Tag Archives: register of interests

Generous to a fault

24 Feb

89651226 sirrobinwales

By Alan Combe

If he fails to win the nomination this year, Sir Robin will miss the hospitality almost as much as wearing the mayoral collar.

One of the perks of being the Mayor of a borough which is “open for business” as he might say – and probably has – is the manner in which the corporate world queues up to offer you hospitality. And gifts. And opportunities to travel, business class sometimes, to exotic far flung places – and West Ham United FC.

In his 16 years as Mayor, Sir Robin has benefitted from a significant number of invitations from companies keen to do business here. In the last four years alone, Sir Robin has been invited to China, Australia, Germany and France.

He has dined in some of London’s finest restaurants including the Terrace Room at the Royal Horseguards Hotel, Cabotte, the Arts Club, the Cinnamon Club, the Mansion House, Simpsons in the Strand. And at West Ham United FC (which may or may not count as fine dining).

In the last four years Sir Robin has enjoyed hospitality at West Ham Utd on 20 occasions, usually as a guest of the club but, on occasion, London City Airport picked up the bill.

His published list of gifts & hospitality starts in 2006 and his close relationship with West Ham Utd is clear from almost the first entry, which records that he received tickets to that year’s F.A. Cup final (Liverpool vs West Ham), which was held in Cardiff. It was rumoured that the club actually flew him to the match.

In March each year, the town of Cannes in southern France plays host to the international property event known as MIPIM. The Independent newspaper recently described this as the place “where estate agency professionals and wealthy investors cavort around five-star hotels and champagne receptions in the sunshine, while ruminating about the housing crisis many of them benefit from directly”. Sir Robin often attends.

Newham Council Taxpayers do not actually pay for this jaunt. It is funded by “sponsors”. These are not usually identified on the list of Gifts and Hospitality. Perhaps they should be because that have included over the years, London City Airport, Westfield, and a number of housebuilders who all have an interest in growing their businesses in Newham.

Sir Robin has visited China, at other people’s expense, on a number of occasions starting in 2007. He went back in 2008 for the Beijing Olympics and his more recent trips have been funded by ABP London the company developing a new business district on a 35-acre site in the Royal Albert Dock.

I was puzzled that according to his gift declarations, Sir Robin didn’t attend the opening of the Rio Olympics in 2016, but it turned out that he was busy visiting Hong Kong and Perth & Sydney in Australia at the time. The Sydney leg of the trip appears to have been funded by a group of businesses called the “Committee for Sydney”.

Of course, it’s not all travel and dinners. Sir Robin has been invited to, amongst other events, Rugby World Cup matches, the IAAF World Athletics Championships, the Henley Regatta, the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, the Wireless Festival and a concert by Adele.

Over the last four years the most “generous” donors would appear to have been ABP London, who have picked up the bills for trips to China and a number of dinners in London; West Ham Utd, who have since moved into the expensively re-purposed London Stadium as the anchor tenant; London City Airport, whose expansion plans were supported by Newham even when the previous London Mayor, Boris Johnson, tried to put a halt to them; and the mystery “sponsors” who have picked up the bills for Mayor Wales (& Cllr Ken Clark) when they visited Cannes for the international property events.

I struggle to understand what benefit these donors could possibly have enjoyed as a result of this generosity!

If you want to check out the details for yourself, Newham’s website helpfully lists all the gifts and hospitality enjoyed by Mayor Wales and all his Councillor colleagues, dating back to 2006. The list however does not give us the cost of each gift or meal or trip, it merely tells us if the cost exceeded £25.00. It should also be stressed that the obligation to report the receipt of gifts and hospitality rests with the Mayor personally.

Albert Rose by any other name…

5 Mar

I’ve written before about the slapdash attitude of the mayor and his councillors towards record-keeping and accountability. In particular about the register of interests.

This is a significant public document: it’s how we can tell if our elected representatives are looking after our best interests or theirs. If it’s not accurate or kept up-to-date we can’t know.

So it’s troubling to discover another example of an inaccurate declaration.

Councillor Ayesha Chowdhury has represented Beckton ward since 2002 and is currently the ‘lead community councillor’ for the area. Councillor Chowdhury owns (or co-owns) a large number of residential properties in the borough, from which she derives income from rent. In June 2006 she added to her declaration of interests a property at ’39 Albert Rose Close, E6.’

In January 2008 the spelling was changed to ’39 Albert Roase Close, E6’. And it has remained on the Register ever since.

But there is no Albert Rose (or Roase) Close in E6. Or in Newham. Or London for that matter.

In fact, there is no street of that name anywhere in the United Kingdom.

Presumably Ayesha Chowdhury knows how many houses and flats she owns. One of them must correspond to the Albert Rose Close entry in the register of interests, but it’s actual location is hidden. The net effect is that she has an undeclared property interest.

So if the councillor sits on a planning committee, or a licensing committee, or in full council and considers a proposal that affects her interest in this property we won’t know about it. We won’t know if she’s voting for her constituents or herself.

Ayesha Chowdhury is plainly a talented business person; she’s built up and now manages a substantial property portfolio and rental business. That requires considerable organisational skills. So it’s a mystery as to why she hasn’t – in 8 long years – made sure the list on the register of interests is correct.

As a member of the council’s Standards Advisory Committee she should know better.


Following the election in May Councillor Chowdhury has updated her register of interests. The property in question is now listed as ’39 Albertross Close’.

There is no ‘Albertross Close’ in Newham, but there is an Albatross Close. Number 39 is a leasehold flat.

Sir Robin’s slightly more expensive iPad

1 Nov

Sir Robin Wales has been shamed into handing over an extra £79 for the iPad mini he received as a gift on his recent trip to China.

A Freedom of Information request by @StopCityAirport asking for the basis of the original £130 valuation received this response:

The initial £130 valuation was provided verbally to the Mayor’s Office based on a Council officer’s research of local equivalent prices. No documentation is held to support this initial valuation. The Mayor paid this amount and a declaration was made to reflect this, in line with the Council’s policies for the declaration of gifts and hospitality. When he did this the Mayor queried the amount and the methodology by which it was established and asked for an independent valuation to be undertaken via the Council’s Interim Monitoring Officer.

A revised valuation was provided by officers on the 18th September on behalf of the Council’s Interim Monitoring Officer of £209.62. The Mayor then paid in full the revised amount advised and the relevant declaration was amended to reflect this.

The revised valuation is now in line with the ex-VAT price of a 16GB, wifi-only iPad mini.

But if you believe the Mayor himself initiated the re-valuation or the date this is claimed to have happened you probably have fairies living at the bottom of your garden.

As with the Brighton College nonsense it is an unnamed official who is at fault for inaccuracies in the Mayor’s declaration of interests, not Sir Robin himself.

Even if this is true, it isn’t good enough: it is Sir Robin’s register of interests; they are his declarations of gifts and hospitality. He and he alone is responsible for ensuring they are accurate; he must be accountable when there are errors.