‘Hypocrite’ Rayner’s £48k profit on council house sale

  • 25 February, 2024
  • Politics

Article by Glen Owen in The Mail on Sunday on 25 February 2024.

Starmer’s deputy used Maggie’s flagship policy to buy discounted home – but now she threatens to cut subsidy for others

  • Angela Rayner bought her council house in Stockport for £26,000 in 2007
  • With the help of right-to-buy the house was discounted by 25 per cent 

Angela Rayner has been accused of hypocrisy after it was discovered she made a £48,500 profit on her ex-council house thanks to the right-to-buy policy she now wants to reform.

Critics say Labour’s deputy leader wants to ‘pull up the ladder’ to make it harder for other social housing tenants to benefit in the same way she did. Ms Rayner is also Shadow Housing Secretary, and has spoken out against those who get ‘loads and loads of discount’ when purchasing their properties under the right-to-buy policy first introduced by Margaret Thatcher, and long despised by the Left.

But she bought her own former council house in Stockport, Greater Manchester, with a 25 per cent discount in 2007 – making the five-figure profit when she sold it at the market rate eight years later.
The purchase is revealed in a new book by Lord Ashcroft, which will be serialised exclusively in the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday next month. The volume, Red Queen? The Unauthorised Biography Of Angela Rayner, raises other questions about the outspoken MP’s living arrangements.

Official documents seen by this newspaper show that she was registered on the electoral roll at the ex-council house in Vicarage Road for five years after she married Mark Rayner in 2010. Despite them being newlyweds, her husband was listed elsewhere – a house in Lowndes Lane, just over a mile away, which had also been bought under the right-to-buy scheme.

More mysteriously, when Ms Rayner re-registered the births of her two youngest children that same year, she gave her address as Lowndes Lane. It is not clear, therefore, where she was living after her marriage.

The confusion is significant because under electoral rules, voters are expected to register at their permanent home address. Breaches of the rules can lead to a prison sentence. Also, anyone buying a right-to-buy property usually signs a form confirming that it is their only or principal home, to avoid the properties being used by profiteering private landlords.

Neighbours of both properties claimed Ms Rayner moved out of Vicarage Road in 2009 and into Lowndes Lane. Last night, a Labour spokesman said that the council house purchase had been ‘done by the book’ – and went on the attack against ‘Belize-based Tory billionaire Lord Ashcroft’ for taking ‘an unhealthy interest in Angela’s family’.

The spokesman said: ‘Angela, who had an older child from a previous relationship, and her husband maintained their existing residences before moving into their shared marital home. Their son was born just 23 weeks into her pregnancy and spent eight months in intensive care, requiring ongoing support from a wide network of friends and family, including Angela’s brother… Beyond the smears, there is no suggestion any rules have been broken.’

Right-to-buy was one of the flagship policies of Mrs Thatcher’s Government, boosting home ownership by allowing council tenants to purchase the property they rented for a generous discount depending on how long they had lived there.

Tenants must repay some of the discount if they sell within five years – a penalty Ms Rayner avoided by waiting eight years.

When Labour’s No 2 was asked about the policy last year she said: ‘I think we need to review the way right-to-buy works’ adding that one area that needed to be looked at was ‘how much of a discount’ is on offer. She added: ‘If someone’s lived in their property for a long time, they’ve been paying rent and it’s their home, then, yes, right-to-buy it. But that right isn’t that you get loads, loads of discount and we can’t replace the stock.’

Critics say that in some areas more than half the houses sold through the policy are owned by private landlords who can then charge more rent than the council.

Tory MP Jacob Young said: ‘This is staggering hypocrisy from the deputy leader of the Labour Party. Having personally benefited from the right-to-buy discount, she now wants to pull up the ladder on other council tenants wanting to buy their home. Not only that, she appears to have moved into a second home only two years later, also bought under right-to-buy.

These revelations raise serious questions about her suitability for office.’

Ms Rayner was a tenant in the Victorian semi-detached house in Vicarage Road when she exercised her right-to-buy it from the council in January 2007.

Records show she took out a mortgage to pay £79,000 for the two-bedroom property, having been granted a £26,000 discount on its market value – a typical right-to-buy discount of one quarter. She sold it for £127,500 in March 2015, making a paper profit of £48,500. Seven weeks later she became an MP, winning the Ashton-under-Lyne seat at the General Election. At the time Ms Rayner bought the house she was Angela Bowen, a 26-year-old single mother of Ryan, aged nine. In 2008 she gave birth to Charles, by her then boyfriend Mark Rayner, with a third boy, James, following in 2009.

