Out of touch Tories vote to hide their hospitality
FROM THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION AT SURREY HEATH
22 June 2012
“Out of touch Tories vote to hide their hospitality”
At last night’s Full Council, a number of Conservatives forced through a vote at Surrey Heath Borough Council last night which has now doubled the amount that councillors can receive as a gift or hospitality before needing to declare this publicly.
This surprise decision was taken at a special meeting of the Full Council which was intended to establish a new Standards procedure for dealing with complaints about Councillors. This was despite a recommendation from the cross party Governance Working Group which had unanimously agreed to keep the present rules namely that councillors have to register and declare any gifts or hospitality above the value of £25.
However, during the meeting and without any prior notice, a proposal was made from two Conservative backbenchers namely Cllr John May (Watchetts) and Cllr Chris Pitt (Frimley Green) that this should be doubled to £50. The ludicrous claim that they made for this proposal was that £25 “does not cover two glasses of wine and a pasty.”
Amid farcical scenes, their proposal was then voted through by 13 votes to 10. All 4 of the cross-party opposition group members present voted against this increase and were joined by 6 Conservatives. However, they were outvoted by 13 other Conservatives. Bizarrely, a further 6 Tories including the Leader of the Council, the Deputy Leader and other members of the Executive who are supposedly paid in order to take a lead on day-to-day Council issues decided to abstain thus allowing the proposal to go through.
Cllr Rodney Bates, Leader of the Opposition at Surrey Heath said, “This is a disgraceful decision that shows how completely out of touch some Tories have become. What this means is that a councillor could now receive a free meal or event tickets from a developer and then vote on their planning application without anyone else knowing about it. It is quite clear that even some Conservatives were embarrassed by the conduct of their colleagues which is why some of them took the rare step of voting against.”
He adds, “No one has a problem with councillors being offered a cup of tea when doing a resident visit or receiving a token thank-you gift for speaking to a community group. That is why the £25 limit is in place. However, doubling this to £50 means that dinners, event tickets and even receiving 6 bottles of wine would no longer be declarable. Tax payers will rightly be appalled at this secrecy and the fact that some Tories clearly don’t want anyone else to know about certain gifts and hospitality that they may receive.”
Contact: Cllr Rodney Bates – 01276 679957
Note: The seconder to this proposal was Cllr Chris Pitt. In 2011/12, Cllr Pitt received £1380 of additional allowance to be the vice chair of the Policy & Audit Scrutiny Committee. However, he only bothered to attend one of the five meetings that took place.
Below is a press release from the opposition group on Surrey Heath Borough Council which is led by Labour Councillor Rodney Bates.
A group of Conservative Councillors decided to vote through a huge increase in the size of gifts they can receive without declaring them. They are prioritising themselves above their electorate again.
If you live in Frimley Green or Watchetts how do you feel your Councillors are representing you? Are their priorities your priorities? - R Wilson
Cllr Rodney Bates, Leader of the Opposition