The National Housing Federation once again highlights the ever-mounting crisis of an entire generation locked out of home ownership (“A whole generation ‘won’t be able to buy or rent a home’ ”, 10 December).
While warnings abound of an over-supply of luxury apartments, the intermediate market – working singles and couples who earn too much to qualify for social housing but cannot afford to get on the property ladder – remains largely ignored.
The stark truth is that as long as demand continues to outstrip new housing starts, house prices will continue to rise at a frightening pace. The only way to meet this demand is for local authorities to work with private developers to identify and release more public land for appropriate housing development. Without such an effort, an entire generation will remain stuck somewhere between a rock and a hard place.
Marc Vlessing, CEO, Pocket, London WC2
A major factor in the housing market is the rapidly changing demographic profile of the UK – the population is ageing. This is creating the housing equivalent of bed-blocking in the NHS.
According to the recent study by Reading University only 1 per cent of UK seniors reside in specially adapted housing, compared with 17 per cent in the USA. A high proportion of seniors moving into such accommodation would free larger, family properties, taking some pressure off that important sector. Projections that this demographic group will increase by 50 per cent by 2030 will make this bad situation far worse.
So-called “last time” buyers should be a key element in housing market strategy, but, regrettably, did not even get a mention in your leading article on this issue (10 December).
David Bracey, Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire
Why Mandela was jailed
Since Nelson Mandela died, in all the furore that has followed, I have not seen any media outlet quote why Mandela was sent to jail, nor why, each time he was offered his freedom by PW Botha, he refused it.
Maybe that was something to do with Botha asking Mandela to renounce terrorism in exchange for his freedom.
The media seem to have forgotten Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for terrorist offences. Nelson Mandela was the head of UmKhonto we Sizwe, (MK), the terrorist wing of the ANC and South African Communist Party.
Since “the Troubles” in Northern Island have finished, how long will it be before we start celebrating the leaders of the IRA?
Hayling Island, Hampshire
In paying tribute to Nelson Mandela, David Cameron said that “a great light has gone out in the world”. He was echoing the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, who said of the death of Mahatma Gandhi that “a light has gone out of our lives”.
This resonance draws attention to the connection between the three great peaceful liberators of the 20th century. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela acknowledged the influence of Gandhi’s thinking and actions on their own mass movements, and these three men offered a hitherto unimaginable but effective alternative to violence.
I beg to differ from both Cameron and Nehru. The light has not gone out. It is up to us to honour and embrace it.
Raj Kothari, Bridport, Dorset
Further to your extensive coverage of Nelson Mandela’s passing, rather churlishly I notice a trend: Mandela Inflation.
Barely had the great man gone cold than Radio 4’s World Tonight expanded to one hour. Then, after a whole Saturday’s wallowing, Radio 4 was back again in Mandela-land for its hour of Sunday Worship.
Now, I was in the Congregation on 7 July, to record 4 August’s Sunday Worship. The celebrant dutifully added two sentences of commiseration in case Nelson Mandela passed away in the meantime! Two sentences.
So is it now time to publish a weekly Mandela Inflation Index? Even Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother didn’t leave a legacy of lachrymation like this.
Godfrey H Holmes, Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Energy companies’ baffling accounts
As an accountant I am appalled at the way International Financial Reporting Standards are used to hoodwink the public, who simply do not realise that the Income Statement these days is made up of imaginary costs in the form of share-based payments and unrealised profits and losses, which results in fantasy accounting.
The only way to judge what the real profit was in any accounting period is to look at “cash inflow from operating activities” in the Cash Flow Statement. This shows the amount of cash that can be invested without increasing debt. If you examine the energy companies’ accounts you will find that the cash generated is roughly double the alleged net profit. What this means is that all the energy companies could easily reduce their prices by 5 per cent and still generate enough cash to pay a reasonable dividend and invest for the future.
Again, if you examine the accounts you will see that companies are reducing investment in exploration and this will lead to a shortage of supply and increased wholesale prices.
Then it must be noted that privatisation was set up to maximise prices as before we get gas or electricity customers must finance three lots of profit: exploration, distribution and retail.
The general public are being conned out of sight; running an energy company is money for old rope. We need a mechanism to get these companies to act responsibly; only the threat of nationalisation might achieve that aim.
Malcolm Howard FCMA, Banstead, Surrey
Gender segregation is not Islamic
I agree with the views expressed by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (“It is shameful that our universities have accepted gender segregation under pressure from religious fanatics”, 9 December). She should have also mentioned that at the time of the Haj pilgrimage some 3 million Muslims are in Saudi Arabia. Men, women and children intermingle.
Haj is an important pillar of Islam; every Muslim is required to perform it at least once, if they can afford the expense. When there is no segregation at the time of Haj why should these Wahhabi retrograde Muslims be pressing for gender segregation in the universities? They do not have a leg to stand on. Segregation is not mentioned in the Quran.
Dr Mustafa Haqqani, Lymm, Cheshire
It should be remembered that the rise of the universities in the Middle Ages proved a regressive step for women by excluding them from learned discourse.
After taking eight centuries to redress this perverse discrimination, I hope that universities will not now be the means whereby obscurantist Islamists are allowed to drag us all back to the misogynistic medievalism of their dreams.
Dominic Kirkham, Manchester
On yer bike to jobs in Europe
If you begin with the idea that migration in the EU is all about “them” coming to “us”, then it is all too easy to think of the free movement of people within the single market in terms of busloads of Poles, Romanians or Bulgarians “invading” Britain.
But the free movement of people is also about opportunities for British people to find work elsewhere in the EU. Thousands have and thousands more will. They are simply taking Norman Tebbit’s much-quoted advice about getting “on yer bike” and looking for work.
British people turn up at jobs fairs all over Europe, and though they sometimes have a shortage of language skills there are plenty of jobs which include language training.
Is there really no hope of the UK being able to see the positive side of the EU, the way in which it gives them opportunities as well as providing them with challenges? No wonder the Scots are thinking of getting out of Britain – better that than being forced out of the EU in four years’ time by the English!
Dr Mark Corner, Brussels
An expensive Christmas
Thanks for the Christmas Gift Guide (9 December). For her: a scarf costing £315, or a pair of slippers, a mere £480. For him: a £130 bobble hat, or a candle, a snip at £75. Have just read the same day’s headline: “The poorest pay the price for austerity”. Currently lost for words.
Prue Bray, Wokingham
Seventy-five pounds for a candle. What have things come to?
Andrew Maxwell-Hyslop, London SW15
Chinese pupils pay a high price
Regarding the recent Pisa tables, five years ago I taught English conversation at a middle school in a large city in Central China. I was asked, by a 16-year-old: “How many students in the UK commit suicide due to the pressure of work?” Be careful, Mr Gove, what you wish for.
Adrienne Fitzwilliam, Tunbridge Wells, Kent