Starmer backs Rayner over right-to-buy council house sale

The Labour leader’s spokesman said he had ‘full confidence’ in his deputy.

Patrick Daly
Wednesday 28 February 2024 16:37 GMT
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has faced questions over the sale of her former council property home (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has faced questions over the sale of her former council property home (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Labour said Sir Keir Starmer has “full confidence” in his deputy, Angela Rayner, following questions over an ex-council house sale she made after benefiting from former prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme.

The Labour leader’s spokesman batted away questions about the transaction during a briefing with reporters after Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Asked whether Sir Keir had full confidence in Ms Rayner, the spokesman replied: “Correct.

“We have full confidence in all of the answers that she has given on this.”

Ms Rayner, who is also the shadow housing secretary, has rejected claims in a book by Lord Ashcroft, a former Conservative Party deputy chairman, due to be published in March.

She has called the reports a “constant stream of smears” and denied she was liable for capital gains tax on the property sale, which was finalised before she was elected in 2015.

Lord Ashcroft’s book alleges that the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne bought her former council house, in Stockport, Greater Manchester, with a 25% discount in 2007 under right-to-buy, a scheme introduced by former Tory PM Mrs Thatcher in 1980.

Ms Rayner, who has committed to reforming the scheme, which she says has “helped fuel the housing crisis” by depleting publicly-owned housing stock, is said to have made a £48,500 profit when selling the house eight years later.

Those selling a right-to-buy home must wait five years before they can sell, or the seller has to pay back some or all of the discount they received.

Tory MP Jacob Young has accused Ms Rayner of staggering “hypocrisy” for wanting to reform Mrs Thatcher’s flagship policy after “personally benefiting from the right-to-buy discount”.

Ms Rayner has said her proposed reforms, which she said will “review the unfair additional market discounts of up to 60% the Tories introduced in 2012”, are the “right thing to do”.

There are also questions about whether the property she sold was her main residence.

Government guidance says that a tenant can apply to buy their council home through the right-to-buy scheme if it is their “only or main home”.

According to an article by the Mail On Sunday (MoS), which is serialising Lord Ashcroft’s book, documents indicate that Ms Rayner was registered on the electoral roll at her former council house for five years after she married Mark Rayner in 2010.

Her husband was listed at another address about a mile away, which had also been bought under the right-to-buy scheme.

In the same year as her wedding, Ms Rayner is said to have re-registered the births of her two youngest children, giving her address as where her husband resided.

Under electoral rules, voters are expected to register at their permanent home address. There are penalties for providing false information when registering to vote.

Ms Rayner tweeted on Monday: “I bought my council house back in 2007.

“I owned my own home, lived there, paid the bills there and was registered to vote there, prior to selling the house in 2015. All before I was an MP…

“I’ve never been a ‘landlady’, owned a property portfolio or been a non-dom.

“As with the majority of ordinary people who sell their own homes, I was not liable for capital gains tax because it was my home and the only one I owned.

“My husband already owned his own home independently and I had an older child from a previous relationship.”

She added: “For all the unhealthy interest taken in my family by Lord Ashcroft and his friends, there is no suggestion any rules have been broken.

“Just a constant stream of smears from the usual suspects.”

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