These houses could be perfectly sound family homes, but no one is living in them. They’re former Ministry of Defence houses, meant for military families, but they’re abandoned and many are slipping into dilapidation.
Some of these houses have been for more than a decade, and local people residing near them in Cambridgeshire are mad about it because they could be made to look very nice and they could be a very nice family home.
It’s a disgrace, but in 1996 the MoD sold off their houses to a private company, but it agreed to rent them back, even when empty, and the MoD is paying rent on them to keep them empty, and it’s utterly insane.
11, 342 military homes currently lie abandoned, costing the taxpayer more than 25 million a year in rent, and this is across the country, Cambridgeshire, West London and Kent, but the military said that they need to keep some houses empty for when armed forces families relocate to different places.
But the Ministry of Defence said that they’re working to bring down the vacancy rate through sub-letting and disposing of property they no longer need, but under the contract, the MoD must restore these homes to hand them back, but in numerous cases it will cost thousands of pounds, if these houses are ever to be lived in again.
What they should be doing with them is giving them to ex-servicemen and women personnel that are living on the streets because wouldn’t it be better to give them to someone who desperately needs them, rather than leaving them empty?
But of course, when the MoD is paying rent but not having to pay for maintenance costs, it’s far more practical to keep them empty, but it’s morally perverse when ex-servicemen have given everything and fight and yet can’t be given a safe haven.
Everything that this government does is about profit, clearly, someone in the MoD got rewarded for making such a poor deal, but ex-servicemen and women should be housed in these empty houses, after all, they all served their country well.
These houses shouldn’t be given to anyone aside from ex-servicemen and women, they’ve served, and the government owe them at least a roof over their heads, it’s as simple as that, and they really don’t need to be homeless when they’re empty houses that the MoD are still paying for out of taxpayers money when the government could be supporting those that need it and are struggling financially after their service has ended.
These houses could help people’s mental health and further create awe-inspiring communities, so they should just give them to the ex-servicemen and women who are living out on the streets, it’s not rocket science, is it?
There appears to be a dimmer switch on where the government and the MoD are concerned. There must be someone somewhere scratching their heads going, “Well, what can we do with these houses?” Aside from making a profit on them, of course.
Well, when the lightbulb has fallen on that someone’s head, perhaps they’ll figure it out and go, “Oh yeah, what a good idea, we can give them to the ex-servicemen and women that are living out on the streets, let’s make their lives a little better.”
“Duh, why didn’t I think of that before?.”
But this is so ludicrous, the MoD know there’s a significant amount of ex-servicemen and women who are displaced, many of whom are sleeping on the streets, and that they should be in these houses, it’s just common sense, but the government don’t make a profit out of common sense, and someone is definitely profiting from this blatant misuse of taxpayers money.
I would guess the person who signed off on this deal got himself a nice little directorship with the company who got the contract, but then they’re always sorting themselves out with projects for the boys, and I can’t understand this waste, and shame on them all whoever is involved in this, making ex-soldiers homeless to live on the streets, how do these people sleep at night because I know it makes my blood boil.
There was a time when the forces respected and looked after their own, you never heard of ex-squaddies living on the streets then. We had military hospitals which took care of the troops and families, but the government in their supreme enlightenment sold off army quarters, closed military hospitals and cut forces to next to nothing.
Sadly, it’s all very disturbing and a sign of the times, we are no longer a caring society, and if the MoD is paying rent on these houses, isn’t it the duty of the landlords to keep them in a livable state? So, where is all the taxpayer’s money going to?
This is dreadful management, they could at least rent them out on a 6 monthly basis to those in need, but then that would require someone pulling their finger out of their arse, but then the MoD are well renowned for its culture of waste.
Perhaps if Theresa May spent as much time and money on all these houses, no one would have to be homeless, of course, she would need to make a better job of it than she has of Brexit, so it’s time for her to pull her finger out, or maybe it’s time she pulled out altogether?
Of course, there are some ex-servicemen that were homeless that are now in charitable accommodation, but it doesn’t seem fair with some being asked to leave military accommodation after they’ve been medically discharged with no help at all.
As as a result some of these men have breakdowns, they lose everything even their marriage, some even attempt to commit suicide, and those that do get help now, well it’s no thanks to the military who do nothing to support them, but how dumb do you have to be to sell something to someone so you can rent it back?
But that’s how the MOD’s proposal to privatise military housing ended in disaster. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) sold all of its military housing in St Eval to a company named Annington Homes, but this was part of a much broader nationwide deal, in which Annington paid the MoD £1.67 billion for 57,400 homes that housed military servicemen and their families.
In one swoop, Annington became the largest residential property owner in England and Wales.
For the MoD, the deal solved a mounting problem, tens of thousands of military houses across the country were falling apart, and the department didn’t have the funds to repair them. By selling the houses, the MoD hoped to make some quick money, while freeing up money for renovation.
Following the sale, the MoD would then rent back the houses at a reduced rate.
The St Eval homes were in a poor state, and like much of the military homes that Annington acquired, these prefab units had been built throughout the housing deficit that followed the second world war and was originally expected to stand for no more than a decade.
They had practically no insulation, and in numerous sectors of the country, these units were afflicted with “concrete cancer”, after damp eroded away their steel structures, and some were in danger of collapsing.
Having sold off some of the prefab houses in St Eval, Annington Homes discovered that if it flattened the rest of the crumbling concrete boxes and rebuilt new houses in their place, the local authority would insist the company supply 40 per cent affordable housing, considerably diminishing its profit margin. So it came up with an inventive solution.
Once the units on the former base were empty, Annington sent in teams of builders who would carry out the same operation, over and over. First, they would knock down the walls, securing them with temporary steel supports known as acrow props.
Next, with the old roof secured in mid-air, the builders remade the walls with bricks. Once they were secure, the builders put the roof back in place and went on to the next house.
The process took years to complete, but by preserving the roofs, Annington dodged the cost of having to provide low-cost housing. So, then you had a 1950’s roof with a brand new house underneath, new kitchens, new floors, new ceilings, it was really clever and an excellent bit of civil engineering.
But this episode in St Eval was not the only element of the 1996 deal in which Annington ran rings around the state, and the full extent of the fallout from the deal, for the MoD, residents and taxpayers is only now being understood.
And when Kevan Jones was minister for veterans under Gordon Brown, he called in representatives from the company, in order to try and make sense of the arrangements. He tried to get them out of it, but it was impossible, and it was an especially poor deal for the taxpayer, and it was incredible that the government endorsed the deal.
The deal endorsed by the MoD had become a millstone. Now, the houses that Annington purchased for £1.67 billion are worth £6.7 billion, and under the terms of the deal, the MoD rents back thousands of houses for members of the armed forces and their families, and approximately two years ago the rental bill for 39,014 houses around the country was £167 million, and of those houses for which the MoD was paying millions in rent, 7,680 were empty.
But there’s worse to come. The original deal gave the MoD a 58 per cent discount on renting the houses for the first 25 years, it further allows a rent review every 25 years. The first rent review will take place in 2021 and there’s nothing to prevent Annington imposing full market value after that period.
If that happens, the MoD’s bill for accommodation for its servicemen and women will skyrocket and Britain’s armed forces will be met with tremendous existential questions.
The UK’s armed forces have always been an unusual employer, they require soldiers to move frequently, usually from one side of the country to the other, and subsidised housing is not only a fundamental part of the “offer” to soldiers, living in close proximity is further crucial for sustaining morale and monitoring soldiers who have recently returned from lengthy tours of duty.
And the possibility of the rent rise is referred to internally as “the cliff edge”, and it will deeply affect every aspect of the army’s operations, but there were numerous privatisations in the 80s and 90s, where national assets were snapped up by the private sector, and the sale of Britain’s military housing was merely one of those deals.
The result is that today, thousands of former army houses are controlled by a company run from one of the smartest streets in London, and owned by a private equity fund based in Guernsey.
In turn, the private equity fund manages billions of pounds for some of the biggest investors in the world, they have made a bundle out of Annington, the taxpayer, in the meantime, has lost billions.
The man behind the Annington deal was Guy Hands. Today, Guy Hands is one of Britain’s wealthiest men, but back in the mid-1990s, he was merely starting to make a name for himself.
He grew up near Sevenoaks in Kent, establishing himself as a deal-maker from an early age, making money by peddling trinkets, artworks and encyclopaedias, and while other kids played with toy soldiers or learned to play the piano, he spoke to his great-uncle about the stock market and traded cigarette cards, stamps and coins.
Guy Hands arrived at Oxford University to study PPE in 1978 but ended up spending most of his time on business rather than studying. He purchased a derelict house that required complete restoration, he purchased a launderette, which he converted into an art gallery, and he also became close friends with the future foreign secretary, William Hague.
He left Oxford with a third-class degree.
In 1982, he started working as a bond trader at the US bank Goldman Sachs in London and before long he was one of the stars of the trading team, but over time, Guy Hands became frustrated with what he saw as the bank’s conservative approach to investment and started to look for opportunities elsewhere.
In 1994, the London office of the Japanese bank Nomura tempted Guy Hands away, promising him free rein to invest in any asset he wanted.
Guy Hands arrived for his first day at his new job, as head of Nomura’s securitisation and structured finance teams. He wandered in, he was in one of those glass offices everyone could see into, he said he wanted to meet everybody in the team.
The first member of the crew who went in to face Guy Hands was fired on the spot, and it was a cull that continued for months, and by excluding anyone who didn’t come up to his criteria, Guy Hands encircled himself with an equally hard-headed team, he used a blend of authority and intimidation and encouragement.
The new team was called the Principal Finance Group (PFG) because it was investing Nomura’s own money or principal, and Guy Hands, who is dyslexic, misspelt “principal” at first, sparking jokes over how principled PFG would be.
Guy Hands and his new team wasted no time. In their first major deal, they targeted the British Rail trains that were being sold off as part of the privatisation of the railways. Putting its proposal together, PFG used the clinical level of research that would become its trademark.
The trains were divided into three groups, each controlled and managed by a separate rolling stock operating company, and the crucial part of the proposal was to establish how much each of these companies was worth.
According to the financier, over a two-week period, one of Nomura’s researchers rang or visited every single train manufacturer in the world, and he quickly figured out that Angel Trains, one of the three rolling stock operating companies, was severely undervalued.
Its trains were being sold with a calculated use of seven years, when in fact they would almost certainly be used for significantly longer because there was an inadequate manufacturing capacity worldwide to replace the trains, and rather than valuing the deal on a seven-year projection, PFG valued it on a longer lifetime.
PFG could easily outbid rivals, while still being confident that they could make money on the deal, surprise, surprise, they succeeded, and some of those trains are still operating today.
In January 1996, a little more than a year after Guy Hands had arrived at Nomura, PFG paid £696 million for Angel Trains, but it was only after the sale that the key element of the deal became apparent. After purchasing Angel Trains, the Nomura consortium securitised the debt through a bond issue of £690 million.
This meant that inside weeks of purchasing the trains, PFG had sold the rights to the Angel Trains income for £690 million but retained ownership of the asset, and in December 1997, less than two years after they had purchased Angel, Nomura sold it on, and RBS bought the business for £395 million. PFG had made nearly £400 million in less than two years.
The transaction boosted PFG’s confidence, and Hands’ team was hungry and ambitious, and its members knew that their careers depended on tracking down the next deal, with very young people being given a degree of freedom and responsibility which they would never have ordinarily have got, being given the chance to make something out of it and everybody did, everybody worked like crazy.
One of PFG’s biggest assets was the handful of maths postgraduates who created the complex financial models that Nomura required for its private equity deals, and one Saturday afternoon in the office when the “cyber room”, as the mathematicians were known, were complaining that Nomura’s computers were not robust enough for their needs.
From his home in Sevenoaks, Guy Hands ordered his team to fix the problem that day, so they went by taxi to Tottenham Court Road and purchased four of the biggest computers that they could get at the time. They did a deal with the guy from the computer shop, and he threw in four copies of the Age of Empires.
PFG were always on the lookout for any poorly run, undervalued businesses that it could quickly fix up and sell on. Guy Hands once described his ideal target as being “the worst business we can find in the most challenged sector”, and when the MoD announced that it was planning to offload thousands of run-down homes all over England and Wales, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
So, Guy Hands moved quickly, and after the Angel Trains deal, he could now be confident that if he bought the military housing, he would be able to almost simultaneously borrow hundreds of millions to cover the purchase price.
He could then meet the expenses of borrowing by renting back the housing to the MoD, and according to his team’s predictions, the underlying value of the properties would slowly appreciate, and once the rights to the rental income were sold, the debt would be off Nomura’s balance sheet, and they could move on to the next deal.
But what they did was absolutely standard, it’s what private equity does, but at the time it was seen as groundbreaking.
PFG approached the project as though it was going into battle. They were the barbarians at the gate and individuals were distributed to every different element of the deal and thousands of man-hours were spent assessing the value of the houses.
Debating about buying 57,000 houses in variable conditions, and how they were going to factor in the combination of what was going to happen to the property market in terms of valuations. How they were going to restore them, and how they were going to sell the ones they needed to sell.
They looked at those components, and then broke them down separately, and then worked out what the value of each of those components was, totalled it all up and then stuck their finger in the air and said: “We’ll bid this much.”
NatWest bank, which handled the sale of the housing for the MoD, predicted a total selling price of £1 billion. In an independent valuation, the estate agent Savills had put a price tag of £1.5 billion on the estate. Astonishingly, according to a speech Guy Hands gave at a property conference in London, the MoD had originally estimated the sites were worth only £400 million.
In the first rung of bidding, at the start of 1996, there were approximately 60 prospective buyers. In the second round, the list was shaved down to 19. According to Guy Hands, Warren Buffett and Lehman Brothers were two of Nomura’s chief contenders.
Everyone connected to the deal remembers that Guy Hands played the game theory on the bid all of the time. He was continually on to the vendors, working out where he stood, what they wanted and what he needed to do.
The disparity between PFG and the civil servants who handled the deal couldn’t have been starker, while Guy Hand’s team toiled relentlessly, usually through the night, making elaborate designs on state of the art computers, the Ministry of Defence’s documents on the sale of the military housing exposed a rather different approach.
Internal memos had a chatty tone, and errors were edited by hand, and when the former chief of defence staff Lord Bramall’s name was misspelt, a superfluous letter was carefully crossed out.
“This bidder appears to have taken leave of its senses,” says one letter. “D is the clear winner and A a non-starter.” Notes were added in the margins. “I’m sure that [illegible] will want to discuss with you after his meeting – it’ll probably have to be on the carphone as you go to the constituency,” runs one note from an official to the then defence secretary Michael Portillo.
And when it became clear that ex-soldier and soldier’s groups disliked the prospect of a Japanese bank benefiting from British military homes, Nomura enlisted Sir Thomas Macpherson, a second world war hero with three Military Crosses, as chairman.
The former air vice marshal Alexander Hunter was brought in as deputy chairman, and Nomura further agreed to set up the Annington Trust, a charitable foundation which gave grants to help develop creches and youth clubs for service families.
The trust was given a start-up capital of £430,000 or 0.026 per cent of what Nomura would ultimately pay for the 57,400 MoD properties.
By August 1996, the shortlist was down to four bidders, and according to a letter circulated to senior Ministry of Defence officials setting out these four remaining bids, Nomura was a “clear winner” at that point.
One group, understood to be the Nomura consortium, “in particular mentioned that they are working on how to present their consortium with as British a face as possible”, and in a scribble in the margins to Portillo, one of his aides said, “it all looks pretty clear-cut”.
By September, the deal was completed, and Nomura agreed to pay £1.67 billion for the houses.
According to a spokesperson from Annington, the terms of the contract were established by the MoD and the company had no “ability to influence or negotiate the terms of the agreements”.
The MoD would get some money back on some of the houses sold off over the first 15 years, and the Ministry of Defence viewed the sale a success. In a letter to John Major, who was then prime minister, a senior official noted: “The final negotiations have been intensive, but fairly conducted.” Another minister was reported as “delighted that the sale had been concluded”.
No one at Nomura ever seemed in any doubt that it would win. Nomura’s lawyers had set up the Annington Homes shell company at the close of July 1996, when the MoD was still weighing up how to handle the sale, with Guy Hands becoming a director of the company in August, and Annington Homes completed the acquisition of the homes on 5 November 1996. The barbarians were now inside the walls.
