Kettering firm funding hardline Brexiter's accommodation

The Eurosceptic MP Steve Baker.
The Eurosceptic MP Steve Baker.

A firm with strong links to an iconic Kettering manufacturer is funding a hardline Brexiter's London accommodation.

Jardentome - which wholly owns playground equipment firm Wicksteed Leisure and shares the same registered office in Digby Street - is paying for MP Steve Baker to stay in the capital at a cost of £13,260 a year.

Wicksteed Leisure was founded by Charles Wicksteed.

Wicksteed Leisure was founded by Charles Wicksteed.

Outspoken Mr Baker is the MP for Wycombe, 75 miles from Kettering, and a former Brexit minister.

Jardentome director Charlie Howard, also a director of Wicksteed Leisure, said Jardentome first provided Mr Baker with the accommodation when he became a minister to help him put in the required hours.

Mr Howard said: "Mr Baker made a promise to his electorate that he would not buy or rent a property in London if elected.

"Then he was made a junior minister which required working long hours in London.

"Jardentome gave him the use of a room in a property in London to help him put in the required hours and keep his pledge, thereby saving the British taxpayer a small burden in the process."

Mr Baker left his role as Brexit minister in July 2018. However, the latest register of interests shows Jardentome has since provided him with accommodation from June 2019 to May 2020.

Jardentome also owns a number of other smaller companies and Mr Howard added that their actions should not be automatically associated with Wicksteed and that they only share the same registered office for convenience's sake.

Jardentome's latest financial documents on Companies House, for the year to December 2017, said Wicksteed Leisure was their "main trading subsidiary"

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Jardentome or Mr Baker.

Wicksteed Leisure was founded by Charles Wicksteed, the man who created Wicksteed Park. Last year they celebrated 100 years of business.

Today they create children's playground equipment for parks across the country and recently re-created a ride that disappeared from Wicksteed Park in Kettering more than 30 years ago, the Witch's Hat.

A spokesman for Mr Baker, the deputy chairman of the European Research Group, said: "He made a commitment to his voters to commute to London like everyone else and lodge at his own expense.

"That became unaffordable when he became a minister and Lord Howard [of Rising, a director at Jardentome and Wicksteed Leisure] came to the rescue.

"He is most grateful to Lord Howard for making it possible to keep that promise by providing occasional accommodation when the House of Commons sits late.

"The ownership of the property is a matter for Lord Howard."

Lord Howard is a millionaire Brexit donor and Labour has previously questioned whether Jardentome's donation to Mr Baker is a conflict of interest.

Jardentome also provided political donations of £2,000 to the Conservatives, £500 to BrexitCentral and £500 to the TaxPayers' Alliance. In 2017 their turnover was £25m.