Free tickets warning to councillors

COUNCILLORS were warned against accepting invitations to a country fair because they might prejudice themselves on future planning applications, it has emerged.

Laurence Cawley

COUNCILLORS were warned against accepting invitations to a country fair because they might prejudice themselves on future planning applications, it has emerged.

The warning was made by the legal services department at St Edmundsbury Borough Council after it emerged some members had been offered complimentary passes for events at Rougham Airfield, including the two-day Wings, Wheels and Steam show at the weekend.

But some councillors have described the move as “heavy handed” and claimed invitations, such as the complimentary pass from the Friends of Rougham Airfield, to events were a key way of finding out what was going on in the borough.


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Because a major planning application for a new business park near the airfield is currently in the pipeline, the council has warned members about accepting free passes because they risk prejudicing themselves in relation to the scheme.

In an email seen by the EADT, Joy Bowes, the council's head of legal services, said some councillors had been offered passes for the event as well as “invitations to attend two other events at the airfield on a complimentary basis”.

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But, she said: “Members are generally advised not to accept gifts and hospitality in their capacity as councillors, as this may create the perception that they will be favourably disposed towards the donor in any decisions that concern him.

“You should therefore bear in mind when considering how to treat this invitation that the use of land close to the airfield for Suffolk Business Park and the associated link road are matters which will come before the council for consideration, therefore members who accept the invitations risk compromising their impartiality.”

She added there was “no reason” council members could go to events as paying customers.

Mark Ereira-Guyer, a Labour councillor who took his family to the event at the weekend, said it was not the type of show he would usually attend but, because the organisers had written to him, he thought he would pop in.

“I'm glad I did because you realise just how well organised these things are. If a council is to have any knowledge about what is going on it has to get out there and find out. It was only when I got back home that I saw the email from the council.”

Nobody from Rougham Airfield was available for comment at the time of going to press.

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