Angela Rayner council home tax row deepens as former aide contradicts her claims in electoral law probe

The row over Angela Rayner’s previous living arrangements has deepened as her former aide reportedly wrote to police contradicting her claims.

Former staff member Matt Finnegan, who made an employment tribunal claim against Ms Rayner in 2018, said there was “no doubt in my mind that this was Ms Rayner’s family home” when he visited her at what she says was her husband’s address in 2014.

Police are investigating whether Labour’s deputy leader broke electoral law after Tory allegations that she may have given false information about her main residence a decade ago.

She was registered at a former council house she bought in Stockport, but it is understood Conservative Party deputy chair James Daly has suggested neighbours say she lived with her husband at a separate property.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has denied any wrongdoing over the row about her previous living arrangements (PA Wire)
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has denied any wrongdoing over the row about her previous living arrangements (PA Wire)

Greater Manchester Police initially said it would not be investigating the allegations, but following a complaint from the Bury North MP, the force confirmed it had reassessed information and launched a probe.

The Sunday Times reported that Mr Finnegan told the police he “vividly” remembers her home was elsewhere.

He visited her around the time she became a parliamentary candidate at an address in Lowndes Lane, Stockport, in the summer of 2014, according to the paper.

“There was no doubt in my mind that this was Ms Rayner’s family home, where she lived with her then-husband, Mark,” his letter states.

“I remember it quite vividly because Ms Rayner was not at home at first and I had to wait for some time in my car before she eventually arrived. It was also memorable in that it was the first and only time I visited her home during the course of my voluntary work for her.”

Mr Finnegan previously left Ms Rayner’s employment with a £20,000 payout and non-disclosure agreement after accusing her of disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.

He had published a thriller about an ambitious MP known to her staff as “the Diva”, which contained lurid details that bore striking similarities to the deputy leader of the party. Mr Finnegan has insisted the novel Betrayal was “complete fiction”.

Ms Rayner has promised to resign if she is found to have committed a crime, but said she “followed the rules at all times”.

Sir Keir Starmer has welcomed the police investigation into Ms Rayner’s living arrangements and said he had “full confidence” in her.

Shadow minister Jim McMahon dismissed the allegations earlier on Saturday as a “storm in a teacup” after defence secretary Grant Shapps accused Ms Rayner of “double standards”.

Ms Rayner previously suggested that former prime minister Boris Johnson should resign while Scotland Yard probed claims of Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street, prompting calls for her to step down while the police investigation continues.

Keir Starmer says he has ‘full confidence’ in his deputy (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)
Keir Starmer says he has ‘full confidence’ in his deputy (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

However, Scott Wortley, a law lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, pointed out that any potential prosecution should have been launched within a year of the suspected crime.

Providing false information is an offence under Section 13D of the Representation of the People Act 1983, but the legislation imposes a time limit of a year for bringing any charge. As the allegations surrounding Ms Rayner relate to pre-2015, this suggests it is unlikely that she could be prosecuted.

Magistrates may extend that deadline in certain circumstances, but only by another year, according to the act.

Mr Wortley described the police probe as “completely pointless”, saying: “Why waste money on investigating something absolutely time-barred? They would not do it for (Road Traffic Act) matters nearly a decade after it could be prosecuted.”

“It is not the role of the police to investigate something that could never be charged.”

Journalist Michael Crick has also pointed out that former prime minister John Major had been registered in 1968 at a house that he had allegedly never lived at, according to BBC’s Newsnight.

Mr Crick added that: “Again, there was a big fuss, but no action was taken.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “Angela has always made clear she also spent time at her husband’s property when they had children and got married, as he did at hers.”

“The house she owned remained her main home.”

“Angela looks forward to sitting down with the appropriate authorities, including the police and HMRC, to set out the facts and draw a line under this matter.”

Yvette Cooper told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme that Ms Rayner is “very keen to” set out facts to the appropriate authorities. She said: “It allows her to set out all the facts – not the sort of gossip, not the different allegations that we’ve had from Conservative MPs.

“We understand this is the run-up to local elections, we’ve seen this before with the Durham case as well.

“This is obviously about her family arrangements, her personal finances, and that’s really how it should be dealt with instead.”