Fringe Box



The Dragon Says: The Dam Preventing Council Cultural Change is Still Unbreached

Published on: 27 Jul, 2022
Updated on: 28 Jul, 2022

The long and sorry story of the still-awaited Tumbling Bay Weir bridge repair reveals a remaining cultural problem at Guildford Borough Council.

See: Agencies Can’t Agree A Statement on Weir Bridge Repair

Some in the council, including some council officers, feel it is often safest, faced with an awkward subject, to say nothing. That way will attract less criticism.

Unfortunately, at a time of widespread ignorance and lack of interest in local politics that can be true.

But while it might be true it is not right.

All at the council should comply with the seven Nolan principles for those in public life. At least three apply here: openness, accountability and honesty.

If the principles are paid only lip service, or ignored, disrespect for the council will continue or increase.

Many at the council seem to prefer to deliberate in private and give the public minimal information until it suits them to be more forthcoming. That is not good enough.

They seem to forget that we have a right to know. After all, it is our money, our community and our environment that is usually at stake. The likelihood of embarrassment or inconvenience should not affect their communication.

An “imminent” press release should not still be awaited five weeks later.

When the weir collapsed in November 2019 some patience was due while a repair was effected, and perhaps six months was a reasonable time.

But for the popular footpath that crossed the weir to remain closed almost three years later is unacceptable. Some within the agencies involved have not been treating this seriously or urgently enough.

Obviously, a lot of money is at stake. The fact that, in this case, the financial responsibilities between the agencies have been revealed as unclear is itself lamentable but it should not have allowed this degree of procrastination.

And if a repair is simply unaffordable the agencies should explain why and allow attention to be switched to council and National Trust finances generally.

But if the culture at the council needs improvement then so does that of the electorate.

Mindless criticism from voters who don’t even know which council is responsible for what and clog borough councillors’ inboxes with complaints about potholes shows that there is a way to go before we have a properly informed electorate here in Guildford.

As they say, we get the governments, locally and nationally, we deserve.

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Responses to The Dragon Says: The Dam Preventing Council Cultural Change is Still Unbreached

  1. John Phelps Reply

    July 28, 2022 at 6:10 pm

    I would be interested to know if the editor has contacted the Liberal Democrat leadership for an interview in recent months? From a recent search, I can only find RG4V, GGG and Conservative interviews for the past eight months yet nothing from the Liberals.

    Why is it only the Independents and conservatives who have to abide by “Openness”? Where are the co-leaders? What are their policies and opinions?

    Editor: the Lib Dem group leader at GBC, Julia McShane, indicated her willingness to be interviewed some months ago. It is my fault I have not proceeded before but an invitation has now been sent.

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