‘This case should have been thrown out months ago’
the same circumstances would do it again.”
Cllr Gordon Jackson, chairing the committee, asked Cllr Reeve to reconsider, saying: “Maybe you should just go with that and not get too worked up about it.”
But Cllr Reeve replied: “I’m sorry, I’m content with the way things are.”
The allegations against Cllr Reeve, who represents the Guildford Greenbelt Group, arose from complaints made by GBC leader Cllr Paul Spooner and leader of the opposition Cllr Caroline Reeves in July 2016.
The complaints followed Cllr Reeve’s circulation of his independent analysis of Guildford’s Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), which informed the production of the borough’s local plan.
Cllr Reeve had developed a different model which suggested the official SHMA overestimated Guildford’s housing need by around 2,000 homes, and made this review available to parish councils and residents’ associations in the borough.
However, in compiling his model, Cllr Reeve had been I given access to a confidential report produced by data company Experian, which had been used to develop the council’s SHMA. Of the more than 8,000 pieces of data in this report, Cllr Reeve used one – their estimate of employment in Guildford in 2013 – when writing his report.
Cllr Reeve argued that while this was a “technical breach” of confidentiality, it was far outweighed by the public interest in having a transparent assessment of the council’s figures and in alerting residents to the possibility of the housing need being overstated.
Delivering the committee’s verdict, Cllr Jackson said: “All parties accept that the information [disclosed by Cllr Reeve] was confidential. Cllr Reeve suggests that the information was de minimis, but the committee does not accept this argument.
“Either confidential information has been released or it has not.
The tests for public interest do not apply in this case.”
After the meeting, Cllr Reeve said: “This is a bad day for Guildford.
“The extraordinary thing about this case is that it hinged on the disclosure of a single number from a confidential Experian report composed of 8,300 numbers.
“Against that I set the legitimate public interest of all residents of this borough in the derivation of the objective housing need, which in turn drives the number of houses in the local plan. It seems to me that the result of balancing that public interest against one number falls unequivocally on the side of the public interest.
“The verdict that I breached confidentiality when the public interest is a defence makes no sense to me. In my opinion this case should have been thrown out months ago.”
The members of the subcommittee will now compile a report for full council to consider.
Neither Cllr Spooner nor Cllr Reeves attended the hearing. Cllr Reeves was out of the country, while Cllr Spooner said procedural rules meant he could not speak at the meeting and he did not wish to be accused of trying to influence the meeting by his presence.
Cllr Spooner said: “I am pleased that the panel upheld the substantive complaint at today’s hearing although I was disappointed that Cllr Reeve was not asked to apologise to council for his actions.”
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