Monthly Archives: July 2013

Surrey Heath: taxing the poor to feed the rich


Every six months Tory-controlled Surrey Heath Borough Council stage an expensive luxury free breakfast for business people. I don’t know exactly how much this costs. The reason for that is that SHBC don’t know how much it costs either. Last year I used the Freedom of Information Act to find out how much of our, taxpayers’, money is spent on feeding the well-fed. I discovered that the food alone cost £30 per head.

At the same time, I requested the names of all the delegates. Just over 100 people attended. About a quarter of them were Tory councillors, there were some council officers and a large number of Tory donors. I wrote about it here.

It is more difficult for me to find out who attends these meetings now because SHBC are refusing to reveal all the names because it might lead to them being distressed. I can totally understand that: business people must be ashamed to be seen scoffing £30 worth of taxpayers’ food while children in poor families within this borough are going hungry in the morning. If it had been revealed that I was so greedy and heartless I would be distressed too. At least these wealthy diners have a sense of shame.

The next Business Breakfast will be the first one since the two latest attacks on low income families. Surrey Heath BC imposed the harshest, most extreme, cuts to Council Tax benefit in April. Also, the Tory-LibDem Coalition imposed the Bedroom Tax which hits poor families and disabled people financially.

Among the Tory supporters at the next Business Breakfast will be ‘Zero Tolerance’ unofficial Tory Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley. Mr Hurley is a wealthy businessman, owning a private security company, so he could afford to pay for the cost of the food he consumes.

The large number of Tory councillors who attend these events could also afford to pay their way. Nearly all of the local Tory councillors are self-employed small business people. There is nothing wrong with being self-employed, of course, but to have no (or almost no) employees among their number shows how they have become so out of touch. Their priority is to keep their wealthy friends well nourished.

SHBC and Tory Windlesham Parish Council stage many publicly-funded events to reward Tory donors and supporters but this one has a special resonance. Michael Gove, Surrey Heath’s MP and Education Secretary, is cutting healthy school meals for children from poor families. One of his biggest donors is a major shareholder in Dominos Pizza. Tory Surrey County Council also send councillors on luxury overnight stays in Farnham Castle where they eat and drink very well at our expense.

Before a previous Business Breakfast I asked SHBC if I could collect the leftovers to take to a foodbank or homeless shelter. They refused.

This massively expensive Tory knees-up should be cancelled and the money added to the inadequate hardship fund for those families suffering most under SHBC’s extremist regime. The huge amount of officers’ time spent organising this event should be used in the interests of the electorate as a whole eg assessing local needs and enforcing planning decisions.

If it is too late to cancel October’s event, I call on SHBC to charge each attendee £30. If there is any worth in attending beyond stuffing one’s face, business people will be happy to pay. This money should then be added to the hardship fund.

One of the treasurers of the Church of England said on Radio 4, “No business is 100% good” to justify investing money from collection plates in Wonga. Businesses need to prove continuously that they are not parasites, exploiting workers and customers for everything they can take. If attendees of the Business Breakfast want to prove that they should be given the option.

If you decide to attend the SHBC Business Breakfast in October, remember when you are tucking into your breakfast that it has been taken from the mouths of children in the poorest families in our community. I hope that thought ruins your appetite.

Fight to save Chobham Common: The end of the beginning


Regular readers will already know about the ongoing struggle to protect Chobham Common from the threat of a massive new housing development on the ex-DERA site at Longcross. I’m pleased to announce that the planning application for the first 200 homes on the northern part of the site has been withdrawn by the applicant. I received this letter from Runnymede Borough Council

withdrawal letter

This is certainly not the end of the matter, however. On 12 July, the developer issued this statement:

Following the public consultation exercise last year the development team has now looked at again at the plans and specifically the delivery of public space in connection with the scheme. As a result Crest and Aviva are now looking to submit new proposals with additional plans for a 30-hectare country park at Trumps Farm, off Kitsmead Lane.

In response the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said:

Any new public access land is to be warmly welcomed, but unless it is dedicated as a registered Village Green, or ‘Access Land’ under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, the public’s right of free access in perpetuity is simply not guaranteed. In the recent past, Crest-Nicholson have transferred recreational land they own to Runnymede Council, who have then used the land for housing development. It is also difficult to see how this land will take pressure off Chobham Common as, as currently proposed, the land will have a formal ‘laid out’ feel to it wholly unlike the wild common. Furthermore, Halogen have said the new land will not have the access for equestrians that the common enjoys. Whatever is proposed, CPRE maintains the view that no land should be removed from the Green Belt.

