Fringe Box



Letter: More Openness Is Key If The Council’s Reputation Is To Be Restored

Published on: 3 Jul, 2015
Updated on: 3 Jul, 2015

MJ Old BaileyFrom David Roberts

Greater openness is key if Guildford Borough Council (GBC) is to fix the reputational damage it has admitted it has suffered over the Juneja affair.

A positive outcome of the scandal is that it offers GBC an unrepeatable opportunity to protect the public from local abuse of power by championing a new culture of transparency and integrity.

Will they seize it? Almost certainly not, judging by the deathly hush from councillors about this.

Should they awake from their apparent slumber there are several easy steps they could consider:

  • A voluntary register of councillors’ past criminal convictions should be put in place right away. To do this, it would not even need the whole council to agree.
  • The public complaints procedure should be reversed, to place the onus on the council to act, rather than on complainants to prove they have a case. The council’s freedom to quibble and fudge must end.
  • GBC should commit resources to answering Freedom Of Information requests fully, in an open and timely manner – not partially, evasively, late or not at all as at present. Only transparency will stem the surge in FOI requests.
  • Internally, a more effective whistle-blowing system should be instituted, including an NHS-style duty of candour that requires – and not just permits – the disclosure of wrongdoing.

So wakey, wakey councillors! Let’s see some action, any action on transparency.

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Responses to Letter: More Openness Is Key If The Council’s Reputation Is To Be Restored

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    July 4, 2015 at 10:05 am

    What and excellent letter. Surely someone from GBC will read it and get “on message” with the residents of Guildford.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    July 5, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    How is silence to be interpreted?

    When people don’t answer questions it leaves a vacuum and it is tempting to infer whatever answer the listener judges appropriate.

    Making positive inferences from silence is usually dangerous. More often than not when questions are not answered it is because the respondent does not believe he/she has ‘authority’ to give an answer or because he/she believes that a candid answer will not please the questioner.

    Either way, silence does nothing to restore trust. Speaking up may be more than some people’s jobs are worth – but surely all those Conservative councillors were not elected just to toe the party line?

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