Letters: Renting or buying?

We prefer to own our home
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I am puzzled by Dominic Lawson's desire to have more people become renters of property rather than home-owners (Opinion, 4 January).

All property has to be owned by someone, if not me then a landlord, and the idea of huge numbers of landlords owning vast tracts of land and housing is very disturbing and could lead to great deterioration of much of our housing stock.

Landlords are certainly not philanthropic creatures, and many are greedily making far more profit than individual owners might hope to gain from any rise in property value. I think Mr Lawson needs to remember that most people who now own their homes never expected them to be huge cash cows, but just preferred the independence and the knowledge that once the mortgage was cleared they would have an asset rather than a mere memory of all the dead money they paid in rent for the past 25 years.

Elaine Russell


Would Dominic Lawson enjoy paying rent out of a retirement income of less than £13,000? I suspect not. My husband and I have saved hard to buy our own home so we are not in this situation. Not all of us buy property for speculative purposes.

Linda Hunter


It's too soon to write Clegg off

It's not surprising that support for the Liberal Democrats has dropped ("Lib Dem support hits all-time low", 5 January). You could certainly argue that they made some unrealistic promises (that's what permanent opposition does to you) and clearly many voters now feel betrayed.

But when a party goes into coalition some of its manifesto promises have to go. No doubt they saw themselves as the party who were supposed to cushion the Conservative blow and now they are paying the price for their naivety.

But Nick Clegg shouldn't be written off yet. People may be angry now, about tuition fees for example, but it's very difficult to argue that the Lib Dems had any other realistic and sensible option than to coalesce with the Tories. They just have to hope now that the Coalition as a whole is reasonably successful and popular in a few years.

If the Government has any sense, they'll try to get all the worst cuts over and done with as soon as possible. If things get better Clegg may well have a shot at maintaining or even increasing the vote, come the next election.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

The Tories have managed now to persuade their Lib Dem flunkeys to abandon yet another election pledge, this time not to put up VAT. Tory in-disguise Nick Clegg was clear during the election that this policy would hurt the poorest hardest. But, as with tuition fees, he has done it anyway. One wonders how many Lib Dem Cabinet members actually believe in this policy.

Nick Clegg, David Cameron and George Osborne are the product of an Oxbridge-educated elite. They have never known financial hardship in their lives; they have never had the threat of eviction or the electricity or gas being cut off; they have never had to face and angry boss; they have never has the prospect of redundancy hanging over their heads. They have never had to prove themselves to get where they have gotten. They are all products of privilege. What could men like this understand about the concerns of ordinary people?

They tell us there is no alternative, but they could start by going after the estimated £25bn in corporation tax that goes unpaid every year. They won't go after these corporations because political parties are slaves to big business who fund their campaigns and give them jobs when they leave office.

Alan Hinnrichs


Public sector mentality

I feel that this government is being naive in thinking that the private sector is going to absorb into its staff all the Government workers that will eventually be made redundant.

Many prospective employers will feel very apprehensive about taking on workers who will, most likely, have that Civil Service attitude. Government employees are very accustomed to spending the tax-payers' money, whereas private sector employees have to make their own money as well as having to take on competitors who are forever trying to poach their customers.

I know civil servants who take magazines to work to counter the boredom of having little to do. Doing a solid eight hours' work will prove very strange to them.

I would not, when I was an employer, have been happy to take on any of these people.

Roger H Woodard

Maidstone, Kent

Monuments to greed

In a world whose disconnect from reality is growing ever more insistent, The Independent remains a welcome beacon of sanity; but there can be few editions recently which more eloquently convey the terminal lunacy of present society than your publication of 7 January.

While Michael McCarthy's excellent article on neonicotinoids epitomised the subordination by big business of practically everything to profit (our natural capital, quality of life, health and ethics), and Johann Hari's commentary on the jettisoning of Tory green principles highlighted the role of government in natural asset stripping, John Lichfield lent a fascinating insight into the depth of public feeling on such issues in his coverage of the French publishing sensation Protest!

It was Jay Merrick's "A big year for architecture", however, which provided the crowning piece: how better to symbolise the pathological concentration of wealth, power and hubris that now undermines the very existence of our civilization than a three-page feature on monolithic buildings?

Inserted like oversized cuckoos into urban environments unable to service them, placing intolerable strains on transport infrastructure; ignorant of the architectural beauty of their often historical context; and as remote from the concept of sustainability as the people and activities they house (globalised banking, fossil fuel extraction, shopping consumerism, even space tourism) – these monuments to greed, ego and futility should be seen for what they are: shameful examples of architectural gigantism, deformities devoid of relevance, sensitivity, proportion and lasting value.

