Man receives a gift, a gift pleases man, man returns a gift.
Seems like a fairly standard transaction, but what if ‘man’ is former deputy leader of Westminster council and the ‘gift’ he returns is a favourable decision on the planning committee he chairs? Tory Councillor Robert Davis has been accused of just this.
Since September 2017 Robert Davis has been under public scrutiny for his acceptance of gifts and hospitality during his career at Westminster City Council, for 17 of those years he was chair of the planning committee responsible for accepting or denying property development in one of the most prestigious areas of the UK.
Robert Davis may have received hospitality or gifts up to 893 times, from West End shows to trips to the US, France and Mallorca. Amongst this luxury list, you’d have hoped somebody would have thrown in a better collection of ties. Worryingly for those suffering in London’s housing crisis, a significant amount of these gifts came from property developers.
A report has been published by Westminster City Council in which investigating officer Hazel Best concludes:
‘That by accepting the large scale of gifts and hospitality Cllr Davis has not promoted and supported high standards of conduct through leadership and by example. His conduct has attracted media and public attention which has an impact of the Council as a whole.’
The report confirms that Davis’ actions are not unlawful but call into question his conduct within his influential role at the council, with clear suspicion around the timing of certain gifts and planning permission decisions being made. Davis has now resigned over the alleged corruption.
Officially 41 instances have been confirmed where Robert Davis made decisions contradicting officers recommendations. 6 of these cases involved Robert Davis receiving some form of gift from people or groups involved in the planning process.
It cannot be confidently stated that Cllr Davis was swayed to make certain decisions due to any of the items he received, however, even the smallest possibility of it should terrify you.
Westminster, the area Robert Davis represented and served during his career as a councillor, has the third highest pay inequality of the London Boroughs, coupled with the second least affordable rent for low earners. This is not a welcoming area for the working class.
Local government can be the working class people’s best avenue to receive help for issues that affect them and their area, increasingly so since 2010 when Tory implemented policies under the blanket of austerity have had damaging effects on many already disadvantaged areas of the UK. The potential that the wealthy few could essentially pay for what they want local government to do whilst ignoring the voices of the many is a disturbing thought, conjuring images of a plutocratic hellscape that the case of Tory Councillor Robert Davis just made a little bit too real.