Letter from federation president to housebuilders asks for contributions to present for retiring chief executive.
The House Builders’ Federation has asked members to donate £250-5000 each for a testimonial fund to former chief executive Roger Humber.

HBF president Bill Gair has written a series of letters telling housebuilders they can contribute to a present by putting money into a bank account set up for the purpose or by posting him a cheque.

In one letter, Gair said: “I have received some soundings as to how large a contribution is appropriate in the circumstances. Whilst in no way wishing to encourage profligacy, I think that an amount of between £250 and £5000 and related to the size of your company’s business would be relevant and enable us to mark Roger’s departure with something substantial.”

The HBF has about 600 full members members and 200-300 associate members. It is understood that Humber’s salary while chief executive was £60 000-80 000. The HBF could not confirm that Humber would receive a pension.

The bank where the account is held refused to disclose the account balance, but one housebuilder suggested that the fund could hold about £100 000.

One leading housebuilder described the fund as outrageous. Another said: “Even the lower figure is a top-end figure. It is fine to ask for a contribution to someone who has served, but this is ridiculous. I’m really surprised – it is out of all proportion. Going by the guidelines he should get a bloody nice present, but really, the sums are outrageous.”

One housebuilder commented: “They’ll definitely be able to get him more than a nice woolly jumper.”

Gair defended the decision to ask members to contribute and said Humber had served the housebuilding industry “above and beyond the call of duty”. He added: “Only one individual didn’t think it was the done thing; generally, reaction has been very good.

“It’s like cricketers and footballers. If you think they have done a good job, you turn up. If you don’t, then you don’t turn up. People are asking my advice [on what to contribute] and I suggested £250 and the top figure. There is no mandate – people just asked for advice.”

Gair declined to say how much was in the fund and added that he had no idea whether it would be tax-free. He said the tax status of the fund was a matter for Humber and his tax adviser.

He added: “The man has given 25 years’ service. A lot of companies would send someone with that service on a Mediterranean cruise to mark his retirement.” However, one housebuilder said: “With donations along the lines suggested he could probably buy a Mediterranean island.”