Annington Homes: Hands off Sweets Way

Sweets Way Resists

The Annington Homes website announces: ‘In December 2014 Annington Homes was granted planning permission by the London Borough of Barnet for 288 new homes at Sweets Way Park, Whetstone.’ Annington Homes is wholly owned by the private equity firm Terra Firma Capital Partners, which is headed by the financier and speculator Guy Hands and is one of the largest private equity firms in Europe. In 2009 Hands left Britain to become a tax exile in Guernsey in protest at paying taxes and the following year said, ‘I do not visit my parents in the United Kingdom and would not do so except in an emergency.’ If Hands’ family wanted to see him they had to travel to Guernsey. The Sunday Times estimated his personal wealth at £250 million in 2008.

Terra Firma has offices in Guernsey, London, Frankfurt and Beijing. Since its foundation Terra Firma says it has invested €15 billion in 33 businesses worth €47 billion. Apart from Annington Homes, Terra Firma owns a health care business, cinemas (Odeon and UCI), motorway services, an energy company, an aircraft leasing firm and garden centres.

Annington Homes is the largest private owner of residential property in England and Wales. It was formed in 1996 to buy the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Married Quarters’ Estate; it bought 57,434 homes for £1.67 billion. Annington leases back the majority of its properties to the MoD for accommodation for married service personnel. Some properties are refurbished and sold or privately rented.

Terra Firma also owns the Four Seasons Health Care group, Britain’s largest care home operator, which it bought for £825 million in 2012. Four Seasons runs 445 care homes and 61 hospitals and specialist centres, with over 30,000 staff catering for more than 20,000 people; it gets most of its income from local councils that place patients with Four Seasons. An inspection of one of its homes, Beech House in Newmarket, found residents ‘being restrained unnecessarily’ by staff who were ‘authoritarian’ and ‘very controlling’. All external and internal doors were locked, even though it was a ‘low secure hospital’. 

Mr Hands is a close friend of the Conservative Party having been President of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1980. Although he himself is determined not to pay taxes, Guy Hands insists that Greece hand over the money to the financial parasites of which he is one: ‘It’s now essential for Europe’s leaders to insist that Greece’s new government stick to its financial commitments, regardless of what it promised the electorate’, (2 February 2015).

Trevor Rayne