Renting rights: what England can learn from fairer systems around the world

downloadThis article was published first in The Conversation.

Record numbers of families now rent privately in Britain. Twice as many middle-aged people rent their homes compared to 2008, and it has been estimated that about one-third of millennials will rent for their whole life.

Renting the house you live in has its advantages as it gives you greater freedom of movement and saves you other costs: insurance, service charge, deposit, mortgage interest, to name a few. Yet, for most people, renting privately is not really a matter of choice. It is the result of stagnant wages and the fact that house values rise much faster than the economy.

Britain is becoming a country of (reluctant) tenants. But the law does not keep the balance fairly between landlord’s interests and tenant’s rights. Continue reading “Renting rights: what England can learn from fairer systems around the world”

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Brexit: La UE podría lamentarlo si no ayuda a Theresa May

Este artículo fue publicado en Agenda Pública

Me siento extraño pidiéndolo, pero allá voy: creo que los líderes europeos deberían hacer mucho más para ayudar a Theresa May a alcanzar un acuerdo para la salida ordenada del Reino Unido en marzo del año que viene.

En la práctica, para que haya tiempo de refrendarlo por una mayoría cualificada de los 27, además de la Cámara de los Comunes y del Parlamento Europeo, el borrador de acuerdo debería estar finalizado en noviembre.

Estamos en uno de esos momentos en los que lo urgente prima sobre lo importante.

Muchos europeos y españoles siguen indignados con el sentido del voto en aquel infausto referéndum de junio de 2016. Entiendo que muchas personas ansíen dar una lección a esos ingleses estirados que se creen mejor que nadie. Además, no estamos precisamente en la cúspide del entusiasmo europeísta, y ante el temor de que el Brexit pueda contagiarse a otros países, me hago cargo de que muchos gobiernos sienten la necesidad de poner las cosas difíciles como aviso a navegantes.

Lo comprendo y en cierta medida lo comparto (no creo que sean estirados). Pero eso pertenece al ámbito de lo importante. Como decía antes, ahora nos enfrentamos a lo urgente.

Y lo urgente en los próximos dos meses es asegurarnos de que no caemos al vacío a finales de marzo. Continue reading “Brexit: La UE podría lamentarlo si no ayuda a Theresa May”

Supreme Court of Spain: UN Treaty Body individual decisions are legally binding

angela pic womens linkThis article was published in EJIL: Talk!

The Spanish Supreme Court has established that the views expressed by UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies in individual complaints are binding on the State. The Court ordered Spain to pay €600,000 in compensation to Ángela González for the responsibility of its authorities in relation to the death of her daughter. Her daughter was murdered by her father in an unsupervised visit authorised by a judge. National courts dismissed Ángela’s case, but the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) found a breach of her human rights. The Supreme Court has now affirmed that the State must comply with the Committee’s decision. This article discusses the significance of the case and the principle established by it. Continue reading “Supreme Court of Spain: UN Treaty Body individual decisions are legally binding”

Pero, ¿quiénes fueron José Antonio y Francisco Franco? Una visita al Valle de los Caídos

http_o.aolcdn.comhssstoragemidas9d6e1161c8eae10cf48629ae6dc11577206503435Captura+de+pantalla+2018-07-04+a+las+11.03.24Este artículo fue publicado en El Huffington Post

Estoy pasando unos días en la Sierra de Madrid y una calurosa tarde he conseguido que me lleven al Valle de los Caídos. No voy a gastar letras explicándole mis razones. Digamos que últimamente tengo la memoria bastante presente. Pero dejemos el tema de la motivación para otro artículo.

Son las cinco y somos el último de tres coches en la entrada. A la derecha una periodista de La Sexta practica su intervención ante el cámara.

El ticket cuesta nueve euros por persona. No es barato pero no me pilla desprevenido porque me había informado en internet. Se paga desde el coche. Mi acompañante interroga escéptica: “¿Este dinero adónde va?” Se hace un silencio que a mí me parece innecesariamente largo. Claramente no es la primera vez que se lo preguntan. “Es Patrimonio Nacional. Es del Estado.” Pagamos.

Dentro del recinto del valle hay fauna y flora variada, o eso anuncian los carteles, pero yo no había venido en su busca. A velocidad prudente y cuesta arriba, tras unas cuantas curvas llegamos al aparcamiento. Estacionamos sin dificultad. Habrá una veintena de vehículos pero muchos más huecos. Pasamos lo suficientemente cerca del bar/restaurante como para escuchar frases sueltas de comensales en diversas mesas. Nada reseñable francamente (con perdón), pero me sorprende la comodidad con la que charlan. Yo cómodo precisamente no me siento. También hay un funicular hasta la cruz, pero no funciona.

