Fringe Box



Letter: Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

Published on: 21 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 21 Dec, 2021

From: Julie Iles

former Conservative county councillor for The Horsleys

Readers with a long memory may recall that I was reporting Cllr George Potter [Lib Dem, Guildford East] to the monitoring officer at Surrey County Council. This was because of comments he made on September 26th as a follow up to my letter: I Don’t Intend Political Tit-for-Tat.

Cllr Potter concluded his comments with “even the most seemingly reasonable Tory politician cannot help but be fundamentally dishonest”.

I objected to being called fundamentally dishonest. I felt that Cllr Potter had breached the councillor code of conduct, namely in treating all persons fairly and with respect and in leading by example and acting in a way that secures public confidence. He subjected me as an individual, and other “Tories”, to personal attack which I found rude and offensive.

The council’s “Arrangements for dealing with allegations of breaches of the member code of conduct” provides for the monitoring officer to establish a preliminary view of the circumstances of the complaint, and what course of action may be appropriate.

They may consult or meet with any other relevant person, including the complainant and councillor concerned and must also consult with the council’s independent person to determine if formal investigation is merited, or if other informal action is appropriate.

The independent person and the monitoring officer did not consider this to be so serious that further formal investigation and action was merited but they did feel that it was difficult to see how Cllr Potter’s comments would not be read by local residents as saying that I was fundamentally dishonest. Their view was that this was going too far and was not in the spirit of healthy political debate, and they considered it was probably disrespectful and inappropriate.

Following their discussions with Cllr Potter, they advised him that an apology or form of conciliatory wording would be appropriate and expected in the circumstances. Both Cllr Potter and I received a copy of the letter, dated December 2nd, which detailed these findings. Despite emailing him to chase this I have received nothing, not even an acknowledgement in the elapsed period of more than two weeks.

I am left wondering why Cllr Potter feels that he does not need to comply with the findings of the review. Perhaps he feels that he can simply ignore them and that he is not required to meet the reasonable expectations of someone who holds public office.

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Responses to Letter: Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

  1. Jan Messinger Reply

    December 22, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    I have read the subsequent two letters on this matter. In this time of peace and goodwill to all, hopefully this matter, that has been played out publicly, is now resolved.

    More importantly to me is Guildford Borough Council and how it affects most of us. At the moment, you cannot get the council to answer telephone calls, there is a lack of replies to enquiries, a lack of planning enforcement, and a lack of moving forward on things that affect most of us, not only the Local Plan.

    The lack of funding is going to have an impact on all of us who live in the borough and the future of this town, possibly to be a city.

    Instead of party politics, perhaps we can now focus on the needs of residents in the borough of Guildford.

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