A FORMER rebel councillor has called for the Winchester city council chief executive to be replaced.

Kim Gottlieb is frustrated about the way the city council proposes to redevelop the central Winchester area, latterly known as Saxongate, but best-known as Silver Hill.

He has criticised the lack of emphasis on the potential archaeology and the fact that the council proposes one developer rather than his preference for several.

Mr Gottlieb, a property developer, who has resigned from both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups in his time on the council, was instrumental in derailing the first Silver Hill scheme in 2014 with a judicial review over the council’s unlawful contract procurement and in 2016 supported the Lib Dems in defeating the first Station Approach scheme.

It is not the time time he has demanded the council boss should go. He did the same in 2015 calling for then-chief executive Simon Eden to stand down after the Silver Hill High Court defeat. It led to an investigation into Cllr Gottlieb’s conduct which in 2018 found he had breached the council code of conduct.

In his letter to the Chronicle, Mr Gottlieb criticised council chief executive Laura Taylor over the “dismal” direction over Silver Hill, Station Approach and recently the Bar End Depot.

He writes: “The biggest barrier to constructive change is, in my view, the council’s chief executive, Laura Taylor. My own engagement with her has, at times, been bizarre. Even though I was a councillor who sat on the relevant committee I was denied a copy of the sports centre operator contract, and even access to architect’s drawings to review in between meetings.

“In the case of Station Approach, Ms Taylor’s team just spent more good money after bad, and their answer to the depot site and to Silver Hill is to sell them off. To help make the misguided decision to sell its crown jewels, the council has paid many hundreds of thousands of pounds to consultants in an opaque and, I believe, a fundamentally undemocratic process.

“Winchester still deserves better, and it still needs change. I believe that a new chief executive is the way to achieve it.”

Ms Taylor took over the authority in early 2017.

The Chronicle asked the city council for a response and its leader Lucille Thompson, Liberal Democrat, replied: “There’s almost no decision in Mr Gottlieb’s letter that wasn’t taken by democratically elected politicians - and the remainder were taken on legal advice.

“Many of Mr Gottlieb’s complaints relate to a time when the council was run by a different party (Conservatives) with different policies and approaches - and it’s completely unreasonable to attack the council’s chief executive for following those instructions. There’s also no plan to unconditionally ‘sell off’ the Bar End Depot and Central Winchester as he implies - that option has been explicitly ruled out in both cases.”

Cllr Thompson added: “This attack is particularly unfair when all our council colleagues have been working flat out for months to support local residents and businesses in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic - whether that has been getting money efficiently and quickly to local businesses, supporting the most vulnerable, ensuring services like bin collections keep working effectively and making our high streets safe for visitors and residents across the district.

“We all owe Mrs Taylor and council staff a huge debt of gratitude for their work and Mr Gottlieb would do well to be more gracious in recognising it.”