Fringe Box



Letter: The ‘SCC Letter of Support’ Must Not Be Considered Usual Practice

Published on: 7 May, 2019
Updated on: 8 May, 2019

From Gordon Bridger

hon alderman and former Mayor of Guildford

In response to: The Dragon Says – Out of Touch, Out of Reach, Out on Their Ear

Congratulations on a brilliant piece of reporting and comment worthy of William Cobbett.

Having, for some five decades, been an observer of, and participant from time to time, in, the affairs of our council, I have never come across such outrageous behaviour by those involved in seeking to obtain funds for a development actually written by agents of the developers and then submitted by GBC officers as if it were their own.

No, this is not “usual practice” as the Surrey Ad reporter who refused to write about it said. He and councillors failed to recognise it as a serious matter.

This is a bitterly fought Wisley development which has been rejected at an appeal and will make tens of millions for a company based in the Cayman Islands. Why should we be seeking funds to help them? They should be paying us.

But what is more immediately serious, the letter was presented as if it had come from SCC. Not so. It was actually written for GBC by the developer’s agents. Did our staff say it was their work?

I note that Cllr Paul Spooner and former borough councillor Matt Furniss claim they were not aware the agents had written it. Why were they not told? Could the chief planning officer not have written the request? More to the point, why didn’t SCC draft the letter, if their former leader wished to support the bid?

This deplorable action must seriously undermine the trust the public has in Guildford planning decisions and urgent action is needed to restore this trust.

With a new regime in place, this must be their priority.

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test 4 Responses to Letter: The ‘SCC Letter of Support’ Must Not Be Considered Usual Practice

  1. Jan Lofthouse Reply

    May 7, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    Well said. Time for change. Great GBC results. At last some Surrey villages will have a say.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    May 8, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Has Alderman Bridger made any complaint to GBC?

    I wish him luck. In my experience, GBC either ignores complaints completely or refers them to the head of the department complained of (who naturally takes the part of his/her team) or reports that the relevant individuals have left the organisation and that nothing can be done.

    In other words, the complaints department is not independent of the officers or the Executive and is not transparent.

    Wasn’t former Cllr Furniss in charge of this function?

  3. John Perkins Reply

    May 8, 2019 at 5:37 pm

    My experience has been similar, with the addition of once having the investigation handled by a junior member of staff, inviting her to criticise her superiors.

    The only solution is to have independent investigators. The Ombudsman should take that role, but also seems reluctant to find any fault, or even look.

  4. Gordon Bridger Reply

    May 9, 2019 at 10:18 am

    As Ben Paton rightly says, this needs further investigation as it undermines the credibility of our Planning Department as well that of councillors no longer in power.

    More worrying is the involvement of planning officers in this subterfuge. This needs an investigation and resolution if public confidence is to be restored.

    I can understand Ben Paton’s reservations because of the way previous complaints have been dealt with.

    Lack of “transparency” is one of the reasons we now have a very different council, politically. This investigation should be one of its top priorities.

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