No sooner had “Baron” Barwell been kicked upstairs to the House of Lords and their generous £305 daily allowances, than he’s now jumped on the gravy train by taking a juicy directorship with the country’s largest housing association.
It is a ballsy appointment by Clarion Housing, taking on to their board Gavin Barwell, the former Croydon Central MP who, when housing minister, managed to ignore repeated warnings about flammable cladding on residential tower blocks.
Clarion was formed in 2016 from the merger of Affinity Sutton and Circle Housing, and now operates much like a conventional, profit-driven housing developer, except because of certain charity aspects to their structure, they enjoy a more benign public profile.
Yet if Barwell and his Tory chums had not stripped local councils and other social housing providers – the likes of the Church Commissioners and Peabody Trust – of so many of their assets and purpose through the Thatcherite Right To Buy policy, the likes of Clarion would possibly not exist.
“From young families to retired people and those who struggle in the market, everyone deserves a good quality home. That’s why we’re here. A home is the beginning of everything, so providing that home is a role we take seriously,” says the bumpf on Clarion’s website, where £156,000 can buy you a one-third share of a three-bed flat in Carshalton… and where the mortgage and monthly rental payments amount to £1,600, a sum that will leave most hard-working families at full stretch.
Barwell was (it says here) elevated to the peerage after losing his job as Downing Street Chief of Staff when Theresa Mayhem gave up the unequal struggle as Prime Minister last summer.
He will take up his seat on the board at Clarion just before he is expected be called to give evidence before the public inquiry into the Grenfell fire of 2017. There at least 72 people died in the Kensington block that was covered in the kind of flammable cladding which Barwell had done nothing to have removed when a minister.
The specialist website Inside Housing revealed that MPs had sent Barwell seven letters asking him to review fire safety rules ahead of the Grenfell tragedy.
And another site, 24housing, reported in January this year that the House of Commons heard under Commons privilege that Barwell could “potentially be in the dock for corporate manslaughter” over his inaction that made the government “culpable” over Grenfell.
Yesterday, Clarion issued the expected corporate press release announcing the appointment, in which we’re supposed to believe that Barwell said, “I have long been a champion of the role played by housing associations in tackling the housing crisis, having been fortunate enough to witness first-hand the vital contribution they make, during my time as housing minister.
“I look forward to continuing to contribute to the sector by joining an organisation committed to building homes and communities for the long-term.”
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