Minutos después nos encontramos frente al monumento. Es gigante, como lo había imaginado. Abruma. A ambos extremos dos mayúsculos escudos franquistas hacen de escolta en piedra. “Es del Estado”, recuerdo las palabras de la funcionaria de la taquilla.

Hay un contraste notable entre la calma del entorno y la agresividad del mausoleo. Quien ordenó construir este sitio tuvo que ser un hombre acomplejado, temeroso de que la historia no lo fuera a recordar con cariño, o de que no lo fuera a recordar a secas. Continue reading “Pero, ¿quiénes fueron José Antonio y Francisco Franco? Una visita al Valle de los Caídos”

Local authorities are paving the way to tackling inequality

downloadBy Koldo Casla

This article was originally published by LGiU, the local democracy think tank.

The Equality Act 2010 was a major step forward. It protects against direct and indirect discrimination in public services and harassment in the private sphere, including the workplace. Nine characteristics are protected within it: Age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

Although social class is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, Section 1 contains what is known as the socio-economic duty.

This duty would require public authorities to have due regard to “the desirability of exercising (their functions) in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage”.

However, sucessive governments since 2010 have failed to bring it to life, which means that public authorities are not technically bound by Section 1.

The duty could have made a difference in the case of Grenfell, for example. Had it been in force, it would have required the Kensington and Chelsea Council to consider whether its policies in relation to council tax, social housing, homelessness and disaster planning were adequate to address the enormous inequalities in the borough.

Section 1 of the Equality Act is technically not binding for public authorities in England, but some councils are showing what the duty could look like in practice.

Just Fair interviewed 20 council representatives, senior officers and voluntary sector groups in Manchester, Newcastle, Oldham, Wigan, Bristol, York and the London Borough of Islington.

Respondents used different frames and agendas to articulate their policies: Fairness, inclusive growth, impact assessment, equality budgeting, economic disadvantage, social exclusion… But all of them were clear that austerity had prompted them to react both because of the way Universal Credit and other welfare reforms were affecting their residents and because of the limitations on local government funding.

All seven councils show a combination of a) visible leadership, b) cultural shift, c) meaningful impact assessments, d) data transparency, and e) engagement with residents and the voluntary sector. Continue reading “Local authorities are paving the way to tackling inequality”

Could the socio-economic duty be a way to reduce inequalities in the UK?

SDG-10This piece was published in UKSSD blog. (Image credited to UKSSD)

The UK Government committed to reducing inequalities through Sustainable Development Goal 10. Three years later things aren’t on track but is the socio-economic duty the solution we need? Koldo Casla from Just Fair explains. 

By signing up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, among other things, the UK Government committed to reducing inequalities.

The SDGs, with their 17 Goals and 169 Targets, set the world on a trajectory where we have eradicated poverty, reduced inequalities, halted the loss of biodiversity and combatted catastrophic climate change. Some call them an action plan for the world. But as our chapter on SDG 10 in Measuring up shows, three years later the UK’s chances of hitting the targets on reducing inequalities by 2030 are not looking too good.

Three reasons why the UK will struggle to reduce inequalities

  1. Between one in five and one in four people earn less than 60% of the median income in the UK. This has barely changed since 2010, and things are not likely to improve as income inequality is projected to rise in the coming years.
  1. Although wealth inequality (the ownership of assets, including property) contracted between 1997 and 2007, it is now going up as a result of the decreased access to home ownership and because land values are growing faster than the economy. The richest 1,000 people are wealthier than the poorest 40% of households.
  1. Tax and social security cuts introduced since 2012 have had a particularly severe effect on people on low incomes. Black and ethnic minority households, families with at least one disabled member, and lone parents (who are overwhelmingly women) have suffered disproportionately. According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, as a result of the tax and welfare reforms households in the bottom 20-30 per cent have lost more than twice as much as those in the top 20 per cent. At this pace, in four years from now 1.5 million more children will live in poverty.

The UK has a strong legal framework to prevent discrimination, we just need to use it Continue reading “Could the socio-economic duty be a way to reduce inequalities in the UK?”

Giving indicators and benchmarks a human face