In a world already hobbled by the failures of big finance, by growing food scarcity caused by big agriculture, and resistance to carbon tax initiatives by big oil and coal, our urban planners, architects and developers are hell bent on their own legacy of dinosaurean anachronism.

Nigel Tuersley

Tisbury, Wiltshire

Better ways with waste

As a former member of the South East London Waste Disposal Group that built the South East London Combined Heat and Power domestic waste incinerator in Bermondsey, I hope that supporters of Energy from Waste (EfW) will accept that I have some knowledge of their business (report, 28 December). When we proposed EfW in the 1980s we had the support of the green movement, because it was the only acceptable alternative to landfill. Now green activists rightly scale the chimney and shut SELCHP down.

Burning paper, plastics and cardboard is wholly contradictory to today's drive to reduce waste and to recycle valuable materials.

Incineration, landfill and mechanical biological treatment are outdated 20th-century technologies. There are better, cleaner and probably cheaper ways to manage our waste. The leading alternative is an autoclave. This heat-treats the refuse, such that almost all the metal and plastics can be recovered. Recycling rates better than 80 per cent have been achieved. The organic-rich residue can then be treated using anaerobic digestion (AD), to produce methane for electricity generation or bio-diesel, water and a compost-like material.

Autoclave plants are successfully operating in South Yorkshire and Gateshead, and new plants are either under construction or planned.

Eric Goodyer

Colsterworth, Lincolnshire

Focus on the national game

My favourite newspaper has disappointed me. Why was there a picture of some football club manager with his head in his hands on the back page (6 January), when England were performing miracles in Australia, and Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and company were hidden several pages back in the sports section?

I simply cannot understand how preference can be given to a football club and its woes when the national cricket team is doing so well after so long. The only people interested in the problems of Roy Hodgson are Liverpool fans. The whole country is interested in the Ashes series.

Marian Gunn

Nuneaton, Warwickshire

I see that Tendulkar has scored a "tonne" (report, 5 January) and registered his 51st Test century. This metric measure is maybe more suited to French cricket.

David Hasell

Thames Ditton, Surrey

Bright spark

While I would not wish to douse the fire of Guy Keleny's resolve on New Year's Day (Errors & Omissions, 1 January), he might have been a touch over-zealous in his choice of the week's mixed metaphor. At a push, one can "spark a drive". I don't know much about internal combustion but I believe a spark plug is a crucial element in the process.

Frank Churchill

Witney, Oxfordshire


Concerning the current fruitless searches for Frosty the snowman, I urge you all to forgive him for giving you the cold shoulder, and to respect his desire to stay out of the public eye. It seems one can't stand quietly outside any more without these personal moments being plastered all over the media. Whatever happened to one's right to privacy?

Henry St Leger-Davey


Perspectives on Labour strategy

Party must march south

If the leadership of the Conservatives need cheering up at the moment, they need only read Chris Youett's letter of 7 January. If Mr Cameron could choose Labour's policies, he would have the Labour Party go back to its traditional left-of-centre position.

That would probably entail higher taxes on higher incomes. Given that most higher earners live in southern England and work in the private sector, while the public sector takes up a higher proportion of the economy, along with employment, away from the South, this policy can easily be presented as "Southern taxpayers pay for northern services."

In the last general election, Labour lost more than two thirds of the southern English seats (outside London) that the party held in 2005, all of them to the Conservatives. Labour now has 10 seats out of the 200 or so in England south of the line from the Wash to the Bristol Channel, leaving aside the party's majority of the 70-plus London seats. The Conservatives also made considerable gains in the rural and suburban seats in midland and northern England.

It appears that the voters who deserted Labour did so because they felt that the increase in public spending had been largely wasted. So the appeal to these voters of a return to "traditional left-of-centre policies" is likely to prove limited.

For Labour to win a majority, there is no alternative to reconnecting with voters in southern England and in the suburban seats lost in 2010.

Philip Hamshare

London SE27

Seeking the centre

Labour have not long lost an election and they seem to have already returned to their old rhetoric, courtesy of Tessa Jowell (Opinion, 4 January). "Our way of life is converging," she says. Really?

I do not buy my furniture from Ikea, I do not watch The X-Factor and I do not have children (I am only 19). The reason Labour (and all parties for that matter) stick to the centre ground is because that's where the most votes are. To insinuate that our culture is nothing more than some populist amalgamation is insulting.

Brett Leppard

London SE15