Fringe Box



Opposition Councillors Question Proposed Link With Chinese City

Published on: 28 Sep, 2017
Updated on: 29 Sep, 2017

Dongying and Guildford.

The proposed linking of Guildford with Dongying in China was questioned by opposition councillors in Guildford Borough Council’s Executive meeting on Tuesday evening (September 26, 2017).

Cllr Matt Furniss (Con, Christchurch) introducing the item, summarised the written report on the current and proposed twinning arrangements for Guildford.

Deputy Council Leader Furniss: “…more of a partnership agreement…”

He said: “We have been developing an ongoing conversation with Dongying in China, particularly through the strong links with Surrey University [sic]. Max Lu, the vice-chancellor, has very strong links in Dongying. They are extremely proud of him and we have been developing these links following a visit they conducted in 2015/2016 as part of a university delegation.

“At that event, greater ties were proposed by the Mayor of Dongying and following that we have been in numerous discussions, which have developed into a delegation from that area coming over to the UK earlier this year.

“We are aiming that the link with Dongying is not twinning in the traditional sense but more of a partnership agreement, strengthening ties on trade, business and economic links.”

GBC welcomed a delegation from Dongying to Guildford on July 17 (2017) to discuss areas of co-operation and an expression of interest to develop a formal partnership agreement was signed.

Cllr Angela Gunning: “I am still wondering what Guildford has got in common with Dongying.”

Cllr Angela Gunning (Lab, Stoke) said she was feeling rather uneasy about the link before criticising Cllr Furniss for omitting to mention the link to Mukono, Uganda in his verbal report, pointing out that those involved in that link paid all their own fares and expenses.

She continued: “I know I was on the twinning working group but I am still wondering what Guildford has in common with Dongying… They’ve got a population of two million against our 140,000, it was a city founded in 1983, whereas we are over a thousand years old, perhaps. Their big thing is oil fields and ours is green belt.

“I don’t have any problem with development of good business links, that’s all good stuff, all the right ‘buzz words’ are in this report about jobs and the economy. But where does the person in Guildford High Street feature in all this, the ordinary person?

“With the Mukono and Freiburg arrangements there are lots of personal links and I can’t see that the link with China is anything like that.

“How are we going to measure return on investment in this? What are the performance indicators?

“I am just wondering about spending £5,000 at the moment… how are we going to know it is worth the money, ‘we’ being this council?”

Cllr David Reeve: “£5,000 is better spent on our own old people.”

Cllr David Reeve (GGG, Clandon & Horsley) said: “I have to express my doubts about this as well… there isn’t a business case and I can’t see what we are going to get out of this… I thoroughly approve of links between our businesses in our borough to with those anywhere in the world which will bring exports and so on, but I fail to see what we as a council will gain.

“From my own point of view I think we ought not to be doing this. I don’t know if you are aware but at the Surrey County Council cabinet meeting this afternoon they have withdrawn the vast majority of their money from adult social care so we are going to have a hole in that area, and, for my money, £5,000 is better spent on our own old people than it is on this particular initiative.

“One final point, in the way of a question, where exactly are we on this? Has it effectively been decided already? Have the reservations been made and the air tickets purchased?”

Cllr Reeve’s question remained unanswered.

Cllr Furniss commenced his response with an apology for not mentioning the Mukono link which he hoped would continue for many years to come, but the proposed Dongying link was he said, “a slightly different proposition”.

Regarding the impact on the ordinary person on Guildford High Street, Cllr Furniss said everyone does benefit from a “huge amount” of tourism that already comes from China: He added: “With Dongying it is very much building on the existing links with the University of Surrey.”

Then, paraphrasing part of the council report, he listed some of the expected benefits: “Understanding between Chinese and British cultures, exchanging knowledge but also to provide access for our local businesses, as well as Chinese businesses, through trade visits and actually have it as a site for investment.

“It’s not going to be really fun and games when we do visit, hopefully when we do visit, because we are aiming to also see if we can create a greater link between the science park over there as well. It is one of the largest science parks in China and it is all about IT, cloud computing and it does have a lot of companies that we are aware of in the UK and those are the links that we are wanting to build.”

