New rules about what gifts and hospitality Northamptonshire county councillors can accept

Some councillors at the authority enjoyed hospitality from Northampton Saints Rugby Club which included complimentary food and drink.
Some councillors at the authority enjoyed hospitality from Northampton Saints Rugby Club which included complimentary food and drink.

New rules about what gifts and hospitality can and cannot be accepted by Northamptonshire county councillors are being added to the code of conduct.

Tickets for premium sporting events, use of someone’s flat or hotel and discounted services from contractors have all been labelled as unacceptable gifts to take, while working lunches to discuss authority matters, invitations to a professional dinner and special occasions where invited as a representative of the county council are deemed acceptable.

A report to be agreed by the full council next Thursday (Sept 19) says the current code of conduct needs to be amended to make sure the constitution is ‘fit for purpose’.

It says: “The council’s internal auditors have recently undertaken a review of the council’s procedures for managing the recording of gifts and hospitality received by councillors and officers. While the audit has found that the procedures the council has in place are operating satisfactorily, a recommendation has been made that the guidance in place for councillors and officers be updated, and the form used to register gifts and hospitality be refreshed.”

The internal audit has not as yet been made public.

As part of the new rules, councillors must notify the authority every time they are offered hospitality that has a value of more than £25, even when they have not accepted it.

The suggested code says: “As a public service there is a need to demonstrate impartiality and merit in remaining totally open about anything received and understanding the perception of the general public regarding offers or gifts or hospitality.”

This rule is in block capitals in the report paper.

The code says when deciding whether to accept a gift councillors should consider the likely motive of the gift being offered, the perception created by accepting the gift and whether hospitality has also been offered to their partner.

The code of conduct does not mention whether officers working in the authority have to abide by the same rules.

An investigation into the activities of NEA properties – an unaudited company owned by the council – found no evidence of councillors declaring gifts and hospitality from Northampton Saints Rugby Club.

The investigation found that in July 2015 NEA properties gave an £80,000 grant to the sports club and as a ‘recipricol goodwill gesture’ the club gave private use of a 16-person executive box with complimentary meals and drinks.

It said the declarations should have been made.

However council leader Matt Golby, who enjoyed the hospitality on a few occasions, did not declare it on his interests.

Labour county councillor Anjona Roy welcomed the changes and said the council had to be transparent.