Tories lose Wimpey cash

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GEORGE WIMPEY, the second largest housebuilder in Britain, has cancelled its contribution to the Conservative Party a year after it halved its donation to pounds 20,000.

The company has been a long-standing contributor to Tory party funds, making payments throughout the 1980s. No reason was given for the cancellation but Wimpey has been badly hit by the recession - last year, it lost pounds 112.4m, seven times the loss suffered in 1991.

Some of the industry's leaders believe that the Government's action exacerbated the building slump, both by encouraging the 1980s housing boom and by keeping interest rates too high for too long to try to control inflation.

More than 470,000 building workers have lost their jobs since the recession began in 1989; a further 50,000 are expected to go this year.

The industry also remains sceptical about recent government pledges of support, pointing out that many projects unveiled in the Budget - including the Channel tunnel rail link - will have to be financed by the private sector, while the east London Jubilee Line extension awaits the go-ahead.

A key test of industry support will come later this month when Taylor Woodrow, traditionally one of the party's most generous supporters, publishes its annual report. It slashed its payment from pounds 150,320 in 1989 to just pounds 24,302 in 1990, but increased it to pounds 90,975 the next year when John Major took over the leadership from Margaret Thatcher.

Wimpey's annual report reveals it made a pounds 538,000 ex gratia payment to a former director. The recipient was not named but Nelson Oliver, who was in charge of the group's housing division, took early retirement last March.

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