#PanamaPapers tax returns show landlord politicians profiting from the housing crisis

Living rent campaignThe Panama papers scandal has dominated the news the last few weeks, and with good reason – it linked twelve heads of state to offshore funds, exposed David Cameron’s secret fortune and caused Iceland’s prime minister’s attempted resignation. Street protests followed, the hashtag #dodgydave was created, and most Scottish and UK party leaders released their tax papers after enormous public pressure. One aspect of this got lost among the anger and excitement of the leak. Both David Cameron and George Osborne are landlords who make thousands in rent – in fact it is David Cameron’s second largest source of income. Both also rent out properties in London where the average rent is now estimated to be £2,083 per month. Shocking, David Cameron made £46,899 from rent last year, while George Osborne made £33,562. David Cameron’s total income from rent over the past five years was a staggering £430,800. Their rental income alone is well above the £26,500 median full-time wage in the UK. With many people earning significantly less and 800,000 on zero hour contracts this is particularly shocking.

While many workers are priced out of inner city areas (a recent report by a housing charity showed that just 15 of London’s 270 Tube stations are in affordable areas for renters) politicians and corporations are making profit. It’s easy to argue that this is not new, Tony Blair’s family for example, has a property portfolio worth about £27 million. However, the speed at which this profit is rising is alarming. The Guardian recently revealed that ‘almost a third of MPs are now letting out their houses or flats’ in Westminster, meaning that the number of landlord MPs has risen by a quarter since the last parliament. Conservative MPs are particularly bad for this, with 39% being landlords. Just 2% of the general population who rent out their homes.

Considering all this, it is not surprising that rent controls have not been at the top of the agenda, and that millions are living in fuel poverty in unaffordable homes. It’s time to change this. We can start by sharing our experiences of renting, questioning politicians on their rent policies more often, and by campaigning to make the landlord politicians publicly declare the income they receive from renting.

Kate Samuels is an activist for Living Rent

Comments (29)

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  1. Gashty McGonnard says:

    Good points. Well made.

  2. c rober says:

    Known for a long time , politicians flipping taxpayer funded housing , and of course being landlords. Dont forget the hiring of family as private secretaries too , without the job being offered on the market , which is against employment laws for every other employer.

    Now if you add in the tax benefit removal in this tax year , then you will probably realise that the politicians are the ones with enough cash to BTL , so can easilly profit even more by edging out the mortgage funded private landlord…. while blaming them for property sales prices increasing on top creating a lack of supply for affordable housing.

    Still think its a good idea for Westminster and Hollyrood to legislate housing , considering the number of politicians in both buildings that are also landlords … I dont think so.

    Just this week the SNP candidate up for re-election in North Ayrshire had his propaganda piece delivered across his ward , within it he championed a supply of 250 new council houses in nearly 10 years.

    While this may be a higher supply rate than the previous term when Labour were in majority in Holyrood , its still dismal when he and his wife , the local MP , are private landlords. The same guy took credit for a fall in the council waiting list as “SNP policy delivered” , on the back of private rented supply increasing and council supply actually decreasing with stock removal with quite a few thousand on the council waiting list.

    The same guy follows the party rhetoric on paper on affordable housing rate supply at 30x that of council , this when your local employed person cannot even get a mortgage for under half the cost of what is deemed as “affordable according to the SNP” , of 120k.

    No surprises then that the declarations of interest are worrying the candidates , check out your own candidates up for re election now.

    Of course the ones coming up dont have to declare until after the election , but if the media would like to ask each individual candidate if they are land lords themselves , then feel free during this pre election term.

    Housing in Scotland , shifting profit from the few to the even fewer , returning the wealth to the wealthy where it belongs.

  3. Legerwood says:

    The article makes it sound as if both Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne have multiple rented properties but the articles that I have seen about this all refer to them renting out their family homes but make no reference to any other properties that they rent out.

    How many other properties do they have over and above their homes which they rent out.

    The rents in the areas where f London where they have their homes are certainly high and what they have made reflect that. It is not a sustainable system.

