Basingstoke council’s leader attended a champagne breakfast by a property developer at Conservative party conference, two years after the same developer took him to dinner.

Cllr Ken Rhatigan was offered the breakfast by Thakeham Group, a developer which has donated more than £500,000 in the last three years and states on its website it has interest in building houses in Hampshire.

It was valued at £40 and was one of two gifts he declared during his time at Conservative party conference in Manchester last month. Cllr Rhatigan was also wined and dined by another developer, Countryside, and think-tank Localis.

The two organisations took the council leader to a dinner with wine, valued at £60.

A third dinner was offered by the Lord Mayor and Leader of Portsmouth Council last week, valued at £80.

It comes as a Gazette investigation has shown that one MP accepted tickets to sporting and music events worth hundreds of poundswhile another was given office accommodation worth £19k for staff.

Last year, The Gazette reported how Cllr Rhatigan was taken to dinner by Thakeham in October 2019. The developer sponsored this year’s Conservative party conference and have donated more than £500,000 to the party in the last three years.

Cllr Rhatigan said that he does not believe the gifts are a conflict of interest.

He told The Gazette: “I am not integral to the local plan, I don’t sit on the [development control] committee, I don’t whip the DC committee and I don’t attend when there is any possibility of having any undue influence on my councillors.

“I think I am acting fairly and squarely.

“Just like everybody else I write down what hospitality I receive.”

He said that at the Countrywide dinner, he was joined by “lots of councillors from the South East”, and talked about “what local plans mean, housing numbers” and the “greenness of developments.”

At the Thakeham breakfast, Cllr Rhatigan said he was sat next to the leader of West Berkshire council, Cllr Lynne Doherty, where they talked about cross-border issues, before receiving a presentation about modular housing from Thakeham.

The property developer has further links with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, as Cllr Tristan Robinson, a senior councillor currently serving as cabinet member for homes and housing regeneration, is the external affairs manager for Thakeham Group.

The Portsmouth dinner was arranged for leaders of the district councils across Hampshire.

Cllr Rhatigan continued: “If I take flack, if other people have issues I will retaliate in my own way saying what I have done.”

Reacting to the news, Cllr Andy McCormick, Labour group leader, said that the relationship between BDBC and Thakeham seemed “a bit cosy”.

“I would be interested to see if any business reflects out of that.

“Whenever anyone in the cabinet is taken out for dinner... there is no such thing as a free lunch.”