18th March 2012
Waverley Local Area Committee (LAC)
Surrey County Council
I would like to discuss a few things with you after the truly appalling meeting on Friday afternoon. For most of us the treatment we received was shocking beyond belief. Many of us are in senior positions and we have never witnessed a meeting where the chairman takes such authoritarian control and the members of the meeting have such scant regard for what is going on.
Madam Chairman, your control of the meeting was despicable, but I would like to help the LAC in addressing the problems that made the meeting such a disgrace. If you bring in these changes then I think, in the future, you can undertake a meeting in a much more convivial manner. Just like the meetings many of us in the room on Friday conduct every day of the week.
My recommendations are as follows:
- Officers must produce accurate and honest reports that reflect all the facts. The main problem with Friday is that the Officers’ report, produced by David North and David Curl, was wholly inaccurate in respect of the community’s response. Because both officers hid behind the Data Protection Act they did not have to include, in the bundle of papers, all the objections. This enabled both officers to produce a report, that detailed the responses so totally inaccurately, too many to list here. In reality every assessment of the number of complaints was wrong. The treatment of support responses, compared with the treatment of the opposition responses, were totally different. Whether they had not bothered to read every single one of the hundreds of responses or they purposefully misrepresented the responses, I do not know. You might like as a group to investigate that.
- In order to remove any suspicion of this in the future I recommend that all responses to consultation be included in the officers report, omitting the names of respondent and house names of each letter. I have seen this many times in council papers in London and I cannot for the life of me see why SCC does not do this.
- I recommend that all the members of the committee in any contentious case take the trouble to familiarise themselves with the critical issues. It is totally unacceptable for a committee to comprise people who “rely on the guidance of the local member”. None of you, except Ian Lake, made any effort at all to come and listen to us. Of 18 members of a committee to have 16 completely ignore the arguments we put forward is quite disgraceful. The Chairman made repeated references to the meeting, ‘she had arranged with objectors’. In fact she was required to hold the meeting because of the flagrant abuse of process that had been drawn to the Leader’s attention. The chairman arrived at our meeting on the 6th March with the words ‘I have been set up”. i.e only interested in herself and not in our arguments, recommendations, suggestions or solutions.
- Had all the replies to the consultation been made available to the committee and had the committee members then read the whole pack, members would then be able to question the woefully inaccurate officers’ report. After all, that is the role of the committee: to ensure accuracy, fairness and diligent decision making. The three requirements so totally lacking in that dreadful meeting on Friday.
- As it was, we, the residents of Haslemere had to do the job that the committee should have done and for that, you madam chairman, ejected us without any regard for balance or justice. Those ejected for merely upholding honesty, transparency and democracy were illegally treated and they expect an individual written apology from the Chairman for her totally unacceptable actions. Next meeting – control yourselves, behave as you should, get a grip of the officer’s errors and challenge them yourselves. We should not have to do your job. If you don’t want the job, then don’t put yourself up for election.
The next LAC meeting in June will be attended by all of us again and we will wish to see these recommendations implemented. This letter has been copied to both David Hodge and David McNulty whose conduct in this affair has been lamentable.
Every single one of you should be ashamed of the course this meeting took. We, the residents of Haslemere, deserve an unreserved written apology from you all.
I look forward to receiving all your replies in due course. A collective reply responding to all the points in this letter will of course be welcome.
From: James Birkett [mailto: removed]
Sent: 23 March 2012 7:07 AM
Subject: LAC Meeting
You may publish this