Westminster councillor receives more than 500 gifts and hospitality packages in three years

Shehab Khan
Westminster City Council Councillor Robert Davis (L) and Head of the St. James's Portfolio James Cooksey (R): Getty Images

The deputy leader of Westminster city council received more than 500 gifts and hospitality invitations in three years, it has been reported.

Robert Davis, a Tory councillor, was until last year the chairman of the planning committee and since the start of 2015 received gifts from property industry figures at least 150 times.

Any gifts and hospitality packages worth more than £25 must be declared and some of the items and invitations Mr Davis accepted exceed this figure by some way.

He was flown to the south of France for four-day stays on two occasions, was taken to exclusive restaurants including the Ritz and the Ivy and also gifted a ticket to the musical Hamilton, The Guardian reported.

Mr Davis is the longest serving member of the council having been elected in 1982.

The Cambridge graduate was voted Conservative councillor of the year in 2014 and in was given an MBE in 2015 for his services to local and government planning.

Labour said Mr Davis’s register of interests demonstrated the “broken culture at Westminster council”.

They also added that there was a “clear perception that senior Conservative councillors have a very close relationships with developers”.

A Westminster City Council spokesperson said: “Westminster is a target for investment for UK and national developers, so it is hardly surprising that the chair of planning for Westminster City Council – the largest planning authority in the UK - undertakes a large number of meetings. These also have officers present.

“Where hospitality is offered, these meetings are all declared in the register of interests and have absolutely no sway on planning decisions.

“In June last year Westminster City Council announced it would insist that developers provide affordable housing on site as a condition of planning, and the Council continues to reject applications which do not benefit the wider area. The idea that any councillor has been “bought” by the property lobby is demonstrably untrue.

“Westminster City Council is on course to deliver 1,850 affordable homes in the next five years. The entire thrust of the Council’s efforts is towards ensuring everyone gets the opportunity to live in the borough. Cllr Nickie Aiken, leader of the Council, has made it clear to developers that if you build in Westminster, you build for Westminster residents.

Councillor Davis said: “I have decided to refer myself to the authority’s monitoring officer. I am absolutely clear I have not broken any rules, but given recent attention I believe this is the right step to take so that can be shown to be the case, and to reassure residents of this.

“Throughout my 36 years at Westminster City Council, I have had only one aim; to serve the people of Westminster.

“I have always been scrupulously open in my register of interests precisely to ensure transparency."