Senior Birmingham council officers have enjoyed expensive perks including meals at luxury hotels, lunches at Michelin-star restaurants and tickets to top shows.

A Birmingham Post investigation has revealed many firms and organisations that work routinely with the council have been happy to foot the bill for hospitality and gifts despite the tough economic climate.

Dinner at The Savoy in London, a hamper and voucher from Harrods and tickets to the Birmingham Royal Ballet and a Test Match were among scores of gifts accepted by officers.

Favoured restaurant venues for networking events and negotiations include Simpsons and Purnell’s, which have Michelin stars.

Other restaurants noted for good food, including Opus, San Carlos and Cielo, were also popular spots.

The details are contained in the Register of Gifts and Hospitality, which the council has a statutory duty to compile.

The council’s code of conduct states that “lavish or extravagant” hospitality should never be accepted. But no definition of what is deemed to be lavish or extravagant is given.

A council spokeswoman said: “Clearly any interpretation of ‘lavish’ is subjective and, as stated in the code of conduct, the real test is whether accepting a gift or hospitality would be seen as compromising an officer’s role as a public servant.

“We expect the highest standards of our officers and are confident they will use their common sense and good judgment at all times.”

Capita, whose contracts with the council are worth about £1 billion, provided wide-ranging hospitality for city officials.

The firm, which has a controlling interest in the council’s IT arm Service Birmingham, paid for chief executive Stephen Hughes and a guest to attend a champagne reception for the Macmillan charity and dinner at The Savoy.

Mr Hughes also attended the Local Government Chronicle Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel, courtesy of Capita.

He was again the guest of Capita at the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives dinner and champagne reception in Cardiff.

Mr Hughes twice enjoyed dinner and overnight accommodation at Billesley Manor Hotel, Alcester, Warwickshire, with Capita picking up the bill.

Two days after riots tore Birmingham apart, Mr Hughes was at the first day of the England-India Test Match at Edgbaston, with a ticket provided by Marketing Birmingham to “help promote the city to major developers”.

His spokeswoman explained that Mr Hughes only briefly attended the cricket match, where he was able to reassure potential developers that Birmingham remained open for business despite the riots, before rushing back to the Council House for an emergency cabinet meeting.

Mr Hughes accepted two tickets for a concert at Symphony Hall, paid for by Capita.

He was given two tickets for the Birmingham Royal Ballet world premiere of Cinderella, paid for by the Hippodrome Theatre, and two tickets for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, paid for by Marketing Birmingham.

The spokeswoman added: “We are in a long-term relationship with Capita and there are a great number of invitations from a wide range of public and private organisations that the chief executive turns down.”

Paul Dransfield, the council’s strategic director of resources, was one of several city officials to attend a dinner at Simpsons in September last year.

The meal was paid for by contractors Amey. Mr Dransfield said the purpose was to celebrate a £2.5 billion PFI contract that the firm has with the council.

Negotiations over the redevelopment of New Street Station, including a £100 million plan for a John Lewis store, involved Mr Dransfield having three dinners.

The first was with Network Rail at St Pancras Grand Restaurant, London. The second was also with Network Rail at the Malmaison Hotel, Birmingham.

The third dinner was with John Lewis at Opus restaurant in Birmingham.

Sandy Taylor, head of climate change and sustainability, was given a dinner by contractors Arup at San Carlos restaurant in Birmingham to discuss energy retrofitting for cities.

Mr Taylor also attended two dinners at Sartoria Italian restaurant, in London’s Savile Row, paid for by the Climate Change Forum, to talk to energy companies.

Council officials were also given free tickets for concerts, the opera and football matches.

The council’s spokeswoman said: “The Climate Change Forum is supported by a wide range of large businesses in the environment, energy, finance and business fields and is an opportunity to meet senior decision-makers to discuss future energy, environment and climate change policy and initiatives.”

Elaine Elkington, strategic director of housing, enjoyed a race day and lunch with Willmott Dixon Housing and attended a City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra concert courtesy of Service Birmingham.

Mirza Ahmad, corporate director of governance, received a Harrods gift voucher and hamper.

The council has stringent rules regarding the type of hospitality or gifts that officials can accept.

The latest guidance issued by the council says it is inevitable that officers will be offered hospitality, and the more senior they are the higher the test of whether they should accept or refuse will be.

Any council employee accepting gifts or hospitality must give details in the register within seven days.

The guidance goes on: “Hospitality away from Birmingham, extending overnight and of a very prestigious nature, will almost invariably be unacceptable and should be declined with politeness.

