News and Other Busyness
Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pg. 08.
BRITAIN’S biggest benefit fraud - the sale of social security offices at knock down prices - is likely to be perpetrated by friends of the Conservative Government.
Interested parties are said to include John Beckwith, chairman of a wealthy business group that secures dinners with John Major for £100,000; along with 23 other companies and investment banks. Beckwith, chairman of the Premier Club, has secured $1 billion from a US insurance company to buy up all the social security offices in England and Wales.
Beckwith also expressed interest in buying 58,000 Ministry of Defence homes.
Millionaire developer John Ritblat, a member of the Millenium Club, which raises funds for the Tory Party, is also interested. Ritblat owns the property company British Land worth £1.5 billion. Members of the Millenium Club pay £25,000 a year for access to ministers.
The planned sale of Britain’s benefit offices, which will raise at least £750 million, is due to go ahead by April next year - before a general election. High street locations could be converted into lucrative offices or shops. It is feared four out of ten of the 700 offices earmarked for sale could be closed as a result. The remaining offices will then be rented back to the DSS.
The sale would include local offices in every town and city in Britain, along with large administrative offices at Blackpool, Newcastle and Leeds.
A Japanese Bank has also been asked to bid and the offices have been put up for sale in Frankfurt, Atlanta and New York. Civil servants flew to Honk Kong to put the deal to millionaire Li Ka- Shing who owns Felixstowe Docks and the Orange mobile phone company. The National Westminster Bank has also been approached.
The Government, however, is having a hard time stimulating interest from some investment groups according to minutes of meetings between government ministers.
The sale of 58,000 MoD homes was completed in August, raising £2 billion for the Government.