local authorities will to pay in housing benefits.

George Osborne’s measure must have seem like a good idea at the time; in the long-term it might have a raft of unintended consequences.

References

Department for Communities and Local Government, May 2015, Policy paper: 2010 to 2015 government policy: rented housing sector. UK Government

Hanley, Lynsey, 2012, Private tenants like me need long-term security, The Guardian.

HMRC, 2015, Policy paper: Restricting finance cost relief for individual landlords.

Institute of Fiscal Studies, July 2015, Summer Post Briefing.
NLA, 2015, National Landlords Association.
Treasury, HM, 2015, Budget 2015, HC1093, March 2015.

See also:

House Bricks: the future of housing in Britain

Housing – new approaches to policy

 

BlackHistory 2015

Black History Month Leicester

Throughout October 2015

Black History Month (BHM) returns to Leicester, celebrating the heritage, history and achievements of African and African Caribbean communities with a full programme of events, from arts to education.

BHM runs throughout October, and this year’s theme acknowledges jazz icon Billie Holiday in what is the centenary year of her birth. In fitting homage, the festival launches on Friday 25 September with Strange Fruit: A Tribute to Billie Holiday, showcasing a selection of talented locally based singers and musicians.

Included in the line-up is Carol Leeming, renowned as a hugely versatile artist with a very powerful and distinct vocal style; innately skilled, innovative performer of song, spoken word, jazz vocalese and scat, Mellow Baku; established jazz vocalist Dee Joseph; and emerging talents Lydia Unsudimi and Ili Sanchea, alongside musical accompaniment from saxophonist Marcus Joseph, double bass player Mark Trounson and drummer Paul Whistler, under the musical direction of Neil Hunter. Those attending the event are encouraged to embrace the 40s and 50s jazz club scene by dressing up in their best cocktail dresses and dinner suits, in what will be a unique event at Leicester’s City Hall.

Black History Month is organised by local diversity-led arts charity, Serendipity, on behalf of Leicester City Council, which provides funding.

Numerous events will be taking place across the city during October, including workshops, lectures and book talks, music events, comedy and theatre. Upstairs at the Western pub, in Western Road, host Michelle Inniss will present her thought-provoking new play She Called Me Mother, which stars esteemed actor Cathy Tyson, and the witty Doc Brown makes an appearance at The Y with The Weird Way Round. Doc has gained fame on Russell Howard’s Good News and YouTube.

In partnership with Serendipity, the Phoenix will be screening a series of films from biopics and documentaries to ground-breaking Hollywood classics Jazz on a Summer’s Day and Stormy Weather.
Visitors to Leicester Libraries will be able to hear some Somali Lullabies, while the city’s museums service will be presenting a talk highlighting the contribution of The West Indian Regiment in the Great War.

This year also sees the introduction of a new initiative by 2Funky Arts. BHM Radio 2Funky will empower local young people to present and produce radio shows, providing further information about the BHM programme alongside music, news and documentary features.

Pawlet Brookes, artistic director at Serendipity said: “This year’s Black History Month programme is a fantastic opportunity for people in Leicester to come together, with a range of events celebrating the cultural contributions of the African and African Caribbean community historically, and also providing platforms for emerging talent to showcase their work.
“It is a privilege to oversee Black History Month in Leicester. There is something for everyone, and we hope that people across the city will make the most of the opportunity to attend some of the exciting events BHM 2015 has to offer.”

Cllr Piara Singh Clair, assistant city mayor responsible for culture, leisure, heritage and sport, said: “Black History Month is once again offering a fantastic range of events that showcase the talent, history and rich culture of the black community.
“Black History Month is a chance for everyone in Leicester to celebrate the important contribution the black community has made to our city and beyond. I hope that lots of people will take this opportunity to get involved.”

To find out more about Black History Month, including full listings of the events planned, pick up a leaflet at city museums, libraries and other council buildings, call 0116 257 7316 or see the visit Leicester website or got to www.serendipity-uk.com

Follow Black History Month News on:
Twitter: @SerendipityInfo or @leicesterfest #BHM2015
Facebook: serendipity.ltd or leicesterfestivals

Published 18th September 2015

see also:

Reginald D Hunter in Leicester

Young Actors

September 2015

URBAN YOUNG ACTORS

was set up because there was such a hunger for a drama group in Leicester designed specifically for ‘Real kids with natural ability’.