The CPRE later added:

Trumps Farm (33.5 ha) has been purchased [it turns out from the consultation on 11/7 that they only have an option to buy] by Crest Nicholson to provide a SANG. CPRE submits that as it is a “mixture of rolling arable farmland and dense woodland”, and is fenced against the highway – unlike Chobham Common, it is wholly unsuitable as a SANG to mitigate the effect on the TBHSPA of any local development.

The Runnymede Borough Council draft Local Plan has been revised but still includes removing the entire DERA site from Green Belt. This could lead to up to 4,000 new homes being built here. This would endanger many rare species and health land and is not necessary given the many other, brownfield, sites nearby which could be used for new housing.

However, the abrupt withdrawal of the initial planning application can be considered a victory for all of us who have campaigned to protect the Common. It is only a small victory but a small victory is better than a defeat, and we could only beat the application in front of us. This should give us hope and inspiration to fight the bigger battle to come, preventing the removal of the site from Green Belt.

This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

This small victory has been one of many recently: the Lightwater Surgery 0844 number, the dance school and vets planning applications, the M3 acoustic barriers, Watchetts garden-grabbing, etc. There is hope of many more: new pavilion in Windlesham, CCG constitution changes, etc.

What these successful campaigns have in common is that they have broad-based support, are analytical, beneficial and took lots of work by campaigners. They have all drawn on support from many local people and groups. Campaigners (sometimes including me) have studied the ‘rules of the game’, analysed our position and painstakingly (and courageously) argued the case for the benefit of the whole community. This is not easy but it is powerfully effective.

A recent campaign, opposing the Deepcut planning application, which I was not involved in, concentrated too much on making unrealistic demands, and on abusing independent council officers and the opponents’ motives. This is no substitute for hard graft, studying, building alliances and making a reasoned, relevant case.

I’ll admit to being pleasantly surprised by some of the successes I listed but these came about by hard work and that’s what we need more of to keep Chobham Common special for the next generation.

Taser: The Shocking Truth


I spent this afternoon as the guest of Surrey Police at their Guildford Headquarters. As regular readers might remember, I was invited by the Chief Constable, Lynne Owens, to observe officers’ training after a discussion on Twitter where I questioned the use of Tasers by British police officers.

Communication with the public is rightly very important for British police forces. In this country, we are policed ‘by consent’. The founder of the police as we know it, Robert Peel, said, “The police are the public and the public are the police.” Policing should not be seen as something done to us, rather as something we are involved in. Police are scrutinised minutely in the media and are always under financial pressure, so it would be understandable if they were defensive or uncommunicative about subjects such as Taser. I’m happy to report that all of the officers I spoke to today were the opposite. They were keen to answer all my questions, to which they listened carefully and communicated in English which I could understand, not police-language (“I was proceeding in a northerly direction on foot, your honour” for example).

I have written previously, elsewhere, about the potential of a police force of professionals, “intellectuals” pejoratively, and how I supported ordinary police officers being able to analyse policing broadly and deeply. I might need to take some of that back now because it is already happening. I spoke to constables who, in the next few days, might be dealing with violent offenders by force in real life who explained analytically how they deal with certain situations, how they comply with procedures and how they prioritise public safety above their own. I wasn’t expecting that.

The Observation

I arrived at Police HQ just before 12.30 and signed in. I was expected and Chief Superintendent Charlie Doyle’s PA, Sandy, quickly appeared in reception to welcome me. At 12.30, the time on my itinerary, Charlie arrived, closely followed by Inspector Andy Grand. The interactions between different ranks in the police is new to me. It is not at all like the army, much more like airline pilots: although in uniform, first names are used and occasionally, “skipper” or “boss”.

There were three observers of today’s training. My companions were Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner, Shiraz Mirza, whose responsibility is Equality and Diversity, and Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Jeff Harris, a former police officer.

The ten trainees were Taser qualified officers on their annual recurrent training and assessment. The required training is set down nationally by ACPO and can be found on page 10-015 here. The part that we watched included exercises in pairs, watched by the other trainees, dealing with scenarios set up by the four instructors. Then each trainee was filmed doing a solo exercise for the pass/fail assessment. Two instructors wore thick protective suits and full helmets to protect them from the Taser projectiles or anything else the trainees might subject them to.