“Equally, lavish or extravagant gifts and or hospitality should never be accepted as the same are not compatible with holding public office and may bring public servants and the council into disrepute.”

However, the guidance notes that it is “extremely difficult, if not impossible” to lay down specific sets of rules about precisely what hospitality an officer should or should not accept.

“Without doubt, the important considerations are judgment, discretion, accountability, responsibility and reasonableness to the point where no embarrassment is caused either to the person providing and or receiving the hospitality or to the council through adverse publicity,” the guidance concludes.

>> Next page: Breakdown of the hospitality and gifts accepted by top Birmingham City Council officers >>

Breakdown of the hospitality and gifts accepted by top Birmingham City Council officers

Stephen Hughes
Chief Executive
May 2010
Lunch at Cielo with Calthorpe Estates to discuss regeneration and job creation.
June 2010
Buffet reception and performance of Superfreakonomics at the Town Hall with leadership consultants Caret.
July 2010
Dinner at Opus with Suzie Norton, chief executive of Screen WM, to discuss future of Digital Birmingham.
September 2010
Dinner and accommodation at Billesley Manor Hotel, Alcester, with Capita. Mr Hughes was speaking at an event.
October 2010
Lunch at Opus with Turner & Townsend for discussions about New Street Station development.
Society of Local Authority Chief Executives dinner at Cardiff City Hall, champagne reception, with Capita.
November 2010
Two tickets for Hollywood Musical Concert at Symphony Hall, with Service Birmingham/Capita.
Dinner at Opus with Michael Clarke, former Birmingham University Vice-Chancellor, to discuss regional affairs.
Enchanted Ball charity event Champagne reception, plus guest, followed by dinner at the Savoy Hotel, London, with Capita.
Two tickets for Birmingham Royal Ballet world premiere of Cinderella, paid for by Hippodrome Theatre, to build relations with major city arts organisation.
December 2010
Two tickets for BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards at the NEC, paid for by Marketing Birmingham.
January 2011
Dinner at Purnell’s restaurant with the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation, in return for speaking at an event.
February 2011
Two tickets for Aviva Grand Prix and lunch at NIA, paid for by city council.
March 2011
Dinner with guest at Bangladeshi High Commissioner’s residence to network with representatives of the Birmingham community.
Dinner at Aedas, Colmore Plaza, with Birmingham Unlimited Group, to talk about economic strategy.
Local Government Chronicle awards at Grosvenor House Hotel, London, with Capita.
Two tickets for Birmingham Pride Ball at the ICC, paid for by Lawrence Barton, to demonstrate support for LGBT community.
April 2011
Dinner with Capita and overnight accommodation at Billesley Manor Hotel, Alcester, Warwickshire, Mr Hughes was speaking at an event.
June 2011
Rothschild 10-year anniversary celebration, plus guest.
Birmingham Royal Ballet performance of Passion and Ecstasy at Hippodrome, with guest.
Dinner at Opus restaurant with Birmingham Airport shareholders.
Drinks reception and dinner at Local Government Association conference, paid for by Local Government Chronicle.
August 2011
Opening day of England v India Third Test at Edgbaston, ticket provided by Marketing Birmingham.

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Sandy Taylor
Head of Climate Change and Sustainability
July 2010
Dinner at San Carlos with Arup to discuss retrofitting cities.
Guest at Lichfield Festival.
October 2010
Dinner at Town Hall for Beyond 2010 conference with Digital Birmingham.
Dinner and overnight stay in Manchester with Grant Thornton to discuss sustainable cities initiative.
November 2010
Dinner at Sartoria, London, with Climate Change Forum, to talk to energy companies.
January 2011
Travel to Poland and two nights accommodation with Demos Europa to present Birmingham’s aims on low carbon.
February 2011
Dinner at Sartoria, London, with Climate Change Forum.
Two nights accommodation and dinner with International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.
June 2011
Dinner at Sartoria restaurant, London, with Climate Change Forum to talk to energy companies.