Cllr David Bilbe: “The world is a big place.”

Cllr David Bilbe (Con, Normandy) supporting the proposal commented: “The world is a very big place… the last thing we want to be is like Diogenes, sitting in a barrel, thinking that the world is inside that barrel. It isn’t.”

Referring to the value of the planned trip to China, the leader of the council, Cllr Paul Spooner (Con, Ash South & Tongham), summing up the debate, said: “I don’t think we could get any better value than we currently have. I am someone who from a business career perspective am familiar with going to China. I am familiar with going in a better class of travel than we’re going in.. but I think that is appropriate given that we are working with public funds here.

Council Leader Spooner: “…this council is not just for rubbish bins and recycling…”

“I think we need to bear in mind that with economic development etcetera this council is not just for rubbish bins and recycling, which I fear some members of this council believe, we are indeed responsible for everything Guildford, pretty much, and economic development is key to that.

“The opportunity we have been presented with through the vice-chancellor of the university we would be mad to turn down. We were very lucky in that the deputy leader and I were invited to come to meet the mayor and the senior business delegation from Dongying, probably going back about 18 months now, and at that lunch meeting [they] wanted to support not only Max Lu [the vice-chancellor] but us.

“They’ve been over twice already and I think it is appropriate that we go over now and at least go through the process of meeting them and making a decision, or at least a recommendation, after that, as to how far we can go.

“The opportunities are not yet fully defined… but they won’t ever be defined unless we do at least get out there and try.”

The Executive voted to approve recommendation of the proposed trip to the full council which is next due to meet on October 10, just days before the delegation, comprising the council leader, deputy leader and managing director, visits Dongying on October 15.

The full council debate can be viewed here.

See also: Senior Council Delegation to Sign New Twinning Agreement in China

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Responses to Opposition Councillors Question Proposed Link With Chinese City

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    September 28, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    I understand that the Chinese government does not allow “twinnings” so this is to be a “partnership agreement” that will be signed next month.

    As they say, “A rose by any other name…”.

  2. Dave Middleton Reply

    September 28, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    I have to say that I am more than a little uneasy with a “twinning” or “partnership” with a city in a country that is a one party totalitarian state, with an abysmal human rights record, unjustifiable controls on the press and completely unjustified military expansion and territorial claim in the South China Seas, never mind the government sanctioned flagrant abuse of industrial copyrights.

  3. Mike Murphy Reply

    September 28, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    I think Cllrs Spooner and Furniss will feel very at home in China. Their way of doing things seems to be how they want to run our council.

  4. John Robson Reply

    September 29, 2017 at 1:27 am

    I’ve watched the webcast; so these aren’t Chinese whispers.

    But apparently this isn’t just a taxpayer-funded jolly aimed at assisting the University with filling its halls of residence, it’s business park or selling its buy-to-let portfolio for Blackwell Farm off plan.

    No, this trip is seemingly about the leader of the council also seeking funding from a town we have no relationship with whatsoever for infrastructure! Including the mythical tunnel for the A3.

    If in doubt, mention the tunnel, the fantasy flagship Conservative project which will never be built but will justify any means, whether it’s flogging off the green belt or spending £5k to hand out a few “Come to Guildford flyers”.

    It seems the Chinese don’t have the monopoly on crackers.

  5. Fiona Samuel-Holmes Reply

    September 29, 2017 at 11:30 am

    I have written to Prime Minister Teresa May about this as I am still incredulous that public money is being spent on a trip by local councillors to discuss a twinning agreement with Dongying in China.

    I find it incredible that members of GBC are allowed to do this with public money without public consultation?

    • Paul Spooner Reply

      September 30, 2017 at 11:29 am

      I am once again disappointed that factual errors are not corrected by the editor through editorial comment. Mr Giles knows full well that GBC had nothing to do with SCC proposed increase in Council Tax.

      Paul Spooner is the leader of GBC.

      Editor’s note: thank you for pointing that out. The comment was misleading and has now been edited.

      • Jim Allen Reply

        September 30, 2017 at 1:23 pm

        We too are disappointed that errors are not corrected – errors in the Local Plan. But then ifinformation is continually hidden we will never know what needs correcting.