Guy Hands now acknowledged that the early months of 1997 were a mess, and at the time of the Annington deal, the MoD knew that it was going to lessen the number of servicemen and women over the coming decades, and the agreement said that when military accommodation was no longer needed for rental by the armed forces, Annington could do whatever it wanted with the properties.
In the first year after the deal was endorsed, the MoD released 2,000 of the 57,400 houses. Annington refurbished these homes with the intention of selling them on to wealthy clients, but to their dismay, they discovered that they couldn’t shift the houses.
Four Annington Homes chief executives resigned in just over 18 months, and ultimately, James Hopkins, an ex-army man, was brought in as chief executive to save the flailing company, which had amassed enormous debts to purchase the MoD housing in the first place.
James Hopkins came up with a different approach, and rather than wasting more on restoring the homes and attempting to target the luxury market, Annington would concentrate on first-time buyers and public sector workers.
They would offer the homes with 5% of the purchase price paid by the company as a deposit to the mortgage provider. They would make the lack of renovation a selling point, telling purchasers they were buying a blank canvas.
The homes would be sold off at a fixed price, on a first-come, first served basis, and soon people were queueing up to purchase Annington Homes.
In the summer of 1999, prospective buyers in Huntingdon camped out for 17 days to purchase homes on the former RAF estate. The following April, families camped for over a week to purchase married quarters in South Wigston, on the outskirts of Leicester, and in February 2001, they camped in Devizes in Wiltshire. James Hopkins plan was working well.
But not everyone was delighted by Annington’s new “pile ’em high” sales tactics, and by 2002, CPO Bob Beeching and his wife had been living in their Portsmouth house for 10 years. Making a home for their four children, the duo had painted the house with buttercup-painted walls and new carpets.
But when Annington announced that the house would be sold because the MoD no longer wanted the site, Bob Beeching secured a mortgage and asked if he could buy the house. Annington turned him down. Under the terms of its contract with the MoD, the houses had to be restored to their original state before being sold.
The Beechings were informed that they would have to queue in a field for three weeks and that they would not be able to ensure that they got any house on that particular road and that they would have to restore the house to precisely how it was when they first got it, ripping out all the carpets and painting it all magnolia again.
The service families were a proper community, all the children knew each other and had been friends for years. So, they simply asked Annington if they could purchase the homes that they lived in, rather than take pot luck because it wouldn’t have made any difference to anyone and they would have got precisely the same amount of money.
Annington said no, and it was really frustrating and upsetting for everyone, and Annington stated that it was the MoD that had insisted that everyone should have the opportunity to purchase any house, which meant that everyone had to leave their homes before they were sold.
In its early years, Annington promoted the belief that house sales would be targeted at serving the current members of the armed forces, taking out adverts in forces’ publications, but house prices swiftly climbed out of the range of services salaries.
As Annington’s website pointed out, in clinical language, the sales to armed forces personnel are “reducing steadily due to changes in the accessibility of the United Kingdom residential property market,” and over the past two decades, Annington has sold off around 20,000 houses that the MoD has stopped using, but the company is developing a new approach with Annington moving towards the private rental sector.
Amongst major property developers, the build-to-rent market was expanding quickly, as demand for rental accommodation proceeded to grow, but Annington had an advantage over its opponents in that it didn’t need to build to rent, it already has tens of thousands of houses available.
Senior executives at Annington now believe that it makes more sense to lease out the houses perpetually, rather than sell them, and in 2014, Howe Barracks, on the eastern outskirts of Canterbury, was closed after being home to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment for 10 years.
In 2016, Annington put the 147 houses of what was Howe Barracks up for sale. This time, though, rather than selling the homes as it had before, it was selling only short leases of 25 years on the properties.
Canterbury city council saw the properties on Howe Barracks as a way of overcoming its long waiting list for social housing and put in a bid, but Canterbury underestimated the desperation of London councils, desperate to conquer their own waiting lists by accessing affordable housing outside the city.
A bidding battle followed, managed by Annington. Canterbury was quickly outbid by Redbridge council, in east London, 63 miles away, and there were demonstrations at Howe Barracks when locals realised that the houses would go to Redbridge residents.
