Frances Ryan, again with the maths

“I can make a meal out of a tin of beans. Sometimes there’s not a lot in the cupboard, you know?” Richard, 57, explains from his one-bed flat in Kingston upon Thames. Richard has a degenerative spinal disease as well as arthritis and breathing problems: a walking frame is his only way to move around the flat, and he needs a ventilator at night. It’s been over a decade since he was well enough to work – as a stager fitter and then a chauffeur – and his only income is disability living allowance. His wife is a nurse but with no pay NHS rise in years, in Richard’s words, the two of them are “absolutely broke”.

Richard has gum problems but he can’t afford a dentist. The rent on the flat alone sets them back £1,100 a month. It’s one of eight crammed into a converted Victorian house. The walls are so thin, Richard explains, that they can hear their neighbours’ conversations at night. “I paid £35 a week in my teens round here,” Richard tells me. “Nowadays, people just think of a number and double it.”

So, let’s go back to the teens of someone now 57 shall we? Erm, meh, call it 1976?

4.33 times the weekly rent to get us monthly. £151.55. That’s in 1976 money, which in 2016 money is £1,001.00. That’s just the straight inflation change there, not the wage or income value.

We’ve a real term rise of 10% in that rent over near four decades. That really doesn’t sound like the Terror of the Ages now, does it?

Further, what does a nurse make these days? Obviously this is one who has done this for some time. £30k (don’t forget, seniority brings rises, as does some portion of London Weighting)? What’s he going to be getting in that disability allowance? Looks like higher rate for mobility, and just add in lower for care. £80 a week?

Sure, that’s not a lot. Pretty shitty life for 2 people in fact. It’s also over median household income isn’t it….actually, it’s substantially over it. And it also means that rent is only a little above 30% of income, which is usually the “affordability” cut off, isn’t it (that’s a US definition by the way)?

After rent, council tax, gas and electric, there’s not much left for food.

Actually, the killer there is more likely to be income tax and NI. Showing that the problem might well be too much government, no?

But as ever, actually shuffling through the numbers presented by Frances Ryan tells us that these people suffering in that absolute poverty she rails against aren’t in fact doing that badly.

Anyone who knows more about this than I want to actually run through that household budget? For I can’t see that they’re trying to eat on £20 a week or anything. The major assumption is going to have to be what’s her nursing pay rate.

56 comments on “Frances Ryan, again with the maths

  1. all the money pissed away on foreign aid, arts subsidy, a thousand quangos and “not for profit” rackets, we’d have more than enough money to take care of these people.

  2. HMmm.

    Where does LHA come into this?

    According to the Kingston Benefits Calculator he should be entitled to something like £150 a week for LHA and Council Tax benefits.

  3. Why are they bothering trying to live in London? Nurses can readily get work in much cheaper places.

  4. The problem with life in the UK is not, in my opinion, earning People earn quite a lot of money.

    The problem is with the cost of everything. Why is everything in the UK so expensive and yet so sh!t? Housing is the great example. It is hugely expensive – and yet you get what? Small, nasty and damp as a general rule. Sure, the US does vastly better. It should. It has room. But Japan does better. They don’t have room.

    But it is true of a lot of things. I would think that high taxation, especially VAT, is another reason. You add tax costs on to labour and to inputs and of course everything gets expensive. I find the UK expensive compared to Hong Kong and yet HK people are richer.

    I feel sorry for these people. They earn quite nicely. But they have to spend in the UK. For which they do not get value for their money. If they moved to New Zealand or Canada, much less the right part of the US, they would be doing nicely for that sort of money. Lower taxation benefits the poor.

  5. Lots of sympathy for the guy’s situation, but, um, Richmond-upon-Thames? 5th most expensive borough in London?

    Seems to me in general that London doesn’t suit people like that. If you’re totally on benefits, you get your rent paid and all. If you’re a couple working in London, you both have jobs, but London rents are weighted more towards everyone working.

    They could move to say, Taunton, and rent a 1 bed flat for around £400/month. I know the London weighting would be gone, but I doubt that’s £700/month after tax (reports seem to indicate more like £400, don’t know if net or gross). Plus all sorts of other costs go down too.

  6. Let’s say the nurse is on the bottom end of the scale, about £26k. Net wage (assuming no pension contrib) = 20961. Tax + NI paid 5k.