  4. c rober says:

    To prove my point is not SNP bad , and I am stating the facts heres a link to MR and MRS Gibsons declarations. I suggest that other members might want to search out their own SNP politicians declarations too.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/150608/gibson_patricia.htm Mp
    http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/Parliamentaryprocedureandguidance/Session4Year5_11.05.15to24.03.16.pdf and you will find Mr K Gibsons Declaration here , which also reveals a rented property separate to that of his wife.

    Anyone that wishes to check out thier own , and historic declarations can use http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/msps/register-of-interests.aspx

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Investments in offshore funds/trusts do not need to be registered……..according to Fergus Ewing. Maybe they should be for legislators telling us how much tax we should pay here.

  5. David I says:

    I take your various points,the question for me would be How do you curtail the income, tax it at 50%,or 60%.
    That won’t work they are hardly going to vote for that one.
    Now they are getting a serious wage as members of the chambers , further I would not exclude any Labour MSPs or Councillors as being innocent .
    They do the same, and that is not an excuse.
    If one of the members of any party took the high ground and gave the income to a decent charity less the repair costs only,they still get a tidy profit when they sell the asset……that to me should be sufficient.
    I wonder how many Councillors have ex -council houses rented out?
    And never to be in their Register of Interests
    I’d hazard a bet that 80% of them ,will be Labour

    1. c rober says:

      Read through my link to the holyrood declarations , there is some surprises in there. Including one a private developer on housing association committee. Fox deciding on hen housing.

      Surprisingly I found far less wealth in Labour declarations , having read through it all , but then again if its in yer private secretary wifes name it doesnt need declaring now does it… regardless of political party or whether its ex coonsil being rented out.

      No surprises for me for minor parties as I already expected the libdems and tories to have land and housing rentals.

      1. James_Mac says:

        The problem in Scotland is people in the North need a second house, but you’ll be lucky to make money on houses in Wick.

        Scotland is not London. The issue in London is speculative, and the amount of money you can make is ridiculous. To make what Cameron earns in London in Scotland, you’d need to run a letting company.

        You mentioned North Ayrshire – the rental markets there will differ from town to town. In some places in Ayrshire there will be empty houses that will be difficult to sell, in other places like Largs, there may be shortages. Half of North Ayrshire is a Glasgow suburb, the other half is Irvine.

        I don’t think there will be many people in the Scottish Parliament making anywhere near £46,899 (and there job before parliament was not a letting agent). The point is, the London market has gotten to the point where you can make two times your annual salary on two or three properties. In Scotland, you could maybe do that if you owned a Castle.

        Don’t let that stop you though.

      2. David I says:

        I was surprised at some Labour members,actually quite pleasantly ,Far be it for me to suggest that years of Councilling have honed their skills,
        Or maybe I’m just used to NAC

        1. c rober says:

          @David I , Glad you were surprised.

          If we could make/force Councillors actually live in Council housing during their term , or at least ex council housing , then perhaps the incentive to create more , as well as better housing , would be high on their agenda. Why of why does a Councillor job not come with Councillor housing?

          I still think there is a remit to making the Councils themselves the house builders of choice , or the communities themselves as private HA through ex council land gifting , moving rents to mortgages without discounts as a reformed version of RTB , right to buy becomes rent to buy. Think like buying a car , where your dont own it until the last payment is made , and importantly the cost to buy price is the same as the cost to replace , adjusted for inflation not HPI.

          Councils could have had this ability , but were forced to sell off council land where former estates were bulldozed , under Labour there was no reform of RTB while at Westminster or Holyrood as a majority , I wonder why?

          Why has the SNP removed rather than reformed RTB?

          With a reformed RTB , Councils then would be limiting the price increase inflation of locales , while becoming lenders and builders with increased local employment and training , where unlike the old RTB the money would be prevented going to Westminster never to be returned , thus not increasing and sustaining HPI for the wealth of Banks on the decrease of supply.

          When people go on about land reform , it should start with housing reform , or at least include it.

          We all go on about land owners and land bankers , offshore and onshore , where so few own nearly half of Scotland , but we forget about the assets of the Banks that are Scottish mortgages.

