NEIGHBOURS of Robert Jenrick have dismissed his claim that he lives in a £1.1million mansion outside of London as “codswallop”.
The cabinet minister has faced criticism after he left Westminster for his plush pad in Herefordshire before making a 40-mile trip to visit his elderly parents in Shropshire.
The government has banned travel to second homes under the coronavirus lockdown rules.
Mr Jenrick claimed that he lives in his property with his wife Michal Berkner and their children when he is not attending to business in Westminster – so it made sense to return there when appropriate.
But locals have alleged that the family are rarely there and use the house as a “holiday home”.
One told the Daily Mail: “It’s a fact the family come here occasionally at the weekend, but they do not live here year-round.
“I suppose you could say this house is more like their holiday home.”
Another claimed builders were often working at the house, called Eye Manor, that Mr Jenrick bought in 2009 and is located 120 miles from his constituency.
A local said: “We might see him on the odd weekend but the family are not even here every weekend, let alone full time.
“Mr Jenrick has had builders working on the house for much of the last three years.”
HOME FROM HOME
The housing secretary has been at the heart of the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis, and gave a press conference in Downing Street on March 29, at which he updated the nation on the latest virus advice.
He later travelled to his Herefordshire property, where he has given several media interviews via videolink.
The MP for Newark, in Nottinghamshire, told the Mail: “My house in Herefordshire is the place I, my wife and my young children consider to be our family home and my family were there before any restrictions on travel were announced.
“I have been working in London on ministerial duties, putting in place the system to shield the group most vulnerable to coronavirus and organising the response at a local level.
“Once I was able to work from home it was right that I went home to do so and be with my wife and also help care for my three young children.
“By staying at home, we protect the NHS and help save lives. I will be staying at my family home until Government advice changes or if I am needed in person in Westminster before the parliamentary session resumes after the Easter recess.”
He has also responded to criticism about the journey to see his parents – claiming that he was delivering “essential” items and medicine.
Mr Jenrick tweeted: “For clarity – my parents asked me to deliver some essentials – including medicines.
“They are both self-isolating due to age and my father’s medical condition and I respected social distancing rules”.
Neighbours of the housing secretary told the Guardian he and his wife Michal Berkner had been regularly dropping off supplies to his parents’ home during lockdown.
But appears that Mr Jenrick still has the support of his party with a No 10 insider claiming he had given “a full account” of himself, adding: “We are backing him.”
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said it was important for Mr Jenrick to explain himself but stopped short of calling for his resignation.
He told BBC Breakfast: “There are the four reasons for leaving your house. One of them is to deliver essential supplies to vulnerable people.
“Clearly if that is what Robert Jenrick has done, then it fits within the four exceptions. It is for him to answer precisely what the purpose of the journey he undertook was.”
Government guidelines say you should not visit family except if they need help, such as getting shopping or medication.
On March 23 new instructions were issued warning people to stay at home and not visit second homes “whether for isolation purposes or holidays”.
It added: “People should remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.”