Fringe Box



Censured Councillor Agrees GBC’s Complaints System is ‘Not Fit for Purpose’

Published on: 7 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 9 Jun, 2023

A former council and Conservative group leader at Guildford Borough Council, who was censured for failing to act respectfully in remarks he made to Guildford Dragon staff, has supported the opinion voiced by the Dragon that the complaints system at the council needs fixing.

Paul Spooner was commenting on a “Dragon Says” article published last month (Councillors Must Rein in Rogue Tweeters for the Reputation of Their Parties and the Council ).

In the article, it was argued that the results of all complaints against councillors should be published.

Mr Spooner, who was a Conservative borough councillor for Ash South & Tongham, in a submitted comment, told The Dragon he received no written notice of the censure applied in September 2022 by the GBC Complaints Sub-Committee at a public hearing.

Nor was there any follow-up to fellow councillor Graham Eyre, who was also censured for a remark he made.

See: Complaints Against Cllrs Spooner and Eyre Upheld At Hearing

Reiterating his claim that he was not guilty of breaking the councillor’s code, Mr Spooner continued: “The panel, chaired by Cllr George Potter, disagreed and sanctioned me.

“Despite several attempts to request the formal sanction placed in the public domain, including by The Guildford Dragon NEWS, no sanction was ever issued, and there was no follow-up to former Cllr Eyre.

Former councillors Paul Spooner and Graham Eyre

“Apparently, the damage had been done to our reputations and it was not necessary to complete the decisions read out by the panel chairman, Cllr Potter.

“This was a complete misuse of the complaints system and therefore I agree with the editor of The Guildford Dragon that the complaints system is not fit for purpose at GBC.”

An extract from the minutes of the complaint hearing which Cllr Potter provided saying they clearly state the decisions taken.

Cllr Potter responded: “… all documents around this are in the public domain in the minutes of the hearings sub-committee meeting on the council website, including the investigating officer’s report: Hearings Sub-Committee – Tuesday, 27th September, 2022 7.00 pm.”

No apology was received by the Dragon editor from former councillor Eyre, despite the committee’s ruling that he should apologise, but GBC confirmed that it did not intend to take further action against him.

Cllr Potter

Cllr Potter continued: “Clearly the publication and reporting of the sub-committee’s findings has been done in the form of the minutes on the council’s website.

“I will further point out that published on GBC’s website is a record of decisions taken on complaints against councillors in the previous calendar year as well as the annual report of the monitoring officer regarding misconduct allegations: Decisions taken on Complaints against Borough and Parish Councillors in the previous calendar year.”

But unless there has been a public hearing the published list does not give any details of the complaint and, published only annually, it can mean up to a 12-month delay in a result being made known, as will be the case with a complaint against Cllr Potter (see Councillors Must Rein in Rogue Tweeters for the Reputation of Their Parties and the Council for details).

GBC, in its response, also gave a link to the published complaint hearing report on the Spooner and Eyre case adding: “On a review of the minutes and decision notices, and given the passage of time in seeking approval, it was not considered necessary or appropriate to send additional letters.”

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Responses to Censured Councillor Agrees GBC’s Complaints System is ‘Not Fit for Purpose’

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    June 7, 2023 at 8:50 pm

    Sorry to repeat my previous general observation on the publicity of planning applications, and to support Paul Spooner, the excuse used again by Cllr Potter and the council officers is entirely specious.

    It is not whether the procedures were followed, but whether they are fit for purpose, did they inform the public in an adequate and obvious way?

    It’s also interesting that Cllr Potter now has a poor reputation for communication with both individuals and interest groups. In the past when he was a prospective candidate for Lib Dem in Burpham, he had an excellent record ‘in the field’.

    However, this rapidly changed when he was elected as councillor. It’s also noteworthy that as chairperson of the Corporate Standards & Governance Committee, he had a formal complaint upheld against him

    I believe the description is “poacher turned gamekeeper”.

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