Now, I don’t know if these trainees and instructors were chosen because we were watching but I thought they were all very competent and treated the exercise as real life. Everyone was debriefed in front of the group after the first scenarios in pairs. This reminded me of my simulator checks as an airline pilot. Even if you have a successful conclusion you can be expected to explain why you made the decisions you did. Not all of the trainees passed but given the intensity of the scenarios I could hardly fault any of them. We were warned that ‘inappropriate language’ would be used during the role-playing. There was some swearing by the instructors while simulating offenders or mentally distressed people, but nothing you don’t hear on the Today Programme.

I don’t think the group was hand-picked to give us a good impression because they were all white males. All ten trainees, four instructors, two senior officers and three observers, except Shiraz, were white males.

The X26 Taser, used by Surrey Police. It costs about £1,000 and they have 150 of them. Running costs total £50k pa.

The X26 Taser, used by Surrey Police. It costs about £1,000 and they have 150 of them. Running costs total £50k pa.

Decision Making

The main emphasis of the training was decision making. The Taser itself is a simple, easy-to-use device. At the end, I was given the opportunity to fire a live cartridge, as opposed to the dummy training ones used during the exercise. When the safety catch is removed a red laser target dot appears. This is where the top projectile barb will hit. The lower barb will hit the target below this. The further the target is away, the lower it will hit. The barbs penetrate clothing and stick into the skin beneath. Then a current is passed between them, pulsing 19 times per second and using up to 50,000 volts. A successful hit causes most people involuntarily to collapse to the ground. While the current is applied, the target will remain immobile but could leap back up immediately the 5 second discharge ends. By pressing the trigger again, the target, if still attached, will be incapacitated again.

In scenarios where the officers were threatened by people with knives or crowbars the Tasers were drawn quickly, warnings shouted and they were fired. There were two scenarios where Tasers were not actually fired, although they were drawn. One was where the suspect said he had doused himself in petrol, CS gas was used when he started slashing himself with a knife. The other was when the person threatening the officers dropped his crowbar, although he continued threatening them, they holstered their Tasers and grabbed his arms to handcuff him.

When considering using force, officers have to use the National Decision Making Model. However, this is inevitably based on their perception of the situation at the time. The only officers equipped with Tasers in Surrey are ‘response’ officers. They get called out to deal with 999 calls, for example. I think there is a reasonable expectation that they will be met with violence in doing this. If they did not have Tasers they would use batons, CS spray or police dogs. From what I have seen, the other methods would be more dangerous, even to people with serious health conditions. Many of these officers’ customers are suffering from mental health disorders, some hoping to commit ‘suicide by cop’. Officers in these kinds of situations have to make difficult decisions quickly so it is difficult for me to maintain my opposition to Tasers in this context.

For criminals who are thinking rationally, the Taser could have a deterrent effect. If an officer is pointing a Taser at you, there is only really one option: comply. However, I am concerned about the possibility of an arms race between police and criminals. If criminals know that all officers carry this weapon they will be more likely to attack first. Happily there are no plans, or budget, to extend Tasers beyond the response teams. If a neighbourhood police officer chats to underage youths drinking or causing a nuisance to their neighbours, the presence of a weapon like this would escalate the situation and make them feel forced to comply rather than agreeing because it is the right thing to do. This is my remaining concern.

Reassured but still watchful

From what I saw today, I do not believe Surrey Police officers would deliberately use a Taser in an inappropriate way. Also, although I still believe Tasers are dangerous, for example being shot in the face by a barb, the alternatives when faced by a level of threat justifying its use are worse for the person on the receiving end.

When a Taser is fired a little bit of what looks like confetti is spread on the ground. These tiny discs have the cartridge’s serial number on them. All uses of Tasers are logged and investigated. Whatever the costs pressures in future it is vital that this continues to ensure the approved tactics are always followed. Surrey Police only fired Tasers 18 times last year but they have only been using them for 4 years. As a Surrey citizen I expect every use of Tasers to be justified and in accordance with ACPO policy. Also, I do not want every police officer I see to be armed with a Taser. This would be an escalation and move police further away from the public.

