Reading though the West Briton today I came across an article about hospitality; click HERE for that link. It seems that there was a Freedom of Information request made by this paper on gifts and hospitality received by Officers and Councillors of Cornwall Council.
I had always thought that accepting a coffee or chocolate bar as a Councillor was always fraught with danger, as I think why is this stranger offering me this. Call me suspicious, but I have always thought there is no such thing as a free lunch.
It turns out that the Council has turned down this request citing personal issues and it was up to the individual Officer, or Councillor as to accept the offer, or politely turn it down. Fair enough you could say, but when is a harmless coffee, suddenly a 3 course lunch at some fancy restaurant, and what does the bill payer really want out of this or are they feeling sorry for you and thinking you need a good meal like your mother would say.
This is why as a Councillor any ‘gift’ over £25 has to be registered. I personally think this figure should be much lower, and no more than a £10 limit, as in today’s world that would only buy you coffee and cake. I have received only one thing that you would call a gift and that was a book called ‘The Wind Farm Scam’, it cost £7.99 and was sent to me direct from Amazon by a person who also brought it for many other Councillors. I did register this book, even though technically it is under the limit.
What I am saying is that Officers and Councillors are in positions that could have some influence on decisions and we must be seen as ‘above board’ in all dealings. I am not saying anyone has, or will accept something in return for a ‘favour’. But as Adam found out, the lure of that nice, shiny and juicy apple was too much to resist.
To stop any temptation of a free lunch, we must have clear and simple rules that cover all persons employed by the Council. I very much welcome the news that the Council will be looking into this issue further