2:44pm Wednesday 23rd October 2013
By James Pepper
What do a night in a Cypriot hotel, a hedgehog and a box of Ferrero Rocher have in common?
They were all presents given to councillors and council staff.
Ahead of tonight's Standards Commitee meeting, elected members and council officials declared gifts they have received through their work during the past year.
Staff are obliged to register gifts worth more than £25 and must only accept a gift if "there is a commensurate benefit to the council" according to council regulations.
Perhaps most lavish of the gifts was Leader of the council Councillor Stephen Alambritis who was given a "one night stay at Meridien Hotel with dinner at small business of the 1st SME Assembly in Nicosia awards ceremony at Carob Mill in Limassol courtesy of Cyprus Presidency of the EU."
During Wimbledon fortnight this year, 13 councillors successfully bought tickets for the tournament through a ballot not open to the public.
Coun Alambritis, as well as getting two tickets through the non-public ballot, was also given two tickets for the Royal Box.
Councillor Krystal Miller, Mayor of Merton, also doubled up with two tickets through the private ballot, as well as a seat in the Royal Box for the opening day of the tournament along with a guest.
Councillor Richard Williams was given one £112 Wimbledon ticket by one of Merton Council's pension fund investment managers Aberdeen Asset Management.
Two council officers got complimentary tournament tickets and eight others were successful through the private ballot. Some of the more obscure gifts were also to council officers.
A foster carer declared they had been given a "Live Hedgehog (pet) and container, heat mat, water, food bowl, toy and plastic cover" and stated the reason for accepting the gift was "The donor was insistent. This pet was not given in exchange of any preferential treatment favours etc."
Mr Alambritis' cousin Matheos Alambritis popped over from Cyprus in July and presented council officers with a Cyprus keyring as "a token of appreciation for showing them around two award winning housing developments in Mitcham."
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