Blackpool's Conservative group: '˜We don't have the right to get freebies'

Blackpool's Conservative group has called for more transparency when it comes to councillors' perks.

Monday, 26th November 2018, 11:23 am
Updated Monday, 26th November 2018, 11:30 am
Freebies: clockwise, from top left, a Sandcastle annual pass; free tickets to Slimefest; VIP tickets for Britney Spears; free tickets to Cats at the Winter Gardens and free tickets to see UB40

Coun Tony Williams told a full meeting of the council it was wrong for councillors to use their positions to gain ‘freebies’.

He said his inquiries had revealed a number of Labour councillors, including cabinet secretary Graham Cain, had benefited from free tickets to shows and attractions in the town.

All the benefits had been properly declared in line with town hall protocol which says any perk with a value of more than £25 must be recorded.

One councillor received free tickets to the Sunderland Air Show

But the meeting heard the information currently was not included on the council’s website.

Coun Williams said: “Do we have to use our position for freebies? This isn’t council business and it should stop as we don’t have the right to get things for free. We should pay our own way. If we want to see these shows we should pay our own way as members of the public have to.”

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said he was pleased Labour members were properly declaring anything they received.

He said he was entitled to event tickets as a director of the Blackpool Operating Company which oversees council-owned venues such as the Sandcastle and the Winter Gardens, and often passed them on to Coun Cain.

He said: “There is nothing underhand, nothing untoward and nothing undeclared.”

Coun Cain said some of the tickets he received were in relation to his previous role as cabinet member for tourism.

He said: “Everything is in the public domain and many are due to the portfolio and the responsibilities I have been given. I have taken people to the Sandcastle as it is a fantastic facility and this was part of the promotion of Blackpool.

“We have some of the best facilities in the world and I include the Sandcastle in that.”

The meeting was told the council would now look at ways of publishing any councillor perks which are declared on its website.

Who claimed what?

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn’s perks include two hospitality tickets given to him by Blackpool Football Club for the UB40 concert at Bloomfield Road in June 2017, tickets for the Sunderland Air Show from Sunderland City Council and a VIP pass for Lytham Festival Weekend from Fylde Council (which was not used).

Deputy leader Coun Gillian Campbell has received free tickets for Global Wrestling and Slimefest, but also declared 100 presents from Nickelodeon for Syrians living in her ward.

Cabinet secretary Graham Cain’s list includes VIP tickets for Britney Spears and a Sandcastle annual pass.

Other councillors have also received tickets for shows, mainly at the council-owned Winter Gardens, including Cats.

One councillor has declared a gift of a pair of spectacle frames.

Conservative councillor Don Clapham is listed as having received a VIP invitation to the Dungeon attraction in 2016 from operator Merlin.