Gifts accepted by Edinburgh councillors revealed

U2 tickets were among the gifts received by councillors. Picture: Getty
U2 tickets were among the gifts received by councillors. Picture: Getty
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GIFTS ranging from boxes of chocolates to U2 tickets have been accepted by city officials over the past four years.

The council hospitality register revealed public servants have received sterling silver necklaces worth up to £40, dinners, supermarket vouchers and passes for major sports events from a clutch of private firms and foreign delegations visiting the city since 2009.

Some of the more bizarre items include a book about Romanian landscapes, a roundel from the Assembly Rooms’ ceiling and a miniature decorated screen partition gifted to the Lord Provost by a Chinese party from Tianjin in 2011.

A city governance worker even attended a “tram completion dinner” with leading law firm Ashurst at the Single Malt Whisky Society on Queen Street in September 2011.

The data was released through a Freedom of Information request and shines new light on the extra perks enjoyed by officials working at the city council.

Some of the gifts were later donated to good causes. In one instance, a £500 payment by chartered accountants Baker Tilly was given to the St Columba’s Hospice while a £100 gift token was donated to a house fire victim in August 2011.

Last year, the Consul General of China presented a fabric wall hanging of pandas and a box of tea to the city.

The revelations come one year after it emerged the cash-strapped city council had spent £47,000 on free biscuits and hot drinks for functions, private meetings and hospitality.

But calls have been made for a blanket ban on gifts to public servants following the property conservation scandal that damaged the city’s reputation amid allegations of bribery and wrongdoing at the department.

Peter Gregson, who campaigns for whistleblower safeguards and greater transparency in public bodies, said certain city departments already ran an award scheme for high-achieving officials and said hospitalities were tantamount to lobbying.

He said: “The whole idea of accepting something from a supplier is that they are trying to win favour or else why would they be giving it to you.

“Any gift or donation to a public officer is in my mind unfair. They are public servants and get a salary, they are not there to take gifts.

“If we want a council to be above suspicion it shouldn’t be accepting gifts from companies. Politicians are entirely different and you can give a politician what you like, they are there to be lobbied.”

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said: “Council officials are required to declare if they are the recipients of any gifts or hospitality to ensure dealings within the organisation are as open and transparent as possible.

“Employees must at all times adhere to our strict code of conduct which sets out quite clearly the standards that are expected of them. With this in mind, meeting people from other organisations is an essential and routine part of working within the council.”