Questions over councillors’ hospitality

IS it right and proper for elected members of Scottish Borders Council to accept hospitality from the local authority’s pension fund managers?

That question will be posed at today’s full council meeting by backbench Independent member David Paterson.

He is seeking a response from leader David Parker over the fact councillors on SBC’s pension sub-committee did, by their own admission, accept hospitality, including dinners, overnight stays and rugby international tickets, from Baillie Gifford, the firm which manages around 40 per cent of the council’s £379million pension fund.

Since April 2010, councillors have had to declare offers of hospitality and gifts on a monthly basis.

The council website gives details of sub-committee members entertained by Baillie Gifford in recent times as follows:

Councillor Neil Calvert, SBC’s deputy leader (finance): February 2, 2011, ticket for Scotland v Wales rugby international at Murrayfield plus dinner £150; March 16, 2011, dinner at Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) conference in Dundee £100.

Councillor Jim Fullarton: October 6, 2010, Edinburgh pensions seminar ovenight hotel £120 and dinner at Signet Library £80; February 2, 2011, Murrayfield ticket and hospitality £150.

Councillor Alasdair Hutton, SBC convener: October 6, 2010, pensions seminar dinner £25.

Councillor Kenneth Gunn: October 6, 2010, dinner, bed and breakfast £65.

Councillor Alec Nicol, SBC’s deputy leader (human resources): February 12, 2011, lunch, rugby match and dinner £120.

In his declaration, Mr Fullarton observes: “All seemed pleased with BG [Baillie Gifford] performance of our funds.”

Councillor Paterson said that by raising the question today he was not suggesting any wrongdoing.

“I would like to know, however, the leader’s view on the message we are sending out to the Borders public in these tough financial times,” he told us. “The hospitality figures are available on the council website, but they are not easy to find and should, in my view, be more transparent.”

z Readers wishing to find out more about their councillors should click on Council on the SBC homepage. Under the Your Council option go to the sub-heading Councillors, open up the left-hand agenda and click the options, entitled Register of Interests, Members Expenses Claim Forms and Gifts and Hospitality Forms.