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Letter: Saying the Complaint Against Me Was Not Politically Motivated is Humbug

Published on: 17 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 17 Mar, 2021

From: David Reeve

Former GGG borough councillor

Hmm. It is perhaps too much to hope that the term “politically motivated” was ever likely to result in unanimity across a range of viewpoints, but there are aspects of the recent statements (Dragon Interview: Caroline Reeves Departing Lib Dem Councillor), and letters from David Roberts (I Am Relieved That Cllr Reeves Is Leaving) and Cllr Paul Spooner (I Will Miss the Balance Provided by Cllr Reeves) that are worthy of further comment.

I am not inclined in this letter to revive the full detail of the case brought against me by those two councillors, but for those who may wish to do so, the formal paperwork for the complaint hearing can be seen here.

As a matter of factual record, the “confidential document that should not have gone out in the public domain” certainly did not “go out”. The document (Experian’s “UK Local Market Forecasts, 2015”) remained at all times in my council email account held on the council’s servers, and no additional copies were made, or indeed “sent out”.

That document was a single spreadsheet consisting of 8,073 numbers, of which I released a single number (ie just more than 0.01% of the numbers in the report). And that single number, which appears to have been accorded the importance of a state secret, was Experian’s estimate of the total number of jobs in Guildford in 2013.

As I stated in my written submission to the hearing: “I find it little short of astonishing that anyone can seriously claim this amounts to a ‘gross breach of confidence’. The case should be dismissed before any further council funds are wasted on it.”

Dragon readers might also like to note that in previous issues of their SHMA, GL Hearn had already published earlier versions of exactly the same parameter without it apparently causing any discomfort to Cllrs Spooner and Reeves. To imagine a smaller storm in a teacup is difficult.

Cllr Spooner refers to his recollection of my “words in private” that he and Cllr Reeves “appreciated”, and I “know the complaint was not politically motivated”. I beg to differ.

I presume he was referring to discussions in accordance with the council’s complaint procedure that encourages councillors to engage in an arbitration process, but which didn’t occur until (from memory) about a year after I issued my report.

Following Cllr Spooner’s initial emailed reaction to the release of my report, I had (within 36 hours) emailed a reply with a comprehensive statement including a new version 1.1 of the report in which the source of every number was fully annotated (that email is on page 108 of the formal GBC calling notice for the complaint hearing on September 27, 2017, and the updated report is on page 149).

My email also offered (for the second time in two days) to discuss my report, but neither of the two complainants chose to engage in any such discussions. Their persistence in pursuit of their complaint on the grounds of “a gross breach of confidentiality” implies to me that neither of them could have properly read or absorbed the detail of my report, especially the annotated version.

In addition, less than a week after I issued my report, Cllr Spooner approved the distribution of a GBC press release that contained the following statement: “We’re aware of alternative housing assessments put together by Cllr David Reeve and the Guildford Greenbelt Group and by Neil McDonald and the Guildford Residents Association. Input from everyone is welcomed during the public consultation period into the draft Local Plan.”

In the light of Cllr Spooner’s complaint of “a gross breach of confidentiality” on the most sketchy grounds imaginable, most objective observers would consider for him to suggest my report was “welcomed” a bit rich.

In these circumstances, I regard it as entirely reasonable for David Roberts to have described his complaint against me as politically motivated. In fact, my personal view is that to suggest anything else is nothing short of humbug.

But all that is in the past, and it is much more productive to concentrate on the future. I am well aware the practice of local government (and no doubt government at all levels) is considerably more difficult when seen from the inside than it often appears from the outside.

That being the case, to participate fully in the forthcoming elections is important, by which I mean not only simply casting your vote, but also putting in the effort to ensure your chosen candidate really does represent your principles and beliefs, and not just making your selection on the basis of the main three traditional national political flavours.

In my opinion, local government can thrive if it gathers the best and most committed from its community. So all of us should reflect how we are doing in Guildford and in Surrey, and ensure our representatives are the ones to whom we wish to entrust our future.

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test 3 Responses to Letter: Saying the Complaint Against Me Was Not Politically Motivated is Humbug

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    March 17, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    What all politicians should note and remember, never challenge a time served engineer with the hard facts, you will lose every single time. David Reeve was an engineer first and a politician second.

  2. David Roberts Reply

    March 17, 2021 at 5:20 pm

    I am glad GGG ex-Cllr David Reeve has set the record straight about Cllr Paul Spooner’s formal complaint against him. His detailed account confirms this was indeed politically motivated, and not just a cosy little tiff among council colleagues as Cllr Spooner wants us to believe in his riposte to my letter of March 13.

    Although the episode happened four years ago, not to let politicians bend the truth by rewriting history is important.

    For more than a year, Cllr Spooner abused his power as leader of Guildford council, perverting its public complaints procedure, whose purpose is to provide the weak with redress against the strong, not to arm senior politicians with a weapon against an honest backbench critic.

    What was painted as a leak inquiry was in fact a nasty and sustained effort to wreck Mr Reeve’s reputation and gag fair scrutiny of the secret formula used to set housing targets in the Tory Local Plan, which even a local Conservative election leaflet now describes as “disastrous” and “undemocratic”.

    FoI data reveal this stupid vendetta against Mr Reeve cost council taxpayers £15,000 in inquiry fees alone. I gave evidence to this inquiry and found it to be an cynical charade.

    To make matters worse, Lib Dem Cllr Caroline Reeves betrayed her responsibility as council opposition leader by colluding with Cllr Spooner to co-sponsor the complaint, despite freely admitting she lacked the mental capacity to understand Mr Reeve’s research.

    Though she describes some in her recent Dragon interview as “obnoxious” and “outrageously bad”, Guildford residents are no fools. They know a culture of big-party bullying is endemic in Surrey politics. Fortunately, they have a chance to vote for better councillors in the local elections on May 6.

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 17, 2021 at 6:07 pm

    Just as I concluded at the time. It was nought but a Stalinist show trial, mounted to discredit one trying to shine a light into the murkier corners of the GBC executive.

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