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The Dragon Says: Ask Not ‘Who is To Blame?’ We All Are

Published on: 4 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 5 Mar, 2021

We must all share the blame for the weaknesses at GBC. We vote for the councillors who create the policies and make the high-level decisions.

They appoint the senior council officers who lead and manage their day-to-day operations.

The role of the media is to scrutinise those operations and report. That’s us.

All of these things have failed in Guildford to some degree for many years. Not disastrously, true, and thank goodness. Many areas of the borough council’s operation are very good, our bins are regularly emptied, our 5,000 council houses relatively well-maintained, our parks and gardens can be exemplary.

But that is not enough.

Good planning has been absent from the council for decades. The planning inspector considering our Local Plan, on his walk around Guildford, said that away from the historic core, “the town’s pedestrian environment was dreadful”.

That was no surprise. It is dreadful.

But it is not just the high-level planning in the council at fault. Government policy has become more and more controlling, stripping powers, reducing funding and leaving councils little choice and little room for manoeuvre. The government says jump and the council can only ask “How high?”

This is the case whatever the political colour of the council but the problem can be made worse when political party loyalties result in an even greater willingness to comply.

But then, under all that, is the ability of the council to deliver the projects agreed, after their tortuous journey of political and administrative deliberation.

We need project managers who can take a mandate for a piece of work from the council and deliver it in accordance with an agreed plan, at an agreed cost, reliably reporting progress along the way.

Such skills have been pitifully inadequate at GBC. John Rigg, who has made it his personal mission to deliver a better town centre, did our whole community a favour this week by ignoring protocol and revealing embarrassing home truths.

See: GBC Project Handling Bungled, Committee told in Shock Outburst

Individual council officers might feel aggrieved but they should not. It is not their fault if they have not been properly trained for their roles but they must now roll up their sleeves and show a willingness and the talent to improve. If they can’t, they must stand aside. The progress of our borough, our future, is at stake.

We should all pay close attention to what happens next. We are all involved. We all have a role to play even if it is only keeping informed and using our best judgement to put a cross in a box on election days.

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test 4 Responses to The Dragon Says: Ask Not ‘Who is To Blame?’ We All Are

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    March 4, 2021 at 4:58 pm

    I would suggest the majority of the commentary is correct, but deliberately ignoring the ‘bleeding obvious’, rapidly running out H20 and treatment of foul water, road capacity, simply because of the twin gods of housing numbers and financial gain. It is simple foolishness, lacking in common sense. No sophisticated training, no fancy college degree needed. Simply a spine to tell the truth.

    An officer certifying Common Sense before moving on to the next stage of each project is required. Many commentators on The Dragon could fulfil this role.

  2. Laurence Carr Reply

    March 5, 2021 at 10:39 am

    I totally agree with Cllr John Rigg’s criticism of the GBC project handling. It’s about time those responsible were exposed and replaced, if they are not up to the job.

    As for sensitivities, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. A truly professional approach to such important and expensive investments in the future of Guildford and surrounding areas is long overdue.

  3. B Moore Reply

    March 5, 2021 at 5:30 pm

    Oh, come off it. If GBC were a football team James Whiteman would have been fired long ago.

  4. David Roberts Reply

    March 8, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    A stronger opposition voice on the council would help. Apart from the three GGG councillors, no-one is providing this.

    Incredibly, both the Labour members and the out-going LibDem leader actually voted for the Local Plan which the Tories bounced through days before losing most of their seats at the last election.

    The new R4GV leadership, distracted by Covid and budget problems, have done nothing I can see to correct the inflated housing targets or modify the Plan’s implementation.

    This should be remembered when votes are cast in May.

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