Exclusive: Minister's Local Tory Party Got £10k Covid Bailout For Constituency Office

Nigel Adams claims to be "unaware" Selby and Ainsty Constituency Conservative Association got £10,000 to pay business rates for Tadcaster office.
Conservative MP Nigel Adams, who is minister for
Conservative MP Nigel Adams, who is minister for
ODD ANDERSEN via Getty Images

A minister’s local Tory party association took a £10,000 Covid bailout to pay the bills for his constituency office, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Nigel Adams’ Selby and Ainsty Constituency Conservative Association was handed business rates relief cash for the MP’s high street office in Tadcaster.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak had announced on April 1 a £22bn support package to support high street businesses that would be distributed by councils.

Specific instructions were issued to MPs to decline any such grants, but Adams – a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office minister in Boris Johnson’s government – claims to be “unaware” of the cash that his local party took, which it says was nothing to do with him and therefore legitimate.

A Freedom of Information request sent by HuffPost UK to Selby District Council uncovered the bailout.

The council was asked if any of the Covid-19 relief fund money, which was handed to councils by the Treasury to distribute to businesses, had been used to fund MPs or their premises.

In response, the authority said: “I can confirm a small business rate relief grant of £10,000 was awarded to Selby and Ainsty Constituency Conservative Association for their offices at 17 High Street, Tadcaster.”

Adams, who is a close ally of Johnson, lists the address on his official parliament page as his constituency office.

The constituency office of Nigel Adams, at High Street in North Yorkshire's Tadcaster
The constituency office of Nigel Adams, at High Street in North Yorkshire's Tadcaster
Office of Nigel Adams

A Conservative Party spokesperson said the association rather than Adams had applied for the grant and was judged to be eligible by the local authority.

The government website says premises eligible for the grant include shops, restaurants, cafés, pubs and leisure or hospitality businesses.

But the Tories say local parties are also “facing challenging times” and, as the association was paying business rates, it was entitled to claim from the government fund.

They added that the association is a tenant of the property, and that Adams and his staff are able to use it as his constituency base.

“Local political associations are no different from other organisations in facing challenging times,” the spokesperson said.

“The purpose of the coronavirus business rate relief fund is to protect organisations and prevent local job losses.”

The party insists Adams has not breached guidelines issued by the Independent Parliament Standards Authority (IPSA).

HuffPost UK has been unable to establish whether the association made Adams aware of the application – or whether he had passed on the guidance from the IPSA that MPs should decline any grants they are offered for their premises.

IPSA, which regulates MPs’ expenses, salaries and office costs, had warned all MPs about accepting small business grants from councils.

It underlined to Adams and other MPs that, as IPSA continued to pay MPs’ staff and was also “reimbursing MPs and staff members for coronavirus-related costs and other staffing and office costs”, the authority “would advise MPs to decline the grant”. HuffPost UK asked IPSA if this guidance also applied to business rates relief and was told it did.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority guidance issued to MPs

The local authority has contacted us about receiving a small business grant of £10,000. What should we do?

Local authorities have written to companies and organisations who are eligible to receive a small business grant, as part of relief measures put in place by the Government to help businesses deal with the coronavirus pandemic. This scheme is being administered differently by each of the devolved nations.

We would advise MPs to decline the grant. IPSA is continuing to pay salaries to MPs and their staff, as well as reimbursing MPs and staff members for coronavirus-related costs and other staffing and office costs throughout this period. Therefore MPs and their staff members are not facing any loss of income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in the way that some businesses are.

If you have already claimed for your 2020-21 business rates bill and subsequently receive a partial refund from your local authority, this amount must be returned to IPSA.

The local party said Adams was not responsible for the association’s business rates and argued that Adams was simply renting space there.

“This grant was correctly applied for and paid to the association, who are the tenants, main occupiers of the office premises and responsible for any business rates payable,” it said. “Our MP has a licence to use rooms in our premises when he and his staff require them. He is not responsible for the business rates and as such, does not use his IPSA allowance to claim such costs.”

The cash injection for the association is revealed as Sunak comes under increasing pressure over funding gaps in his Covid-19 support for people in need.

Millions of people who are self-employed also remain excluded from coronavirus support packages.

Nigel Adams lists High Street, Tadcaster, as his constituency office
Nigel Adams lists High Street, Tadcaster, as his constituency office
Nigel Adams lists High Street, Tadcaster, as his constituency office

Wendy Nichols, deputy leader of the Labour group on Selby District Council, said: “This is a troubling revelation that raises some serious questions. The government has been rightly criticised for the lack of support it has offered businesses not to mention the obscene amount of money it has wasted handing out contracts to friends and supporters.

“The small business rate relief grant is designed to help businesses survive during the pandemic. It is not there to fund politicians or political parties. Nigel Adams has a number of questions to answer and a lot of explaining to do to all those local businesses battling to survive through this crisis and all those people who’ve lost their jobs.”

Adams said he was “unaware” of the grant and advised HuffPost UK to contact the association, saying: “I do not know anything about it.”

He declined to make any further comment.

HuffPost UK has contacted Selby District Council for comment.


What's Hot