20120718 Freedom of Information or Licence to Hide

As a result of the aggressive letter from four Councillors (two of whom subsequently withdrew their support) to which I replied, I raised a series of requests to Guildford Borough Council for information under the Freedom of Information Act, 2000.

I carefully crafted my request to ask for information that, based on the Chief Executive’s report to the Scrutiny Committee Meeting in April and the accusations made (which I am given to believe were assembled at a meeting involving senior officers and Councillors), should have been readily to hand.

Requests 1 to 4 can be seen here.

Request 5 can be seen here.

Request 6 can be seen here.

Continue reading

20120718 Threat to Guildford Philharmonic Continues

After two appearances at Guildford Borough Council’s Corporate Improvement Scrutiny Committee and a Freedom of Information Act Request (refused by the Council’s Information Officer), we are at a stage where the Council’s Executive Committee is playing out its endgame for the Philharmonic behind firmly locked doors.

The most recent Scrutiny Committee minutes appear to have been misrepresented by the inclusion of a cut-off date of 15th July that no-one I know who was present can recall ever being given.

David Hill, Chief Executive of Guildford Borough Council (who makes it hard for anyone to have any good words to say about him) sent out letters dated 1st June 2012 which were not sent out until some weeks later, and which did not mention any cut-off date.

A redacted copy of this letter can be seen here.

At the most recent Scrutiny Committee I was given a very much limited slot (required to use up a third of the 3 minutes allocated to me by explaining whether I had any conflicts of interest, etc.) and so I made available a copy of my report into the Philharmonic to all Councillors on the Committee – having previously sent it to the Portfolio Holder, the Leader and the Chief Executive.

A copy of my report is available here. Continue reading

20120712 Letter of Objection to Waitrose

On 12th July I submitted an objection to the Waitrose Planning Application in Guildford.

Basically, my objections are summarised as:

  • The main thrust of my objection surrounds the impact of the development on the traffic system in Central Guildford and a failure to take into account other proposed developments set out in the Draft Guildford Town Centre Masterplan.
  • I also object to the inappropriate choice of site for a supermarket, notwithstanding the oblique references in the Bellerby Theatre Planning Brief to a supermarket use being acceptable, including the loss of a logical town centre residential site and non-compliance with the Local Plan 2003.
  • The application and decision is premature pending adoption of a properly constituted and engaged Town Centre Plan formulated in accordance with Clause 12 of the National Planning policy Framework.
  • I believe the design is inappropriate in scale, character and materials when compared to the surrounding period housing and will also have an adverse impact on the street scene from York Road.
  • Finally, I believe the application should be exposed to an independent planning inspector due to the perceived potential or actual conflicts of interest between the Council as vendor and its role as planning authority; and between, the council’s strategic retail consultants (Cushman & Wakefield) role in advising on the allocation of sites, their role as agents for the Council and their close agency relationship with The John Lewis Partnership.

The full explanation of my objections is in the document linked above.

To view the planning application please click here.

 

 

20120515 Letter to Councillors Rooth, Goodwin, Gunning and Mansbridge of GBC

I have today sent the following letter (copied to all Councillors)

Councillors Rooth, Mansbridge, Goodwin and Gunning
Guildford Borough Council,�
Millmead,
Guildford,
GU1 5BB

PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL                                              15th May 2012

Dear Councillors

Your cross-party letter to Martin Giles of 11th May

On Friday 11th May, I became aware of a letter you jointly and severally wrote to Mr Martin Giles as editor of the Guildford Dragon requiring him to publish it on his web site.

I am unaware of the details of any responses (if any) from any of the other individuals named in your letter or from Mr Giles himself, and I am assuming they will take such action or not as they see fit.

For my own part, I have taken advice and I am informed that I would have an excellent case for defamation against you all jointly and severally as a result of the inaccurate and ill-advised remarks you have made and the contention that, in concert with the others named, I have ‘maliciously’ set out to ‘misrepresent’ the Chief Executive, Mr David Hill.

I have provided a full evidence pack to my solicitor and I am very confident that, not only is there no case for me to answer, it is very clear that, were I in fact to have been malicious, I would have released many more facts and complaints about the behaviour of the Chief Executive.

I am deeply shocked by the strong-arm tactics employed rather crudely in your letter, as indeed I am by the apparent aggression employed in the conduct of the management of a supposedly democratic institution.

At the Corporate Improvement Scrutiny Committee (the Committee) meeting on 26th April three of the parties named in your letter (Martin Giles, Alderman Bridger and I) were present to witness a thoroughly undemocratic scene.  Nothing I have seen at Local Authority committee meetings around the country over many years could come close to matching the apparent aggression and contempt with which the presenting officer – who happened to be the Chief Executive standing in for the former Strategic Director (‘the Officer’) – treated the Councillors. Continue reading

GBC uses strong arm to keep skeletons in the cupboard

As part of a letter to Martin Giles of The Guildford Dragon on-line newspaper which stated that it was a cross-party communication signed by the three party leaders, the following section dealt with my comment on an opinion piece written by The Guildford Dragon:

“You published a letter from Mr Julian Lyon this weekend. Mr Lyon is also a member of the Guildford Vision Group and we assume his reference to unreturned correspondence is simply a repeat of their false allegation. However, Mr Lyon also made a number of other allegations that are untrue.

The CEO did not try to prevent Mr Lyon from speaking at the recent meeting of the Corporate Improvement Scrutiny Committee. He did return a call Mr Lyon had made to him and clarified that, since Mr Lyon is a trustee of the South East Music Trust, he may have a conflict of interest in some of the matters relating to the Phiiharmonic. At the time Mr Lyon accepted this advice, although he subsequently “CHOSE TO MISREPRESENT THEIR CONVERSATION”.

