Council leader treated to T20 cricket match and hotel stay from controversial contract holder
PUBLISHED: 09:19 21 December 2019 | UPDATED: 10:41 22 December 2019
A council leader has been treated to tickets to events and a hotel stay worth more than £400 by firms holding council contracts.
A council leader has been treated to tickets to a cricket match and a hotel stay worth more than £400 by an under-fire private planning company holding a council contract.
Sam Chapman-Allen, leader of Breckland Council, attended a T20 match at Lords in August as a guest of Capita - who hold the controversial council contract for planning services.
The Conservative member was also gifted a hotel stay by the firm, which came to £409 total for the ticket and accommodation.
Senior officials from councils across the country attended and Mr Chapman-Allen said it was an important networking event.
He was also invited to Newmarket Races on Norwich City Football Club's table, by the chairman of Flagship Group, who deliver social housing for the council.
The council leader declared the gift on Breckland Council's website and said it was worth £198, but confirmed he did not attend, due to a prior commitment.
The council outsourced its planning services to Capita, a private firm, which also sells its services to developers, in 2009 in a 15-year deal for £6m in savings.
Since then the council has been dogged by complaints about applications being mishandled, with a town council threatening a judicial review over "defective" transport assessments.
And a 2018 investigation by this newspaper into the £35m contract revealed staff shortages had seen planning decisions about communities in Norfolk made by Capita staff 450 miles away, at offices in Belfast and Newcastle.
The firm was also grilled by councillors earlier this year over a failure to bring in new business or to meet projected savings targets.
The tickets and hotel stay were among swathes of freebies declared by district, city and county councillors in Norfolk over the last year, which ranged from £237 for theatre tickets, football match at Carrow Road, to a £3.50 box of chocolates.
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Mr Chapman-Allen, who represents Forest ward, said: "In relation to the Capita event, I along with a number of other senior council members and staff from across the country, was invited to meet with Capita planning leads. This was an important opportunity to discuss our respective services and have open and honest conversations about any necessary improvements."
He added: "Having positive relationships with our peers, partners and suppliers is key to help improve service delivery, which directly benefits our communities."
What gifts have your Norfolk councillors declared this year?
Councillors have declared gifts from theatre tickets to a box of chocolates in 2019.
Alan Waters, leader of Norwich city council - five lots of theatre tickets, drinks, and dinner for two (£237).
Gail Harris, city councillor - social housing awards ticket (£175).
Steffan Aquarone, Norfolk county councillor - three course meal and coffee with parliamentarians (unknown).
Penny Carpenter, Norfolk county councillor - box of Milk Tray chocolates, (£3.50).
Shelagh Gurney, Mike Sands, and Haydn Thirtle Norfolk county councillors - care awards tickets, (£120 for a pair of tickets for each councillor).
Andrew Proctor, Norfolk county council leader - lunch at the Maids Head Hotel and a football match at Carrow Road (£75).
Wendy Fredericks, North Norfolk District councillor - two Cromer Pier Show tickets with two glasses of wine.
No councillors from Great Yarmouth, Broadland South Norfolk or West Norfolk councils declared any gifts in the last 12 months.