Council Leader Stephen Mansbridge has asked Monika Juneja to step down from her role as lead member for planning at Guildford Borough Council (GBC). Cllr Mansbridge is to take on the planning portfolio himself.
The announcement came in an email sent this afternoon (August 18) from the GBC PR team “on behalf of the Leader of the Conservative Group”.
In an angry message Cllr Mansbridge blames a, “clear political campaign by a number of residents from the East of the borough” and mentions “the slurry of biased media coverage on this issue”.
Cllr Juneja, who has been charged with seven criminal offences, including pretending to be a barrister, and is due to make her first court appearance on September 2, will continue in her role as ward councillor for Burpham.
Cllr Mansbridge’s entire message is published below:
“The police investigation into Cllr Juneja’s professional life beyond Guildford Borough Council, and the subsequent charges, are the result of a clear political campaign by a number of residents from the East of the borough who seek to discredit the council’s Draft Local Plan.
“The complainants hide behind a charge for better public probity; whilst they mask behind computers with insults, rhetoric, disdain and disorder. They have spent a year hounding this councillor.
“It is worth reminding ourselves of the e-mail sent by Mr Julian Cranwell on 15 December 2013, which stated ‘…I do want her off the job of planning, given her history of pro-development. I accept that GGBG [believed to stand for the Guildford Green Belt Group] should keep away from this, it just needs a few good folks to make individual complaints, and we should get her out of the role.’
“Having returned from holiday, I have taken soundings amongst my political group, and I am clear on four points:
- you are innocent until proven guilty in this country and I hope that never changes with the slurry of biased media coverage on this issue;
- many of my elected political group do not wish Cllr Juneja to resign from her Executive role;
- why complain, if you are not a victim?
- the conduct of Surrey Police in terms of this investigation and its relationship with the complainants is the subject of a number of complaints to the IPCC.
“We have a difficult task to accomplish, which is to steer a Local Plan through to successful adoption in order to secure the future of the borough of Guildford. If we want Guildford to remain as lively and good as it is today, then we need to embrace this opportunity rather than reject it. We need to remember that continuity is protected by change and not destroyed by it.
“Having said all this, most reluctantly I have asked Cllr Juneja to step down from her Executive position. Whilst, I have had many messages from organisations, pressure groups and individuals from around the borough imploring me to keep her on, as I have had from my own councillors, I make this decision with the best interests of Cllr Juneja, my Conservative Group and the council as a whole at heart.
“Cllr Juneja will not be suspended by the Conservative Group from her role as a councillor, as a clear majority have voiced their opinion that this is an unnecessary act, particularly bearing in mind her diligence, commitment and heavy workload during her time as a lead member.
“I shall take charge of the Local Plan process and planning, supported by my Executive.
“At this point, on behalf of the Executive, Conservative Group and the Council, I wish to thank Cllr Juneja for the exceptional service that she has given as a Lead Member for both Planning and Governance. Her departure is a loss for herself and the Executive, a loss for local politics at large and a loss for the borough as a whole. She takes with her a vast body of knowledge which cannot easily be replaced.”