They call them
gifts and hospitality but that does not hide the fact that councillors may now take bribes so long as they are not too big.
One of the more unbelievable things to come out of this week's council meeting was nodded through with a lonely objection from Thanet's single Green Party councillor.
Blink and you might have missed it but Thanet Council voted without debate to allow themselves to take bribes.
I kid you not.
The bribe allowance rule is fond in the newly accepted and revised "Protocol for the Guidance of Planning Committee Members and Officers" this was agenda item 17c and was simply announced and then the council was asked to approve it. Were it not for Ian Driver speaking up this new rule would have slipped through in less than sixty seconds rather than the three minutes it actually took.
Councillors from both the main parties (Conservative and Labour) lazily waved the changes through.
The change is to rule 4.2 which now allows councillors to accept gifts, benefits and hospitality up to the value of one penny less than £100 from any given party without disclosure. The rules for officers of the council require that they only accept such gifts if refusal might offend but elected council members can do as they please so long as the total on paper value is less than a hundred big ones.
Only a few councils allow members to receive any gift or hospitality and in most cases this is limited to £25. Thanet District for some reason has drafted a new protocol allowing four times the norma; ammount which had been agreed (according to Driver) just last year.
So, organised crime bosses, this is how you bribe the planning committee:
First you may freely deposit cash to the value of £99.99 into each of their welcoming hands.
If this is not enough to carry the day then you can arrange for the creation of a pressure group to support your plans which can make additional deposits of the same amount. So long as they are, on paper, entirely separate from you, councillors can keep mum about the cash advances you are providing.
Launder your money properly through the right proxies and you should be able to stack five or six hundred quid per councillor and be totally or mostly legit doing so.
Alternatively if the council makes another 400% increase next year you should be able to drop a few grand per councillor and buy your way to whatever missdeeds you wish to organise...
Has Thanet District Council gone too far?
Is this just a charter for corruption and backhanders?
Can we trust the planning committee to made unbiased decisions anymore?