The Times has revealed new allegations concerning the behaviour of Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
The Cabinet member has been under the spotlight for some months following revelations concerning his behaviour as the political head of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The longest-running controversy concerns a planning decision made by Jenrick, against the advice of planning officers, for a £2 billion 500-apartment London housing scheme led by billionaire former ‘adult entertainment’ and newspaper owner Richard Desmond. The decision was ultimately declared illegal.
Jenrick gave the go-ahead some weeks after meeting Desmond at a Conservative fundraising dinner and viewing details of the scheme on Desmond’s telephone; some weeks after the decision was taken by Jenrick, Desmond made a contribution to the Tory party.
Now The Times newspaper has revealed that Jenrick - along with junior housing minister Jake Berry - last year intervened in the process of awarding hundreds of millions of pounds of public money to local areas under a regeneration scheme called the Towns Fund.
The newspaper alleges that in September of 2019 - a few months before the General Election - Jenrick and Berry personally chose 61 of the 101 towns which would each receive £25m.
Typically, the selection would have been made by civil servants acting impartially.
No fewer than 60 of the areas selected were in Conservative-held seats or target seats to be won at the election which went on to be held in December. These had majorities of fewer than 3,000.
Jenrick also chose his own seat - Newark - to receive funding; this was one of only two that had more substantial majorities.
Other recent scandals involving Jenrick, who has received the public support of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, include one concerning the minister’s intervention in a planning issue concerning the Jockey Club and its development of 318 homes and a hotel at the Sandown Park Racecourse in Esher, Surrey.
The Jockey Club launched an appeal after Elmbridge council rejected the application because it was on Green Belt land and would deliver only 20 per cent affordable housing, falling below the council threshold of 40 to 50 per cent.
The Times says Jockey Club board members include Baroness Harding, the Conservative peer behind the government’s Covid-19 tracing app.
Jenrick and the MHCLG deny any wrongdoing.