One far-right group describing themselves as “angry, white and proud” hung St George flags from the perimeter fence, but it really couldn’t compete with Redbridge’s bid, and families from east London began arriving on Howe Barracks.
It’s fair to say this might not have been what they were hoping for when they applied for social housing. Not only were they 63 miles away from Redbridge, but the Howe Barracks site was also not well suited to the demands of the new arrivals.
Redbridge was moving the largest families on its waiting lists, and there were considerably more children than there were when army families filled the houses, so the local schools were under more pressure, and the playgrounds around the estate were all taken out before the families started moving in because they were considered unnecessary and costly.
Fatuhani Ahmed was one of those who had been moved to Kent from Redbridge and was formerly from Mali had settled in east London, near to his family and friends, now found himself totally secluded on the outskirts of Canterbury.
In London they all looked after each other, if she needed, her sister could look after her son, and her auntie was there too, and she was separated from her partner and now her son only sees his father occasionally.
The Howe Barracks case sums up the short-sightedness of the 1996 deal. In short, state entities used state reserves to bid against each other for blocks of homes that were owned by the state merely a generation ago. This sale was, of course, presided over by Annington, who held all the cards, and as the housing crisis proceeded to worsen, this sort of situation was expected to become more and more familiar.
The MoD now realises that the Annington deal was a catastrophic error because the deal had created extreme problems and the armed forces had failed to realise the long-term outcomes.
These people thought they were smart, but it wasn’t thought through correctly, and the implications of it all are still sinking in. First, there’s the long-term capital loss as the price of property in the UK keeps climbing. Second, the MoD’s rental costs increased from £2,575 per house in 1997 to £4,865 in 2016.
Thirdly, according to the contract, the houses had to be returned in a satisfactory state. This means that when the MoD handed back unused homes to Annington, they had to pay for dilapidations to ensure the homes were in an adequate state for Annington to sell them.
And on at least one occasion, the MoD has even had to purchase land straight back from Annington for more housing. From 2001, the MoD had handed over several parcels of land at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, and Annington obtained planning permission to redevelop the land for private housing before the MoD decided that it wanted to buy some of it back.
In 2014, the MoD paid Annington more than £28 million to buy back a site at Brize Norton that included 194 houses. This means the MoD had to pay nearly £145,000 per house for homes sold off for an aggregate of £28,000 in the initial 1996 agreement.
It isn’t only Guy Hands and PFG that did well out of the deal, his investors, too, made huge earnings, but he made a small miscalculation at the outset. They had done something in 1996 and 1997, which made sense at the time, but in hindsight, it was not the greatest decision.
They had studied Annington’s rental payments at a cost of 7.54 per cent through to 2021. Guy Hands had locked in the mortgage on the Annington homes at a really high rate, he was then stuck making the higher payments for years.
This stabilised the deal, and Guy Hands knew that the rental would cover the debt costs, and took the deal off Nomura’s balance sheet.
This had another outcome, the high borrowing expenses meant that all the hundreds of millions given in rent by the MoD in the last two decades had washed straight offshore, endlessly servicing debt. Annington’s investors were the biggest victors in the deal, having made the largest profits.
And because all the rental income floods offshore, Annington has never made an operating profit in the United Kingdom. Despite getting £168 million in rent from the MoD, Annington didn’t spend a penny of corporation tax.
There is no hint of any wrongdoing by Guy Hands team in the acquisition of the army housing. They were just far more efficient than their adversaries and outdid a government department that wasn’t equipped to keep up with their financial finesse.
And in 1996 Annington won a competitive auction to acquire 57,400 homes from the Ministry of Defence. These houses were leased back to the MoD on a 200-year lease at a massively reduced rate, equivalent to a 58 per cent reduction compared to open market value for the first 25 years.
This reduction had saved the MoD a collective sum of about £3.7 billion in open-market values over the duration of the contract date, but for the MoD, nevertheless, the idiom “for the first 25 years” is a reminder of what may be the most disturbing outcome of the deal.
