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Letter: The GBC Complaints System Favours Those With Power

Published on: 26 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 26 Mar, 2022

From: David Roberts

In response to: ‘Strong Argument’ for Publishing Outcomes of Complaints Against GBC Councillors, Says Committee Chair

Transparency is always a good idea but a bigger issue is the weaponisation of the complaints procedure by powerful councillors to attack weaker ones for political ends.

The purpose of a complaints procedure is for the weak to hold the strong to account. In particular, it should make it easy for ordinary members of the public to get public servants to take responsibility for their actions. It should not exist for those in office to gag their critics.

As Mr Cranwell and Mr Paton note, the existing procedure was ineffective in dealing with Tory councillor Marsha Moseley’s public breach of the councillor code, as well as the crimes committed by her colleague the former councillor Juneja. Innocent complainants found themselves under nasty attack for daring to complain. The complaint against Ms Juneja, instead, had to be sorted out by the police and the courts.

When former Cllr David Reeve (GGG) produced a reasoned critique of the data underpinning the widely hated Guildford Local Plan, the then (Tory) council leader, Cllr Spooner, sensing challenge, teamed up with the then (Lib Dem) leader of the opposition, Caroline Reeves, to lodge a complaint many regarded ridiculous.

The upshot of this shameful bit of cross-party cooperation has been that, while the universally respected Cllr Reeve decided not to stand for re-election, Cllr Spooner remains on the council and is, once again, leader of the Tory group.

The system is skewed in favour of those with power. One simple reform would be for the procedure to make it explicit that its purpose is not for councillors to file complaints against each other.

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