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Housing secretary’s grip on power weakens as ‘cash for favours’ scandal intensifies

Robert Jenrick is battling for his political life after more revelations were published over the weekend about his decision to rubber-stamp a contentious housing development.

Nigel Lewis

housing development

Robert Jenrick’s position as Housing Secretary has weekend over the weekend as the scandal surrounding his approval of tycoon Richard Desmond’s redevelopment of the Westferry Printworks in the East End of London has re-ignited.

Every major national newspaper ran stories revealing more details of the ongoing ‘cash for favours’ revelations which Jenrick has vehemently denied, claiming the process was all ‘above board’.

But it now transpires that Jenrick was shown a promotional film of the development by Desmond when they attended a fundraising dinner together last year, challenging the official line that Jenrick did not discuss the development with Desmond in ‘any way’.

“I took that decision in good faith, with an open mind, and I am confident all the rules were followed in doing so,” he said in parliament last week.


In early January this year Jenrick gave Desmond the green light to develop the Westferry Printworks in East London into 1,500 apartments despite problems with local planners.

But the decision was revoked after it was discovered that two weeks after the decision Desmond had made a £12,000 donation to Conservative Party funds.

The timing of the decision has also raised eyebrows. Jenrick rubber-stamped the application just a day before Tower Hamlets raised its community infrastructure levy, saving Desmond over £40 million, and accepted a lower level of affordable housing within the £1 billion development, saving him another £106 million.

Since then the decision has been put on ice after Jenrick accepted that his decision was unlawful, appeared to show bias, and should be determined again by a different minister.

Read more about Robert Jenrick’s other gaffes.


June 22, 2020

One comment

  1. The problem that the housing secretary and the ‘new’ housing minister have is that ‘cash for favours’ is an easy war cry for many to rally around. The truth as they say will out, but it does seem bad timing for the conservative party.

    In the meantime, with the country embroiled in the pandemic it is a great source of irritation that Jenrick less than three-months ago was looking to reform the planning system.

    Where the government had stated “These reforms will aim to create a simpler planning system and improve the capacity, capability and performance of Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to accelerate the development process … where LPAs fail to meet their local housing need, there will be firm consequences, including a stricter approach taken to the release of land for development and greater government intervention.”

    So, you have I am afraid to be a paragon of virtue, if you want to change things, and not on the backfoot justifying awkward decisions.

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