          Technically the Banks own more of Scotland , in value terms not m2 , than the landed lairds do , that is until the last mortgage payment is done…. So perhaps going backwards in banking terms would be better , to NFP co ops and building societies , maybe even at council level for counci built for private owned , giving them funding in the process to create further council housing.

          The biggest single purchase anyone will make in their lifetime is being protected , not for the benefit of the electorate , but for the banks and property developers profit margins instead.

          Without a rethink of that , nothing will ever change , a supply by NAC (while SNP led) of 250 new council properties is imo frankly worse than the considerably less supplied while Labour were in a Majority – simultaneously in Westminster , NAC and Holyrood.

          It is not uncommon for more than half of peoples income to go on mortgage or private rent , this is unsustainable , and is preventing home ownership for the next generation – while protecting the wealth of those cash poor – property rich home owners , that have seen their home value increase up to 20 fold in 30 years.

          Therfore I dont think there is a single pronged solution to the housing crisis , not for private owned , private rented , council or otherwise without radical thinking. If that also means AGR replacing CT even better , if that means investing by Holyrood into modern flat pack housing factories , through reinvesting AGR and RTB income – then its money that would be well spent.

          Currently the SNP are geared towards bungs to developers and banks , just like labour and the tories , they can call it what they want , ie FTB bonus , ISAs or whatever , but it still not does address the Afordability part of AH. Affordability can only be done through either increased wages or decreased prices. Lack of supply , the removal of RTB , this goes against that supposed promise to make housing affordable.

          In NAC ward the median wage means a mortgage of near half of the Scottish average house price (120k) , so around a 60k mortgage according to Holyrood/Westminster data without a deposit based on 3x earnings and no deposit. Even less if we consider it against the NMW and not the median or average NAC resident wage.

          Until housing can be supplied at that rate its merely is supplying the Mearns semi-rural lifestyle for those of a higher income , ie NON LOCALLY EMPLOYED GLASGOW COMMUTER , that cannot afford but want the MEARNS . It is in no way AFFORDABLE HOUSING for the average or median worker within the NAC ward and continues the HPI spiral- decreasing affordability when doing so.

          IMO until there is a paper on the table supplying private bought housing at that price , for NAC area , then any new housing developments above the price of 120k should be stalled. This is giving the developers the incentive to find a way to supply it for that price , or offload the land they perhaps bought from the council in the first place – with planning approved in principal.

          Perhaps this is the reason why the SNP have been signing accords with two prominent Chinese companies , one of them does have an iron in the fire regarding flat pack and or affordable housing.

          I am surpised they never also contacted the Japanese , specifically Toyota , with regard to setting up a factory in Scotland , Toyota also make flat pack housing with a 60 year warranty and have done for a long time , which is what 4x the Uk building warranty of conventional building.

          I am also surprised that we havent went towards perfecting sip timber frames , using polymer and cement cladding and other tech. Where a 3 bed bungalow can be mass produced by robots offsite , needing little more than a recycled material based cement foundation with underfloor heating piping , and bolting together onsite , all supplied for 70k on a NFP basis , habitable the same day of assembly. MCDonalds , HaufHaus and many other companies already use a similar tech , but with robot manufacture , bulk materials and recycling , this cost is considerably reduced.

          The above case I have seen personally , and with the sort of investment into creating at least two factories , say with the money that the SNP announced last October , 3 billion , would mean truly AH for the average worker within the NAC ward and elsewhere.

          Sorry for the long un

          1. David I says:

            I did breakdowns of building costs a few years ago and eco houses are the cheapest to build, to do that you have to base it on the actual cost as opposed to marketing cost.
            If you build eco houses or better still “passive type houses” (where the heating cost are in the region of under £200 per annum) that is to me at least the best option for future social housing

          2. c rober says:

            @david I


            With a Not For Profit ethos , using and modifying existing tech , even to the point of community sentences for non violent criminals , or WFB training in Trades , and large robotic factories , a 1.5 storey bungalow is acheivable , delivered on site by truck x2.

