Help To Buy Goes To The Aid Of The Party

Debate around Help To Buy has hitherto looked at its possible creation of a housing bubble, especially through the Mortgage Guarantee element being launched in the new year.

But newspapers are now sniffing around one little-reported aspect of Help To Buy - whether the house builders benefitting most directly from it are also long-standing financial supporters of the Conservative Party.

Back in 2009 the now-disgraced Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne (at that time MP for the Hampshire constituency of Eastleigh and still a year away from assisting the Conservatives as a partner in coalition) claimed that Persimmon, Barratt Homes and Berkeley Homes were financial backers of thre Conservatives, then in opposition.

“It is a matter of public record that the Conservative party has received substantial political contributions from housebuilding companies that have been active in Hampshire, as well as from their owners” he said during a Commons debate.

More recently, in 2011, the Daily Telegraph reported that the Conservative Planning Forum raises around £150,000 a year for the party, partly by charging its members £2,500 to meet senior MPs to discuss policy and planning issues.

The forum’s chair, Mike Slade of Helical Bar, was reported to have personally donated over £300,000 to the Conservatives over the previous decade.

The Telegraph also named property developers David and Simon Reuben (owners of an extensive commercial property portfolio including Millbank Tower and the John Lewis and American Express headquarters in Victoria, London) as Conservative contributors.

So what? Politics and property are not a new combination. In an era when private house building is almost the only construction undertaken, all parties court private developers: Labour was closely involved with them when last in government

And in any case, for all Labour’s criticisms of Help To Buy and other Coalition government initiatives, there is little different in what we know of the opposition’s policies.

On the private rented sector, shadow housing minister Jack Dromey set out a very similar stall to the government’s at the British Property Federation Residential Conference earlier this year. And the Welsh Assembly - Labour-led - has similar policies to the Westminster Coalition assist house-buyers, right down to using similar names.

Even so, it is worth noting that there are some unpublicised winners from Help To Buy: they are the house builders whose profits are improving, including some firms which have helped fund the political party that champions the new measure.

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