Unite union boss Len McCluskey under fire after taking £400,000 to buy central London flat

The union has contributed 60 per cent of the cost of the £700,000 property, located just south of the river Thames


Rob Merrick
Friday 09 September 2016 10:26 BST
Unite leader Len McCluskey
Unite leader Len McCluskey (PA)

The Unite union has defended giving its leader, Len McCluskey, £400,000 to help him buy a central London flat as “extraordinarily commonplace”.

Britain’s biggest union came under fire after it emerged it put forward 60 per cent of the cost of the £700,000 property, just south of the river Thames, in February this year.

One union insider said there would be “much disquiet” over the arrangement, at a time when many of Unite's members are struggling, according to The Guardian.

But Howard Beckett, executive director for legal services at Unite, insisted its agreement with Mr McCluskey was not a loan, but an equity share arrangement – which was often used to help general secretaries buy homes in London.

And he insisted the deal would raise more money for Unite’s members when the property was eventually sold.

The union's equitable interest in the property was 60 per cent, with a requirement that the property must be sold 12 months after 66-year-old Mr McCluskey’s employment finishes.

The union's entire equity interest in the property must be repaid at the time of sale and would be bolstered by any increase in price.

Mr Beckett said: “The agreement is extraordinarily commonplace. Unions have put such measures in place for senior officers for decades.

“The intention is to best facilitate the performance of roles that are London-based whilst ensuring the union's finances are best invested and receive a return on the properties concerned.

“This is commonplace across the entire union movement and, frankly, if parliament adopted a similar approach to MPs, we would all have avoided the expenses scandal.”

Unite is the Labour party's biggest donor and Mr McCluskey is backing Jeremy Corbyn's campaign to defeat Owen Smith for the leadership.

According to Land Registry documents, he became the registered owner of the £695,500 flat in February. Unite paid £417,300 towards the flat and signed the agreement with its leader.

At the age of 66, the Unite chief is likely to have struggled to raise a conventional mortgage for such a property.

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