You and your readers may not be aware of the rather “BIZARRE” campaign Mr Lyon conducted against the CEO through the Surrey Advertiser’s letters page. Mr Lyon has written on four occasions to criticise him for not living in the borough. None of our chief executives in the last 25 years have had home addresses in the borough, including the two previous CEOs.” *

* I should note that Councillors Goodwin (Lib Dem) and Gunning (Labour) have distanced themselves from the letter stating that they had been misled into signing up to it.  The other Councillors, whilst not withdrawing their support for the letter, have revised its status from an obligation to publish to merely a letter. 

I do not propose to be intimidated by people who seem so pumped up with their own self-importance (despite their supposed democratic role), that they see any dissentors as arch enemies to be seen off or eliminated.

Continue reading

120505 Local Democracy

Letter to Surrey Advertiser

Sir

I read with interest the letters of Mr Slade and Alderman Bridger and the comments of our Council Leader (Surrey Ad 4th May) and, having spoken at the Committee meeting to which he referred, I can clarify a few points for your readers.

Peter Slade is absolutely right about the crucial role the Philharmonic (GPO) plays in the image and cultural outreach and vitality of Guildford – so much so that all of the Councillors barring perhaps Cllr Meredith were vocal in support of retaining the GPO in some form and gave unequivocal backing to a requirement for the Chief Executive and lead Councillor Jen Powell to revert back without delay with a clear fact-based recommendation as to the future of the GPO.

Continue reading

120504 Local Democracy

Comment posted on Guildford Dragon website

Let All the Councillors Have Their Say

In response to your opinion piece, ‘Where is GBC’s ‘Openness and Transparency’?’, as I recall it, Mr Hill’s other interventions during the debate on the Guildford Philharmonic were to tell the Scrutiny Committee what it can and cannot discuss and what sub-committees it can and cannot establish.

It is, surely, bad enough to have a relatively unaccountable Executive Committee (7 rural councillors and a token urban one) running affairs in our town – often to the complete disenfranchisement of the remaining forty or so councillors – but to also have a non-local Chief Executive deciding how this Council should conduct the democratic part of its business and behaving petulantly at that meeting whenever anyone said something with which he disagreed is palpably ultra vires. He was at the meeting as an officer (standing in for the one whose demise he oversaw) and should have behaved as such.

It is questionable how well the administrative part of his job is done – I know several members of the voting public to whom he has not even afforded the courtesy of a reply in respect of letters, emails and calls, relating to important issues affecting the town and Borough*. I also have received comments from many employees across the Council (all too afraid to speak out despite the Transparency Code implemented last year) that tell a different story when compared to that protective cloak of concern for his staff he discovered somewhere for the occasion of that meeting.

It is not the professional part of the job that is at question here, though. If David Hill wishes to get involved in local democracy, he should (1) move here so that he is eligible to stand and to vote; he should (2) put himself forward and see what the good burghers of Guildford actually think of him; he should (3) earn sufficient respect to be voted as party leader of the majority party so that he can (4) become the leader of the council.

Let all of the councillors have their say. Let them all provide strong and free representation of those who entrusted them with their votes. No-one should be disenfranchising whole sections of the Borough. Not the party political system, not the Executive Committee and, most definitely, not the Chief Executive.

* I have been asked to remove this reference as some instances have been agreed as misunderstandings – my own experience is very mixed (for example, as of 14th May and as far as I can tell, I have not yet received a reply to or acknowledgement of my email to him of 27th April).

120429 Waitrose

Letter to Surrey Advertiser (unpublished)

Sir

I attended the Waitrose exhibition and I have considered long and hard what I saw and heard and, however much I would love to have Waitrose in Guildford, I simply cannot see why it should be on the Bellerby Theatre site.

As a property professional with almost thirty years of experience, I know that it would be a much better idea to have both John Lewis and Waitrose anchoring the Friary extension and regenerating the area that has been all but set aside for tens of years pending development.  The combination of these two sister stores in a large format could well be the difference between a viable development or not.  Furthermore, the development of a new residential quarter should be capable of generating attractive returns for the Council’s site.

Continue reading

120426 Address to Scrutiny Committee

Address as delivered to the Guildford Borough Council Corporate Improvement Scrutiny Committee (26th April 2012)

My name is Julian Lyon, I have lived in Guildford for all of my 51 years and, of the things that make Guildford so special, its excellence in the provision of Arts ranks very highly. 

I well recall many Sunday afternoons sitting in the back row of the balcony of the old Civic Hall with my parents and siblings from the age of five, listening to and watching the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra – including, when I was around 7, hearing the Philharmonic Choir (now Vivace) performing the seemingly unapproachable piece: Elgar’s The Kingdom. 

I have to declare an interest this evening, therefore, because, according to the report in front of you, I have benefited disproportionately from the existence of the Philharmonic for 46 of its 67 years.  I am also a trustee – following in my father’s footsteps – of the South East Music Trust and I have, in the past, sung in the Philharmonic Choir. 

Continue reading

120423 Philharmonic and SEMT

Funding GPhil – a clearer future – SECOND DRAFT

Julian D S Lyon MBA (distinction) FRICS,
Trustee of The South East Music Trust
26th April 2012

Introduction

Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra (under its original name) was founded by the then Municipal Council in 1945 and has, for 66 uninterrupted years, provided the town with professional classical music.

Initially, the majority of players and conductor were on the Council’s payroll. Today the Council employs 1.81 Full Time Equivalent staff [source: GBC 2010/11 Budget Book].

As I was growing up, my parents took me to the Philharmonic concerts and they were members of the then-linked choir, Guildford Philharmonic Choir (now Vivace) and the supporting group Guildford Philharmonic Society (disbanded 1999) which ran its own series of meetings and concerts for members.

Continue reading