Thank you Surrey Police

Surrey Police took a risk by allowing me to observe their training. All of the officers I met are proud of their role in keeping the rest of us safe. I tried to be polite when I pressed them on challenging questions to do with Tasers and I received only patient polite relevant answers. I liked the throw-away comment from one, “you won’t read that in Sophie Khan’s articles”. It reminded me about how pilots are exasperated when David Learmount comes on Sky News to speculate about a plane crash. I assure you, reader, that I didn’t succumb to Stockholm Syndrome, but I was very impressed by the professionalism and openness of all the officers. In particular, I’m grateful to the officers under assessment for allowing me to watch.

Police find themselves in difficult dangerous positions regularly and like everyone will make mistakes from time to time. If the standard I witnessed today is maintained and Tasers are only deployed as frequently as they now are, then I feel reassured by what I saw.

 

 

Surrey Heath CCG Newsletter 1


The Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group is a new group of doctors set up under the wide-ranging NHS reorganisation that is taking place. More information about them here.

I recently received their first newsletter. It was interesting to read the report and feedback from the AGM that I attended and participated in. The CCG says:

We are committed to open and honest dialogue with our community and welcome the involvement of patients and their families, representatives from local organisations and the public.

I hope that they live up to this commitment and accept the minor changes in their constitution that have been proposed by 38 Degrees on behalf of hundreds of their patients who signed a petition. These changes would make the CCG more transparent and ensure only ethical providers of healthcare are used who pay their taxes in the UK and treat their employees properly. A local Tory councillor, Denis Fuller, recently spoke out strongly in a local newspaper against these changes and in favour of the CCG using unethical providers. I believe that the people of Surrey Heath would disagree with him. These out of touch Tories will certainly have their say in how the CCG will be run, so it’s vital that the rest of us do too.

Also, at the AGM some people said they wanted the CCG to concentrate its resources on more deprived areas of the borough and on vulnerable and hard to reach groups, including the traveller community who often suffer from ill health due to being isolated by people’s prejudices. Commissioning and spending decisions should reflect these priorities in future.

If you would like to receive future CCG newsletters, there is an email address on the newsletter to sign up. The more people who get involved, the more influence we can have on how the NHS is run locally. The government’s reforms are designed to open up services to privatisation. Until the next election the only way to protect our NHS from this is to get involved and have your say.

New Acoustic Barriers to Protect Windlesham!


Excellent news has just come in from the Highways Agency. They have agreed to install noise attenuation barriers to protect Windlesham from the increased noise that will be generated by the M3 when it becomes a Managed Motorway. Here is the latest message I received from the project manager:

Dear Mr Wilson
Thank you for your contribution to the statutory instrument consultation for the M3 J2-4a scheme, your comments have been noted.
Environmental assesments and design work are currently ongoing, however I shall seek to address the points that you raise.

To mitigate the effects of additional noise on local residents, the design proposal will provide noise attenuation barriers. This does however mean that some of the trees which currently screen the motorway from the village will need to be removed; but they will be replaced by new planting.

There are no plans to extend the use of noise attenuation barriers as far as Chobham common and it is not the Highways Agency’s policy to provide noise fencing for non-residential areas. The effectiveness of a noise attenuation barrier diminishes the further away the receptor is from it, which means that properties more than 100m away will experience little or no benefit.

The hard shoulder will be resurfaced with low noise surfacing as part of the M3 managed motorway project and there is likely to be some resurfacing of sections of the other lanes where queue protection loops are installed. The aims of this project are to install the infrastructure needed for the M3 to operate as a MM-ALR and therefore we are not proposing to resurface the whole carriageway. However, resurfacing of the M3 is in the area team’s scheduled maintenance plans.

When determing the position of the lit variable message signs and gantries, a number of factors are considered. There is the requirement to appropriately advise the motorist of the prevailing speed limit sufficiently frequently, and convey other information. The attached leaflets give more infomation on the design which you may find helpful. You will see that the new all lane running design makes greater use of roadside mounted gantries and signs rather than the overhead ones spanning the carriageway that you may be familiar with from managed motorways on other parts of the network. There is also the visual intrusion impact on local properties that we take into account; where possible infrastructure is located sensitively or screened with planting. It is not usual to screen open countryside per se, but we are aware of the protective designations assigned to Chobham Common and are taking the necessary measures.

As I say, design work and environmental assessments are ongoing, and we are planning to hold public information exhibitions in the area later in the year when this work is complete. We will write to you nearer the time with the details.

Should you have any other queries regarding the scheme please feel free to contact me via the project email address or by telephoning the HA information line on 0300 123 5000.

