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Political Leaflet Provokes Accusations of Lying

Published on: 31 Jul, 2021
Updated on: 2 Aug, 2021

The Conservative leaflet

By Martin Giles

A Conservative leaflet delivered to homes in Guildford borough has drawn accusations of dishonesty from political opponents currently running the borough council.

Three out of the five claims made by Guildford Conservatives in a leaflet “are lies” say local Liberal Democrats and their borough council coalition partners, Residents for Guildford & Villages (R4GV), say that the leaflet: “… is the worst kind of behaviour, we are talking to the Electoral Commission about possible sanctions on the Guildford Conservative Association.”

But the GCA is standing by the claims in its leaflet which it says can be substantiated by publicly available documents.

In similar statements, R4GV and the Lib Dems list the five claims made by the Conservatives and rebut them.

Three of the claims made in the leaflet.

1. “£3.6m has been handed back to Government from sales of council houses.”

R4GV/Lib Dems both blame the previous Conservative administration when they say the first payment was made. The R4GV statement adds: “This continued until 2020 as there were inadequate controls at GBC to effectively monitor this, and there were no active projects for us to invest the funds in. I will leave readers to decide whether this was a fault of this administration or those who were in charge when this policy was first introduced.”

Conservatives say that their administration had identified at least 10 sites for potential council house development on council-owned land, including housing units proposed for the Guildford Park car park development, and that the Right to Buy receipts could have been used to progress these projects.

2. “£2.5m infrastructure funding was handed back [to the Local Enterprise Partnership] due to non-delivery.”

R4GV/Lib Dems say this money for a scheme to improve the roundabout near Tesco was not received by GBC because the University of Surrey (UoS) changed their mind at the last minute and would not give up a small piece of land required for the project to proceed.

But the Conservatives blame the current administration saying: “This was handed back to the Local Enterprise Partnership due to a failure to implement the project by GBC administration.  This is a loss to Guildford residents.”

3. “£1.5m grant funding for flood alleviation scheme has been handed back.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

R4GV say in their statement: “No-one in R4GV and no officer at Guildford Borough Council has heard of this money, let alone received it or given it back.” The Lib Dems adding: “This claim seems to be pure fiction.”

The Conservatives responded: “Whether this was handed back or never claimed due to a failure to implement the project, this is a loss to Guildford residents. That Joss Bigmore, leader of GBC, claims that no one in R4GV and no officer at the council has heard of this money, is even more concerning.”

4. “£20.9m has been spent on consultants and agency staff in the last financial year.”

Cllr Paul Spooner

The Lib Dem statement says: “Highly misleading, but not technically false. Consultancy spending on major capital projects is up, but day-to-day spending on agency staff is down by 15%. R4GV recommends watching the webcast of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (at 2hrs 50 mins) chaired by Conservative Paul Spooner on Tuesday July 13. Adding: “You will hear commendation for the successful efforts to reduce agency expenditure. The hypocrisy is really breath-taking.”

But the Conservative leaflet claims that there has been a “…shocking 300% increase. At the same time  they are making cuts to Guildford Action & Arts. As we recover from the pandemic these organisations need our help more than ever.”

5. “£3m loss resulting from the panic sale of the Liongate office building.”

R4GV says: “The Conservatives paid £13 million for an old-fashioned office building in 2013, with an unsecured tenant able to break their lease in 2020. The asset value of the building had already been written down to £12.15m by independent valuers. The tenant exercised his break clause leaving us with an empty building and a business rates’ liability.”

The building was sold for £10.2 million and £700k received from the tenant for dilapidations. R4GV add: “Whether the Conservatives paid too much, or we sold it too cheaply, is up to you to decide.” Lib Dems say that the Tory claim is “Misleading and false. There was no ‘panic sale’ and the council made a net profit from its ownership of the Liongate building.”

Conservatives say: “As the council received nearly £6 million in rent from the Liongate building since its purchase for £13 million, this was clearly a sensible investment by the Conservative-led council. It is unfortunate that the current coalition failed to recognise the potential for much-needed housing, instead selling at a loss to a private developer who is developing the site for 94 luxury apartments. This is a loss to Guildford residents.”

Raising the issue of “continual underfunding of local government,” the Lib Dems conclusion is fiercely critical:  “While [we] understand that not everyone will agree with decisions made by the council’s coalition administration, we think that the lies being spread in Tory leaflets are unacceptable.

