6 Sep 2012

Mates set to make over £100,000 from Dolphin Square windfall

The questions about Michael Mates continue. It now appears that on top of the estimated £40,000 windfall he got from being a tenant of Dolphin Square, he’s now managed to use the money to make a substantial profit.

Yesterday Mr Mates tried to explain to me the situation over the huge windfall he got from giving up his tenancy of a flat in Dolphin Square in Westminster, after living there for three decades as an MP. Over that time his rent on Dolphin Square was met from his parliamentary allowances as an MP, i.e. public money. In effect, Mr Mates (like several dozen other MPs) got a huge financial jackpot from holding public office, and from the public purse meeting the cost of his renting a second home in London.

Mr Mates has explained to me that, with the permission of the commons fees office, he invested his windfall in a house in south London, as he needed a replacement place to live once he gave up the Dolphin Square flat in 2006. Fair enough.

Mr Mates also announced in 2006 that he planned to retire at the next election, and in 2010 he duly did so. He also promised in 2008 that once he stepped down as an MP, he would consult the Commons authorities on whether any of his Dolphin Square windfall should be paid to parliament. It has now almost two and a half years since Mates ceased being an MP, and he has confirmed to me that he has yet to carry out this consultation, let alone send the Commons authorities a cheque. Many of his Tory critics in Hampshire believe he has behaved very badly on this and cite it as a major reason for him to step down as the party’s candidate for Hampshire police commissioner.

Mr Mates repeatedly refuses to say how much his windfall was, beyond telling me that it was less than the £48,000 which Sir Alan Beith was offered to give up a tenancy of similar length (and which he refused*).  I estimate Mates must have received something in the region of £40-45,000. He will no doubt let me know if that estimate is badly wrong.

Land Registry records show that Mr Mates and his wife Christine bought the house in Stockwell in July 2006 for £560,000. The house has recently been on the market for £775,000 and, according to both the estate agent and Mr Mates, it is now under offer.

Mr Mates looks set to make a significant profit on the property if the sale goes through. True, the house appears to have been up for sale for several months, so the offer is likely to be a fair bit less than £775,000 – around £740,000 perhaps. That would still entail a profit of £180,000, and after capital gains tax and various costs, that would be reduced to around £120,000.

So not only has Michael Mates enjoyed his Dolphin Square windfall of around £40,000 for more than six years now but he has also managed to use the money to clock up a substantial profit.

Mr Mates argues that since stepping down as an MP, he has had to meet the large monthly mortgage payments on the Stockwell house. But then it’s quite likely that his grown up step-children, who are registered as living at his Stockwell home, will have contributed to these costs.

All in all, Michael Mates appears to have done pretty well from his Dolphin Square windfall, at a time when other MPs have been obliged to pay much of their Dolphin Square windfalls back to the Commons.

*My original version of this blog incorrectly said that Sir Alan had taken the £48,000 offer. This is not the case – he declined it. I am very sorry to Sir Alan for this error. I was merely using his offer as an example to estimate how much Michael Mates might have received.

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