News FOI Gifts

Boxes of chocolate, flowers, home made fruit cake, a photo of a fleet of Arriva buses, cans of Carlsberg and bottles of wine, whiskey and vodka have all been offered as gifts to Senior Officers at Wrexham Council during the last three years.

The list was revealed by a Wrexham.com FOI request which allowed us to examine Wrexham Council’s Senior Officers Register of Gifts & Hospitality for the last three years.

The data received gives an insight into the types of gifts offered, the charitable nature of several Senior Officers and also intriguing valuations.

Wine bottles (red, white and mulled!) were the top gift, offered 76 times. Chocolates at 28 times were the next most popular, with flowers coming third (16 times). Eleven bottles of whisky and one ‘bottle of polish vodka’ were also offered.

The register records if the gifts were accepted, an approximate value and where the gifts ended up. The valuation appears to be standardised eg. bottles of wine are £5 and whisky £10.

In terms of the end use of the gift, it appeared that charitable causes were the main benefactors with gifts being passed on for use in raffles and the like.

We particularly liked the Learning & Achievement departments comment under ‘location or end use of gift’ regarding some flowers which they stated were “Placed in a vase!”

Some more quirky gifts offered to the Senior Officers of the Council included a ‘photo of a fleet of buses’ from Arriva, a homemade fruit cake and some cans of Carlsberg.

Two gifts drew our attention out of the reams of data due to their obvious involvement in projects we are aware of:
– An offer of two Fortnum & Mason hampers each containing champagne and chocolates which was accepted by Mr P Walton (Strategic & Performance Director) from the company HT Forrest Ltd who were awarded Wrexham Council’s solar PV panel contract. The hampers were donated to raise funds for Nightingale House Hospice and the Mayor’s Charity respectively.
– KDC Constructions, who demolished the Hightown Flats, offered lunch to four officers which was accepted at a value of £20 each.

Former Wrexham Council Chief Executive Isobel Garner appears to have rarely accepted gifts and hospitality, with the total of 15 accepted between 2009-2011 . They included tickets to the Royal Welsh Show, Excellence Wales dinner, Wales v Bosnia U21 game and Bangor on Dee Races.

The races came up in a couple of entries, perhaps the best was in the Transportation and Asset Management Department where B Hellen stated that Bangor on Dee race tickets were “received and probably lost a lot of money on the horses”.

Overall it appears that the offers of Gifts and Hospitality are treated well by senior officers, with sensible use internally or charitable donations being the main end use of the gifts.

What would aid transparency is if a reason for declining a gift was also noted, rather than just notes for those accepted.