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Eleanor Brazil
Interim Strategic Director Children, Young People and Families
December 2010
Complimentary tickets to Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Dinner with Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education.
April 2011
Dinner with NHS chief executive
July 2010
Birmingham University degree congregation dinner

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Peter Hay
Strategic Director Adults and Communities
October 2010
Great British Care Awards dinner at National Motorcycle Museum.
November 2010
Care Management Group VIP dinner at Midland Hotel, Manchester.
Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) dinner, Manchester Art Gallery.
January 2011
National Local Government Network dinner, City Hotel, Westminster, with Minister of State.
Dinner at PricewaterhouseCoopers offices at event for GP consortia.
Dinner at Hotel du Vin, Birmingham, with PricewaterhouseCoopers to discuss Heart of England NHS Trust.
Lunch and evening reception with King’s Fund.
Buffet at Spice Restaurant, Coventry Road, Birmingham.
Dinner at Botanical Gardens with Ed Milliband.
February 2011
Overnight stay and meals at Thames Hotel, Oxford, with Association of Directors of Children’s Services.
Dinner at Opus restaurant with PricewaterhouseCoopers.
March 2011
Overnight stay and meals with Nuffield Trust at health strategy summit.
Travel to Glasgow and overnight accommodation, to lead strategic seminar, paid for by Glasgow City Council.
Dinner and travel to Nottingham for Great British Care Awards.

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Mark Barrow
Director of Regeneration
September 2010
Building Consultancy autumn reception dinner, paid for by city council.
October 2010
Ikon Gallery annual dinner.
Networking dinner with deputy council leader Paul Tilsley, paid for by council.
Working dinner with Deloittes.
Deloittes property dinner.
November 2010
Birmingham City v Chelsea match with council leader Mike Whitby, paid for by the council.
Dinner with Jaguar executives.
December 2010
Refreshments at Birmingham Big Screen event, guest of BBC.
January 2011
Lunch with council leader and HSBC.
Labour Finance and Industry Group
Dinner with Ed Miliband, guest of Centro.
February 2011
Willmott Dixon’s annual networking event, with council leader, guest of Willmott Dixon.
Jaguar Land Rover dinner with council leader, guest of JLR.
March 2011
Dinner with Marketing Birmingham and chamber of commerce.
April 2011
Dinner with Jaguar Land Rover.
Aedas chairman’s dinner, including accommodation.
May 2011
GVA national investment event including overnight accommodation.
Dinner with Birmingham City FC.
End of season dinner with BCFC.
Dinner with Paul Thandi, NEC chief executive.
June 2011
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce dinner, guest of Arup.
Summer Prom tickets, paid for by NEC Group.

(Mr Barrow also turned down 35 offers of hospitality between September 2010 and June 2011)

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Elaine Elkington
Strategic Director of Housing
June 2010
Dinner with Chartered Institute of Housing to meet Housing Minister.
Dinner with Frank Haslam Milan.
July 2010
Race day and lunch with Wilmott Dixon Housing.
Dinner with Partnership in Housing Association.
August 2010
Lunch at cricket match with Frank Haslam Milan.
September 2010
Birmingham Best Bar None Awards.
November 2010
Dinner with Midland Heart chairman.
December 2010
Dinner with Trident board.
Guest at Leicester Tigers rugby match.
Lunch at Hotel du Vin with Willmott Dixon.
February 2011
Institute of Housing presidential dinner.
April 2011
CBSO concert with Service Birmingham.
June 2011
Dinner at Ripley Castle with Willmott Dixon.
Dinner and entertainment Hotel du Vin, Harrogate, with Lovell Partnership.

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Andrew Dunbar
Aide to council leader
August 2010
Dinner with KPMG
Dinner with Willmott Dixon
Dinner with ULI
Dinner with Birmingham Science Park
September 2010
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce annual banquet
October 2010
League of Arab States dinner
December 2010
Bell Pottinger lunch
MG Motor UK dinner
February 2011
Wragge & Co dinner in Abu Dhabi
March 2010
Chamber of Commerce dinner
Birmingham Airport dinner

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Paul Dransfield
Strategic Director of Resources
September 2010
Dinner at Simpsons with Amey to celebrate sign-off of Highways PFI contract.
November 2010
Dinner with Network Rail at St Pancras Grand Restaurant, London, to negotiate New Street Station redevelopment.
January 2011
European PFI Awards, London Hilton Park lane, with DLA Piper (Solicitors).
February 2011
Dinner with chairman of Network Rail, Malmaison Hotel, Birmingham, to negotiate New Street Station redevelopment.
March 2011
Dinner with John Lewis at Opus restaurant, to negotiate New Street Station redevelopment.

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Mirza Ahmad
Corporate Director of Governance
November 2010
Harrods gift voucher and chocolates, from Professional Association for Managers of Corporate Governance
Third Annual Lawyers Conference, Dubai, flight and hotel accommodation
December 2010
Dinner and use of car, paid for by Afzal Majid.
Harrods hamper, paid for by Local Government Group.
February 2011
Institute of Asian Businesses annual dinner, guest of Nasir Awan Marketing.
June 2011
Ticket to celebratory dinner, paid for by Darbar-i-Alia Naqshbandi.