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Letter: Are or Were Guildford’s Council Planners Lions Led by Donkeys?

Published on: 11 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 11 Mar, 2021

From: John Ferns

In response to: Voters Due Answers About Problems Cllr Rigg Faced

In response to Ms Cameron’s opening sentence, I refer readers to a Dragon article from 2014 Lib Dems ‘Stunned’ By Head of Planning’s Sudden Departure from Borough Council which describes the issues from nearly seven years ago.

Little has changed since and we, in the west of the borough, have long been the victims of a dysfunctional planning system, lacking the basic infrastructure to take the strain, from inadequate roads, medical facilities and school places.

That the whole council planning department has been tarred with the same brush is unfortunate, for there are undoubtedly some good performers, but in First World War parlance, those lions have been/are being led by donkeys.

Monitoring officers have come and gone like autumn leaves. One must wonder why?

I don’t envy the thankless task ahead of Cllr Rigg, or his council colleagues. But full marks for speaking out.

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test 6 Responses to Letter: Are or Were Guildford’s Council Planners Lions Led by Donkeys?

  1. Howard Smith Reply

    March 11, 2021 at 1:20 pm

    I’m not sure praise is the appropriate response to councillor John Rigg’s outburst at the Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting a week ago. His attack was made worse by the fact it was obviously pre-prepared, if not scripted. It seems to me that a member of the council’s Executive attacking the very staff working at the council could end up, fairly at an employment tribunal.

    No one on the outside knows for sure what has been happening in the Planning department at GBC over the last two years. But for staff to be publicly vilified is surely not the way to go and could be said to reveal a lack of maturity on this councillors behalf.

    If you had disagreements with your boss, as claimed, would you expect him to meet and talk them through, perhaps with colleagues to find a resolution? It could and perhaps should, be escalated if necessary. Or would you be happy for him to broadcast his complaints to the world with no right to reply?

    I’m sorry to say this because I think a lot of hopes have been resting on John Rigg to somehow get things progressing at GBC but I question whether he has the right judgement when it matters or the capability to lead a team.

    Howard Smith is vice-chair of the Guildford Labour Party

    • Jim Allen Reply

      March 11, 2021 at 8:17 pm

      So how would Mr Smith deal with the problems caused by officers promoting plans which fail to meet economical, rational or practical criteria? Would he let the situation continue unabated or perhaps dismiss the non-compliant elected body?

      • Howard Smith Reply

        March 12, 2021 at 11:09 am

        I would speak to the officers and the managers responsible. If that doesn’t work, take it up with the managing director.

        Sorry, but you can’t conduct all this through the public, and that’s putting to one side, for a moment, the unfairness when the officers can’t actually answer for themselves.

        Let’s see a bit more maturity from the councillor and a little less of the grandstanding.

        Howard Smith is the vice-chair of Guildford Labour

        • John Perkins Reply

          March 12, 2021 at 7:03 pm

          Why should it not be conducted in public? The public are paying for it all.

  2. John Perkins Reply

    March 11, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    I’m not sure a pre-prepared, if not scripted, statement can be described as an “outburst”. Using words such as “attack” when one means criticism is inflammatory at best.

    Why should council staff not be publicly vilified? Incompetence is not tolerated in the private sector.

    Councillor Rigg is not the “boss” of the Planning Department; rather he is a publicly elected overseer. It’s his responsibility to demand answers of them if they’re not doing their job properly. Their immediate “boss” would surely be the director of planning (a post recently vacated by Tracey Coleman) and above her would be the managing director.

    I wonder how much less of a fiasco the proposed Three Farm Meadows [former Wisley Airfield] development, or even the Local Plan, would be if proper oversight had existed before.

  3. Robert Burch Reply

    March 11, 2021 at 9:51 pm

    John Rigg is not the line manager or boss of those in the planning department, that falls to those employed by the council. If John was, I have no doubt that planning would be in a far better position.

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