Fringe Box



The Dragon Says: So the Housing Numbers Were Wrong

Published on: 1 Oct, 2018
Updated on: 2 Oct, 2018

The intelligent critics in the Guildford Residents Association and the Guildford Society (among others) have been proved right and the expensive taxpayer-funded consultants have been so wrong: the forecast population growth is nowhere near as great as the GBC has insisted on telling us.

These consultants, hired to analyse and project an “objective” prospective housing number, would not allow their workings to be revealed, with the agreement of GBC. No wonder. What a crass error of judgement by our council.

One might imagine this is time for humble self-examination by the leaders at GBC. Their constant, “We are right and everyone else is wrong” attitude is again revealed as ridiculous arrogance.

They may well use the Nuremberg defence: “We were only following orders”. This Conservative government, of the same tribe as our council, can see only economic growth as an answer to all our ills. This has led to a reckless build-at-all-costs policy, enforced by a supposedly independent Planning Inspectorate removing all real democracy from the process.

Of course, economic growth is good but it must be managed at a rate tolerable and bearable by our infrastructure. For Guildford, it must not irreparably damage the character of this borough.

As we said on The Dragon years ago, our aim should be “a better Guildford not a bigger Guildford”. Many of us value highly our surviving rural setting and cannot thank enough our forebears who had the sense to create the green belt to protect us.

And if economic growth is achieved we must ensure that we all benefit, not just those at the top.

Since the 2008 crash, according to the Institute of Fiscal Services, those from the richest-fifth of households earned an average of 88% more in 2017 than those from the poorest families in 2012. The equivalent gap in 2000 was just 47%.

This year, nearly 4,000 children were reported living in poverty in Guildford. Equally shamefully, in one of England’s most affluent boroughs, four food banks must still operate and we have about 40 rough sleepers.

Last week, some were surprised that a few Labour party conference ideas, for instance taking water supply back into public ownership, were popular, even among Tory supporters. There are those of us do not confine our thinking to limited party political lines, some of which have had a malign effect.

One poll found that 58% would vote for another party other than the traditional ones if a suitable new party were formed. It is not surprising. Some of us are desperate for a more enlightened vision, a vision from those whose horizon lies beyond the Westminster bubble.

But even if there are a few wisps of sulphur emanating from the dormant crater that is our party political system, can anyone discern real signs of even a minor eruption?

A truism worth repeating is that we get the governments we deserve. If we don’t become, as a borough and a country, more probing in the questions we ask, more aware of what those we choose to govern us are doing, more discerning in the way we vote, we cannot expect our lives and those of our children to change or improve substantially.

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