Scorn was poured on the government yesterday over bigging up its plans to reform leasehold and not delivering … and not turning up for an Opposition debate, in the case of Michael Gove.
His shadow Lisa Nandy had an open goal and didn’t miss.
Gove has seemingly appeared to be the one government minister who can actually deliver, but not with leasehold, which he has repeatedly said he was going to abolish (by which he meant: phase out over a few decades in favour of commonhold).
On the other hand, the commitment to bring through the leasehold reforms and commonhold were repeated.
Lisa Nandy: “Now, we are told that the Secretary of State was being too maximalist. We have had grumbling from Government Back Benchers that the Secretary of State is being too socialist. Downing Street has stepped in, plans are being rowed back and he is not even able to set foot in the Chamber today. It is a bit of a mess, isn’t it? … It does make us wonder what is actually the point of this Government.”
Nandy assured leaseholders Labour would put matters right pronto, so they can take comfort in one promise being swapped for another.
The full debate can be read here:
Or watched here:
There were excellent contributions from well-informed MPs such as Clive Betts, Mark Tami and Matt Western, but the stand-out speech came from fellow Labour MP Justin Madders (below).
The smart money nowdays is not building and selling houses and flats: it is selling the legally enforceable income streams that have been surreptiously squirrelled into them, either by leases or by estate management fiddling (fleecehold) or, quite possibly worst of all, publicly subsidised shared ownership.
Mr Madders said:
“This debate is, at its root, about power, who holds it and how it is exercised. Who owns the land holds the power. That has always been true in this country, but we have moved on from the barons and the lords of the manor to the offshore private equity companies—a 21st-century update of the feudal arrangements that have for so long held this country back.
“It is an arrangement that no other country in the world has sought to replicate. We know that this Government are not keen on international comparisons but perhaps that ought to tell us something.
“It is clear from this debate that just about everyone agrees that something needs to change, but I am not confident that we will see change any time soon. I thought the Government were all about taking back control. Do they not realise that a leaseholder does not have control? How can they have control if someone is trying to use their home as a cash cow?”
Unexplored in the debate is how shared ownership is becoming the new cheat in property: with overseas private equity getting involved in the preposterous notion of “for-profit social housing”.
Sir Peter Bottomley singled out the practices of Mr SJ [Spencer] McCarthy, of Churchill Retirement Living, who is selling leases created before the ban on ground rents became effective in the retirement sector on 1 April:
“That is the kind of—expletive deleted—behaviour that leaseholders had to put up with for 20 or 30 years,” Sir Peter said.
He also referred disobligingly to low-end freehold punter Martin Paine, who he called a crook again:
“I have found that there are a number of crooks in this business, one of whom is Martin Paine—he adds an “e” to the hurt he does. He would take leases that were about to run out and give informal extensions, not resetting the ground rent to zero, but saying that he was doubling ground rent from the time the lease was first given out. Nothing much has happened about this.”
Sir Peter also noted that Lisa Nandy had referenced a new leaseholder group called Commonhold Now, the core of which are affluent leaseholders in London Docklands, one of whom “claims the credit for the “People’s Pledge” campaign, set up in 2011, for a vote on whether we remained in European Union. The organisation folded in 2016 when we had the referendum—well, they did well, didn’t they? …
“Oddly, it has not approached me during its months of existence, and when it put out a press notice the BBC took it as though it was gospel and the Secretary of State had promised to abolish all existing leaseholds in double-quick time. He had not, and no one believed that he had.”
What an odd and pompous comment from Bottomley. He’s the Chairman of an APPG – which are largely talking shops and have zero power. Anyone who works in Westminster could tell you that. The way he was talking, you’d think he was the Secretary of State!
Most leaseholders I know welcome more groups entering this debate, especially if they can bring something new and exciting to the show. If we are being honest, established campaigns have become a bit stale and lost their puff. The fact that Sir Peter is the main spokesperson says it all – he’s hardly an up-and-coming MP!
Leaseholders want change. If they feel unrepresented, then they will go elsewhere.
Thank you for your comment “John Smith” Our work and that of the APPG and groups like the NLC is why the reforms have moved forward. I know some lobby types think that not how things work but it has for this issue.
Please don’t bother with the barbs. Your language rather give the game away
Actually I agree with John Smith’s comment.
It’s a most peculiar comment made by Sir Peter Bottomley (and I will independently write to him about it).
As a supporter of LKP and the APPG, I was surprised by Sir Peter’s comment because it’s coming from a person who is 79 years old !!
The essence of the statement is very childish and reveals feelings of jealousy. It’s not the kind of statement that is going to go down in history as that of a true leader.
One really would have expected the older generation to welcome, encourage and nurture the younger generation to be continuing the same cause.
The more groups like Commonhold Now, the better. Fresh blood, fresh ideas. This is what leasehold campaigners need – an injection of new energy.
I agree it was not something particularly relevant to main purpose of the debate. It was unfortunate Nandy made a silly error that caused him to react but that was also not important. We have spent many years with Ministers being briefed to pretend we did not exist. Some years ago Ministers were briefed to try and say LEASE more often than opposition MPs might say LKP -not the most mature way to run a democracy.
LKP has always worked hard to ensure we help represent those of all ages and all groups across the sector and if I remember we first had contact with in 2019. Leasehold flats are often the first and last places that people live in as their home. From our prospective they are also the two groups that need most support.
It is inevitable as we move towards the final stages of the announcement of the reforms there will be lots of speculation of what is and is not included. What can be included can only be that where policy development has taken place. That takes place over many years.
It is therefore unfortunate that parts of the press are misunderstanding the difference between creating the systems that result in the phased abolition of leasehold as set out by the Law Commission reports and in government proposals and the idea it may happen very quickly. We still do not have a working model for commonhold for new build set out in draft legislation. So the idea there could be a working model for conversion is misguided – that will take time. Most people have no idea what commonhold is.
