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Letter: Planning Committee Correspondence – Cllr Spooner Soon Made It Personal

Published on: 13 Apr, 2017
Updated on: 14 Apr, 2017

From John Oliver

At the meeting of the Corporate Governance and Standards Committee on March 30 Cllr Manning, chairman, said that one reason for the proposed change was that, currently, members often don’t turn up to the Planning Committee, if there is nothing on the agenda affecting their ward.

Why will it be any different under a 15-member system? Also, why should these 15 have a vote and not the other seven wards that will lose their vote. Each member will have the right to say their piece at a meeting, but that is not quite the same as having a vote.

If a large development, like Gosden Hill in Burpham, is proposed and another one is dropped off the list in another ward in the local plan, can you imagine that, when it reaches the Planning Committee stage, the latter ward member will risk a new threat to their own ward by voting against the Gosden Hill application? Let’s live in the real world.

As for all councillors representing all of the borough, when I wrote to Cllr Spooner about my worries about councillors not supporting concerns of other wards, as Cllr Manning had said had happened, his response was: “I appreciate you taking the time and effort to write to me in person and I wish to reassure you that this measure was not put forward simply for the sake of administrative convenience and I am genuinely disappointed given the experience that you have at Newlands from many councillors ‘outside’ the ward that you are so negative towards councillors involvement in anything outside the boundary. I shall remember that the next time you lobby me!!”.

He referred to my campaign to stop Newlands Corner being commercialised. So, no matter what the merits of my argument he will remember this exchange of correspondence.

I reminded him that it was Cllr Manning who had spoken about councillors only being interested in their own wards.

I also rebuked him for basically calling me a liar when I said that I had very recently heard about this issue, finishing that particular sentence off with a laddish smilie.

His return email said: “John, I see no threat to democracy in the proposed changes to the Planning Committee. If I did I would not be supporting the proposed changes! I have just remembered that you are not in my ward so why am I interested in you anyway (another smilie inserted here) Whoops – another puerile smilie”.

Somehow, I think he might have breached the Members Code of Conduct.

I don’t pretend that my initial email was not provocative, but this was in the political sense. Cllr Spooner very quickly made it personal.

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Responses to Letter: Planning Committee Correspondence – Cllr Spooner Soon Made It Personal

  1. Paul Spooner Reply

    April 13, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    A very simple check of Planning Committee attendance will show that Mr Oliver’s statement is wildly inaccurate as if true Planning Committee attendance would be only three to four and the committee size of 15 or 23 would be irrelevant.

    To infer that councillors have no interest outside their wards is described by Mr Oliver as politically provocative but given the wide support he received from councillors across the borough for the original Newlands Corner plans presented by SCC I find it disappointing and indeed personal rather than political.

    His reference to a smilie I placed in my original response as puerile along with the accusation that councillors are not involved outside their ward is the context for my final email response.

    I wish Mr Oliver and all Dragon readers a Happy Easter.

    Paul Spooner is the council leader at Guildford Borough Council.

  2. John Oliver Reply

    April 13, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Funny how it is my statement that is quoted as highly inaccurate. No criticism of Cllr Manning I note, who told his committee that councillors frequently do not attend when there are no matters on the agenda concerning their ward.

    I fully recognise the support from council members on the Newlands Corner issue and am grateful for it. I also know that there are those who have been less than helpful and would quite willingly let it become a commercialised visitor attraction – against the wishes of many, probably a significant majority of, people in the borough.

    Finally, I am also very grateful to those who have stood out against this erosion of democracy and I have already thanked them and would like to thank the rest through this comment.

    What I would say, is that I have never seen a public representative or a public servant write in the style of the emails I received. Cllr Spooner has set a new standard.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    April 13, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    “I see no threat to democracy.”

    One man, one vote is true democracy. One vote per 100 people in a group of 1,000 is representation.

    15 votes for a borough with a population of 140,000 is the next best thing to a dictatorship.

  4. Colin Cross Reply

    April 18, 2017 at 12:21 am

    Perhaps we should be saying that 15 politically chosen votes for 22 wards is unrepresentative. Maybe that’s the reality of where we are today?

    Colin Cross is the Lib Dem borough councillor for Lovelace

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