            The only really heavy cost is the found itself , which can be mitigated with using recycled crete and glass as the main aggregate , as well as laying piping during pour as the underfloor heating its also the DPC soul plate area. This too is being robotized in China , Dub and Japan , think 3d printing of lightcrete(tm) or hempcrete(tm).

  6. Ian Kirkwood says:

    Buy-to-let could be a respectable service industry were it not that land values are elevated by speculation to remove millions from home ownership. Those from this group who aspire to home ownership are rendered a subclass of actual serfs to ‘rent-seekers’.

    Rent-seeking (economic rent i.e. getting hold of a piece of the public purse) ought to be a pariah activity. But it is lauded as clever in our culture and is rewarded with a portion of public value in the form of socially generated free capital gains on site values.

    How to halt this disgrace?

    Adopt AGR (Annual Ground Rent). When 5% a year of site values is collected in place of taxes, speculation in the land market CEASES. There is no longer a speculative return here. Homes will become affordable. Owning and renting would become equally attractive. Renting out accommodation would become a socially responsible and useful service.

  7. Ian Kirkwood says:

    Stop tax evasion in its tracks with AGR (Annual Ground Rent) in place of taxes. Sites cannot be hidden offshore. Bills are addressed to site owners. Non-payment would lead to repossession and auction to someone willing to pay the AGR.

    Solve tax evasion and land reform in a single fiscal reform.


    1. John Page says:

      The more I read about taxes on income the more I am attracted to your advocacy of the AGR……would you kindly point me to articles from yourself and others about how you view VAT and other taxes on consumption.
      Thank you
      John Page

      1. Ian Kirkwood says:

        The Scottish Land Revenue Group http://www.slrg.scot argues for the ditching of VAT. The taxes we would retain are only those relating to health (tobacco etc.), pollution and slowing the consumption of finite resources. This is what taxes do best: repress consumption (and enterprise). Without working out any compound ill effects, VAT reduces spending on goods and services by its own amount. Here are billions of pounds of economic harm. We only allow it because we have been shown nothing better.

        AGR, simply put, is the state collection of the site values (5% a year) that it has created by its (our) investment in amenities. Our invested taxes, together with natural resources, account for 100% of site values. This ‘economic rent’ once largely financed the state when it was collected and passed to the exchequer by the then public servants, the aristocracy. But once king and parliament were dominated this vital stream of public value was privatised. Parliament’s substitute revenue system (taxes) all came out of the ‘rent’ (so there is plenty of rent to fund the country) but the taxes inflicted devastating associated ‘deadweight losses’. These today amount to at least £1 lost for each £1 raised. BUT they are avoided ENTIRELY if AGR is used instead of taxes.

        Please see our table in our facebook post in which we assert – using Professor Roger Sandilands’ summary of deadweight losses – that “Taxes harm every area of Scottish life” and that “AGR boosts every area of Scottish life”.
        Our facebook page also attempts to put forward other AGR benefits in bite sized chunks.

        Please also see the video clips and books of economist Fred Harrison at http://www.sharetherents.org

        1. John Page says:

          Thank you very much for all this…….l can see the point if dropping Vat but I was thinking about alcohol, tobacco, sugar and fat taxes

          John Page

      2. Ian Kirkwood says:

        It may also be worth pointing out that AGR is the total net income of a country.

        Keep it privatised?

      3. Ian Kirkwood says:

        Specifically, I suggest reading Fred Harrison’s short thesis at http://www.sharetherents.org/thesis/mortal-taxes-life-liberty/

  8. ian says:

    Its the norm in successful economies such as Germany to rent why can we not follow this model.This unsustainable house and rent inflation will be the downfall of the UKOK economy but who cares as long as you are one of the “haves”.

    1. c rober says:

      Having spent some time in Germany I find the popular concensus of the British to be a little wrong , ie that all Germans rent and dont own housing.

      Its private rented in old cities , pre unification , a flat is on the equivalent of the English bought lease , so is counted as renting bizarrely by the average brit and the media. Leases are transferable , so you can have a flat in the same family for 100 years through renting.

