Fringe Box



Opinion: We Need to Stop Talking About Dongying

Published on: 16 Oct, 2017
Updated on: 19 Oct, 2017


By George Dokimakis

chairman of Guildford Labour

We need to stop talking about Dongying.

The proposed link between Guildford and Dongying is a red herring and a diversion to the more important issues this borough faces.

Most of the recent Guildford Borough Council meeting was spent on this and the issue seems to go on and on. This needs to stop at a time where our fellow residents and our borough are facing ever-increasing difficulties and issues.

We have a ticking time bomb with air pollution that is being ignored.

Traffic in town has become unsustainable and it is only a matter of time until people decide it is not worth the effort visiting Guildford with devastating effects for its local businesses.

Business rates and rents locally are extremely high, pushing out independent businesses and discouraging new entrepreneurship.

Young people cannot afford to live in our town and residents are being evicted in a brutal regime that aims to strike a balance between a housing list of thousands and a chronic lack of building new council homes aiming to hide the Tory disdain across all levels of government for social housing.

Homelessness is on the increase.

And we have food banks in Guildford.

Against all of this, spending £7,000, or so, on a whim is small fry and not worth the attention time and ink it has received.

No one that pays even remote attention to this Tory council should be surprised about the ease at which public money is being wasted and expenses forced on others. This council has no qualms spending over a £1,000 of public money on bicorn hats, frippery that belongs to a long-lost imperialist past the Tories are fond of, or forcing taxi drivers to paint their taxis in the “borough’s colour”, costing them hundreds of pounds each. No, Dongying should have been expected.

This council has spent millions on a Local Plan that does not address the current needs of the borough let alone safeguard the future. They have spent at least £15,000 on a witchhunt against Cllr Reeve. We should not be batting an eye-lid on the £7,000 they are spending on this trip. We should only be surprised about the unexpected modesty of not flying in business class.

The surprising and sad thing about all of this is the Lib Dems’ grandstanding on this minor issue. The Lib Dems have been propping up and supporting this Tory Executive for years. Yet, suddenly this causes them to revolt.

George Dokimakis

If their outrage is caused by the lack of due process not being followed and the councillors not being properly engaged, I would suggest they need to get out more. They should knock a few more doors and talk to our fellow residents on what actually matters.

Perhaps they should have considered not supporting Cllr Spooner’s witch-hunt against Cllr Reeve that cost this council more than twice (at least) the cost of the Dongying trip.

Our council and fellow residents are facing real issues right now. The Conservative approach to Guildford is unsustainable.

We need to start talking again about food banks, homelessness, traffic congestion, air pollution, housing, the environment and the opportunities this town offers to our current and future generations.

Let us wish the GBC delegation a safe journey back but stop talking about the diversion that is Dongying.

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Responses to Opinion: We Need to Stop Talking About Dongying

  1. Simon Williams Reply

    October 16, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    For the first time ever I find myself agreeing with George on this.

  2. Valerie Thompson Reply

    October 17, 2017 at 9:24 am

    I agree with most of Mr Dokimakis’ comments, particularly about the expensive attack on David Reeve, but disagree with the arrogant way Cllr Spooner has unilaterally, it seems, decided to sign twinning agreements and made travel arrangements before consulting with the council. Maybe the Chinese can help the university build its long-overdue student accommodation and release about 1,000 properties in Guildford for key-workers and the low-paid. That would be a definite benefit.

    If the council built some social housing, maybe for rent, on its town centre open brownfield spaces, eg; open car parks and “The Village”; areas which would not require expensive clearance of dangerous materials, such as are found on some brownfield sites, and if the council took a more imaginative attitude to using central-town sites and rebuilt North Street with flats above shops, or converted empty office blocks into housing, rather than planning more, then it would go a long way to helping with the housing problem.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    October 17, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    More people agreeing with George. Never thought I would type that.

  4. Nick Hower Reply

    October 17, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    Ironic that George Dokimakis writes an entire article about how we should stop talking about it. If he just stopped, little more would be said, but dragging it up again just makes matters worse. A sad day.

  5. Gina Redpath Reply

    October 17, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    What exactly did David Reeve do that was so terribly wrong Cllr Spooner authorised £15,000 of council funds to investigate him?

    • Peter Shaw Reply

      October 18, 2017 at 8:34 am

      In his assessment of the SHMA that he distributed to councillors and the public he used a single figure from a 2013 dataset that was based on a “Commercial in Confidence” document, he had been given. Cllr Reeve showed the housing figure being used by the council was overstated by about 2,000 homes during the next plan period.

      He issued his assessment, with the thinking that it was in the public’s best interest to know, and that didn’t sit right with the leaders of the Tory and Liberal Democrat group. They then spent a total of £15k to punk should him.

      Not sure about you but knowing that an extra 2000 homes are not required to be built is in the public interest, in my opinion.

      • Gina Redpath Reply

        October 24, 2017 at 12:59 pm

        I wanted to thank Peter Shaw for explaining David Reeve’s error. Cllrs Spooner and Reeves’ treatment of him is shocking. They used public funds for what seems like a vendetta. Just as bad, if not half as much again, was the signing of the partnership deal with Dongying.

        I wish the council would be open and fair. It would be good to learn what our MP thinks of the whole sorry affair.

  6. Fiona Samuel-Holmes Reply

    October 17, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Personally, I think that Mr Dokimakis has missed the point of why we are spending so much time on the Dongying issue.

    We all know there are major difficulties affecting the borough but I think if you read most of the comments on The Dragon about Dongying, and the comments on social media, the problem was, not so much the expense of the trip, although that was bad enough, but the sheer arrogance of some plus the lack of engagement/public consultation regarding the “partnership”.

    With regards to Mr Dokimakis’ comment, “…if their outrage is caused by the lack of due process not being followed and the councillors not being properly engaged I would suggest they need to get out more. They should knock a few more doors and talk to our fellow residents on what actually matters”. I am a committee member of my local residents’ association and know very well what matters to my fellow residents, and I can assure Mr Dokimakis that having trust in your local councillors and transparency is key for residents to address their issues and have faith that their voice counts.

    Somehow the Dongying issue has certainly highlighted to residents in my area that far from this being a red herring, it’s more of a red alert that our some of our local councillors are not as trustworthy or transparent as we had hoped.

    Mr Dokimakis stresses concerns about local housing and homelessness. Well if the Chinese decide to start investing in housing or developments in this area then the issues he mentions will only get worse.

  7. Monica Jones Reply

    October 17, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    All of the above are important and need to be addressed, but so too is it important to query the spending of public money, however small, without any form of consultation on what appears to be a jolly.

  8. David Roberts Reply

    October 18, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Mr Dokimakis has missed the point about Dongying. The cost of the visit (though unlikely to be as little as £7,000) is the least of the issues it raises. More important is the lack of transparency and accountability which the visit exposes – an important problem with this council leadership that the six Conservative councillors who opposed the visit have perhaps recognised.

  9. Stuart Barnes Reply

    October 19, 2017 at 10:52 am

    How can so called Conservatives sign up with a communist dictatorship? It seems that party labels are no longer to be trusted. Is this a job for the trades description act people?

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