Author Archives: Tony Harris

Towards a Lib Dem Landlords Association (LDLA?)

I admit it. I’m an ‘evil landlord’. Well not exactly ‘evil’ you understand but that sometimes how I am made to feel by the present government and Federal Conference when it passes some other motion or so which castigates me and many other Liberal Democrats who happen to be landlords in the private and commercial rental sector. Renting property is a business like any other. I provide a service for people who cannot afford to own their own home but need to be able to rent something decent. Don’t even start complaining that UK landlords are making it difficult to buy – the problem lies fairly and squarely with overseas investors who purchase large numbers of properties en bloc as an investment and leave them empty. Canada’s British Columbia has recently imposed high taxes for overseas property investors and imposes an annual property tax on the same investors while they do not occupy their own property. We should follow suit.

Moving on, I would argue that I am actually a pretty good landlord and when I speak to other Lib Dems who run rental property ‘portfolios’ they seem to have a similar attitude and ethos to myself. As evidence of this, I rent to ‘professionals’ (more on that later) and have a basic directive for my rental agent when they are dealing with my tenants  – ‘when there is a problem fix it immediately (or sooner)’. Why? Because a content and happy tenant is a tenant who doesn’t give notice and you only need one month without rental income to completely negate any false economies of avoiding repairs. One of my tenants has been with me for nearly 15 years and I have even redecorated the house with them in situ and replaced one of the bathrooms. My reward is that they have been with me for a long time with no break in income! When the annual rent increase comes along I will often negotiate with them for a 12 month no-break agreement in exchange for keeping the rent the same. I would be happy for any of my tenants to be approached, with their permission, to provide a reference for how I and my agent operate as a ‘landlord’. Many Lib Dem landlords would say the same I am sure.

Posted in News | 112 Comments

Christmas Competition: Promoting ‘Terminally Green’

Oh, let us be, eventually, recycled,

Let us be with nature quite serene,

In a cardboard box,

To feed our hollyhocks,

Let us be quite terminally green.

 

Oh, let us be eventually recycled,

Don’t let us be like some old plastic bag,

If we should become quite ill,

Don’t put us in landfill,

We can’t be an environmental drag.

 

Oh, let us be eventually recycled,

We’ll stop this global warming in a trice,

Carbon footprints left behind?

That’s not what’s on our mind,

We want to be environmentally nice.

Posted in Op-eds and Poetry | Tagged | 3 Comments

From the new chair of Federal Finance and Resources Committee

In common with other political parties, the Liberal Democrats have more than one ‘Treasurer’. Many of you will know Mike German as the ‘Party Treasurer’ responsible for fundraising and Dinesh Dhamija who is Mike’s deputy. Both Mike and Dinesh are responsible for getting ‘money in’ to the Party and you will have seen them at Federal Conference and at other fundraising events. Behind the scenes sits the Chair of the Federal Finance and Resources Committee (FFRC) who is responsible for ‘money out’ and, as far as the law and the Electoral Commission is concerned, is the ‘Registered’ Treasurer (RT) of the party. The RT is a non-executive (unremunerated) position which has oversight of the Federal Budget, the Federal Audit, and Compliance (including PPERA and GDPR). An active role, the RT has the final sign-off to mark donations as permissible or impermissible for Electoral Commission purposes.

Peter Dunphy has been fulfilling the RT role most ably for a number of years but is moving away from London and felt that the time had come to hand over the reins to somebody else who could be more available to London HQ on a regular basis. The RT is a position elected by the Federal Board and, after a hustings and a vote in May, I was elected to the position to succeed Peter formally on 1st July of this year.

I have spoken at Federal Conference many times, am treasurer for Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats (since 2015), sit on the local party executive, am vice-chair of my local Parish Council, and am an approved candidate for West Berkshire District Council in the 2019 elections. Until recently I was also co-chair of the Liberal Democrat Entrepreneur’s Network and with Andrew Dixon (President), and Tilly McAuliffe helped to grow the membership of that organisation to such a point that it became one of the largest donors to the Party in the 2017 election.

Posted in News | Tagged | 2 Comments

Towards a Liberal Democrat policy on social security

 

When I mention to friends that I have recently visited a Jobcentre, Citizens Advice Bureau, and interviewed the homeless it tends to raise a few eyebrows. However, all these visits and interviews have been fieldwork for the Liberal Democrat Working-age Social Security Working Group which recently published its consultation paper. Chaired by Jenny Willott, and comprised of a cross-section of LD members, our FPC remit has been clear: ‘The group will take evidence and consult widely from both within and outside the party’.

Fieldwork has proven enormously helpful to us in terms of understanding the nuances of the benefits system. For example, interviews with homeless people reveal the difficulties associated with applying for Universal Credit without the benefit of a bank account (needs a permanent address). These problems are not insurmountable but they do introduce additional difficulties which need to be considered when formulating policy.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments
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