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GBC Still Silent On Crematorium Chimney Error Report, ‘But No Bill For Taxpayers’

Published on: 24 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 25 Mar, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

Guildford taxpayers will not have to pay for correcting the chimney height of the refurbished crematorium, the borough council says. But they won’t say if the investigation report of the error will be published.

The new Guildford crematorium, opened in December 2019, was praised by councillors as “truly beautiful”.

(See also: Council ducks questions on crematorium error and Councillors object to secrecy over crematorium chimney error)

The building was opened in December 2019, winning two Guildford Society design awards in 2020. The stack later had to be raised by 0.9m in what one architect described as a “crudely engineered solution”. But concerns over the height had been raised in 2017.

And questions remain over whether the error would have affected the award of the contract to the crematorium supplier, Faculatieve Technologies.

Guildford crematorium chimney increased by 0.9m because of error in calculations.

GBC commissioned an internal report which was discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (March 2) but was kept confidential. A request for a redacted version was denied, the report being deemed “not suitable for publication in any form”.

An external audit was launched in November 2020. A spokesperson said they “expected a conclusion early in the new year”.

Cllr James Steel

This has now been pushed back after a statement (March 21) from Cllr Steel said “no timeline has been set” to ensure “the report is as thorough as possible”.

Requests for confirmation that the report by the external independent auditor would be published have also been declined.

James Steel (Lib Dem, Westborough), lead for the environment, said: “We will consider publication of the report in line with our legal obligations.”

James Whiteman, GBC managing director, said: “We are waiting for the external audit to be completed. We will issue a statement once we have received the report.”

David Harvey, the air-quality consultant who initially raised the issue, with architect Mark Westcott, has questioned whether there is a “culture of denial and cover-up” within the council.

The Dragon has submitted a Freedom of Information request for the internal report.

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test 2 Responses to GBC Still Silent On Crematorium Chimney Error Report, ‘But No Bill For Taxpayers’

  1. Anthony Mallard Reply

    March 25, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    I have read the comments of Cllr. Steel and Mr Whiteman with incredulity. If one interprets the “political” speak, the translation is straightforward. To me it reads: “We shall delay publication of the report by kicking it into the long grass. That way people will forget the mistake that was made and we can get away without holding anyone to account.”

    Shameful! I fear that the quote of Mr Harvey has more than a ring of accuracy about it. There is still a prevalent culture of denial endemic in the GBC.

    • Martin Elliott Reply

      March 25, 2021 at 4:12 pm

      How quickly do the local political campaigners from before 2019 become the political councillors they decried.

      I can confirm David Harvey’s feelings. From my experience in Major Hazard management, most civil service organisations still have a “culture of denial and cover-up”. Specific experience with GBC from 30 years as a resident, 10 years as a tenant, I can confirm raising queries and making complaints are like fighting a jelly.

      Over the past 40-50 years most organisations from large multinationals to SMEs have adopted Quality Management Systems.
      Such systems really do embrace a “no blame” culture and, when it goes wrong, moving towards doing things correctly by first examining the system so that mistakes and bad decisions can be prevented.

      But “quality” in this context is not “good” quality; it is consistent quality.

      From that point of view, GBC could be adjudged a quality organisation: all their business upsets somebody.

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