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Controversy Expected As Full Council Discusses China Link and Complaints Hearing

Published on: 10 Oct, 2017
Updated on: 10 Oct, 2017

Two controversial subjects are due to be debated at tonight’s (October 10) full council meeting of Guildford Borough Council – the proposed link with the Chinese city of Dongying and the outcome of complaints hearing against Cllr David Reeve (GGG, Clandon & Horsley).

Both topics have caused considerable criticism to be levelled at the council’s leadership.

The proposal to create a formal link between Guildford and Dongying in China is expected to be questioned further by members of at least three of the four political parties that make up the council.

Cllr Angela Gunning (Stoke), leader of the two member Labour group at GBC, and a member of the twinning committee, has already questioned the proposal along with Cllr David Reeve when it was raised at an Executive meeting on September 26.

It seems that there might also be questions from some Tory backbenchers, although any kind of significant rebellion, which could be highly embarrassing, is considered unlikely.

Cllr Geoff Davis

But in emails copied to The Guildford Dragon NEWS Cllr Geoff Davis (Con, Holy Trinity) revealed to a disapproving constituent that the Dongying link was one of the subjects discussed at a special meeting of the Executive. He wrote: “This very subject (amongst other pressing matters) was the cause of a special Executive meeting on Saturday morning [October 7].”

Two hon aldermen have also questioned the proposal in comments and letters to The Dragon.

Alderman Gordon Bridger said yesterday: “Is the reason that the proposal is to “link” rather than “twin” with Dongying because it has become appreciated, even by lead councillors, that twinning with a town that has a population fifteen times greater, with a massive industrial base and great social and political differences is most unwise and that maybe a trade relationship is a better path to follow?

“But what can we trade as a small district council? Not much. Other than our houses and land.

“I hope our councillors  are aware of this danger and they, and indeed the vice-chancellor of the university who is to accompany the team, will make it clear that we have a housing problem already.”

And Alderman Bernard Parke wrote: “Bearing in mind the importance of this project and its effect on the people of Guildford, stretching into the future, it would seem desirable to get the full endorsement from as many of our people as possible before further steps are taken.”

The China Delegation: Council Leader Paul Spooner, Deputy Leader Matt Furniss and Managing Director James Whiteman

But it seems that air-tickets for the three man GBC delegation to travel to Dongying next weekend to sign the agreement have already been purchased, presuming that the full council will approve the proposal.

The draft agreement expected to be signed in Dongying just days after the council debate tonight.

It is understood there was little discussion of the proposal at the Twinning Committee meetings.

Max Lu, vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey.

Questions are also being raised about the precise nature of the connection between Max Lu, vice-chancellor of the university of Surrey and Dongying which is believed to be his home town, although both the university and GBC declined to confirm this.

But in the report that will be placed before the council this evening it states: “With its extraordinary economic growth in recent decades, it is impossible to think about developing new international relationships without considering China.

“As China has emerged as a global power, there are new opportunities for partnerships between British and Chinese towns and cities to develop and flourish. There are many potential mutual benefits in terms of trade, investment and through the exchange of knowledge and ideas.”

And Barbara Ford, Chairman of the Guildford-Freiburg Association said earlier: “In my view, international collaboration and friendship are valuable and beneficial to everyone concerned. The more we all get to know and to help each other across national and cultural boundaries, the richer we will all be spiritually as well as materially – it’s a virtuous circle.

“Our current twin town, Freiburg in Germany, has twinned with 12 towns in countries all over the world including Nicaragua, the USA, Israel, Iran and South Korea and has mutually beneficial arrangements of different kinds with each. Compared to them, we will only be dipping our toe in the water. China is fascinating, France is wonderful – bring it on, I say.”

The other subject that might lead to lively exchanges is the discussion of the report of the hearings sub-committee which heard the complaints made against Cllr Reeve.

Cllr David Reeve (GGG) and complainants Cllrs Paul Spooner (Con) and Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem).

The complaints against Reeve, made by Council Leader Spooner (Con, Ash South & Tongham) and Leader of the Opposition Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) were all upheld but Reeve has so far refused to accept one of the recommended sanctions, that he undergo one-to-one training on the councillor codes of practice.

It appears that such a refusal is unprecedented and the procedural way forward is uncertain. Neither of the complainants attended the hearing so direct exchanges between them and Reeve have not been possible. Whether the council meeting will allow that to occur remains to be seen but both sides have indicated they would welcome the opportunity to do so.

The full council meeting this evening (October 10, start 7pm) at Millmead. It is expected that the meeting will be webcast.

See also: Opposition Councillors Question Proposed Link With Chinese City, Letter: Scrub the Visit to China and Councillor Rejects Complaint Hearing Findings, Saying: ‘I Have No Regrets’



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Responses to Controversy Expected As Full Council Discusses China Link and Complaints Hearing

  1. Paul Bishop Reply

    October 10, 2017 at 7:28 am

    Seriously? All the issues facing the borough the moment and the only thing getting headlines is a disciplinary because someone used confidential info and a £5k trip to China? Let’s not worry about the high levels of air pollution, gross lack of housing, still undeveloped North Street, local congestion and need for more schools. People in this borough need to stop playing toy politics and start addressing the actual problems.

  2. Howard Moss Reply

    October 10, 2017 at 10:23 am

    There is a very simple way for people enraged about this proposed linking to react; don’t vote to re-elect those councillors that have agreed to it. That is the power we the electorate are supposed to hold over our elected representatives.

    If you feel they no longer represent your views, vote for someone who does. All too often people moan about councillors, MP’s etc but when the ballot box comes around they put a cross in the same box as they do every time. That is just giving consent for what they do.

  3. A Tatlow Reply

    October 10, 2017 at 11:48 am

    I agree with Paul Bishop. Mr Spooner and his colleagues should be aware that Guildford Borough extends beyond the ivory towers of Millmead, seemingly in the sway of a few with ideas of grandeur.

    Hopefully our loyal, and often better qualified, local councillors will reign in these extravagant and high-flown ambitions. The immediate needs of their tax-paying electorate should take priority.

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