    Monthly income from employment = 1746.
    Rent 1100.
    Wife’s net income after rent: 646.
    Band C council tax = 132 per month.
    Leaving 514 for food, bills, transport etc.
    If he’s getting middle rate DLA, that’s £55 per week, so 231 p.m.
    Which puts us up to 745 per month.
    Allow 100 for electricity, gas, phone etc (is that reasonable?), leaving 645 for food/disposable income (7740/year).
    That’s 143 per week to eat and get around, and anything I’ve forgotten.

    Not luxury, but not obligatory-beans-on-toast levels. And I’m sure she’s getting more than the basic 26k as a nurse.

  7. Choices. People have choices. I could live in a small flat in a reasonably fashionable part of London. Instead, for the same money, I live near Southampton in a 4 bedroomed detached house with a swimming pool in the back garden. At one point I was working in London and was a ‘weekend commuter’. Could have moved, didn’t want to and rented in shared accommodation in London. Bit of a pain. Chose to do what I did. My choice. Could probably live in a small castle in the outer Hebrides for the same money if they have any small castles out there. Choose not to. Could live nearer my mum. Or further away. Could change jobs and chill a bit more. Might have to downsize if I did. Choose not to.

    Choices
    Fucking choices.
    Make them. Live by them.

    Shut the fuck up whining all the time because even though you are living a life far better than 90% of the world’s population could dare to dream of, someone (the Guv’ment) isn’t making your life perfect.

  8. And my cousin is a nurse who recently moved from Oxford-area to Leeds area. Went back down a step on the pay-scale to do it, but is now massively better off as a result. When she gets her grade back she’ll be quids in.

  9. Kingston upon Thames?

    Really?

    Yer avin a larf, incha?

    And I,too, have been known to make a meal out of a tin of beans, even sharing with Mrs Miller.

  10. “The rent on the flat alone sets them back £1,100 a month.”

    What do “refugees”pay for their council housing? (We’ll ignore, for the time being, the consequences of a council lavishing £70k per flat on upgrading them.)

  11. “Choices
    Fucking choices.
    Make them. Live by them.”

    This. In spades.

    I’m now living in what was my holiday apartment. I commute 100k into work by car 3 times a week, and work from home the other 2.

    Reduced my cost of living massively, so I’ll be able to retire at a sensible age with a sensible income. To the point where my tax adviser asked me 2 days ago whether the amount I was saving was plausible (which is something the tax office looks at) – damn right it is, my mortgage is about £240 per month at the current exchange rate, or £145 at purchasing power parity. I can house myself and get myself to work for about 10% of my gross (middle-class qualified professional) income. At current rates, it’s not far off the truth to say that every month I work means I can retire about a month earlier if I want to (reality will be different due to the annuity discount getting punishing if you advance it too much). I could live a stone’s throw from work but it would cost me 20-30% of gross income, and Mrs Abacab would absolutely hate it.

  12. @”We’ve a real term rise of 10% in that rent over near four decades. That really doesn’t sound like the Terror of the Ages now, does it? ”
    True although of course in the 70s and until recently buying was a cheaper option than renting and is now more expensive. In the past the cost of buying would have inflated a way quite quickly.
    You do wonder why he didn’t buy in the mid 90s.

  13. @Bloke in Swindon
    “They could move to say, Taunton, and rent a 1 bed flat for around £400/month. I know the London weighting would be gone, but I doubt that’s £700/month after tax (reports seem to indicate more like £400, don’t know if net or gross). Plus all sorts of other costs go down too.”
    Wouldn’t it be better for people on benefits to do that, rather than them? A lot better in terms of tax paid and benefit spent.

  14. @anon. People on benefits need to be near their local support network to get by. So that means staying in the most expensive parts of London where they originally presented themselves as homeless when they arrived in the Uk.

    Heaven forfend the idea that working people with three hour daily commutes should be given more of their money back, or possibly less taken in the first place, so they might live there. Also since it is mostly the white popluation working and the BME not that means ethnic cleansing and you are therefore racist. (Had to get to get that in as it is obligatory)

    We need to support the needy. Get on the side of progress and equality.