I have been involved in campaigning with the fantastic NLC with some success getting an advertisement for Shared Ownership banned. However, campaigning is time consuming and exhausting. We need multiple voices with different perspectives to chip away at this feudal system. I am delighted by the emergence of Commonhold Now. Harry Scoffin is an excellent campaigner and the ultimate aim of this campaign is in the name. When leaseholders understand there is another way, they will fight for it. I am terribly disappointed by Sir Peter’s comments. We should all be on the same side here.
I don’t think Nandy mentioning ‘commonhold now’ was a ‘silly mistake’; you might argue that it was a mistake not to mention LKP in the same statement, but the attack on the credibility of Commohold Now was juvenile. Constituents have the right to organise on any basis they wish, they don’t require permission from Bottomley or anyone else.
I’m really sad to see the factionalism creeping in between LKP and Commonhold Now. Harry spent four years working for LKP. He’s earned the right to speak without being patronised or attacked.
I’m active in the Labour Party and I watched factionalism almost destroy us. Do not, for the love of god, let that happen in leasehold.
I thought they already have Commonhold property in Scotland. The government has been talking about changing leasehold to commonhold for many years. I attended a meeting in Portcullis House London in 2016 when the Law Commissioner chaired the meeting. But in 2023 we are no further forward.
It is now very difficult to sell retirement leasehold property as people do not trust the Freeholders and Management. Last year they doubled our ground rent with very little warning. People who have been left these properties by their parents are having to pay thousands of pounds in service charges for a number of years
The comments on Commonhold Now serve only our detractors. They want us to fight each other. They want us to disagree. LKP, NLC and Commonhold Now have all done great work. If we stand together and fight together, we’ve got a real chance of delivering change. That’s what leaseholders are focusing on. The news from Labour and the Co Op Party was really welcome to a lot of us. We’re focussed on delivering change that’s going to benefit millions of people who’ve been stamped on like dirt. Let’s go and finish this.
I would like to see the total abolition of the archaic feudal Leasehold – Freehold (Fleecehold) racket, and have it replaced with Commonhold.
In terms of campaign groups I believe the more the better, providing we all have the same or similar broad objectives, which is putting an end to the current system.
Active campaigning and especially the publicity given to it have and will continue to make a difference, you only need to read the recent articles published on this site.
It is my understanding that the Government has achieved more in terms of Leasehold reform in the past several Months, than has taken place in past decades. And in all probability it all came about by the collective campaigning of many groups,and especially by Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, Firstport Residents Action Group, etc.
I really do hope that Michael Gove can persuade the PM to enact legislation to bring about the demise of the present system.
Please do not forget those in complexes where Commonhold would be unworkable. Namely some Retirement Complexes for the very elderly or Assisted Living Complexes for the infirm. This would include many Social Housing developments some of which can be a mixture of leaseholders and tenants.. We still need revisions to the current Leasehold system with proper regulation of Landlord/Management Companies, so we can force them to comply. And we need the Housing Ombudsman system to have the powers to enforce their decisions.
I wish every success to those campaigning for Commonhold, but please do not forget us who have been campaigning since 2010 for Leasehold reform.
30 years a Tory voter I will be voting Labour for one reason, to see if they go through with their plans to abolish leasehold.
This is not about Tory or Labour, this is about a system that has not worked. The reason that there is no swift change is that it brings in money for local authorities. However, if your freeholder is a local authority with historical and current poor communication and poor accounting and a revolving door or staff any contact is challenging and almost pointless. Add to this a local authority who is consistently considered one of the worst by the ombudsman and it’s own residents. This is a Labour run local authority. I don’t care who abolishes leasehold system however I am curious how local authorities will get the monies they have enjoyed fleecing from leaseholders as it will not be coming from central government.
Replying on ‘shared ownership’
It’s a con because it’s not ‘shared ownership ‘ . It’s ‘double mortgage leasehold ‘
The leaseholder is the sole proprietor at the land registry.
and is the sole owner.
(If ownership existed in leasehold.)
What’s shared is the finance. Shared ownership means you have one conventional mortgage and a second more expensive one which you repay with ‘rent’ ( which is not rent but a form of interest)
If it were shared ownership you would not pay all of the service charges.
Cheers and massive thanks to the indefatigable LKP for standing up for leaseholders again and again and again:)
I understand that Leasehold Reform for the existing c. 4.6 million leaseholders, and as recommended by the Law Commission (LC) following consultation, with their representatives, including notably LKP (Seb, Martin, Peter Bottomley, Justin Madders et al.) will be announced in November in the King’s Speech.
These reforms, principally on extending existing leases, are long overdue, and separate from the ultimate goal of Commonhold.
Commonhold can wait for the right moment in the lifetime of the present parliament. In the meantime, the reforms recommended by the LC for extending existing leases should not be delayed any longer.
New 900 year leases with a share of the freehold can always contain a clause allowing the majority of qualifying leaseholders in a development to adopt Commonhold as and when they may wish to do so .
Then you disagree with Lord Greenhalgh. (https://www.leaseholdknowledge.com/interview-with-lord-greenhalgh-i-dont-think-the-leasehold-reforms-will-be-in-the-kings-speech/)
Even if they do get announced, it’s quite clear from the recent stories in the Times that thy will be watered down from Gove’s original promise to abolish leasehold.
It may be your position that ‘something is better than nothing’, and that we should be grateful for anything we get. I understand that position – governments have been promising leasehold reform for decades, with very little concrete change.
But let’s not pretend that such a watering down did not happen. Perhaps for you commonhold can wait. For those of us at the sharp end of the crisis, things are more urgent.