In 2012 the Courier had extensively reported that Mossmorran firms offer hospitality to group set up to scrutinise safety performance and that Councillors enjoyed Murrayfield hospitality.
The companies offering these gifts were within their legal rights to do so, no UK law was breached, and Gifts and Corporate Hospitality are still offered by the firms.
The Lochgelly Community Council has clearly stated that the acceptance of gifts and corporate hospitality is not acceptable and will be refused.
As for Councillors, the issue of accepting gifts is a slightly grey area, however, checking the Councillors Code of Conduct issued by the Standards Commission Scotland, offers the following guidance;
3.7 – You must not accept any offer by way of gift or hospitality which could give rise to real or substantive personal gain or a reasonable suspicion of influence on your part to show favour or disadvantage to any individual or organisation……
This is a grey area, as it would be hard to quantify if Councillors who accept gifts from Mossmorran are perceived to favour them. However, with our Mossmorran Perception Study, we have managed to quantify public perception with responses received from 202 individuals;
Our data clearly shows that a majority of respondents are against councillors accepting gifts and corporate hospitality from Mossmorran.
Further to the Councillors Code of Conduct is;
3.12 – You must not accept repeated hospitality or repeated gifts from the same source.
Councillors continuing to accept gifts or corporate hospitality from Mossmorran repeatedly, are risking breaches to the Councillors Code of Conduct, and may open up the potential for a complaint to be lodged with the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland.
Pending any complaints about the conduct of councillors, the Commissioner would have to investigate any alleged contravention of the Code of Conduct, which if the complaint is upheld, may result in the following;
- Partial Suspension:
- 33. Where the councillor has special responsibilities (such as being a Spokesperson in respect of particular matters or Chair or Vice-Chair of a particular Committee or Sub-Committee or Joint Board), and the councillor has been suspended from Council meetings or meetings of the Committee or Sub-Committee or Joint Board dealing with that function, the councillor must not undertake these special responsibilities during the period of suspension. Moreover, the Council should, during the period of suspension, cease payment of remuneration at the grade of Senior Councillor (or equivalent enhanced payment for a joint board) and remunerate the councillor at the rate of remuneration payable to ordinary councillors.
- 34. Where a councillor has been suspended from attending meetings of another body on which the councillor is a representative or nominee of the Council, the Council should consider nominating another councillor as the Council’s representative or nominee on that body.
- Full Suspension:
- 35. In a case of full suspension or where the councillor is suspended from all meetings of the Council and all meetings of its committees and sub-committees, the councillor should not undertake any special responsibilities previously assigned to him/her by the Council and the Council should, during the period of suspension, cease payment of remuneration at the grades of Leader of the Council, Civic Head or Senior Councillor (or equivalent enhanced payment for a joint board) as applicable and remunerate the councillor at the rate of remuneration payable to ordinary councillors.
- 36. Depending on the length of the period of suspension, the Council should also consider appointing other councillors to the vacancies on committees or sub-committees and to any other body where the councillor has been the Council’s representative or nominee consequent on the suspension of the councillor.
For those that are interested in the full document highlighting the responsibilities of Councillors, please visit; http://www.standardscommissionscotland.org.uk/webfm_send/279
Details of complaint procedures and the for Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland can be found at: http://www.ethicalstandards.org.uk/
Register of Councillors Interest is located at: http://www.fifedirect.org.uk/publications/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication.pop&pubid=758B1803-C5CC-1D7E-72FEF1B63D6E16E3