URBAN is a drama workshop for young people between the ages of 8 and 21. Our session plans change weekly and consist of improvisation, script work, drama games, theatre work, filming projects, play writing, showcasing, confidence building but most importantly FUN! We are a specialist drama school and that is our main focus.

Are you ready for Project LE1?  On the 12th & 13th September our Over 16s will be performing an original, innovative and interactive promenade project. Your help is needed to solve a young girl’s murder.

Arts in Leicester attended the Sunday night performance of LE1, held at Quad Studios in Friday Street, Leicester.

It was a very enjoyable evening; we enjoyed the performance. It was a promenade theatre,  in which the audience (and some of the actors) walked round and saw various scenes from the drama, enacted in various parts of the building and in different rooms.

This new approach to theatre was very original and refreshing.  All of the young actors were good and put on impressive performances.

The story told of the murder of Maya Johnson (played by Alisha Mehta).  The audience played the role of judge and jury and was asked to decide who had committed the murder.

The audience were shown four suspects and had to vote for which one they thought committed the murder.

In a surprise ending, the ghost of Maya appeared and confessed she had poisoned herself. So, a suicide rather than a murder.

The cast had been rehearsing the drama since June; the words they spoke was improvised within a framework for the plot as a whole. We saw some impressively good performances, particularly by the presenter, Jonathan Crawley (played by Lois Gale) and by Kirk Langstrom (played by Charlie Riggall).  Alisha Mehta’s closing soliloquy as the ghost of Maya Johnson, explaining how she met her death, was both moving and dramatically  superb.

For a group of young actors this was a very engaging and impressive piece of drama.

Technical production was executed by Jamie Borland.

The drama was devised by Melissa Smith and the cast.

About Urban Young Actors

We want to inspire young people to be the best that they can be. So often it has been the case that because children may have been unable to attend a local drama group due to expensive class fees or locations they have never realised their talents and full creative potential. We often hear also that children have not felt comfortable/confident in other groups- this does not happen at Urban- we really are like one big family! The positive effects a good drama group can have on a young person are immeasurable. We at Urban Young Actors believe that setting up a safe, secure and creative environment helps children to grow in a positive manner, which can enhance all areas of life. It is a wonderful thing to attend a workshop with like-minded individuals and to feel a sense of personal achievement after every session. We aim to have a diverse mix of children in our group who will be keen to work together and learn from each other.

The group is entry on audition only. The main reason for this is to ensure personal attention and encouragement to each child therefore our numbers are limited. We also want to maintain a high quality of actors to continue our excellent relationships with casting directors. We are looking for ‘Real’ kids with a natural ability, willingness to learn, and a strong dedication to the group. It is very important children attend their 2 hour session every week to show their commitment to the group.

Urban Young Actors Leicester on YouTube

See the website for Young Urban Actors

See also:

City Festival 2015

and our article on the History of Music in Leicester

Music

17th September 2015

Articles I have written about music

This list brings together in one page the articles I have written about music.  Not included in this list (as yet) are the articles I wrote for the old Arts in Leicestershire magazine. I plan to re-publish some of these in the archival collection on this blog.

An X-factor for bands?

Band promotion

Bands and singers

Classic rock is dead

The Economics of local live music

Editorial bias in music

Flash gigs

History of music in Leicester

Local music – does it matter?

Major new festival showcase for Leicester

Music history

New bands starting up

Standards for live music venues

Thoughts on singing

Venues: friends or foes?

What makes a good band?

What makes a good gig?

What makes a good live music scene?

When should gigs start

Where is live music now?, in Arts in Leicester magazine, 2014

Writing about music

See also:

A list of all my published work

Writing about music

9th September 2015

Writing about music:

Choices and consequences.

