The Spectator

Letters | 7 January 2016

Plus: Kids Company, Christian festivals, speed awareness, racehorse rudery

A tax on empty dwellings

Sir: Both the Conservative and Labour candidates (‘Battle for London’, 2 January) rightly see housing as the big issue in London’s mayoral election this year: Ukip and the Greens would probably say the same. But if one travels along the river at night and observes the large blocks of flats that appear to be almost empty, one wonders if there really is a problem. Anecdotal evidence says that the owners are mostly Chinese (but they could be Arabs, Russians, or others based abroad), who occupy these properties for little more than a week or a month in the year. We who live in London all the time would benefit enormously if these tax-dodgers who contribute little to our society were made to pay an annual levy of five, ten or 20 times what they presumably now pay in council tax. I have even heard voters on the right argue for these properties to be compulsorily purchased. I suggest that all mayoral candidates should make their position clear on this matter.
Chris Minter

London SW6

More on Kids Company

Sir: I am sure that health professionals and social workers will have read Harriet Sergeant’s piece on Kids Company with something close to despair (‘How to spot a charity snake’, 2 January). It seems to me, as a retired NHS GP, that no one in government bothered to ask the state sector about the difficulties involved in helping this challenging part of the community. Two things in particular stand out: the need to have boundaries, especially in regard to unacceptable behaviour, and the danger of creating dependency. Above all, as the state sector has found to its cost, you need to provide a consistent service, both in terms of competence and longevity.

I blame the government for not accessing the experience which is available in our NHS surgeries and social care institutions, which would have averted a drain of public money into a service which was attempting the impossible.

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