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Letter: Ten Steps To Repair Damage At Borough Council

Published on: 20 Oct, 2015
Updated on: 20 Oct, 2015

By David Roberts

The resignation of council leader Stephen Mansbridge who has long brought shame to our borough is several years overdue.

emails letterThe reason for it is clearly not the one he states and will no doubt emerge in due course. Is it too much to ask that he now stays well out of public life?

Meanwhile, his successor now needs to act quickly to repair the damage. I suggest the following 10 steps:

1. There should be a comprehensive apology for the distress caused to the public by the bungled investigation into Monika Juneja and a retrospective, independent inquiry into what went wrong. Only by openly learning from past mistakes will the council avoid repeating them in future.

2. Council officers should declare their political neutrality by distancing themselves from the controversies of Mr Mansbridge’s reign. Managing director Sue Sturgeon’s promise of “business as usual” is not helpful in this regard. A fresh start needs to be publicly signalled.

3. The council should seize the initiative by offering residents a referendum on a return to the committee system of council governance that served it well in the past and which Canterbury and other boroughs have readopted. This would encourage inclusive and accountable decision-making. Such a big decision should not be left to the vagaries of a race between rival public petitions, especially if Mr Mansbridge will be campaigning full-time to become Guildford’s first directly elected mayor.

4. The discredited Juneja local plan should be radically rewritten, to reflect the needs of residents instead of the greed of developers and their local cronies.

5. The council’s codes of conduct should include – verbatim – all the Nolan Principles on Conduct in Public Life, along with all related guidance, and be supplemented with a strong local enforcement plan.

6. In the interests of transparency a voluntary register of councillors’ past criminal convictions should be put in place right away.

7. The consultant Paul Hoey’s current review into the council’s public complaints procedure should be published in full. The current procedure should be reversed, to place the onus on the council to act, rather than on complainants to prove they have a case. The council’s freedom to quibble and fudge must end.

8. The council should commit resources to answering Freedom Of Information requests fully and in an open and timely manner – not partially, evasively, late or not at all as at present. Only transparency will stem the surge in FOI requests.

9. Inside the council, a more effective whistle-blowing system should be instituted, including an NHS-style duty of candour that requires – and not just permits – the disclosure of wrongdoing.

10. Ongoing auditing, monitoring and reporting of council standards of conduct by a qualified, external (and preferably not-for-profit) organisation should be instituted and entrenched in the council’s rules of procedure.

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Responses to Letter: Ten Steps To Repair Damage At Borough Council

  1. Sue Doughty Reply

    October 20, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    To this I would also add…

    There must be a clear division of roles and responsibilities between officers and elected councillors. It was entirely inappropriate for the Managing Director of GBC to provide a character reference for Monika Juneja at the time of her guilty plea and if pressure was put on her to do so, given the fixed term nature of her contract at that time, it was wrong.

    Likewise council staff should not be put in the situation of being uncertain whether Juneja should have been allowed in the building (on other business) following her conviction especially given the reference provided by the MD.

    Sue Doughty is chair of the Guildford Lib Dems

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    October 20, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    What an excellent way forward – it has my vote 100%

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 20, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    I endorse everything so eloquently written by Mr. Roberts.

    If the Tory majority just elect one of Mansbridge’s cronies, they will learn nothing, and Guildford will be no better off.

    We need someone of impeccable character and judgement to take the reins at GBC. The usual suspects are too tainted and discredited by their unquestioning support for Juneja and Mansbridge.

    I strongly feel it is time to elect someone to the leadership entirely on merit, not on political persuasion. Why does it necessarily have to be from amongst the Tory majority?

  4. Jenny Procter Reply

    October 20, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Hear, hear, David Roberts.

  5. Michael Bruton Reply

    October 21, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Well articulated by Mr Roberts.

    What has shocked me is the silence of Conservative councillors throughout the scandalous and expensive years suffered by Guildford Borough residents.

  6. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    October 21, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Looks like it is going to be very much more of the same from two loyal Stephen Mansbridge followers.

    When I queried whether he was aligned to the “trajectory” of Mansbridge, Cllr Spooner communicated to me that he agreed with it and he said the issue was the “..but presentation style [was] not effective”.

    And he has been clear on openness and transparency via his remarks about freedom of information requests “handling many FOIs waste tax payers money.”

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