This is not the first time that I have written about the perils of music journalism. Writing about bands and the performances they give can be a dangerous thing.  If you get it wrong, it backfires on your reputation as a writer. On more than one occasion I have been criticised for writing only about the bands I like. Such criticisms have come from people whose opinions are respected.  My stock reply is along the lines of ‘well if I think a band is not very good, then there is no pointing writing about them.’ Bear in mind, that (at Music in Leicester magazine) we are not paid to do this work; it is a voluntary commitment – we do it because we are passionate about music.

It has been suggested that this magazine should write honestly about all bands, whether they are good, bad or indifferent.  Sorry. But no. We just don’t have the time to provide a service of that kind; we are not a Wikipedia-type website for general knowledge about everything musical (even within the confines of Leicester.) I write about bands that I like, whose music I think I understand and whose performances tick the various boxes that I use to describe what I think is good in terms of live music. [What makes a good band?]

All those who write about gigs and bands choose which ones they want to devote their free time to.  I cannot direct people to attend certain events; if I am asked which events I would suggest, I do so, but this is not a paid job with a chain of command. Volunteer reviewers are more likely to go to a gig and write about it, if it is one they like. Apart from me, all the other writers have full-time jobs and have to fit their music interests around these.

Doing justice to a band

Having thought about it, I am of the opinion that,  if I see a band and their music fails to excite me (either because I do not understand it or because I am just not in the right frame of mind for it) then I should not write anything. It is a disservice both to the readers and to the bands if I write something half-hearted, just to give them a mention. In other words, it would be better to say nothing than write a review that fails to justice to act or set. I have a habit of turning up at a gig without having researched the bands beforehand; life is very busy and time is short, so it is easy to skip the pre-gig stuff and hope you can wing it.

How long does it take to write a review?  Well, very roughly speaking, it takes

Prep – up to 30 minutes for pre-gig research
Attend – Two to three hours to get there, see the bands and get back
Write – varies a lot but say 30 minutes on average, per band
Photos – allow 30 minutes to process photos and upload them

So, we are talking about a time commitment of between 3½ and 4½ hours. That’s just single gigs; and then are festivals… Writing time can be extended if you want to listen to a band again after you have seen them or watch any YouTube videos they have of their performances (often helps to check if you got it right.)

This calls into question what music journalism is about. I have sometimes Googled ‘gig reviews’ and gone through some of the stuff that has come up. This can be a useful exercise because any editor should want to compare the standards of his own work with that of others. One thing that stands out for me is that the best reviews (that I have read) are those that have clearly been written by people who know and understand the acts they are writing about. They have seen these acts before; they have listened to their music; they have taken some time to become thoroughly acquainted with the artists they are writing about. This makes them able to provide a justifiable and credible account of the work of that artist or band. Keith Jobey said:  “I know of a band who had a bad review (unjustified and not from MIL) about an early gig they’d played. They changed their name partly because it was being used against them. Happily they are now getting decent slots after positive MIL mentions.”

Standards are important

Looking back over my own experience of going to gigs and writing about them, one thing stands out – I have often not researched a band before seeing it for the first time. This results, in some cases, in a review of a poor standard.

Now, none of this would matter much, except that (a) Music in Leicester is one of the few places where people can read about bands and artists from our local area. We no longer have publications like The Monograph or From Dusk to Dawn and most of the websites that used to publish stuff about the local music scene have vanished. (b) I know for a fact that many promoters, venue managers and festival organisers check what we write here to get a feel for which bands are worth booking.

If there was a website that was a ‘wiki’ for all things musical in Leicester, then probably people would prefer to use that. All that music organisers have is Facebook as a source of intelligence about bands and artists – and that provides information but rarely allows for a more critical appraisal, and if they want to listen to a sample of tracks then Soundcloud and YouTube is also there. Good thought such sources can be, they provide only a partial picture. In most reviews we also try to describe how the audience reacted to what they were hearing; that is often a very important element of our reports.

There is also the issue of genre.  Some bands play music that I call ‘niche’; to do it justice, you have to understand what that music is about and that can be difficult for generalist writers.  I often see hardcore ‘screamo’ bands; I like some of them and others I do not. I have a general appreciation of this style of music but I do not specialise in it. A review of a post-hardcore gig would be much better done by someone who is really into that kind of music and knows the scene well (such as one of the musicians that play in bands of this kind.)

