Fringe Box



The Dragon Says: It Is Time For The Council Leader To Answer

Published on: 25 Jun, 2015
Updated on: 30 Jun, 2015

Dragon Says 470What are we to make of the behaviour of the leader of Guildford Borough Council Stephen Mansbridge? Since the conviction of his close friend and business associate he has said nothing to distance himself from her.

His loyalty during the investigation and the court case might seem admirable and he was her only supporter at her main appearance at the Old Bailey, but is that advisable for a person who also holds the responsibilities of a council leader.

And when did he know of her guilt? Her defence counsel said in court that on his, the defence counsel’s, advice Juneja agreed to plead guilty in January; didn’t she tell her close friend then? Anyway, the overwhelming case against her was apparent from her first court appearance in Guildford.

Opinion Logo 2Did Cllr Mansbridge not understand or did his misplaced loyalty to her cloud his judgement to such a degree that he could not accept the truth?

His statement at the time when, following the police charges, he was forced to ask her to step down from her lead councillor role, seemed to indicate that he blamed others for her predicament. His question: “Why complain if you are not a victim?” displayed a bewildering lack of moral understanding and intelligence.

Ironically perhaps, Mansbridge himself is one of the main victims of Juneja’s dishonesty and perhaps has himself a real cause to complain – but to her. Ostensibly, he fell for her lies hook, line and sinker, believing that she really had special qualities that deserved to be used at a high level in the council.

Many, including some in her own party, were less convinced and surprised at her rapid promotion. In fact, it was her lack of skill and eloquence that caused the suspicion which led to her being uncovered after 14 years of lying.

In the wake of the case we are left with a council that, while admitting the obvious reputational damage, can’t seem to admit to the inadequacy of the investigation it oversaw nor the consequences for its leader.

Councillors from all parties feel aggrieved, understandably, that the whole council has been tainted by the dishonesty of one person and council officers, some of them at least, feel betrayed. They have discovered that in Juneja they were being led and directed by a liar and a cheat. Some humility is due.

As for Juneja, the judge said that her role in public life was over, something she does not seem to have accepted. Not only did she organise a political petition while waiting for her sentence, she appears on national television to claim, risibly, that her accusers are worse than her;  they dared to be motivated by the fact that they were against her house building proposals, she only lied and deceived.

Her additional accusation of racism, while offensive, appears groundless. Does she really imagine that had she been white and called ‘Jane Smith’ that those opposed to her proposals would have acted any differently once they suspected her credentials?

But what now? Cllr Mansbridge continues to lead the Tory Group and the council despite increasing mutterings from some of its members. Surely they cannot all be happy with the way things are, even if there are no obvious and capable candidates to take over.

And what are most of the opposition councillors or any troubled Conservatives doing about the situation? Shouldn’t they be asking the awkward questions rather than leaving it to the local and national media?

Perhaps they could start by asking what is Stephen Mansbridge’s connection to and the position on Monika Juneja’s petition? Does he know how it was funded? And why is he remaining in business with a convicted forger and deceiver?

Guildford Borough Council has now become a regular feature in Private Eye’s “Rotten Boroughs” column. In their latest article they write: “He [Mansbridge] hopes to become the town’s first elected mayor and Monika is right behind him.”

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Responses to The Dragon Says: It Is Time For The Council Leader To Answer

  1. Jenny Procter Reply

    June 25, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    Thank you Guildford Dragon for putting this so succinctly.

    What exactly is going on and why is it allowed to continue? Cllr Mansbridge is in the firing line for obvious reasons but why is he wielding so much influence?

    Who really is orchestrating all of this? Why are the main body of councillors, and council officers too, so mute on the issue? There are too many unanswered questions.

    It is astonishing that any alternative voice is quashed at birth and barred from the committees that are looking at the issues that concern us all.

    One fact is that Guildford Town has seen precious little development for years, particularly residential. Why is this?

    The town looks tired, needs regeneration and investment, has planning permissions aplenty that have not been acted upon. But it has a university that seems to have an abnormal say in shaping borough policy, has pledged to look at brownfield first but is so secretive in its process that it is impossible to have any faith in any of it’s operations.

    Are societies such as the Guildford Society with their particular view so influential that they can hold back development within the town forever, or are the forces for material gain, to be obtained by building on virgin green belt land, so powerful that their lure, in this polarising process, is irresistible?

    A town that is really dynamic would have already realised the gains to be made from effective maximisation of its considerable assets along the River Wey corridor and losing its fear of heights in its imagining of an unattractive outcome.

    Jenny Procter is a member of the Save Send Action Group

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    June 26, 2015 at 8:18 am

    We also have the right to ask why Cllr Mansbridge claimed under oath, as part of his testimony, that he had formed a company with Juneja because she is such a talented individual, only to have apparently resigned as a director a week later?

  3. Brian Miller Reply

    June 26, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Private Eye are right to suggest that Cllr Mansbridge may stand for an elected mayor’s position. Do we really want to find ourselves in the position where an increasingly powerful individual holds so much sway?

    We should be careful what we vote for.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      June 26, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      Brian Miller need not worry. There will be more than one candidate for the position of elected mayor if one is forced on us. Not that we want one.

  4. Janette Panton Reply

    July 1, 2015 at 8:16 am

    Why is the council leader remaining silent?

    I believe the people of Guildford deserve an explanation and an apology for letting us down so badly.

    Martin Giles put it very well in an earlier article [There Are Lessons To Learn From The Juneja Case – The Council Must Admit It]:

    “…councillors must all always remember that they are answerable to us. Legitimate enquiries must be answered, fair criticism accepted and any delusions that they are on a different plane, that they somehow know better than the rest of us, firmly rejected”
    He also added “they must remember that they are our representatives, not our rulers…”

    I believe Cllr Mansbridge has great difficulty remembering this. Many questions have been put to him in recent months, which he has chosen to ignore.

    I would like to remind him that the position of council leader does not mean he rules over the residents of Guildford and can do and say as he pleases. Perhaps if he is not inclined to be answerable, he should not be council leader and it is time he stood down from his position.

  5. Ben Paton Reply

    July 3, 2015 at 11:49 am

    This is how the BBC reported the trial and Cllr Mansbridge’s intervention:

  6. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    July 3, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Sad state of affairs that GBC council leader stands up in court in support of her yet residents of Tower Hamlets, of all places, lodges an FOI request to make sure she never worked there.

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