Yours sincerely

Simon Kirby 

Project Support 

MM Fact Sheets 6- Design i MM Fact Sheets 4- The Controlled Environment ii MM Fact Sheets 4- The Controlled Environment i MM Fact Sheets 6- Design ii

 

Truly, Madly, Deeply: 1,200 New Homes Approved at Deepcut


Last night, at a special meeting of Surrey Heath Borough Council, the planning application for 1,200 new homes at the soon-to-be-vacated Princess Royal Barracks at Deepcut was approved. The meeting was held at the Camberley Theatre and was webcast live on the Council’s website. I watched it online and really appreciated not having to sit for over 4 hours in a hot auditorium. The webcasting of council meetings will help more people, particularly the disabled, carers and parents, witness council business which is taking place in their name.

Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.

This quote is usually attributed to Otto von Bismarck. Along with laws and sausages, planning decisions are often made in unsightly ways. Councillors are essentially members of the public, self-selected to represent us, not chosen for their town planning expertise. This is the system we have because local voters should be involved in shaping their communities and planning officers should be forced to explain their recommendations in terms that ordinary people can understand. However, different councillors have their own aptitudes, priorities, prejudices, attitudes and ways of communicating. This made it an interesting spectacle but they came to broadly the right decision.

Up the junctions?

Like most big planning applications the objections centred around traffic. Adding 1,200 homes will inevitably increase car traffic in the borough. What was missed by some objectors was that it is only reasonable to ask the developer to mitigate the increase in traffic, not the existing problems on local roads, for example the Red Road. This should be dealt with by the county highways authority using their budget.

The package of potential mitigation measures agreed between the council and the applicant includes a large number of small changes to various roundabouts and junctions, money to improve bus services and new cycle routes. Not being a qualified traffic engineer, I have to accept their statistics and methodology. I found this part of the meeting most interesting.

When I was a candidate in Lightwater West, many voters complained about the long queues to get onto the M3 at peak times. Some mitigation is planned here but the planners admit when Deepcut is fully built the junction will be more congested than it is today. One solution proposed by some is to create a new junction on the M3 near the site. I think this would suffer from the same fatal flaws as any new junction for the DERA site further east, as was explained by a traffic consultant at a meeting of DERA campaigners. A new junction would slow traffic on the motorway which is a key piece of national infrastructure. Also, traffic would cut across country to get to new junctions. A J2A would swamp Chobham and Windlesham with motorway traffic, for example. New motorway junctions cost millions of pounds, of course. I believe the answer to traffic congestion is sustainable transport: trains, buses, bikes and walking.

If not here, then where?

The council’s head of planning explained that if the Deepcut site was refused they would have to look elsewhere in the borough to build new homes. She said that this could include Green Belt sites. There are currently no plans to remove any land from Green Belt in Surrey Heath and that’s the way it should stay.

The Deepcut plan sets aside 60% of the site for open green space. Ideological anti-environmentalists have complained about this. The officers firmly pointed out that providing this open space for residents does not cost any public money. It will all be funded by the developer. Much of this space is to mitigate the effect of dog owners in the new houses and the damage to wildlife they could cause if they walk their pets on Chobham Common. The reason certain Tory councillors object to this is because it is the European Birds Directive that protects these species. They are ideologically anti-European and xenophobic regardless of the benefit it gives us here.

The big picture

New housing is desperately needed in this area. In particular, affordable housing is required as fewer people can access mortgages to pay the inflated prices in the South East. Ordinary people in low or mid-income jobs cannot find decent affordable accommodation and the council should remedy this as a priority. Some Tory councillors objected to making 35% of the new homes ‘affordable’. They resent socially-mixed communities and want to thrust their political views into consideration of the planning application.

Money spent on constructing houses is one of the most effective ways to stimulate the economy. The fiscal multiplier is high because it creates lots of new jobs, business for material suppliers and, when new residents move in, lots of household goods are purchased from retailers.

The council also receive a New Homes Bonus which goes into public funds. This can be used to fund public projects or hold down Council Tax increases.

The big gamble

The council’s independent planning officers recommended that the application be approved. Weighing up all the pros and cons, it was clear that was the right thing to do. If it was refused, it is inevitable that it would go to appeal at the Planning Inspectorate and be approved. If this happened, the potential traffic mitigation measures might not be enforced. The council could also be liable for legal costs and the benefits of the new development could be delayed.

