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Part 5 - Members' Protocol on Gifts and Hospitality

Below you will find the Members' Protocol on Gifts and Hospitality

2.1         All County Councillors should remember that what may seem perfectly acceptable to them when receiving gifts and hospitality may be construed differently by the public or their fellow County Councillors. Members should be aware of the importance of the perception of others and guard against the suspicion of misconduct.

2.2       Gifts

2.2.1             County Councillors must not accept significant gifts such as holidays, expensive jewellery, televisions, etc. from contractors, suppliers or anyone who may be affected by decisions made by the Council in any circumstances.  Such gifts must be politely but firmly declined.  Significant gifts from members of the public must be treated similarly.

2.2.2             When it is impossible to refuse gifts, e.g. if a gift is delivered and cannot be returned, then it should be passed to the Chief Executive for official use or transmission to a local charity.

2.2.3             If you are in any doubt about accepting a gift the offer should be declined.

2.2.4             All gifts, whether they are accepted or rejected, other than those accepted under paragraph 2.2.3 above, must be notified to the Council's Monitoring Officer and recorded in the register kept for that purpose.

2.2.5             In all cases relating to the receipt of gifts, it is wise to err on the side of caution, if there is any shadow of doubt in your mind, the safest answer is always "No".

2.2.6             It is recognised that there is the need to make exceptions for gifts of an insignificant nature which are given to County Councillors as a consequence of normal commercial practice.

2.2.7             It is arguable that small gifts, for instance advertisement material, calendars, diaries, pens and pencils, and other tokens sometimes given at Christmas, may be acceptable if they are part of a general distribution.  Such items are those which are given to a wide range of people and are not personal only to the County Councillor.  These may be accepted without the need for authority and recording.  However, County Councillors must remember that they are responsible for determining whether a gift should be accepted and they may be called upon to justify their decision.

2.3       Hospitality

2.3.1             It is probably more difficult to provide definitive guidelines on hospitality than it is for gifts. It can be argued that a reasonable amount of entertainment is a normal part of the courtesies of public life and extreme strictness can give unnecessary offence to people and organisations with whom the Council's relationships should be cordial.

2.3.2             Hospitality of a reasonable degree may therefore be accepted in reasonable circumstances, provided no extravagance is involved. However, if the person offering is seeking, or is likely to seek, to do business with the Council or to gain some advantage which the Council can give, then extreme care needs to be taken.  It is essential to avoid any suggestion of improper influence.

2.3.3             Rigid definitions of what is acceptable are difficult to provide. County Councillors are expected to exercise common-sense and judgement. If there is any doubt an offer must be declined and referred to the Monitoring Officer for recording in the register.

2.3.4             The following are examples of hospitality and general guidance on acceptability:

Conferences   

As a general rule, you should not accept offers of hospitality when these are specific to you or only a small number of colleagues, e.g. whilst it would be acceptable to receive a free meal, which is offered to all delegates, it would not be acceptable for an individual to be wined and dined by a company representative.

Visits to suppliers /potential suppliers

Where visits to inspect products, equipment, etc. take place, then County Councillors should ensure that the Council meets the costs, to avoid jeopardising the integrity of subsequent purchasing decisions.  Whilst a modest meal in such circumstances may be acceptable, expensive meals should not be accepted.

Travel 

Free or discounted transport should not be accepted unless:

 

1.         the offer is of a corporate nature open to all County Councillors; or

 

2.         it is travel which involves legitimate participation by the County Council in promotional events

and, in either case, it has been approved on behalf of the Council.

Meals 

Where there is an ongoing working relationship between the County Councillor and an outside organisation or individual and the relationship occasionally involves hospitality such as working lunches, a working lunch to allow parties to discuss business would normally be acceptable if the hospitality is secondary to a specific working arrangement.

Sporting and social events

Sporting and social functions should only be accepted if they are part of the life of the local community and/or where the Council should be seen to be represented.  Examples include: competitions involving local teams; representative gatherings of community interest groups; meetings of public organisations; and events organised to celebrate achievement affecting the County of Gloucestershire.  Invitations to major sporting and social events, such as international or national sporting fixtures, golf days, theatre visits, social gatherings as a guest of a contractor/prospective contractor or other commercial body, must be declined.

 

2.3.5             When considering offers of hospitality, County Councillors should always remember that they should be in a position to readily acknowledge and justify acceptance in public. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that there is very little a local government County Councillor can properly accept in the way of gifts or hospitality.

Page updated: 12/10/2020 Page updated by: Gloucestershire County Council

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