SIR: Seven years ago, almost to the day, I was honoured to be one of the leaders of the Winchester March at which close to 2,000 locals rallied outside the Guildhall and berated the city council. The exercise started as a response to the council’s plans for Silver Hill but it was quickly extended by concerns for other projects. The common cause and rallying cry was “we want change”.

Less than three months later (in February 2015) the council was castigated by the High Court for its unlawful breaches of the procurement regulations. The leader of the council resigned. We then had the Claer Lloyd-Jones Inquiry which, a year later, concluded that the cause of the council’s woes were, in effect, due to its management. A few months later the chief executive resigned.

Since the march, we’ve had four different Conservative leaders and a Liberal Democrat administration as from May 2019. If anything has changed it’s only because the council’s conduct has probably got worse. It has carried on acting unlawfully and has conceded its failures in Judicial Review proceedings brought on two more of its own developments, at Station Approach and the Bar End car park. The council’s plans for central Winchester (aka Silver Hill) are incoherent, and its approach to River Park may well trigger another Judicial Review.

All administrations promise that they will learn the lessons of the past, make the changes needed and go forward in a transparent and consultative (and lawful) way. Under the guidance of the current chief executive, the current administration has failed on almost every count. Worse still, the basics of democracy have been stifled, if not snuffed out altogether. No longer are key decisions made by the full body of (45) councillors. Instead, all decisions are made by a cabal within the seven-member Cabinet, with the rest of the ruling group risking charges of party disloyalty if they fail to toe the line. The public is informed (sometimes) rather than consulted.

Change is still sorely needed but next time, hopefully, it will be a positive one. Perhaps we need another march.

Kim A Gottlieb,

East Stratton