After she and Mark married in September 2010 she was registered on the electoral roll at Vicarage Road while her husband was listed at Lowndes Lane. He had bought the property in 1991, also through the right-to-buy scheme.

In October 2009, the electoral roll listed Angela Bowen at Vicarage Road while the Lowndes Lane address listed both Mr Rayner and Darren Bowen, the name of Ms Rayner’s elder brother.

On their marriage certificate, Mr Rayner gave his residence as the Lowndes Lane address, while Ms Rayner gave Vicarage Road.

However, in October 2010, six weeks after her marriage, Ms Rayner re-registered the births of her two younger sons – and gave Lowndes Lane as her address, despite being on the electoral roll at Vicarage Road. She maintained this Vicarage Road listing for the next five years until she moved on to the register at Lowndes Lane.

But one resident, who has lived on Vicarage Road for 40 years, said: ‘I have never once seen her on this street. I am a Labour supporter and Angela Rayner is very recognisable with her red hair. I don’t remember seeing anyone who looked like her living on this street.’

Another neighbour, who has lived in the street for 17 years, said: ‘How bizarre. As far as I know, she has never lived in that house.

‘I know who she is since she is very recognisable, but I’ve never seen her here.

‘Maybe she had lodgers or rented it out. I’m sure I would have known if she was a neighbour.’

Lord Ashcroft’s book quotes another neighbour in Vicarage Road who says Ms Rayner moved out after her youngest two children were born and her brother Darren then moved in. And a neighbour in Lowndes Lane says Ms Rayner and her husband lived there with their children from the summer of 2009 – three years before the five-year grace period on selling her right-to-buy house expired. ‘I knew her to nod to and say hello, but we never met Darren,’ says the neighbour.

Right-to-buy owners are usually allowed to rent out their property during their first five years of ownership, but are expected to notify the council. They also need their mortgage lender to agree.

Labour opposed Mrs Thatcher’s right-to-buy policy when it was introduced, and when elected in 1997 reduced the discount available in many areas. But in 2012 the Tories increased that discount –which Labour are now committed to ‘review’, branding it ‘unfair’.

A spokesman for the Electoral Commission did not comment on Ms Rayner’s personal circumstances, but said: ‘Normally a person is resident at an address if it is their permanent home address. Whether someone is eligible to be on the register at an address is for the relevant electoral registration officer.

‘It is an offence to knowingly provide false information in the voter registration application form. If convicted, a person may be imprisoned for up to six months and/or face an unlimited fine. This would be a matter for police to investigate.’

Stockport Council did not respond to a request for comment.

The MoS asked Ms Rayner a series of detailed questions about her arrangements, but received only this reply from a Labour spokesperson: ‘While Belize-based Tory billionaire Lord Ashcroft kicks out at those who graft to get on in life, Labour supports the principle that if you live in a council house and work hard you should have the opportunity to own your own home.

‘We have committed to reviewing the unfair discounts introduced by the Conservatives in 2012, but Angela’s purchase long predates that and was done by the book.

‘While the Tories have shattered the dream of home ownership, Labour will deliver the biggest boost to affordable, social and council housing for a generation.

‘Angela, who had an older child from a previous relationship, and her husband maintained their existing residences before moving into their shared marital home.

‘Their son was born just 23 weeks into her pregnancy and spent eight months in intensive care, requiring ongoing support from a wide network of friends and family, including Angela’s brother.

‘It’s clear that Lord Ashcroft takes an unhealthy interest in Angela’s family, but beyond the smears, there is no suggestion any rules have been broken.’

Responding, Lord Ashcroft said that rather than answer the questions his new book raises, Labour ‘has tried to divert attention from the story by seemingly attacking me without knowing anything about my background. For the record my roots are in Burnley in a two-up, two-down. The toilet was in the back yard and we used torn-up newspaper as toilet paper! My dad was an enlisted infantryman, my mother a nurse.

‘Having cleared that up, don’t voters deserve to know where Angela Rayner lived between 2007 and 2015? As the Electoral Commission says, the electoral roll is ‘the key building block for our democracy’. She should appreciate that as a deputy PM-in-waiting.’

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