And if in time, Annington increases the rent on the military house to markets rates, the MoD will find itself in a precarious position. It was a pretty bad judgment call in the first place, with a really short-term gain, and that’s the real problem because there’s a 25-year initial lease period, which is up in 2021, and then the lease will have to be renegotiated, and they’ve got the monopoly.
The army is struggling to find a solution to this emerging housing problem, and in a recent study of 8,322 people by the Army Families Federation (AFF), 30 per cent of respondents stated they would definitely leave the army if access to service family accommodation was decreased, and an additional 46 per cent said that they would consider leaving.
The AFF noted that this accommodation creates a “support network that’s almost impossible to replicate, and that the advantages of this design, such as security, compassion and practical support, are not yet properly understood or quantified.
And if anyone at Annington had a shred of respectability, they would see that this is an abuse, and everytime some headway was made, it was simply putting more money back into Annington’s pocket, the entire thing was a disgrace.
In 2012, Guy Hands moved Annington out of Nomura and into Terra Firma, the private equity vehicle he now manages. Investors in Terra Firma include hedge funds, private family trusts and sovereign wealth funds. Thanks to regular income from the MoD, Annington’s value increases every year.
Yet despite the continuing success of the Annington deal, over the past decade, Guy Hands has made plenty of failures, losing hundreds of millions of pounds from his investments in the music group EMI and the troubled care home group Four Seasons.
But back in St Eval, residents such as Phil Hartley, a 36-year-old taxi driver, continue to be puzzled by the deal, and if the houses had to be sold off by the MoD in the first place, Phil Hartley doesn’t understand why they could not have been sold directly to families.
Cornwall has been suffering a housing disaster for years, with holiday homes pricing out local residents, and purchasing one of the St Eval houses at the cost Annington paid, Phil Hartley says, would have been transformational for his family.
Instead, Annington took its share before selling many of the homes on to buy-to-let investors, who likewise take their slice, but according to a spokesperson for Annington, the company took a commercial decision to completely renovate the homes, in the process creating a good stock of affordably priced housing for sale in the local community, and that the houses were usually marketed to first-time buyers.
Phil Hartley knows he will never be able to afford a house in the area and currently rents one of the houses that was jacked and bricked, and it makes him furious to think that the MoD auctioned off the homes to investors rather than families, and this is utterly ludicrous when there are so many homeless people out there.
Those men and women in the forces have been institutionalised, they only know one way of existing and when they come out, many find it extremely difficult to live in the real world, and many of them are suffering from PTSD with a huge skills gap and difficulties adjusting back into society.
Yes, it was their decision to enter the army and fight for their Queen and country, but those people who believe that it’s their own fault does nothing to sort out the underlying problems and only results in self-righteous smugness.
And if homelessness is endemic amongst ex-military personnel, it’s not their own fault, it’s an obviously systemic mess, and we could say anything we do is our own fault, and some have said that they should have planned for their future, I’m sure they were thinking about that when they were struggling to keep themselves alive and being exposed to repeated emotional trauma, and then the government waves goodbye to them and turfs them out with a salute.
And when they leave the forces, their structure, routine and discipline have been taken away, all the rules have changed and a number of ex-servicemen and women flounder because they’ve become used to military life, the routine, the structure, and that’s where it all falls apart, and the MoD don’t know how to look after the men and women that have served their country.
The real scandal is that deal made in 1996, and whoever thought of it was a fool. They sold off all the houses to Annington Homes, and it was a swift fix for a huge cash injection, and you don’t need a degree in economics to know that doesn’t make any sense financially in the long term, with £25 million of taxpayers money, someone clearly got a nice backhander when signing the contract.
This government runs on a level of ineptitude far greater than we can really comprehend because it’s taxpayers money that the MoD is spending on abandoned homes, and the private company must be laughing all the way to the bank, and this is going on while we have record levels of homelessness, way to go Tory voters and the government.
But this is what the world is coming to, we have ex-military who are homeless due to PTSD and other mental health infirmities, not to mention those physically scarred by war, and yet we have all these houses that could be refurbished, giving a person an occupation, teaching them new skills to make a home for themselves.
Some of these homes could even be divided into flats, doubling the size, and I’m sure most people would rather their tax money went on housing them than simply wasting it, and the MoD should be pulling their finger out.