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GBC MD James Whiteman Outlines Efforts on Council Strengths and Weaknesses

Published on: 3 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 5 Mar, 2021

This evening (March 3) the managing director of Guildford Borough Council responded to the criticisms leveled at the council for its poor project management by lead councillor for Regeneration, John Rigg.

James Whiteman

James Whiteman said: “Our Overview and Scrutiny committee scrutinises decisions made by the Executive committee, the leader, individual lead councillors and our corporate management team. The committee undertakes reviews and in-depth investigations, providing advice and recommendations and is the forum for active debate between our councillors.

“The purpose of the Q&A agenda item is for lead councillors to update the committee on their areas of responsibility and answer questions.

“Last night Cllr Rigg explained the history of the council’s major projects and outlined the 20 he now oversees within his portfolio. As well-documented in the past, there have been issues with some of our larger projects and lessons have been learned.

See also: GBC Project Handling Bungled, Committee told in Shock Outburst

“One of the outcomes from the whole meeting is a renewed commitment for excellence in everything we do. We are grateful for the ongoing hard work Cllr Rigg is doing to drive these projects forward and for sharing his considerable experience with us to achieve these improvements.

“I speak to our leader, Cllr Joss Bigmore on a daily basis and in those discussions our focus is always on how officers and councillors can work together collectively to address the barriers and problems that we encounter on some of these very large and complicated projects.

“As a local authority, we are a large and diverse organisation providing a wide range of services to our borough and of course we have areas of strengths and weaknesses. It is the role of senior officers and councillors to ensure weaknesses are addressed.

“This is an ongoing process and going forward we are confident we will achieve far more consistent results. During the past 18 months other large-scale projects taking place at the council have been considered and discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, such as our successful and ambitious organisational transformation project, “Future Guildford”.

“It was initiated to save £10 million over four years, affected all staff and it is clear this project’s implementation has been effective. The project has provided new information technology systems, genuine self-service for our customers, and considerable savings and efficacies.

“Our response to the Covid pandemic was also discussed at last night’s committee and confirmed the ongoing response has been delivered successfully and effectively by our teams, supporting our vulnerable communities, distributing grants to support our businesses and maintaining our essential services throughout this challenging time in our history.

“The committee also considered our new award-winning crematorium project yesterday. We are very proud of these achievements and I’m very proud of my staff for all of their continuing hard work and commitment to our council.

“As part of our constitution, officers at all levels work within legal protocols and are accountable through performance management frameworks. Through our Future Guildford transformation programme we aim to fully modernise, by restructuring the whole organisation.

“As part of this, we have reshaped services which provides a better corporate oversight of projects and services, with many new staff now in key positions. We are completely evolving and improving all of our performance governance and monitoring systems and processes from business as usual, to large and small projects.

“To do this successfully, officers and councillors are all working as one council to identify issues, to address them and improve together.”

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test 2 Responses to GBC MD James Whiteman Outlines Efforts on Council Strengths and Weaknesses

  1. Simon Mason Reply

    March 4, 2021 at 9:48 am

    I would love to ask GBC’s managing director whether there is any progress with the implementation of CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy). All neighbouring boroughs have had CIL charging structures in place for years now collecting much-needed funds from housebuilder profits and distributing part of these funds to communities.

    CIL was first consulted on in 2016 and formed a major part of the Local Plan viability studies, yet GBC has failed to adopt the levy.

    Councillors from all parties have failed to get to the bottom of this over the years.

    Can they please advise Dragon readers why CIL has still not been introduced? And whether sites like Wisley, Garlicks Arch Blackwell Farm & Gosden Hill Farm are going to avoid having to pay these community infrastructure levies?

  2. David Roberts Reply

    March 4, 2021 at 3:58 pm

    Mr Whiteman needs to address local perceptions that GBC officers were lastingly politicised during the long Tory domination of the council. An example is the glowing, three-page letter which his predecessor wrote praising a lead councillor after she had pleaded guilty to serious charges at the Old Bailey.

    Connected to this is the perception that planning officers continue to bend over backwards to help developers defeat any public opposition, vetting their plans and engaging in secret exchanges going far beyond any legally required “presumption in favour of development”.

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