As both Labour and the Tories even more so come under fire for taking millions from the property sector, it is time for stricter regulation of such ‘giving’ suggests Matthew Steeples
In December last year, we shared that a quarter of all donations to the Conservatives came from the property industry in general since Boris Johnson became leader and now, today, the Guardian went further and revealed that an astonishing fifth of all donations to the party have come from the residential element of that sector in the last decade.
Aside from the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick having deservedly come under criticism for helping along the planning processes for extremely lucrative development schemes of rich donors such as Richard Desmond previously, the anti-corruption Transparency International UK group has now highlighted that “the Conservatives received £60.8m in donations from individuals and companies related to substantial property interests” between 2010 and 2020. Going further, they added: “Of property-related donations to all parties, 80% went to the Tories.”
The report noted: “While we have seen insufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt any direct quid pro quo arrangements of donations for decisions, this dependence creates a real risk of aggregative corruption, whereby the actions and judgments of ministers are incentivised by their party’s financial ties to interest groups in this policy area.”
Aside from describing this as “of serious concern,” Transparency International UK’s policy director suggested lobbying efforts by the construction industry on the Conservative government was “woefully opaque.”
Of this, the Guardian remarked: “In just three years from 2017 to 2020, the research uncovered, ministers held 669 meetings with 894 different interest groups to discuss housing issues, but in more than 40% of cases departmental information described the subjects being discussed only as ‘housing’ or ‘planning.’”
With Labour under fire also after “beleaguered” deputy leader Angela Rayner was exposed for taking a £10,000 donation from a residential developer, the stench of the power of commercial and residential construction companies and estate agents over the current batch of politicians at Westminster has become especially pungent.
It is time at the very least for an investigation into the over-reliance of political parties on funding from this sector and it is frankly time for stricter regulation of what, when and how such money can be given (and the ‘obligations’ that go with it).