OBSCENE BONUS SHOWS WHY WE NEED A NEW APPROACH TO HOUSEBUILDING
Most people in Midlothian are familiar with Persimmon Homes. They’ve built many new houses in Dalkeith, Bonnyrigg and Gorebridge. What most people won’t know is that last week the company announced a record 25% increase in their pre-tax profits, to almost a billion pounds. That’s a £61,000 profit on every house they built in 2017.
And what did they do with those record profits? They gave them back to their shareholders, who will receive £4.1 billion over the period 2012-21, more than double the amount they had previously been promised. In order to fund this magnanimity, the Chief Executive of Persimmon had to agree to a cut in his bonus from £110m to a penny-pinching £75m.
Let’s put this in perspective. The annoyance of the Persimmon shareholders that they weren’t being paid enough for the effort of putting money into a guaranteed pay-back scheme led to the boss shuffling off £35m from his account into those shareholders’ coffers. Thirty five million pounds. In one year. Enough to plug the entire Midlothian Council budget deficit for the next three years. And the Persimmon boss will still have £75m this year alone, on top of his salary.
In conventional economic terms, the housebuilding business is massively successful. In moral and social terms it is bankrupt. In Midlothian we have thousands of people who cannot afford the houses that are on offer and who need and deserve social housing. But we carry on approving thousands of private houses that no-one in this county can buy, sending millions of pounds into the coffers of Persimmon and their ilk which should be getting re-invested into our communities here.
The system is bust and we need politicians with the guts and the nous to stand up and get it changed. We need a land value tax so that local authorities and their communities get some benefit from the increase in land prices that comes from getting a planning consent. And we need local authorities to be back in charge of building houses for affordable social rent.
Unless we take back control of house building from the mega speculators we will continue to see the obscenity of single individual “entrepreneurs” being paid more than would keep the whole of Midlothian Council going. It has to stop.
Co-Convenor, Midlothian Green Party
As a politician, how does it make you feel passing a person begging on the street?
Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens: Empathy for the person themselves, but I also feel ashamed of our society for allowing the chronically unequal distribution of resources, of opportunities and of hope.
What’s more important – tackling poverty, tackling inequality or mitigating the impact of poverty?
Poverty and inequality both matter, and ‘mitigating’ them will never be enough. Thinking that only poverty matters, and that a safety net at the bottom justifies a vast gap between the richest and the rest, breaks the feeling of connection and solidarity between people and can never lead to a cohesive society. We need to deal with the structural causes of poverty and inequality, in particular, the massively unfair distribution of wealth in our society.
Read more from Holyrood Magazine’s Q&A with Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie https://twitter.com/holyrooddaily
This week, I spoke in a debate about a disability delivery plan. The government’s “A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People” plan, which lays out an ambitious approach to achieving disability equality, is one that I broadly welcome.
Read more: https://greens.scot/blog/making-a-fairer-scotland-for-disabled-people
Amid all the big disagreements in Scottish politics, there are still some areas of common ground. From arch Brexiteers to committed Europeans, from Union flag wavers to those still wearing Yes badges, and from austerity cheerleaders on the Tory benches to left-leaners who passionately believe in a new economic vision for the country; pretty much everyone agrees about one thing. We have a woefully low level of productivity.
We can look at our low productivity and say “something must be done”. But if the actions we take are grounded in tired and failed economic assumptions, they’ll ignore what matters in life.
A truly productive economy must provide prosperity that benefits everyone and the kind of secure, rewarding work and public services we all want and need.
Read more: https://greens.scot/blog/a-truly-productive-economy-must-provide-prosperity-that-benefits-everyone
We don’t know who started the rumour that fighting climate change calls for huge lifestyle adjustments, but we’re here to tell you that’s straight up wrong. The effects of global warming are monumental, but that doesn’t mean you need to make massive changes to your lifestyle to help stop it.
Here are five easy ways you can get started.
What now for the greenbelt and for greenbelt communities? How will Midlothian be effected by this ongoing expansion of housing and associated infrastructure in Edinburgh and this continuing nibbling away of the greenbelt?
Will the thousands of empty homes and commercial premises across the city ever be developed? Will the existing acres of brownfield sites and land banked by developers ever be brought into sustainable use? When will we actually start building sustainable livable homes that are affordable, accessible and connected to good quality local services, transport and greenspace?
What is the value of all LDPs and their housing targets, including Midlothian’s post-Brexit? There’s a question! Perhaps a time fro a rapid reassessment?
At present, I’m not sure that there’s a satisfactory answer to any of these questions? Or indeed any sign that the voice or concerns of local communities on either side of the greenbelt will be heard any time soon by either local or central government.
Well if independence is put to the test again, nobody will be able to claim that the status quo is even an option; to remain in the UK would be to leap together into an uncertain future outside the family of European nations.
I was immensely reassured this week to see thousands of people gather together outside Holyrood – and I know this has been happening elsewhere too – to say boldly that we are not resigned to that fate. Europe is part of our history, our culture and our identity. We voted to stay, and that’s what we’re going to do.