  15. As a footnote to Tim’s comment about living off twenty quid’s worth of food for a week-

    This is quite possible- and I’ve had to do it in the last couple of years more than once: a side effect of changing careers later on in life. Now, I have a wife and two kids, so it’s a challenge to keep spending down sometimes, but food is the one place you can get by quite cheaply. It’s not ideal (and you do lose weight), and it requires a bit of thought, but it’s easily doable.

    Which leads me to pick up on some of the topics above- the UK isn’t poor: basic needs can be met (once you’ve got a place to live) relatively easily, but there are a few things that are priced preposterously. Fuel of any type- petrol, electricity, gas and so on is too expensive. Housing too (although I maintain that the UK has an allocations problem- ditch social housing by giving the properties to the tenants and the market will do what it does better than a half arsed bag of social workers manqué and LA drones.
    Clothing is pricey too- I buy shirts when overseas (in places like Singapore, too: not famed for it’s low prices) and they are cheaper and better than we have here. Tech is cheap though- I was looking at a fitbit for my wife in SGP last week- same price as here. How have we ended up with luxuries being cheap and so many of the prerequisites for day to day life being proportionally more costly?

  16. You can’t suggest that they be denied the warm and satisfying feeling of paying income tax! What kind of heartless fiend are you? How will they feel part of society without that financial contribution?

  17. @Andrew again
    ” People on benefits need to be near their local support network to get by. So that means staying in the most expensive parts of London where they originally presented themselves as homeless when they arrived in the Uk.”
    Sadly many people believe that rubbish.

  18. What everyone else said, but also I’m pretty sure the disability benefit is a lot more than £80 a week.

  19. “The problem is with the cost of everything. Why is everything in the UK so expensive and yet so sh!t?”

    Regulation, and taxes. Every business is weighed down with rules and taxes that impact directly on the cost of everything, both by increasing the cost of production (rates have to be paid regardless of profitability) and by discouraging new entrants, thus reducing competition.

    Every single government since Mrs T has consistently added more and more costs onto business, and ultimately there is only one person who pays that cost, the consumer. The State has mandated a level of prices below which it is impossible for a business to maintain its legal duties and stay profitable.

  20. “How have we ended up with luxuries being cheap and so many of the prerequisites for day to day life being proportionally more costly?”

    See above. The luxuries of life are predominantly produced abroad, thus their cost of production do not include all the UK regulation. Its relatively easy for someone to import a container load of electronics and sell it via the internet. Very little regulation, plenty of competition = low prices.

    Whereas the basics of life are generally provided from within the UK, and thus will be subject to all the regulatory and taxation costs the State demands. Thus your hairdresser has to charge more for a haircut than the vendor of a cheap bit of imported electronic kit does.

  21. “I can make a meal out of a tin of beans. Sometimes there’s not a lot in the cupboard, you know?” Richard, 57, explains from his one-bed flat in Kingston upon Thames.”

    That is admirable, and I congratulate you sir. But you are not unique – not even unusual.

    “I can stretch a greenback dollar bill
    From here to kingdom come
    I can play the numbers, pay my bills
    And still end up with some
    And I got a twenty dollar gold piece
    Says there’s nothing that I can’t do
    I can make a dress out of a feed bag
    And make a man out of you”

    Many people will recognize these words. Perhaps you do, too.

  22. anon,

    “Wouldn’t it be better for people on benefits to do that, rather than them? A lot better in terms of tax paid and benefit spent.”

    Yes, but there’s no incentive to do so. The state pays your rent, regardless of where you live. If we capped rents at say the bottom 1/3rd of values for the UK, you’d soon see people leaving London to live in Wolverhampton and Trowbridge.

  23. John Square,

    “Clothing is pricey too”

    Maybe compared to other countries, but I bought a few shirts from Matalan, perfectly reasonable quality for £12. That’s less than I was spending in the 80s. If you get into HotUKDeals (and everyone should), there’s amazing clothing offers with companies dumping stuff, if you’re not too picky.

  24. “Clothing is pricey too”

    Try Switzerland on that front.

    I order almost all my clothes on AliExpress, direct from the mfg and cutting out the middle man – the only one losing out from this transaction is the middle-man. Mfg gets a better margin, and I get cheaper goods. Win-win!

