Fringe Box



Letter: Spooner U-turns Are Bids to Distract From Tory Failures at County Hall

Published on: 19 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 19 Apr, 2021

From: John Rigg

R4GV borough councillor for Holy Trinity and lead for Regeneration

In response to: Does GVG Know About Our ‘Open’ Council’s ‘Top Secret’ Masterplan?

Again, Cllr Spooner is performing yet another electioneering U-turn to create a political spat on a policy he was advocating when in power.

While constructive opposition is an essential part of democratic government, and some might say previously lacking at Guildford, to now see Cllr Spooner in U-turn after U-turn, objecting to projects he backed until recently and trying to pick at political points is unedifying. Sadly, that is probably inevitable as the May 6 county elections approach.

Last week, he attacked on his own Local Plan and his own housing numbers. He complained they were far too high after he and his colleagues had spent years creating the problem.

This week, he has also joined others to fight the Weyside Urban Village scheme aimed at delivering 1,500 homes on a brownfield site. He backed this project under his leadership but is now trying to pick a fight about it.

None of these issues relate to the May 6 county council elections, planning being a borough council issue, but Cllr Spooner’s party hopes to distract the attention of voters away from the abysmal Tory county council record.

What he should be raising at this time are the four key Surrey County Council services rated “inadequate”, “unsafe” or “failing” by regulators since 2018. That year, you may recall, our county council nearly went bust with their £100 million cash crisis.

The failing areas include Children’s Services, Youth Offending Services, the Fire & Rescue Service and services for children with Special Educational Needs (SEND).

These are the important county council issues today, not why has the draft town centre masterplan not been made public only 12 weeks after it was commissioned and when research and options are still being investigated because Cllr Spooner’s previous plan was so inadequate.

Incidentally, I have little doubt our update presentation on this project to local councillors, only weeks after consultants started work, may well be a national speed record and consistent with my intentions to be transparent and consult as much as possible, evidenced by the North Street consultations and the Debenhams (St Mary’s Wharf) project.

The town centre masterplan will become public when we know what the research and conclusions suggest, so far.

But that is a borough council issue, not for the county council, so nothing to do with the imminent elections from which the local Conservatives are so desperate to distract us.

In 2019, the Tory borough councillors were reduced from 35 (their 2015 total) to nine then Cllr Gordon Jackson resigned from the Tory party. The survivors split into two quarrelling, four-councillor sub-groups.

They now face the county council elections knowing they have been found out and removed from power in nine of the 11 district or borough councils across Surrey.

They fear scrutiny of their County Hall activities and they are desperate to pick on local diversionary issues after decades in power, our county paying a painful price for their domination.

Residents will also be aware of the recent attempted Tory power-grab at county level where they tried to abolish the same borough and district councils they lost to voters, an attempt that cost taxpayers a reported £256,000 in consultancy fees for a report they have kept secret.

These are the issues to be raised, not whether the town centre masterplan has not gone public just weeks after the project started.

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Responses to Letter: Spooner U-turns Are Bids to Distract From Tory Failures at County Hall

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    April 19, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    There was once a saying for every Scargill you needed a Thatcher. I think now the saying should be for every Spooner we need a Rigg.

    Welcome John. At last someone who knows which way the wind is blowing.

  2. Paul Spooner Reply

    April 23, 2021 at 8:50 am

    I am somewhat surprised and shocked to see Cllr Rigg’s allegation that I am fighting the Weyside Urban Village scheme! I ask him, where is the evidence of that? It’s absolutely untrue.

    Along with the MP for Guildford, I have raised concerns that allotment holders at Bellfields are not being treated fairly by GBC. Is that what Cllr Rigg is arguing is me attacking the scheme?

    Cllr Rigg keeps telling me that R4GV don’t play the man and focus on policy. Can we see more of that please?

    Paul Spooner is a Conservative borough councillor for South Ash and Tongham.

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