Fringe Box



Opinion: Perhaps Cllr Iles and Her Co-Plotters Should Play Their Games Somewhere Else?

Published on: 22 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 24 Mar, 2021

Cllr Jan Harwood

By Jan Harwood

Lib Dem borough councillor for Merrow and lead for Climate Change

At this point in British life, the only national policy I can be sure of is if a senior Conservative announces live on television that something will definitely not be happening. That way, I can have some confidence it definitely will happen.

I see Guildford Conservatives are no exception and happily ape their Westminster masters in their double-dealings and smoke-and-mirrors policymaking.

If Cllr Iles can guarantee the housing numbers will reduce…I will happily prepare the foreword to the early review. I will even sign it with hearts and kisses.”

But let’s look more closely at what they are saying in that letter from Julie Iles. Two options are possible:

Option 1

Cllr Iles is telling a version of the truth, that somehow, perhaps through some shady backroom deal, Guildford Conservatives have stitched up a deal with the government to massage local housing numbers.

I’m unsure how that sits with the Prime Minister’s “Build Build Build” agenda. I have not read the “Unless you are a Tory majority at risk of losing an election” proviso to the disastrous planning White Paper late last year.

But if this is true, the Conservatives are cynically trying to kill local democracy here in Guildford. As lead member for planning policy and a Liberal Democrat in Guildford, I clearly do not have an invitation to this smoke-filled country club backroom where these kinds of anti-democracy deals get hashed out.

On that basis, why not just crown a “Sheriff of Guildford” from one of their local Conservative pals and be done with elections (as I am sure the Conservatives secretly long to do. Voters are so boring when they do not do as they are told).

This also begs some questions:

• Where was this resourcefulness before the Local Plan got adopted?

• Was it arrogance or incompetence that they forgot to do a back-room deal with their Westminster pals back in 2018-19?

• Why is there meaningful policy change only when they lose an election or are at risk of losing their rural county seats? (Think of all the wonderful things we can have if they lose a couple more.)

Option 2

Cllr Iles and her merry band of county council incumbents have stretched the truth as only a seasoned politician knows how. Stretched it wafer-thin.

A review could mean the housing numbers go up, stay the same or go down (I am convinced they will go up). How do they know for sure they will reduce unless they know something they are not telling us?

Guildford Conservatives certainly seem more than a little worried about their comfortable county council seats, up for grabs in the upcoming elections. As we all know, a spine is not a requirement for the role, so perhaps through some clever contortions and smoke-screening they will somehow persuade the rural seats in the borough to back them again.

But I believe the voters are sharp enough to see through their bluffing and fake concern.

My conclusion, after thinking these two options through, is simple. If Cllr Iles can guarantee me that the housing numbers will reduce (not simply stay the same or increase), I will happily prepare the foreword to the early review. I will even sign it with hearts and kisses.

Otherwise, she and her co-plotting colleagues must go play their games somewhere else.

Given what we have all been through over the past year, I am a little worried Surrey County Council’s staggering political incompetence is contagious. Unfortunately, neither a mask nor a competent vaccine rollout can protect us from that.

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test 2 Responses to Opinion: Perhaps Cllr Iles and Her Co-Plotters Should Play Their Games Somewhere Else?

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    March 22, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    Guildford voters didn’t elect Cllr Harwood to run a Punch and Judy show between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.

    He should concentrate on solutions.

  2. David Roberts Reply

    March 22, 2021 at 7:36 pm

    Cynical though the Tories’ U-turn on the Local Plan is, it doesn’t take much to put the Lib Dems on the back foot. In 2019 they managed to split four ways on the Plan’s adoption – for, against, abstain and just not turn up. Did they seriously think they could get through this May’s elections without a party policy on this top issue?

    Now that the Tories and R4GV seem to be falling into line with GGG’s long-standing call for a revision of the Local Plan, maybe it’s time the Lib Dems followed suit. Cllr Harwood has so far been notorious for his pro-development views and neglect of the countryside.

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