“Through their willingness to lie and mislead people the Conservatives are serving only to discredit themselves and politics in general. People deserve honesty from their elected representatives, not lies and bogus claims.”

R4GV also points to the underfunding issue but says the Conservatives are keen to deflect attention from the real story, the A3  NO2 pollution levels identified by Highways England as the highest in England.

The leaflet’s concluding claim

But the Conservatives responded: “Instead of the newly merged R4GV/Lib Dem coalition spending their time criticising the Conservatives, they should be working to ensure they have financial management in place to end these appalling losses and to begin to provide benefit to Guildford residents. They should also focus on delivering the promises they made to the community instead of running a failing council.”

Brian Creese

Guildford Labour chairman, Brian Creese said he was astonished by this spat between the local parties: “I find it astonishing that the Liberal Democrats are complaining about the accuracy of a Tory leaflet.

“Ever since I came to Guildford we have had to endure an unremitting barrage of misleading, dubious and lying leaflets and bar charts aimed squarely at persuading Labour supporters not to vote Labour. And now they complain that Tory claims about use of consultants is ”highly misleading, but not technically false.

“My only question is why the Tories failed to mention that in 2019 the Liberal Democrats promised to build 3,000 council houses and have so far managed a mere 30.

“The Conservatives may be led nationally by a man who seems unable to tell the truth, but in this case Guildford’s Tories are asking hard questions of an administration that doesn’t seem to like scrutiny.

“To listen to the Liberal Democrats complaining about the accuracy of a rival party’s literature is just beyond irony.”

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test 7 Responses to Political Leaflet Provokes Accusations of Lying

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    July 31, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    Conservatives never advertise the good things they do as they don’t have any significant achievements that will impress a voter. Instead, they have to try and throw mud at the other parties and hope some of it sticks.

  2. Philip Brooker Reply

    July 31, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    The Lib Dem/ R4GV coalition is clearly “ducking and diving” in all directions over opposition parties “audacity” to question their decisions – otherwise known as scrutiny.

    No comment has been made over the R4GV total red herring of trying to blame Guildford Conservatives for air quality on the A3. Pollution on the A3 is caused by motor vehicles. Is R4GV really suggesting that Guildford Conservatives put them there?

    For the record, when I was briefly lead member at GBC for Air Quality in 2017-18, there were only two areas of concern at that time, the B3000 and the A331.

    Phillip Brooker is a former Conservative borough councillor.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    July 31, 2021 at 3:56 pm

    Calm down children play nicely!

  4. Simon Mason Reply

    July 31, 2021 at 4:30 pm

    All these losses pale into insignificance by the Lib Dem’s failure to impose a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) on new build properties.

    Developers/Landowners of these new housing estates being built around Guildford should have had to hand over between £300-£500 per square metre (approx £30,000 for a typical 3-bed house). Much needed funds to help pay for community infrastructure.

    Garlick’s Arch, just approved for 550 houses, could have raised £10 million of CIL of which £2.5 million would have been passed to Send Parish Council to spend on village infrastructure.

    The Lib Dems really haven’t achieved during their term even choosing to hand over power to the R4GV. Disappointing.

  5. Martin Elliott Reply

    July 31, 2021 at 6:39 pm

    Not that I’m a supporter of GCA, but at least their leaflet contains some explanation and verification of claims.

    As Brian Creese points out, the Lib Dem newsletters, which may come through your letterbox but is not available on their website in the past several years, usually contains a large number of claims or misleading descriptions of achievements. The only way to get a full or partial explanation and justification is by direct contact with a councillor.

    A councillor’s job, I believe, is to manage the staff/officers of the council who are specialists in the important business.

    However, it’s worrying when an R4GV councillor – “responding to questions about the council’s sale of the Liongate, a former office building – say that he “knows nothing about property”.

    But even more worrying is the leader of R4GV stating, twice this week that whatever the many issues the only main story is the A3 NO2 pollution levels identified by Highways England as the highest in England.

  6. Robert Good Reply

    August 3, 2021 at 6:17 pm

    Apparently according to Labour and the Tories everybody else but they are at fault. Is that why the Tories lost 14 seats in the recent local government elections?

  7. Jules Cranwell Reply

    August 3, 2021 at 7:14 pm

    Tories accuse others of lying? Do they think we’ve forgotten their 2015 election pledge “Conservatives Say Greenbelt to Stay”?

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