It would have been a big gamble to refuse the application, and yet ten councillors voted against it. Why? Did they not grasp what was at stake? Were they just showboating for the audience? I guess it doesn’t really matter. What matters now is ensuring the new development is a healthy, happy, socially inclusive, sustainable community.

Surrey Heath, Rotten Borough


I wasted an hour of my time this evening. I attended (some of) the Surrey Heath Local Committee in Bagshot. This is a panel of all 6 Surrey County Councillors for the Surrey Heath area and 6 borough councillors from Surrey Heath Borough Council (if they all turn up, which they never do).

Regular readers will remember that on 19 March 2013 Surrey County Council voted unanimously to use their power to protect the Green Belt. I submitted a written question to tonight’s committee asking if all the current members of the committee agreed with this:

Surrey’s Green Belt is under imminent threat. Neighbouring Runnymede Borough Council’s draft Local Plan involves removing the entire DERA site at Chobham Common from Green Belt status. The development that this would then allow would be devastating for rare wildlife and heathland within Surrey Heath borough. On 19 March 2013 Surrey County Council resolved unanimously to use its power to protect the Green Belt.

Cllr Pitt and the former councillor representing Windlesham were absent from that meeting and two other Surrey Heath county councillors were elected for the first time at the 2 May election.

My question is: Do each of the current members of this committee, including Borough councillors, agree with the then members of Surrey County Council that no land should be removed from Surrey’s Green Belt?

So, I was simply pointing out that not all of the members of the Local Committee had had a chance to make their views known about whether they objected to any land being removed from the Green Belt. That’s a simple, uncontroversial question. I was surprised that the written answer didn’t answer it. I didn’t get a copy of the answer but another audience member let me read his copy. They just repeated the SCC position from before.

I then had the opportunity to ask a supplementary question. I started by politely pointing out that my original question had not been answered. The chairman, Cllr David Ivison immediately interrupted me rudely and said he wouldn’t let the committee become a debating chamber. He gloated that Cllr Mike Goodman had defeated me in the 2 May election. I was there in a personal capacity and Cllr Ivison chose to make it party political.

He also defended persistent truant Cllr Chris Pitt by saying he was overseas on 19 March. I think Pitt lives part time in South Africa but that is hardly an excuse for failing to represent his electorate. He is both a borough and county councillor.

Ivison's letter in Camberley News 1 Nov 12 sledging me for suggesting a new cycle route

Ivison’s letter in Camberley News 1 Nov 12 sledging me for suggesting a new cycle route

I persevered and at the fourth attempt managed to ask my supplementary question. I asked if Cllr Ivison would write an email to Cllr Chris Norman who is the chairman of the Runnymede Local Committee, which meets on Monday, to inform him of the Surrey Heath Local Committee’s position on removing land from the Green Belt. He refused. I will have to write the email myself obviously.  It was a surprising and unpleasant experience to be treated with contempt publicly by a committee chairman. I have seen lone voices stand up against a room full of Tories before and been impressed by their courage. I’ll admit I found it difficult to be on the receiving end of such an abuse of office as Cllr Ivison’s. His general demeanour is pompous and patronising when dealing with other members of the public but he displayed real anger and contempt for me.

Cllr Ivison has shown this before when I had a letter published in the local paper with my idea for a ‘Bradley Wiggins Cycle Route’ to commemorate the great man’s achievements. Ivison challenged me to attend his committee to be ‘updated’. His committee doesn’t ‘update’ anyone, it just ignores then degrades people. It turned out most of the Tory committee members had an awful attendance record. Cllr Surinder Gandhum of the armed wing of the Lightwater Tory Party didn’t make it tonight. The committee still outnumbered the audience.

I attended to ask the committee to write one short email to protect the Green Belt. It was obvious that they wouldn’t lift a finger to help. I suspect that they had received instructions from drink-drive Cllr John Furey who sits on Runnymede Borough Council and the Cabinet of Surrey County Council. Any Tory councillor with ambition has to stay in his good books and he wants Chobham Common concreted over. This Toad of Toad Hall decides policy in this area, not a pointless local committee.

The Surrey Heath Local Committee is an abuse of democracy. The committee is too big and the audience is too small. The chairman is abusive and evasive. Surrey Heath is one of the safest Tory seats in Britain but until now I have always had a fair hearing at its committees. This committee only serves to prop up the ego of the chairman. Surrey Heath is effectively a rotten borough where bullies like Ivison get given chairmanship of committees so they can throw their weight around.

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