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Letter: If So Confident, Why Doesn’t Cllr Rigg Welcome an Independent Inquiry Into Liongate

Published on: 12 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 12 Aug, 2021

Billboard advert for luxury flats at Liongate.

From: Geoff Davis

former Conservative borough councillor

I was intrigued to read Cllr John Rigg’s article, saying that my comments on the negligent Lion Gate sale were “very misleading” which they most certainly were not.

Equally, I was surprised to see Cllr George Potter leap to John’s defence, saying it “finally gets the facts right on this topic” which it does not.

By his own admission, Cllr Potter has no knowledge, experience or qualification in property matters, so his misjudged comments can be readily disregarded. I did see him once complain about his rent being increased, which may be the limit of his property connection.

Cllr Potter could spend his time very much better encouraging his colleague Cllr Jan Harwood to live up to his election manifesto promise to create 300 social housing units per annum – he is about 580 units behind that undertaking, at this stage in the election cycle (ie only two years away from the next election).

Turning to the detailed “post mortem” prepared by Cllr Rigg, I do find it all bemusing; John Rigg told me personally that he “knew nothing” of the sale of this property until contracts for sale had been exchanged unconditionally.

Maybe this uncovers the fundamental mistake created in this matter by Cllrs Bigmore and Anderson – not even consulting their own in-house chartered surveyor, until it was all too late.

It seems that those two Cllrs made fundamentally negligent decisions without any relevant property skills or experience, costing the town dear.

For example, the Permitted Development permissions were granted on March 6, 2020 – the very same month that the sale went through.  Even if Cllrs Bigmore and Anderson were well out of their depth, somebody at GBC should have jumped up and said – “Hang on a minute, permission has just been granted for residential use!”

Another big failure was missing writing in an “Overage Clause” for extra payments to the council for additional residential units – a gross oversight as 18 more units were immediately obtained.

Rather than John Rigg and I now entering into an ongoing ping-pong match, the best answer is for John Rigg to freely agree that there should be an independent inquiry into the matter.

John and his R4GV colleagues were elected on a promise of “transparency”, so there is no better place for that to be demonstrated than into the circumstances surrounding the Freehold sale of Lion Gate – what have they go to fear?

R4GV conducted a KPMG Inquiry into the letting of Burchatts Barn, a much less significant situation than the dreadful errors on Lion Gate.

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Responses to Letter: If So Confident, Why Doesn’t Cllr Rigg Welcome an Independent Inquiry Into Liongate

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    August 12, 2021 at 5:47 pm

    The Conservatives in Guildford are not in any position to lecture anyone.

    How about an update on the net numbers of council houses added or lost by the Conservative administration over the past 10 years?

    Or an update on all the shopping centres that the Conservative administration borrowed from HM Treasury to “invest” in? Are those “investments” any better than their foray into office buildings beside the A3?

    Perhaps the council should shine the spotlight onto exactly who in the Conservative administration came up with, or authorised, the brilliant idea to pay £14 million for this building that was later valued at £4 million?

  2. George Potter Reply

    August 12, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    1) All the relevant papers and reports behind the decision to sell Liongate (most of them initiated by the Conservatives in 2018) have already been published.

    2) The facts are already in the public domain and, unless Mr Davis feels some facts are missing, an enquiry two years after the fact would cost significant amounts of taxpayers’ money and reveal absolutely nothing new.

    3) The council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee is chaired by Conservative group leader Cllr Paul Spooner. If the Tories genuinely think there has been maladministration then why isn’t Cllr Spooner getting the Scrutiny Committee to scrutinise the decision?

    Or is it that, not satisfied with saddling the taxpayer with risky investments in the first place, the Tories now want to waste even more taxpayer funds in a pointless attempt to blame the current administration for their own mistakes?

    George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham.

  3. Mark Bray-Parry Reply

    August 12, 2021 at 6:43 pm

    Leaving aside whether the Liongate sale was correct or not, I find it remarkable that I’m reading yet another letter where a Conservative member is sniping at the Lib Dems’ social housing record.

    While the number of units secured for social housing has been disappointing, have they forgotten that it is Tory national and local government policy that has devastated the stock of social housing in the UK?

    I assume they are simultaneously campaigning for policies such as “Right to Buy” to be abolished, or for public funding of social housing?

    Somehow I suspect not.

    Mark Bray-Parry is a spokesperson for The Green Party

  4. Simon Mason Reply

    August 12, 2021 at 8:44 pm

    Is this the same Cllr Davis who approved a bid for a doctors surgery for Burchatts Barn in April 2017 despite the doctor’s surgery bid having a multitude of issues including not having approved funding from the NHS?

    This wasted at least 18 months of potential rental income and was disappointing given former councillor Davis’s property expertise.

    I find Cllr Rigg’s detailed explanation of the facts about Liongate very plausible and Mr Davis’s attack of George Potter’s support disgraceful.

  5. John Perkins Reply

    August 12, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    Perhaps Cllr Rigg thinks GBC should avoid the silly unnecessary expense of an inquiry.

    Why should we all be expected to pay for former councillor Davis’s dreams?

  6. Geoff Davis Reply

    August 14, 2021 at 11:24 am

    Has Simon Mason read the KPMG Inquiry report on Burchetts Barn, commissioned by R4GV? If he had, he would see no mention of me, apart from an email exchange “interview”. I suggest Mr Mason reads the public report and corrects his statement.

    My main point is that if GBC could have an inquiry into a relatively small letting matter (not a sale) on Burchatts Barn, then there is absolutely no reason not to have an independent inquiry into the Liongate sale where there are substantial misgivings on the capability of those charged with making proper experienced property decisions.

    I think the council lost at least £4 million in the way the property was sold, to the huge cost of council taxpayers, quite apart from the missed opportunity to add to the council’s housing numbers.

    Geoff Davis is a former Conservative borough councillor.

  7. John Perkins Reply

    August 14, 2021 at 8:26 pm

    Admittedly counterfactual, there is no way of knowing if the loss would have been greater if the property was not sold, though there are some who have tried to make exactly that case.

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