Register reminder over freebies

ALL 34 elected members of Scottish Borders Council have been urged to adhere to policies covering the acceptance and declaration of hospitality from outside organisations.

The exhortation came from leader David Parker after he was asked by backbench independent councillor David Paterson whether he felt it was “right and proper” for members of SBC’s pensions sub-committee to be taking such hospitality, including tickets for rugby internationals and dinners, from pension fund managers.

Last month, we reported details listed on the council’s website regarding largesse received by five councillors on the committee by Baillie Gifford, the firm that manages about 40 per cent of the council’s £379m pension fund.

At the last full council meeting, Mr Parker did not offer an opinion on whether this was “right and proper”, but stated: “As Councillor Paterson knows, all members are required to fill in a monthly hospitality register declaring all they have received from organisations outwith SBC.”

The register is made available to the public, Mr Parker said, and he went on: “The members’ code of conduct provides guidance to members on accepting hospitality and I would urge all members to be familiar with this guidance and adhere to it at all times.”

Earlier, Mr Parker had been asked by Mr Paterson to clarify the use of corporate credit cards by the chief executive – formerly David Hume – and the directors of four departments: Tracey Graham (resources), Glenn Rodger (education), Andrew Lowe (social work) and Rob Dickson (environment and infrastructure).

Mr Parker stressed that the limit on the chief executive’s card was £5,000, while the limit on each of the others was £3,000.

He confirmed that no councillor had access to these cards, but added: “There are a number of policies and regulations which govern spending to ensure all spending is appropriate and justifiable.

“While there is no individual scrutiny of corporate credit card spend on a monthly basis, records of all transactions are kept and subject to internal and external audit as appropriate.”