Starmer has 'absolute confidence' in Rayner over council house row

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner at a new housing estate in Shropshire on Monday - but a new storm could be building
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner at a new housing estate in Shropshire on Monday - but a new storm could be building - Jacob King/PA

Sir Keir Starmer publicly backed Angela Rayner on Wednesday as she faced fresh questions over the sale of her former council house.

The Labour leader said he had “absolute confidence” in the answers his deputy had provided to claims that she may have failed to pay the correct tax.

She has become embroiled in a damaging row over whether she should have been liable for capital gains when she sold the home in 2015.

Ms Rayner has been accused of providing false information about her living circumstances by putting two different addresses on official documents.

She has denied any wrongdoing and has insisted she “lived there, paid the bills there and was registered to vote there” right up until she sold up.

Ms Rayner registered the former council house in Stockport, which she bought under the Right to Buy scheme in 2007, as her main address on the electoral roll.

Children’s birth re-registered

As a result when she sold the property in 2015, making a profit of £48,000, she was not liable to pay capital gains tax on that money.

But weeks after marrying Mark Rayner in 2010 she had re-registered the births of her two youngest children at his address, just over a mile away.

That has raised questions over whether she moved in with her estranged husband but did not update her address on the electoral register.

Former neighbours in Vicarage Road have told the Daily Mail that only her brother, Darren, was living there and that he described her as his “landlady”.

A spokesman for Sir Keir insisted on Wednesday that he had “absolute confidence in the answers that her team have given to these questions”.

He added that the Labour leader was confident Ms Rayner had not broken electoral law and that she had told the truth in her public explanation.

Labour could scrap buying scheme

But the spokesman repeatedly declined to say that Sir Keir now considered the matter closed and would not say if the pair had discussed it.

And asked if the Labour leader was confident that his deputy had paid all the tax she owed, he replied that it was a question for Ms Rayner to answer.

The row has been highly embarrassing for Sir Keir given that his party has previously accused Tories, including Rishi Sunak, of not paying their taxes.

Labour has also indicated it could scrap Margaret Thatcher’s right to buy scheme, prompting accusations that Ms Rayner was a hypocrite to benefit from it.

The claims against her first emerged in an unauthorised biography of Ms Rayner which has been penned by Lord Ashcroft, a Conservative donor.

James Daly, the Tory deputy chairman, has demanded a police investigation into whether she provided false information about her living circumstances.

He told The Telegraph: “Angela Rayner has been asked a series of extremely simple questions in relation to her tax affairs and why she was registered to vote somewhere other than where she lived.

“These are the kind of questions she demands Conservatives answer day in day out. If she has an innocent explanation as to why she was registered to vote at a house her neighbours say she moved out of five years ago and why she wasn’t liable for capital gains tax then she can provide it and draw a line under the matter. The fact that she won’t speaks volumes.”

Politax, a tax blog, said it was likely that Ms Rayner should have paid capital gains on the sale of her home but said the amount would have been small.

Married couples are only allowed to register one principal address at any one time, meaning Mr Rayner should also have to have been registered at her address.

The blog said it was “quite possible Angela Rayner has made a mistake and was due to pay CGT” but estimated the potential bill at around £3,000.

‘Constant stream of smears’

Ms Rayner addressed the row on social media on Monday, describing the claims against her as “a constant stream of smears from the usual suspects”.

“I’ve never been a ‘landlady’, owned a property portfolio or been a non-dom,” she wrote.

“As with the majority of ordinary people who sell their own homes, I was not liable for capital gains tax because it was my home and the only one I owned.

“For all the unhealthy interest taken in my family by Lord Ashcroft and his friends, there is no suggestion any rules have been broken.”

Ms Rayner said she and her husband had “mutually decided to maintain our existing residences to reflect our circumstances” after marrying.