Today such criminality is rarer. Instead, we have a concerning culture of cronyism that, while not illegal, suggests a lack of accountability. From the housing minister down to the local councillor, elected politicians now routinely rub shoulders with property developers, house builders and commercial lobbyists. This is no accident. Politicians’ decisions have an impact on companies’ ambitions, whether they are reviewing planning applications, setting affordable housing targets or “regenerating” whole areas. Bluntly, companies want these decisions to go their way. Develop connections with the decision-maker and you can “strip out risk”, in the words of one lobbying firm.
The politicisation of planning has come with the growth of the regeneration industry. While once planning officers in local government made recommendations that elected members of planning committees generally followed, today lobbyists are able to exert far greater influence.
Blow up the Town and Country Planning Act and there would be no point in such bribery or schmoozing, would there?
As PJ O’Rourke remarked, when legislators decide what can be bought and sold the first thing to be bought and sold is legislators.