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Letter: The Dragon’s Editor Should Practise What He Preaches

Published on: 21 Apr, 2020
Updated on: 21 Apr, 2020

From George Potter

Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

In response to: We Have the Right To Criticise But Must Do So Constructively

An interesting approach by The Dragon. Criticism of the government must be careful, well-considered, based on the facts and responsible. Well, hard to disagree with that.

But criticism of the local council can include phrases like “petty and illogical” and “diktat, over-zealous officiousness”. I’m not quite sure how anyone could claim that that wording is “constructive”.

The fact is, as The Dragon is well aware, that GBC was the last borough in Surrey to close its countryside car parks and did so in accordance with advice issued at the county level.

It is not a case of “petty” or “officious” staff acting “over-zealously” on their own initiative, it is a case of the council acting to follow official advice to bring us in line with all neighbouring local authorities.

Now, it may well be that closing the car parks is unnecessary; I’m not an epidemiological expert and I’m not receiving advice directly from such experts. However, the advice to close the car parks was issued by those with access to expert advice and it would have been irresponsible for GBC not to act on the advice being issued at a county-wide level.

Therefore, if there is a fault, it can only be with the county-wide advice. Media scrutiny of who is drawing up that advice, what process they are following and how well-informed it is would be a very welcome thing.

Unfortunately, The Dragon seems to have chosen to ignore everything it knows about the facts of the matter and to decide not to scrutinise the county-wide decision-making process at all. Instead, whilst preaching responsibility to others, editor Martin Giles uses jaundiced and unhelpful language to irresponsibly blame a decision on GBC when the impetus for the closure originated elsewhere.

There is often much lament at how local journalism is struggling in this country and how detrimental that decline is to holding to account those in power at a local level. That is indeed true and sad, but local journalism does not help itself when it chooses to abdicate its responsibility to scrutinise all those in power and instead uses inflammatory language to go after one target in particular, even when it knows its ire is misdirected.

So I do hope that in future The Dragon, and its editor in particular, will consider trying to practise what it preaches when it comes to constructive and responsible criticism.

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test 12 Responses to Letter: The Dragon’s Editor Should Practise What He Preaches

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    April 21, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    I think the problem is the so-called experts who hide behind their position and leave it to the press and politicians to argue who got it wrong. Here are a few examples: Aldi traffic, Burchatts Barn, coronavirus parking, Wey navigation erosion and the Tumble Bay weir collapse.

  2. John Perkins Reply

    April 21, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    “It’s not my fault – a bigger boy made me do it.”

  3. Su Matt Reply

    April 21, 2020 at 10:38 pm

    I would just like to know if some very clever person can inform me why the ratio in Frimley Park Hospital and the other hospitals you list, have more deaths than any other?

    Editor’s comment: Unfortunately it is very difficult to get comment from our local NHS communications team at the moment, not only because of the extra pressure of work but because their statements have to be cleared at national level. But if granted another interview, we will ask. We have been informed that some London cases have been transferred to Surrey hospitals to spread the case load. This might be a part of the reason.

    • George Potter Reply

      April 22, 2020 at 1:21 pm

      I don’t have any more information about hospital deaths than anyone else but it’s also worth noting that deaths tend to be higher in areas with higher deprivation because poverty usually results in higher rates of underlying health conditions which in turn makes people more vulnerable to viruses.

      I’m sure there will be a multitude of factors behind the higher death ratio at Frimley Park but it is worth noting that it serves an area with significantly higher levels of poverty than most other hospitals in Surrey.

      George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

      • Jim Allen Reply

        April 22, 2020 at 3:10 pm

        As ‘Frimley Park Hospital trust’ covers Ascot and Slough, I suspect that the majority of deaths are actually in Slough. So, if split evenly three ways, this does not make Frimley the worst hospital but one with the second lowest death rate.

    • John Ferns Reply

      April 22, 2020 at 3:38 pm

      It may be because Frimley Park Hospital, in its guise as a NHS Foundation Trust, has to include deaths in Wexham Park hospital in Slough and Heatherwood in Ascot, both of which come under its remit.

  4. Alan Young Reply

    April 22, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    I am not sure this letter is entirely fair on our local media.

    We all act on advice from others in many things we do, but we must ultimately take responsibility for our own actions and it is right that the media should hold politicians to account for their decisions.

    Just because someone may recommend you do something doesn’t mean you cannot apply your own judgment to their advice.

    Either the writer of this letter did apply his own judgment and must, therefore, accept responsibility or he did not apply any judgment, in which case the electorate would rightly be entitled to ask what he is there for.

    • George Potter Reply

      April 24, 2020 at 3:46 pm

      To be clear, I am a backbench councillor and therefore had no say, one way or the other, in the decision to close countryside car parks.

      However, as a backbench councillor, I would expect the council Executive and Corporate Management to make decisions based on the public health advice issued by the gold command team at the county-level. It would be irresponsible not to follow such advice and my point is that if people have concerns about the wisdom of that advice then questions should be directed to those who are issuing the advice rather than to those who have to implement it.

      Furthermore, as Susan Chadwick rightly points out below, if we are the only borough not to close our countryside car parks whilst our neighbours close their’s, then the inevitable consequence will be people from neighbouring boroughs driving to our borough to visit our countryside sites, causing overcrowding.

      George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

      Editor’s response: We have asked GBC for the expert advice on which this decision was taken. So far (April 25), none has been provided.

  5. Susan Chadwick Reply

    April 23, 2020 at 7:32 am

    I don’t know if widespread closing of countryside car parks is the right thing to do. But if neighbouring borough car parks are all closed then leaving GBC car parks open would seem likely to draw in visitors from outside Guildford and potentially lead to overcrowding at those sites. On this basis, I think GBC has made the right decision.

  6. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 25, 2020 at 8:00 am

    Very Trumpian this. The first resort of a scoundrel is to criticise the free press.

  7. Colin Cross Reply

    April 25, 2020 at 11:42 am

    Regarding Cllr Potter’s final paragraph, that if everywhere else in Surrey is closing its rural car parks then GBC needs to do the same or risk overcrowding at our parks and beauty spots, does he not see the inherent false logic in this?

    We still have large swathes of our borough with walks, public parks and beauty spots where there is either no parking facilities or where they cannot be closed due to access always being required.

    The net result of the GBC car park lockdown is, therefore, to simply move on the walkers and others to these facilities and this leads to the serious overcrowding he implies that we are now avoiding.

    I live on Ripley Green which has 67 acres and can verify that the non-local usage here has tripled recently, thus raising the infection risks to the village locals. This is not rocket science, it’s all about the Surrey authorities blindly pushing a quart into a pint pot.

    Colin Cross is the R4GV borough councillor for Lovelace (Ripley, Wisley and Ockham).

    • Jim Allen Reply

      April 25, 2020 at 1:02 pm

      I have to agree with Cllr Colin Cross on this matter. Despite a concrete block being placed at the Riverside Nature Reserve car park, visitors are now simply parking in Bowers Lane. This problem is the responsibility of Surrey County Council because if it had not closed its car parks then GBC and other boroughs would not have had any extra.

      I am an unashamed Nimby on this matter. I don’t want the germs from others in my street.

      Closure of the car parks is irrational. If you are allowed to drive to exercise you need to be able to park. Sutherland Park has not had the same treatment.

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