      New rented , ie new housing created after 1950 is nearly always council when urban , not as above but pure rented , usually in heavy industrial areas. But some are indeed private built for renting , this is obvious on viewing as the standard is over and above that of those during the rebuilding period post 1945 , and more sub urban almost rural in locale , ie Volksburg etc.

      Of course things are much more different in the pre unified Eastern Germany , or were about 10 years after the wall came down when I was last at that side. It was like night and day comparing cities and towns for housing quality , almost instantly rents went up 50 percent in the East and large profits were to be had for the very few when sold off for improvement.

      German councils are somewhat like Holyrood , a localised autonomy , just like what Both the SNP and Tories are promising to local authorities.

      Most wealthy workers do own housing if living outside of bigger cities , ie those with income around the 120 k euros a year , whom dont just only buy property in Germany.They may choose to buy just over the border depending on taxation and work , using schengen to commute , similar to Frances wealthy recently – with the exodus to Belgium property ownership for French taxation avoidance. There is a history lesson to be learned on infrastructure there for Holyrood , with creating motorways and ring roads to all of its Major cities , decreasing population density , lowering house prices and faster commutes.

      The other side of the coin is that In Germany there is also a higher than the UK percentage of council subsidized ( or controlled)private rented , while also owning foreign holiday homes . Another lesson for Holyrood , cheaper housing means losing 30 year mortgages , even creating a shorter working life or week.

  9. Doubting Thomas says:

    Tax dodgers …..did someone mention Phil Boswell SNP MP
    Profiteering from property………oh that was another SNP MP eh?
    As the Who said “same as the old boss”.
    Corrupt and hypocritical.
    But here we are……. getting fooled again!

    1. c rober says:


      Nothing declared as property ownership as income , ie rented oot in parliamentary declarations , but after a check up is listed as a director at of the above – at one of those multi office rent a secretary virtual office places.

      This was investigated by the parliamentary body , as it was not declared as the MP interests as required , http://www.snpscotland.com/phil-boswell-guilty-for-failing-to-register-an-interest.php

  10. w.b.robertson says:

    how many properties owned by politicians, local and national, are occupied by tenants in receipt of housing benefit financed by the ordinary taxpayers?

    1. c rober says:

      I expect that sort of data to never become public , even with a FOIR.

      But the bigger question here is should politicians , and of course their partners , be prevented from being landlords at all?

      After all they define housing policy , including at council level , and importantly council housing building supply , therefore its their competition on a personal income level.

      When Labour was in majority at so many councils , prior to the creation of the LDP system by the SNP , there was always accusations of brown envelopes when planning was granted for private developments by Labour led councils.

      However in North Ayrshire , somehow despite it being a Majority SNP council , many Holyrood legislated rules were just ignored at both Holyrood and council level during the creation of the LDP , thus instead of the LDP being an additional level to refusal of planning – it is actually a DELIBERATE way around it.

      1. David I says:

        there was always accusations of brown envelopes when planning was granted for private developments by Labour led councils.

        Surely not? I would find that hard to believe certainly in NAC

        1. c rober says:

          @ David I

          Brown envelopes in NAC , never.

          The magic carpark costing 50k.
          The daughter employed as private consultant to NHS Ayrshire of local politician – in a position that was not needed.
          The jaunts to award ceremonies cost cover up.
          LDP land selection process against multiple policies , on both farmland and toxic land.
          High incidence of related persons in employment compared to other councils.

          Yep , mibbe yer right dodgy envelopes , bloody Slab politicans ;>

    2. Ian Kirkwood says:

      Yes, ‘conflicts of interest’. Administrations creating systems that benefit themselves is a principal historical characteristic of UK government. In most areas of public life a conflict of interest ought to be declared.

      We instead have allowed a real mess. An aristocracy in control at Westminster invented an entire tax system to enable themselves to sidestep the social responsibility of collecting and handing over ground rents (that up till then financed all government). Then they were free to keep the public value (increasing site values from public investments) for themselves as free capital gains.

      This stream of public value – the country’s most productive – remains privatised. Which is why we feel like a poor country despite having the richest top 1% ever.

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