  25. @Bloke in Swindon
    “Yes, but there’s no incentive to do so. The state pays your rent, regardless of where you live. If we capped rents at say the bottom 1/3rd of values for the UK, you’d soon see people leaving London to live in Wolverhampton and Trowbridge.”
    I know that is why I think it is a brilliant idea. Cheaper houses in London and the tax payer pays less.

  26. This figures issue makes me think of the following.

    Lefties are in fact generally not interested in figures, and are blind to them. Or, they just don’t understand them.

    When you have a quasi-religious worldview that puports to explain all of history and supposedly has predictive powers, there’s no need for figures. You can just state “corporate returns to capital are greater than returns to labour”, and the believers will all nod knowingly. Ask them to name a corporation whose dividend payments exceeded their wage bill, and they can’t (is there even a corporation that’s not trivially small for whom this is the case? Dyson perhaps?)

    Or “the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer” (knowing nods) – present a graph of world absolute poverty, then you get claims of “misleading statistics”, “working in factories for below-subsistence wages” etc. OK, so if wages are below-subsistence, where are all the starvation deaths? Cos that’s what “below subsistence” means.

    They’re just not interested – it’s their feelz and their predetermined worldview that’s impervious to evidence.

  27. @abacab – “They’re just not interested – it’s their feelz and their predetermined worldview that’s impervious to evidence.”

    Too true.

    1) Does shit happen in the world? – yes.
    2) Does as much shit happen as the left pretend? – No.
    3) Does less shit happen than used to – Yes.

    Trouble is, when you try to argue with anyone from the left that 2) and 3) are true, they accuse you of denying 1).

  28. “The major assumption is going to have to be what’s her nursing pay rate”

    … and hours worked. But, as someone said above, that’s choices.

  29. The assumption of not being fit to work is the elephant in the room. If he wants inspiration then look at Hawking. The welfare trap is pernicious.

  30. “What’s he going to be getting in that disability allowance? Looks like higher rate for mobility, and just add in lower for care. £80 a week?”

    It’s an unsafe assumption that he is actually getting what common sense says he should get. This country doesn’t do too badly taking care of people where we – that is, the system – accept(s) that they are actually in need of help. It’s ridiculously, unfairly and arbitrarily hard, though, to get the state to accept that non-visually-obvious needs are real. Lose both legs, you’ll probably be believed when you say you can’t walk. Just lose the use of them, though, and you’ll be treated as a malingerer when you don’t get out of your wheelchair and walk.

  31. Dave, unfortunately there are plenty of examples of malingerers, and daily ‘”miracles”. Doesn’t absolve state agencies when they are incompetent, but that is not always the point.

  32. “… and hours worked. But, as someone said above, that’s choices.”

    Since the maths adds up to more than beans on toast for dinner every night, perhaps the answer is she works part-time cos she wants to.

    If that is true, then Solution to Obvious Problem is Obvious…

  33. They always manage to find these guys for sob stories.

    From a military perspective, there’s always someone banging on about how the troops aren’t paid enough and they need a pay raise – and they’ll trot out some poor E-1’s wife who can’t pay the bills while her husband is on deployment and is barely keeping the two kids in diapers.

    And then you ask why – because that E-1 has been given a house (typically at least a duplex, often detached), pays no utilities, is getting *extra pay* for being on deployment, and will (unless hes a complete muppet) have picked up at least 2, if not 3 promotions (and a lot more pay) within 2 years of enlisting.

    So when you dig down you realize its more about shitty planning and life choices than anything else.

    I feel for the guy and all, but maybe the wife should put in for a transfer to someplace with a lower cost of living? The NHS has a national pay scale don’t they? So they shouldn’t loose too much income and cost of living would be lower.

  34. There’s nurses and nurses.

    Is she a home help on less than minimum wage, a nursing auxiliary on not much more or an experienced hospital nurse when she’s probably on a reasonable professional salary?

  35. @abacab

    “I order almost all my clothes on AliExpress”

    Ah- Chinese clothes. Great in all respects, unless you are 6’7″

    *sobs*

  36. @ Fembup

    “I can stretch a greenback dollar bill
    From here to kingdom come
    I can play the numbers, pay my bills
    And still end up with some
    And I got a twenty dollar gold piece
    Says there’s nothing that I can’t do
    I can make a dress out of a feed bag
    And make a man out of you”

    Many people will recognize these words. Perhaps you do, too.”

    Was it Corbyn at Glasto?

