Kingston council officers have received hospitality and gifts from the likes of asset management companies, business consultants and architects.

They even rowed an electric picnic boat along the River Thames as part of a “familiarisation trip and relationship management” with a company called GoBoat in April this year.

The information was revealed in a Freedom of Information Request asking for the council officer gift register from June 2017 to September 2019.

This information is not currently available for the public to view, even though officers must register gifts of more than £50.

It showed chief and senior officers accepted 35 invites for dinners and relationship management events donated by the likes of Ernst & Young, the construction and property services company Willmott Dixon, Janus Henderson Investors, Penna, Newton Europe and financial consultants Hymans Robertson LLP.

Two chief officers also accepted invites for the MIPIM real estate conference in 2017 in Cannes.

It is described as the world’s largest property event.

These events are common in the local government calendar, and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing, but one Kingston councillor thinks these gifts should be available for the public to view to increase transparency.

This is especially the case because the borough is currently in ’tilted balance’ and forced to give more weight to large planning applications for housing because it cannot demonstrate a five year supply of land for new builds.

In September a row erupted over a council “cover-up” after a senior officer at Kingston Council allegedly failed to declare a gift from a property lobbyist. 

Green councillor Sharron Falchikov-Sumner has shown MyLondon emails that showed a lobbyist for Hard Hat Communications (now the Built Environment Communication Group) had paid for a senior officer in the borough’s Liberal Democrat office to attend a gala dinner hosted by Sir Edward Davey MP and Sir Vince Cable, in November 2017. 

The ticket was worth £100 meaning it should have been registered as a gift under the council’s code of conduct, which states that all council employees are supposed to register gifts of more than £50.

However, when Cllr Falchikov-Sumner asked the council if the gift had been declared, she said she was told it had not, and that it was being passed to internal audit for investigation. 

The alleged gift was not included on the council officer gift register released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Cllr Falchikov-Sumner says that she raised the issue at full council in July after not receiving a response about the investigation, but claims this has since been “censored” by council officials in the video-taped record of the meeting.

She also claims she was “threatened” with an investigation by the audit panel when raising the issue at a meeting with them. 

Cllr Falchikov-Sumner said, “this is shocking behaviour from Guildhall officials.  Instead of admitting their mistake in not declaring this gift and putting it on the record they are trying to cover it up.  But I will not be silenced.  

“It is vital that people in Kingston trust that decisions are made transparently – it’s why gifts, however innocently given, should be declared and put on the register.  It may well be the officer simply forgot to declare the gift at the time, so should simply now put the record straight. But instead we are seeing blatant attempts to cover up the issue.”

Cllr Falchikov-Sumner emphasised that the gala dinner “was a great opportunity to meet with the Lib Dems with the expectation of them taking control at the local elections,” and that it should have been declared “so residents can then be confident that officers are behaving in the right way.”

She now worries this may have happened on other occasions with more council officers.

“Are council officers routinely doing this? That’s the bigger issue to me,” she said.

“I only know about this because I organised the event.”

She has called for the council to go further and make a register of gifts for council officers available to the public. 

Cllr Falchikov-Sumner was responsible for organising the gala dinner in 2017 while she was still a Liberal Democrat. She became a Green Councillor in February this year. 

She said she was prompted to look over the emails after reading a tweet from another lobbying company earlier this year that highlighted the high number of large planning applications approved by the Lib Dem administration since they took control last year, but insists her criticism is not politically motivated. 

In response to the claims a Kingston Council spokesperson said “we can confirm that an issue has been raised and appropriate management action has been taken.”

“There is no further comment on this at this stage.”