Liverpool Council rules to be tightened around gifts and hospitality

Rules around city councillors accepting gifts and hospitality are to be tightened up.

Under its code of conduct, regardless of estimated value Liverpool Council requires members not to accept gifts or hospitality that could give rise to “real or substantive personal gain or a real suspicion of influence”. As the authority heads into the new municipal year, regulations are to be amended to ensure councillors stay on the right side of the rules.

Clarity is also being put into the regulations about what rules apply to the role of Lord Mayor.

As per documents made available by the council’s constitution and governance committee ahead of its meeting next Wednesday, members are told not to accept anything from those seeking to “acquire, develop or do business with the authority or who may be applying to the council for any permission, licence or other significant advantage.” Gifts or hospitality with an estimated value of £50 or over must be registered within 28 days of receipt.

There are separate rules about gifts and hospitality which apply to the role of Lord Mayor. The protocol is intended to assist councillors in determining if the acceptance of an offer of gifts or hospitality would be appropriate.

According to the protocol, a gift is usually seen as something given to someone else without expectation of payment or something in return. It said, “Hospitality will usually be more intangible than a gift such as the offer of food, drink, accommodation or entertainment.

“Hospitality can often be combined with an official event such as a conference or training event or access to a VIP area in a football ground.”

The purpose of the obligation to register gifts and hospitality and for publication of the register is to ensure councillors and the council act in accordance with the Seven Principles of Public Life, also known as the Nolan Principles. This ensures members and the authority avoid risk of improper influence over decisions though “excessive” gifts and hospitality.

It also allows the council to ensure transparency over acceptance.

Members must also ensure they register any “significant” gift or hospitality that they have declined. The document added, “It may be necessary to declare the gift or hospitality as a prejudicial interest in a meeting where an item of council business affects the donor and then withdraw from any decision making.”

Councillors should avoid accepting regular or repeated offers, even if they are valued under £50 individually.

The report said, “Councillors must register when they reject an offer of a gift or hospitality. Councillors should always try to politely refuse an inappropriate gift or hospitality but sometimes, it is impolite to do so. In such cases, you can advise that you will donate the gift to the Lord Mayor’s Charity.”

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