England

Westminster councillor given 514 'freebies' in three years

Cllr Robert Davis
Image caption Robert Davis has been a Tory councillor for Westminster since 1996

The deputy leader of Westminster City Council has been criticised after records revealed he received hundreds of "freebies" in three years.

Since January 2015, Tory councillor Robert Davis has enjoyed 514 "gifts and hospitality" in his council role.

These included various lunches at luxury hotels and dining with Andrew Lloyd-Webber at his Mallorca home.

All the claims are legitimate, but Labour said it is an example of a "broken culture".

Until last year Mr Davis was chairman of Westminster's planning committee and, as with any councillor, any gifts and hospitality packages costing more than £25 have to be declared.

Scores of items and invitations accepted by Mr Davis between 5 January, 2015 and 31 January, 2018, sharply exceed this figure.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Davis was invited to have lunch at Andrew Lloyd-Webber's home in Mallorca, Spain

These include trips to Switzerland, Spain, France, the USA, and the five-star Gleneagles Hotel and golf resort in Scotland. In addition, dozens of dinners, lunches and functions at hotels - including upmarket The Ritz and The Goring - were also listed.

On 25 July, 2016, Mr Davis had lunch with Lord Lloyd-Webber at his home in Mallorca, five days later he had lunch with Lord Allen of Kensington on his boat.

Mr Davis, who is now cabinet member for business, culture and heritage, has also attended many West End shows and film premieres in the last three years.

Gifts he received include cow bells, tickets to the 2016 "Jingle Bell Ball" and a segment of the old Piccadilly advertising lights.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Centre Court tickets at Wimbledon 2016 were also among the gifts

Labour councillor Adam Hug said there was no suggestion that Mr Davis had broken any laws or rules, but felt this approach did not "help build public trust".

He added: "We will act to change the broken culture at Westminster City Council so that we put the needs of residents before those of developers.

"Councillors should have a transparent relationship with developers and other powerful interests so that residents can be assured that their representatives are fighting for them rather than dining out on developers' expense accounts."

In response, Mr Davis said: "As planning chairman it was an important part of my job to meet groups ranging from developers to residents, property agents, heritage associations, arts groups and trade organisations.

"These meetings were all properly declared and open to anyone to examine.

"Their sole purpose was to ensure and encourage the right kind of development in Westminster and ensure that anything put before the council was going to benefit the city as a whole."

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