Cannes of Worms

17 Apr

Back in March, Ted Jeory, writing in the Sunday Express, reported that various local councils in the UK had been represented at an international property convention in Cannes, a resort town on the French riviera, including Sir Robin Wales at the head of a 6-man delegation from Newham council.

The story was repeated by Mike Law on his blog, highlighting the presence of Sir Robin and the revelation that the trip had not been funded by local taxpayers but by private interests.

The Newham Recorder picked this up and asked who had paid for the trip. Predictably, the council declined to say. The Recorder’s reporter claims this has been followed up by a request under the Freedom of Information Act, though as far as I know no response has yet been forthcoming.

In a comment posted on Mike Law’s blog I said that if there was a genuine and compelling reason for Newham to be present at this conference I’d have no objection to the trip being funded from public money. I’m entirely prepared to believe the trip was a worthwhile way for Sir Robin and his entourage to spend their time.

In fact, if the mayor’s presence was so vital it absolutely should have been paid for by the taxpayer. Drumming up business for Newham is part of his job. And there’s plenty of building to be done around the Olympic Park, plus a large number of brownfield sites across the borough that could be usefully redeveloped. If going to a global property conference is the best way to meet developers, then that’s the place to be. The fact that the event took place in the south of France is neither here nor there. Sir Robin didn’t choose the venue.

Public officials travelling on public business should have their expenses met from the public purse. That way everything’s above board and there’s no question about whose interests they’re representing. 

But this trip wasn’t funded with public money. And that is extremely worrying. No-one provides hospitality on this scale without some expectation of getting something in return. The fact that Newham is refusing – so far at least – to disclose who picked up the tab indicates that they feel there’s something to hide. 

Perhaps Sir Robin is pleased with himself for saving the public purse a few pounds, but it may end up being a poor bargain for Newham.

Until we know who paid for his trip the mayor must recuse himself from all discussions about regeneration and redevelopment in Newham and from consideration of all planning applications. Otherwise how can we tell if he’s doing the right thing by residents or repaying a debt to his generous sponsors?

It is a mystery to me why Sir Robin has chosen put himself in this position. It is a massive lapse of judgement.

UPDATE:

The mayor’s register of gifts and hospitality has been updated to include the trip to Cannes:

 

  • 07/03/2012 – Hospitality: Olympic Park Legacy Dinner. offered by Olympic Park Legacy Company, 29-35 West Ham Lane, London E15 4PH; Hospitality received at MIPIM 2012 International Conference, Cannes. Value: at least £25.00 ; Value £25
  • 06/03/2012 – Hospitality: Olympic Park Legacy Lunch offered by Olympic Park Legacy Co., 29-35 West Ham Lane, London E15 4PH; Hospitality received at MIPIM 2012 International Conference, Cannes. Value: at leat £25.00 ; Value £25
  • 06/03/2012 – Hospitality: City of London – The London Reception evening event. offered by City of London, Guildhall, PO Box 270 London EC2P 2EJ; Hospitality received at MIPIM 2012 International Conference, Cannes. Value: at least £25.00 ; Value £25
  • 06/03/2012 – Hospitality: London First Cocktail Evening Reception. offered by London First, Whitcomb Street, London WC2H 7HA; Hospitality received at MIPIM 2012 International Conference, Cannes. Value: £25.00 ; Value £25
  • 05/03/2012 – Travel from London to Cannes France: MIPIM 2012 Internatiional Conference offered by Various sponsors.; Travel via Eurostar – St. Pancras to Cannes, via Paris. Value: £362.28p ; Value £25
  • 05/03/2012 – Accommodation at the Croisette Beach Hotel, Cannes; MIPIM 2012 International Conference offered by Various sponsors.; x3 night accommodation 5-7 March 2012. Value: £687.00
  • 05/03/2012 – Hospitality – London First evening reception offered by London First, 3 Whitcomb Street, London WC2H 7HA; Hospitality received at MIPIM 2012 International Conference, Cannes. Value: at least £25.00 ; Value £25

 

Although the people paying for the various meals and receptions are named, the big ticket items – the cost of travel and hotel accommodation – are listed as “offered by various sponsors.” And there’s no mention here of a conference registration fee. The MIPIM 2012 website states visitor registration as being €1,590 (excluding VAT). That’s £1,312 at today’s exchange rate, plus French VAT at 19.6%.

Taken together these come to over £2,361 (excluding the VAT on the registration fee). Assuming all the other members of Newham’s delegation travelled together, stayed in the same hotel and attended the conference these “various sponsors” have stumped up well in excess of £14,000.

I repeat the question: who are these people and what do they expect in return for their largesse?

 

 

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One Response to “Cannes of Worms”

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  1. Holidays in the sun | forestgatedotnet - August 2, 2017

    […] the risk of repeating myself, this is what I wrote back in 2012 when the mayor made a similar, commercially sponsored trip to the south of […]

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