  6. Paul Bishop Reply

    September 29, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    For £5k, there doesn’t need to be much return on this trip for it to be worthwhile. I suspect more than £5k has already been wasted just talking about it! Also, having spent quite a bit of time in China for business, I would not expect this to be much of a ‘jolly’ for the Guildford delegates. In fact, it probably won’t be much fun at all.

  7. Julie Laker Reply

    September 29, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    I cannot believe Guildford Borough Council is thinking of twinning with a Chinese city.

    Do the councillors know what’s going on over there? The cruelty to animals is barbaric, including the ivory trade, not to mention the Yulin Dog Festival. Do any of you councillors have a dog?

    Look it up on Google, see if you can stomach what they do before the dogs are killed. Twinning with a Chinese city will make it look like we accept their cruelty to animals.

    I for one and many others cannot believe they are contemplating this. You will have blood on your hands. Disgusting.

  8. Martin Elliott Reply

    September 29, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    According to Wikipedia, there are only three towns twinned to others in China, Belfast, Cardiff and Newport.

    However, a report issued by the Government Office for Science last year suggests around 52.

    Regarding the aims and success of some of these ‘partnerships’, some several decades old, the report is telling.

  9. Nick Norton Reply

    September 30, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Why partner with a city on the other side of the world built on the second largest oil field in China; why no ‘twinning’ with, say, Houston, Texas with its oil interests and greater cultural similarity? How much is this a confluence of interests between the University of Surrey and its new vice-chancellor and the development-driven path of the council’s majority party?

    Shandong is a province with many ghost cities created by the urban development practices that lead to thousands of unoccupied buildings, simply seen as investment vehicles for the ‘hot’* money in China. How much hot Chinese money does our council Executive foresee coming to Guildford to exploit the green belt with speculative housing investment?

    * In economics, hot money is the flow of funds (or capital) from one country to another in order to earn a short-term profit on interest rate differences and/or anticipated exchange rate shifts. Wikipedia

  10. Andrew Backhurst Reply

    September 30, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    In the centre of Dongying on the Yunhe Road there is the Qingfenghu Dog Meat Restaurant. I am a meat eater and I do like Chinese food but this place sounds disgusting. I hope the councillors keep well clear of this place and shelve any twin ideas.

  11. Mary Lloyd-Jones Reply

    September 30, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    I am not opposed to any partnership agreements, or links, or whatever we call them. But ‘twinning’ means something quite different and, in Guildford’s case, was very carefully researched when looking to choose a similar town which could appropriately be called a ‘twin’.

    Freiburg fitted the criteria perfectly and that is why the last 38 years have been such a success. So may we please stop using the inappropriate word ‘twinning’ when discussing Versailles and Dongying? This may remove some of the confusion, not to say opposition.

    Mary Lloyd-Jones is a Hon Alderman

  12. Paul Spooner Reply

    October 1, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    I am grateful to Hon Alderman Mary Lloyd-Jones for her contribution. It is unfortunate that the difference in relation to Dongying is being missed through “accident” or deliberate attempts to damage the council. Any formal twinning agreement should involve consultation prior to decision but the final decision should be taken by those elected to represent the community.

    Paul Spooner is the leader of Guildford Borough Council

    • Jim Allen Reply

      October 2, 2017 at 10:07 am

      Perhaps Cllr Spooner could give the GBC version of the meaning ‘consultation’. Consulting and taking notice is far different than consulting and not taking any notice.

      I also strongly object to the words, “deliberate attempts to damage the council”. If the council does not act in a democratic way it is damaging itself. It is not the fault of those making the observations of those undemocratic actions.

  13. Fiona Samuel-Holmes Reply

    October 3, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Yet again Councillor Spooner seems intent on ignoring the concerns and views of the people who he is supposed to represent, and shows complete arrogance with his comment “the final decision should be taken by those elected to represent the community”.

    Surely those elected to represent the community should also listen to the community? Isn’t that what democracy is all about?

  14. Mary Bedforth Reply

    October 4, 2017 at 9:27 am

    A day out from work, ostensibly on some kind of work-based mission but actually just going for a laugh.

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