  37. “Ah- Chinese clothes. Great in all respects, unless you are 6’7″

    Some of it is siphoned-off production for US or European contracts – imagine my surprise when the jeans I ordered were Burberry Brit! You should be able to find crazy-sizes for your frame, although your choice is more limited than mine of course.

    But sometimes it is indeed asian sizes, some of which are at the limit for me.

  38. Frances Ryan has a horribly contrived expression of concern on her guardianista face which says she’s ready to believe uncritically any self-serving tripe that the welfare-dependent feed her.

    Housing and wine are expensive in the UK, but I find many things are cheaper than the rest of western Europe – eg AA batteries (12 for £1), quality men’s shoes…

    As for shirts…in 1987, M&S charged £25 for a decent quality shirt (£64 today), but now £25 will buy you a shirt of superior quality from Charles Tyrwhitt, and Primark does an acceptable range for well under a tenner…

  39. Why is it so difficult for anyone to include a link to the actual report(Gamecock’s link)? All I can seem to find are articles based on the Marketwatch article and unrelated DB research.

    I have two concerns. What is included in income and what is included in luxuries?

    If the report only looks at earned income I call bs reporting on Marketwatch. Government benefits typically cover most necessities so we actually expect that the percentage of earned income that goes to luxuries to be higher for the lowest quintile.

    The stated definition of luxuries is: “goods or services consumed in greater proportions as a person’s income increases” and necessities as those goods or services that make up a smaller proportion of spending as a person’s income increases.

    The way I read this is, if I was able to afford a single can of beans yesterday, and today I earned a little more so I could afford a second can of beans, that second can of beans is considered a luxury. It doesn’t matter that I went to bed hungry on the first night. I didn’t actually need 2k calories then so I must not need them now, therefore cans of beans are now luxury goods.

    I have a feeling that simply reading the report will clear up the bad reporting on Marketwatch’s part. Until then I will assume that only earned income was included and luxuries are so vague they can be any good or service.

  40. I spend £36 a month on internet and ‘phone ( a little web hosting included ). If my income doubled then the internet and ‘phone usage would stay the same, therefore it’s an essential.
    I might though reinstate some donations – therefore charity = luxury. Or go from home-cooked jacket potato with beans to buying chips and beans at the take-away , so luxury.
    For me the Marketwatch definition works. Ymmv.

  41. My you are a clever lot. But maybe he isn’t.,
    Can’t do clever things with a computer. Needs nursing by his wife from time to time.
    Frightened to leave his doctor because he has heard bad things about far off NHS.

  42. Was he paying £35 per week or *per month* as a teenager?
    Anyone with £1825 after tax & NI and food and fares 45 years ago was quite well off. I was paying £6/week rent (not Kensington but a “nice” north London suburb) in the early 70s, then a massive jump to £1100 (£21/week) when I moved into the City.
    Only a Grauniad journalist would think that £5/day rent in the 70s was cheap.

  43. @john77

    Why the swipe at the Guardian journalist? You’re the first person on this blog post to question the numbers. Maybe it’s an age thing.

  44. @ Jim
    No, it doesn’t – that suggests *less than £30* for a house, not £35 for a one-bedroom flat in a divided-up Victorian house.
    The Grauniad tells us that the average weekly wage in 1970 was £32, which means not all that many people could afford £35 a week rent; “This is money” says that the average house price in 1977 was £9,737 – it would be a bit higher in London but 8 flats at £5/day would pay off the house price in eight months.

  45. “No, it doesn’t – that suggests *less than £30* for a house, not £35 for a one-bedroom flat in a divided-up Victorian house.”

    We don’t know what he was renting for £35/week in the 70s, the article doesn’t say.

  46. @ Jim
    A teenager renting a house (in Kensington)? Why? How much time did he have left after working (including lots of overtime to push up his wage from £50/week) and doing the housework?

  47. Tim,
    What the hell is your software doing?
    from less than £32/week to more than £50/week

  48. abacab,

    In 2015, Dyson paid total dividends of £120m. For that year, they reported “staff costs” of £63.8m (of which £53.6m was “wages and salaries”, the rest social security and pensions).

    So clearly the return to capital is greater than to labour 😉

    I took those figures from Dyson’s 2016 filing with Companies House: http://preview.tinyurl.com/rr3qsuj

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