Responsible publishing

Publishing a magazine about music in Leicester is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. This website is not a fanzine; it might appear to be but it is not our intention to publish something that only promotes the acts we happen to like.  My fear is, however, that it appears to be just that. If this is the case, then I have not been doing my job properly. One solution to this problem is to get more people to write about more acts – to spread the net more widely. We have gone to some lengths to encourage contributions from people but the results have been less than good. Photographers are two a penny these days; but what is the point in seeing photos if there is nothing that puts them in context? Writing is not something that a lot of people go in for these days; either because of a lack of self-confidence or just a consequence of the post-literate society.

As an editor, I am delighted with the contributions made by our regular writers, Keith Jobey for example, to name but one and previously Kevin Gaughan. The problem I have is that there are just not enough people willing to go out to gigs and write them up; and in Leicester there are just so many gigs, that we can hope only to scratch the surface. As I have often said “so many bands, so little time.”

Where do we go from here?

What does this mean for the future of our editorial policy?  Well, I think it means that we have to raise our standards, make what we publish more credible and do a better job of writing about live music. The consequence will be that less will be published. Unless we can recruit more writers, that will be the result, given our current resources. Perhaps it is better to publish good quality reviews, even if they are fewer in number, than to make a half-baked attempt to cover a broad field. Bear in mind that anything that gets published on this website (magazine) stays there for all time; it is not ephemeral, it does not evaporate, it is a permanent record that stays on the Internet for as long as the site exists.

My conclusion is that we should write about a band or artist only when we have take some time and trouble to understand and appreciate their work. Given the pressures I am under, that means I will write much less – especially about the acts I have not seen before or do not know well. If a band is on tour and plays in Leicester (and the chances are they have not been here before) then they might have left behind them comments or write-ups about their previous performances. That gives an indication of what people think about them. Rather than watch a band cold (without any previous knowledge or experience) it is better to spend some time trying to get one’s head round what they do and then (when you do see them) you are more likely to write with credibility about their set.

The end of gig reviews?

As of today, I have cleared all the notes in my work book.  I have more or less finished my review of Simon Says… festival. I have cleared the decks.  It is time to make a fresh start. That fresh start should, I think, include doing the right amount of research before going to a gig. It might also include writing about ‘bands’ rather than ‘gigs.’  If you go to a show and see four bands but like only two of them, it would be better to write about those bands and say nothing about the others. (Notice I am talking to myself now.) That is not a gig review.

Recently I have been to certain gigs only because there were one or two bands that I wanted to see. I sat through the rest of the night and wrote about the others because I thought that justified my presence (on a free ticket.) I should stop doing this. The bands I do not write about may well be good bands and worthy of a positive review but that can be a hit-and-miss thing. I might not be the best person to write about them.

I think it would be better if we concentrated more on writing about bands and their music and took a more imaginative approach, including asking for comments from musicians and their fans, adding links to on-line sources so readers can make up their own minds and profiling bands to give the reader a better idea about what they do and have done.

Changing tastes

Like many people my musical tastes are changing. I know what I like. I know what fails to excite me. The range of live music that I feel impresses me is narrowing. Personally, I tend to like rock music that is popular and melodic. I do not dislike metal, punk, hardcore, etc. but I do not feel the same way about it and know less what makes some bands better than others within this context.  I should defer to others who are impressed by that other kind of music. I should not write about performances that are less than exciting (for me.) Others can do that job far better. The problem is getting other to write or even to comment.

This magazine was launched in June 2013; two years on, it is time to weigh-up its results. So, as of now, my gut feeling is that there will not be ‘gig reviews’ in any number and that what will get published are more articles about bands and singers and about the nature of our local music scene. If this provides readers with a more solid and credible coverage of music, then I might be doing my job properly.

Trevor Locke

Technical note

When reporters are sent to a gig, we ask the promoter of the show to give us free ‘tickets.’ This assumes that we are writing about the gig as a whole. If, however, to go to see one or two bands in a line-up, then we should ask the bands to provide us with tickets. If they want us to review their performances then they should provide us with the access to get in to see them. Having said that, some of our reviewers prefer to pay to get into gigs; that is their choice.