Fringe Box



The Dragon Says: Decent Councillors Must Insist On Cultural Change

Published on: 28 Apr, 2016
Updated on: 2 May, 2016

Dragon Says 470Was the prompt reply from Sue Sturgeon, the managing director of Guildford Borough Council to complainant and Dragon reader, Nick Bomford, a straw in the wind, an indication of a change in attitude by those in charge at Millmead?

Let us hope so. Some change to their normally defensive and secretive culture is well overdue.

Ms Sturgeon’s response was quick, direct and addressed Mr Bomford’s points. Even if we do regard the editing of the webcast as silly and pointless – it only drew more attention to the incident – she took responsibility. Her description of Cllr Moseley’s “bloody rabble” remark as “unfortunate” might have been understated but there was no attempt to dodge the question.

Cllr Moseley should have apologised immediately after her careless and uncalled for remark was brought to everyone’s notice. We might all be glad that some of our unguarded comments are not broadcast but that does not mean that we should not apologise when they are.

If an apology had come quickly this would be a non story; we could move on and a full complaint inquiry avoided.

Cllr Moseley is someone who is normally direct and says what she thinks, honestly. That can be admirable but it is not an excuse for what she said on this occasion. It is very important for those running our council meetings to display impartiality and a sense of decorum.

But Cllr Moseley is not the only guilty party in this respect. Too many slurs have been left hanging in recent times, without explanation or justification, in the GBC council chamber.

For instance, the former council leader Stephen Mansbridge’s, ironic as it turned out, charge of hypocrisy against Cllr Susan Parker over the petition she had started before she was an elected member. Or the current council leader, Paul Spooner’s, description of a Cllr McShee amendment as “stupid”.

Natural justice dictates that when such accusations are made, the person accused, or insulted, should have the right of reply. Instead, the debates are just immediately closed down leaving a sense of unfairness.

It is this type of behaviour, coupled with excessive secrecy, that is all part of the same damaging culture that contributes to the public’s distrust and low esteem of politicians generally and, for some at least, GBC in particular.

More openness, honesty and fairness would be good for them as well as the rest of us. There are many decent councillors at Millmead they must insist on improvement, not look at their feet in embarrassed silence.

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Responses to The Dragon Says: Decent Councillors Must Insist On Cultural Change

  1. Stephen Mansbridge Reply

    April 28, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    How pointless is both the title of this piece and the content? The behaviour of the Wisley Action Group (WAG) was undoubtedly rabble like and not befitting people of their station, but the chair had no right to be insulting to the electorate who are freely allowed to attend council meetings.

    However, this article is entitled “Cultural Change” and that is a matter of great importance and one which needs to be taken most seriously by senior councillors and officers.

    The rumbustious nature of one meeting should not portray the inability of an organisation to move into a new groove which: embraces customer service; sweats it’s assets accurately and innovates across the board to change the paradigm which has been set in stone for years.

    The real article is that if Guildford does not change – and if that change is not forced by elected representatives – then Guildford will wither on the vine.

    Having led the council, this is the last thing I would wish to see and I appeal to the electorate through this petition to make the change to regain our future.

  2. Valerie Thompson Reply

    April 28, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    I do not want an elected mayor, if that is what Mr Mansbridge is referring to in the last paragraph of his comment. His obsession with Monika Juneja’s petition is pathetic and a waste of our money, paid in taxes.

    We need more people to make decisions, not just one “Supreme Leader”. See where that has got North Korea.

  3. Helen Jefferies Reply

    April 28, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    I’d like to see Stephen Mansbridge’s evidence that WAG’s behaviour was “rabble like”. I wasn’t aware, as a committee member of WAG, that he had access to our membership list.

  4. Lisa Wright Reply

    April 28, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    Mr Mansbridge seems to have a very short memory of his own GBC meetings.

    Council meetings, especially those featuring the Local Plan over the last few years, have on occasion been quite noisy. I have witnessed a number of times members of the public being rudely cut off mid flow or threatened with expulsion. People have shouted comments or agreed with a loud “hear, hear” and there was plenty of noisy clapping, booing or cheering.

    It is also worth recalling that not everyone in that recent audience was a member of WAG but attended to see how elected councillors would vote on the recommendations of the planning officers.

    I think the article does ask for change and Mr Mansbridge had every opportunity to change things when he was leader. He is not the leader now and must move aside so our elected representatives can get on with making decisions on behalf of Guildford residents.

    It’s quite obvious that Mr Mansbridge has a personal agenda to push, an agenda that was conceived whilst he was an elected councillor.

  5. Colin Cross Reply

    April 29, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    Stephen Mansbridge for Mayor?

    Is this something out of 1984?

    The idea of a Mansbridge/Juneja platform would defy gravity.

    Time surely to park the North Korean model of leadership, long term.

    Colin Cross is the Lib Dem ward councillor for Lovalace.

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