Labour has accused Boris Johnson’s government of siding with property companies over planning law and workers’ rights, after new research showed the Conservatives are receiving donations worth £17,500 a day from businesses in the sector.
It came as separate research published in the Financial Times found that gifts from a wider group of companies and individuals with an interest in property development – also including groups like hotel and care home operators – now make up around a quarter of all donations to the Conservatives, totalling almost £18m since Mr Johnson became leader in 2019.
Transparency International calculates that the share of property-sector cash in Tory donations has risen from annual figures between 4 and 12 per cent under Mr Johnson’s predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron.
Ms Rayner told The Independent that Mr Johnson’s government had consistently “put the interests of the donors who bankroll the Conservative Party ahead of the interests of the public”, whether through “crony contracts”, tax breaks for developers or reforms to planning rules which Labour has denounced as a “developers’ charter”.
But she said that the government’s favours for the sector also extended to resisting the expansion of rights to work flexibly, which are opposed by many property tycoons.
Even at the height of the coronavirus pandemic – and in the immediate post-election period when donations usually fall – the Conservatives were still taking in £200,000 a month from the property industry in 2020, said Labour. And donations from the sector rose to £282,000 a month in the first quarter of this year.
Ms Rayner said this coincided with the government kicking a manifesto pledge on making flexible working the default “into the long grass” and Mr Johnson issuing calls for workers to go back to the office.
As the UK emerges from a prolonged period of enforced working from home due to Covid-19, Labour is demanding the right to flexible working for all workers as a default and the “right to switch off” to enable workers to disconnect from work.
Ms Rayner said: “There is no question that the companies that bankroll the Conservative Party have a financial interest in maintaining the status quo, whereas working people want the right to work flexibly after the pandemic.
“By refusing to give people the right to work flexibly, yet again Conservative ministers have shown they are only interested in acting in the interests of their mates and their donors, not working people.
“As we emerge from this pandemic we need to fundamentally change working practices for the better and to improve the lives of working people.
“The ‘new normal’ must mean a new deal for working people that enables them to enjoy the benefits of flexible working, from a better work-life balance to spending less time commuting and more time with their family.”
A Conservative party spokesperson said: “Government policy is in no way influenced by donations the party receives. They are entirely separate.”
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