Fringe Box



Letter: KPMG Should Interview All Relevant Councillors on Burchatts Barn, Including Me

Published on: 20 Nov, 2020
Updated on: 20 Nov, 2020

From: Geoff Davis

Former Guildford borough councillor and lead for assets until 2018

I have been intrigued about how the Burchatts Barn letting to create valuable Guildford Borough Council income for 10 years (not a sale, as some have said) has fired up so much emotion.

In a response to the much-respected Gordon Bridger’s opinion, S Callanan makes the point that four councillors involved (one myself), all lead councillors at the time, were not interviewed by KPMG.

In my view, that is a significant oversight, and should definitely be corrected before the final report is issued. I, for one, would welcome that.

I presume all parties interested will have viewed the Corporate Governance Committee last evening? Many issues under discussion and speculation were aired effectively there, and I was certainly somewhat wiser having watched it.

For example, it was confirmed Cllr Maddy Redpath did not request the KPMG report, but the officers.

The discussion also confirmed (as we had for some time suspected) that the running costs of Burchatts Barn were significantly overestimated, giving a false basis for consideration of the future of the Barn. How that could have occurred should form an ingredient in the final KPMG report.

The committee meeting clearly established the status of the Barn, highly relevant to how the matter was handled.

The report does not mention the Barn was the subject of consideration for some considerable time in the public arena, including agents marketing, for maybe nearly three years.

During much of that time, Hon Alderman Gordon Bridger was continuously lobbying the council on behalf of the Guildford Shakespeare Company, sometimes in excess of their own wishes.

I cannot recollect anyone saying a lease of Burchatts Barn to GSC would be inappropriate. The ultimate financial offer made by GSC was below that of other offers the agents received.

At the request of Alderman Bridger, I did call an impromptu meeting of fellow members of the Executive at that time, because we were concerned there was much public interest which needed to be considered.

The majority view of the Executive was that we were obliged under the council standing instructions to go for “best value” within that definition.

Cllr Nigel Manning, as the responsible lead, was charged to make that decision, and told us that was what he would be doing.

I went back to Gordon Bridger, informing him the matter had been considered by the Executive, but a decision had been made.

Requesting that meeting was my only real involvement in the matter, as the property was not in my ward: I wonder why I keep being quoted about the property?

Maybe as a chartered surveyor with some 50 years’ experience in Guildford property matters, probably the only property professional councillor at the time, that made Mr Bridger approach me so regularly?

At the Corporate Governance Committee, many councillors of various shades made valuable contributions, which will assist the council’s consideration of the future of council assets. That can only be a good thing.

I was much impressed with Cllr George Potter’s statement, which had some good ideas (listen to the whole debate here).

So, may I please request, through The Dragon, that KPMG interviews all relevant councillors at the time, and balance their report with what they will learn from doing that?

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *