Fringe Box



Letter: Self Interest or Public Interest?

Published on: 25 Apr, 2017
Updated on: 25 Apr, 2017

From Stephen Mansbridge

former leader of Guildford Borough Council

Is it that Cllr Furniss is seeking election to Surrey County Council to improve Guildford’s standing or his own?  Is this self-interest over public interest?

Guildford has often needed to take an opposing position to Surrey on a number of issues.  How does it work when the deputy leader of Guildford Council will need to show loyalty to the leader at Surrey when confronting contentious matters?  Does this mean that Guildford becomes tame to Surrey’s demands, as it is seen that he is the main influence on the leader, Cllr Spooner.

Simon Gimson, a prospective Surrey cabinet member, until the Guildford Conservative Association failed to submit his papers four years ago, has been pushed aside from standing in Shalford in favour of Cllr Furniss, who does not live in the area. Why? Possibly because Cllr Furniss was, until March I understand, the deputy chair of Guildford Conservative Association working closely with the Guildford MP.

If he is elected, the influence of both the local MP and the leader of Surrey County Council on the borough of Guildford through Cllr Furniss, has the potential to be not in the best interests of the borough, with conflicts of interest and self-interest abundant.

It would seem this councillor is trying to sustain himself financially through seeking election to multiple bodies, as well as holding down a day job.  Guildford should have a substantial agenda, although it is clear that this has slowed, so is it fair on the electorate to be spread so thin?

Lastly, I am told that Cllrs Spooner and Furniss are both are on the list for selection to be an MP.  Whatever, I think this is a very unhealthy cocktail of self-interest, conflict of interest and raw advancement overshadowing proper public service.

The electorate has an opportunity in May to alter this course: I believe that a vote for Cllr Furniss in the local elections in Guildford, is a vote for the diminishment of our borough.


Cllrs Spooner and Furniss were invited to comment on this letter and asked to confirm that they were on a list of Conservative prospective parliamentary candidates.

Paul Spooner replied:  “I see nothing newsworthy in Mr Mansbridge’s letter.

“No comment in relation to party lists – as per party protocols, except I am not aware of any source that would provide reliable information to Mr Mansbridge, as you know he has not been active in the Conservative party for a considerable period and is not a member.

“There are errors in his letter that demonstrate this.”

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Responses to Letter: Self Interest or Public Interest?

  1. Adam Knight Reply

    April 25, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Did I actually just read a letter from Stephen Mansbridge complaining about Tories in local government being too self interested?

    Amazing. Just amazing.

  2. George Dokimakis Reply

    April 25, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Treading the path George Osborne created.

    George Dokimakis is the Labour and Cooperative candidate for Guildford West in the SCC election

  3. Andrew Whitby-Collins Reply

    April 25, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    It is a bit rich for Mr Mansbridge to moralise on the question of self interest over public interest. He is, after all, the man who resigned from the council in a fit of pique, costing Guildford taxpayers several thousands of pounds for a by-election.

    He then pursued what can only be described as a vanity project in seeking to saddle Guildford with a directly elected mayor, a position he no doubt hoped to occupy himself, in the process costing the Guildford taxpayer a further £130,000 for the referendum, which he lost by a margin of 4 to 1.

    It would be nice to think that we will hear nothing more from Mr Mansbridge other than his proposals to reimburse the hard pressed Guildford taxpayer.

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 25, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Sour grapes from yesterday’s man, given he sees Cllrs Spooner and Furniss on the trajectory he planned for himself.

    Given Spooner’s reply it does rather seem as he has ambitions in the MP direction. This may help to explain his determination to building the massive housing estates in his local plan, so as to curry favour with the Tory selectors. Heaven help us!

  5. Peta Malthouse Reply

    April 25, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    I have to say that the machinations Stephen Mansbridge describes with regard to our local Tory Party do not surprise me one bit. They are all ruthless politicians and it seems many are self serving.

  6. David Roberts Reply

    April 25, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Wot a larf!

    This blue-on-blue attack is yet another good reason to reject the Tories in this election and vote for the excellent, hard-working and knowledgeable GGG candidate for Shalford.

  7. Paul Spooner Reply

    April 25, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    I have now seen three versions of this letter knocked together by Mr Mansbridge and ‘corrected’ with the involvement of the editor of this blog site Mr Giles.

    Ethical journalism? Not at The Dragon, particularly as my comments related to a previous version. Mr Mansbridge and Mr Giles in partnership – whatever next.

    The original letter submitted to The Dragon by Stephen Mansbridge and forwarded to Cllrs Spooner and Furniss for comment, included an erroneous claim recognised by Stephen Mansbridge himself who quickly submitted a corrected version, which was also forwarded for comment.

    Cllr Spooner’s reply included the claim that there were errors in the letter but he did not specify what they were. After further checking a claim that Cllr Furniss was the current deputy chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association was found to be incorrect when we were informed he had handed over that role in March. The letter was slightly amended with the author’s agreement.

    No other errors could be found despite Cllr Spooner’s claim. It is our published policy that we reserve the right to edit letters and comments. This includes the correction, where identified, of factual inaccuracy.

    The Guildford Dragon NEWS remains fully independent of all political parties and former politicians. Martin Giles

    • John Robson Reply

      April 26, 2017 at 10:04 am

      The leader of the council appears to patronise this little “blog” on a regular basis these days.

      Wasn’t Cllr Spooner in partnership with Mr Mansbridge during the formulation of the draft local Plan?

      Is it ethical to seek election on a mandate to protect the green belt then once the votes have been solicited, introduce the caveat “wherever possible”?

      But, it is not really news that the Conservative Party are driven by self interest.

      Reading the draft Local Plan from the outset it was pretty obvious who’s interests the plan represented and it’s not the people of Guildford. This town has been sold down the river by this council Executive.

      It’s was also pretty obvious to me that political aspiration was driving this plan, the old transparent soundbites continually trotted out by order of the spin doctor where becoming a tad tiresome. “Affordable Housing, Modal shift…….” ad infinitum.

      Say it enough times, people really will believe you care.

      And let’s face it with around two dozen Conservative MP’s reported to be under investigation for election fraud, the political aspirations of our esteemed leadership should be realised sooner than later.

  8. George Potter Reply

    April 25, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    I rather think that Mr Mansbridge’s comments prove the old adage that “even a broken clock is right twice a day”.

  9. Stephen Mansbridge Reply

    April 25, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    Entertaining comments, as ever. I would challenge Cllr Spooner to reveal the errors in the published letter and not to hide behind protocol. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be an MP, but it is how you choose to get there that matters to some.

    Fundamentally, one of my points is about living in the area you are elected to represent. In the case of the Shalford Division, for which Cllr Furniss is standing, only one candidate appears to live in the area. My second point is about having the time to do the job properly. There are around eight parish councils in this division seeking attention and attendance at County Hall is seen as being essential. Where is the time to represent Christchurch, lead on infrastructure and deputise for the Guildford leader who, from his tweets, is often abroad on business?

    Membership of a political party does not indicate one’s views, which is a subtlety that appears to have been lost. I think that the local Conservative party treated Simon Gimson with dismissive disdain and in doing so have replaced a man of substance and great ability, with a man who wants to find his way to power whatever the fallout.

    Where there is genuine public service roles and representation are milestones not stepping stones for raw political ambition.

  10. Bernard Parke Reply

    April 26, 2017 at 8:24 am

    This is certainly not the Conservative Party that I once knew.

    It certainly will not help those candidates seeking election next week.

    Those elected will hold our very future in their hands.

  11. Ben Paton Reply

    April 26, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Put aside, for a moment, who has asked the question. Just consider the question. It is worthy of answers?

    Let’s have an answer – instead of the usual pitiful attempt to shoot the messengers.

    The fact is there are conflicts of interest.

    For years now the Guildford Conservative Party has been incapable of any critical self-examination. It’s knee-jerk response of playing the man and not the policies/question/ball is not very sporting. The public is tired of foul-play.

  12. Paul Bishop Reply

    April 26, 2017 at 10:35 am

    I must say it does look a bit questionable that Cllr Furniss is standing for an area in which he doesn’t live, instead of another long serving Conservative local.

    I would also tend to agree that being on both Guildford Borough Council and Surrey County Council could result in a conflict of interest. However, it could also be a real benefit to Guildford. I would like to hear Cllr Furniss’ reasoning and the benefits, for the borough of course, not for his political career.

    My gut instinct is, there’s enough problems to sort out here in Guildford before any sights are set higher.

  13. John Perkins Reply

    April 26, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Mr. Mansbridge has an absolute right to ask these questions, regardless of his past.

    Councillors might gain more trust if they were to stop obfuscating and answer.

  14. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 27, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    We already have several councillors on both the borough and county councils.

    As to Cllr Spooner’s complaints about the press, they read like something Trump would say about ‘fake news’.

    It’s about time the public were treated with respect by the council. Let’s see some honesty and integrity from them, so miserably lacking at present.

  15. Jenny Procter Reply

    April 27, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    What is Mr Mansbridge up to this time? At one time they were a merry crew apparently all in it together and singing from the same hymn sheet. The draft Local Plan go on and on, each new presentation still based on the tired old flawed original drawn up in his era with Monika Juneja.

    I can agree with him that Cllr Furniss is not the right choice for Shalford and if the Spooner/Furniss double act heading the current GBC Executive is trying for higher office and were to achieve it it would be a disappointing illustration of the behaviour and mentality the Conservative Party are prepared to accept into their ranks.

    If their obsessive determination regarding the Local Plan is the result of attempting to score brownie points at government level it also tells a tale of just how hypocritical the government is when mouthing promises to protect green belt.

    There is undoubtedly an arrogant and bullying aspect to Tory behaviour in Guildford and regrettably the ‘Nasty Party’ is still alive and kicking here at least.

    We can do much better to choose representatives at local and county and even, dare I say it in this so Conservative part of the world, at national level, with less ambition and more sensitivity to the real needs, conditions and concerns of the people for our area and our country.

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