Over £3,000 worth given to officers this year including Wimbledon tickets
November 22, 2019
The Chief Executive’s department at Wandsworth and Richmond Councils has amassed gifts of over £3,000 so far this year.
The department, which oversees corporate services, communications and mayoral activities for the two councils, received flights, accommodation, expensive dinners and even tickets to Wimbledon according to information released to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The majority of these high value gifts were in relation to Wandsworth Council.
In March this year officers accepted a £2,400 gift of flights, accommodation and hospitality.
A spokesperson for Wandsworth council said this related to staff attendance at a “major development conference on behalf of the Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership.”
This partnership also includes Lambeth council, the Greater London Authority, Transport for London and private developers and landowners involved in the regeneration of Nine Elms. The council defended the hospitality on the grounds that it would help deliver new homes for residents.
A spokesperson said: “When complete [the Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership] will deliver 20,000 new homes, 6.5m square feet of commercial and office space plus a tube link to Battersea for the very first time. The construction phase has created 20,000 jobs and there will be 25,000 permanent ones available to local people when the project is complete.
“By attending the event the council has been able to attract major investment to Wandsworth which is helping us deliver the jobs, schools, health centres and new homes, including thousands of affordable homes, that local people need. Our attendance there was funded by our Nine Elms partners and did not cost taxpayers a penny.”
The Wimbledon tickets were also estimated to have cost £450, although the face value was then paid to charity.
The department also accepted an invitation to the London Planning Awards Dinner in January, which was worth £250.
A spokesperson added: “Both councils have very strict rules about accepting anything of value from external sources and that these should almost always be declined unless it would cause offence to do so.
“In some cases it may be important for staff to attend a specific event as part of their job, while in other instances, such as Wimbledon tickets, they are presented to the relevant Mayor of each of the two boroughs and used to support their respective Mayoral charities.”
When councillors and MPs receive gifts, the details are made public on the council’s or Parliament’s website for anyone to look at. However, this does not apply to senior council officers – details of their gifts and hospitality can only be accessed through Freedom of Information Requests. Other standout gifts to council officers included a £190 lunch invitation from a regeneration partner to the Housing and Regeneration team in May, and an invitation to the Compulsory Purchase Association annual dinner in 2018 worth £135.
In total, the gifts accepted by council officers for both boroughs from 2016 to the present amounted to more than £4,690. However, some of these gifts, such as gift vouchers, books and chocolates, were subsequently passed to the Mayor’s charity or another fund.
The details come after the Evening Standard reported five members of staff from Richmond and Wandsworth councils had been suspended in October. The report suggested the suspended staff members were being investigated over their relationships with contractors.
A Richmond spokesperson added: “Alleged breaches of the rules for dealing with gifts, hospitality and other benefits, including declarations, are matters that are investigated as a possible disciplinary offence.”