A cabinet minister accused of breaching the lockdown faces fresh questions over his housing portfolio as he has charged taxpayers more than £100,000 for a constituency home that he appears to use only rarely.
Gabriel Pogrund, Tim Shipman and Tom Calver www.thetimes.co.uk
Robert Jenrick, the housing, communities and local government secretary, was accused of ignoring government advice last week after leaving his £2.5m London house during the lockdown and moving to a country home that he owns in Herefordshire.
Lockdown rules say families should not travel to second homes. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said such journeys were not “necessary”.
A spokesman for Jenrick said the minister considered the £1.1m, 17th-century grade I listed country house near Leominster to be his family home — and that his wife and children moved there before the lockdown. However, Jenrick’s official entry on the Conservative Party website says he and his family “live in Southwell near Newark [his constituency], and in London”. Neighbours said he is rarely at the Herefordshire property and builders are a “regular fixture” there. One described the claim that it was his family home as “codswallop”.
MPs’ anti-sleaze guidance says they do not need to declare ownership of “any land or property which is used wholly for their own personal residential purposes, or those of their spouse, partner or dependent children”. Yet Jenrick has chosen to declare the Herefordshire home since 2015. Over the same period, Jenrick, 38, privately educated and married to a corporate lawyer, has charged the taxpayer more than £100,000 in rent and council tax for his constituency home.
Travel expenses suggest that Jenrick rarely spends an entire weekend at the property, which is in one of the top council tax brackets. On five occasions between 2018 and 2019, he drove to the constituency and back on the same day.
A government minister said last night: “It’s a bit odd to make the taxpayer fund your constituency home when you’ve got all that money. It doesn’t look good.”
Steve Reed, Labour’s shadow communities secretary, urged Jenrick to resign, saying he was only still in his post because “there’s no prime minister available to sack him”.
A spokesman for Jenrick did not respond to further requests for comment.