DIO – The Silent Service

Way back in March Hart District Council wrote the DIO Chief Executive Graham Dalton, raising concerns among other things at the lack of access at Long Valley.

You can read a copy of the letter here:

In April Guildford Borough Council also wrote a letter to Mr Dalton, raising concerns and seeking answers to the issue of public access at Ash Ranges.

You can read a copy of that letter here:

At time of writing neither council had received a response from Mr Dalton.

But before we look into that, a quick reminder of some of the issues, and DIO’s spend to “fix” them.

The Power to Spend

DIO display a special level of contempt for elected officials and the communities they find themselves dealing with. A case in point is the matter of additional gates at Long Valley, and ensuring the space is open for recreation when not in use. Local residents have received written assurances of both but DIO simply refuse to act.

The promised gates? Not even planned, let alone installed.

When the fence was built DIO were assuring everyone it was for public safety. The bill for fencing now runs close to £250,000 and we know the lands are empty more often than not with DIO’s own records showing February 2021 was used just 34 hours of a total of 320.

Back in 2018 DIO were claiming Long Valley was in use “day and night” and the area will be kept open for recreation when not in use. Regrettably neither are true and provide more evidence of DIO unable to communicate the truth. So confident in their claims, the signs are still hanging on the fence in 2021.

A quarter of a million pounds have been spent on fences to protect us from danger that simply does not exist for most of the time. When in use, typically its one single vehicle making a lot of noise driving slowly around the test track, or parked up at Eelmoor. The vehicles are easy to see and – most important – avoid.

We struggle to understand how the fence can be described as good value for the taxpayer, nor can DIO demonstrate adherence to their own written statements, yet political directives to deliver remain ignored.

But its not an isolated waste…at Ash Ranges DIO have spent close to £50,000 on a path that no one wants or needs whilst the claims of risk are centred around the visually impaired or illiterate being unable to understand signs and that they might hurt themselves if they fall down a hole.

Or maybe its COVID fault.

But then blaming the local community for vandalism seems reasonable in DIO’s eyes.

The messages for closure at Ash have been consistently confusing and mixed, but ultimately we believe is founded on zero evidence. Such is the risk aversion at DIO…it’s bordering on paranoia rather than a rational, evidence-lead approach. This in itself breaches standards in public life…whilst remembering the costs of vandalism at Ash Ranges could not be disseminated because the estimates were privy only to those with “…corporate knowledge of such events…”.

Our view: DIO are bleeding our cash in an attempt to fix issues that have no evidence base supporting their claims whilst ignoring what collaboration with the local community could deliver.

We are not alone in this view. The Public Accounts Committee agree and although the numbers are much bigger and are dealing with land disposal (housing estate anyone?) statements such as this are eye catching:

...the Department wastes resources that could support frontline personnel and develop new military capabilities.

Its difficult to disagree. The PCC are clear – DIO waste our money.

The Power to Ignore

DIO CEO Graham Dalton’s LinkedIn profile is an interesting read. Our eye was drawn to this personal statement and the claim made:

…adept at aligning wider stakeholder interests with core business objectives.

Just how does this statement fit with Mr Dalton’s failure to respond to both Hart and Guildford Councils?

There are perhaps a couple of possible explanations:

  • Mr Dalton does not see the local community, and specifically their elected representatives, as stakeholders.
  • Mr Dalton is more adept at personal, positive PR than delivery of engagement.

Thanks to a massive response to the Byelaws Review survey we know the lands account for at least 59,000 hours of recreation a week. The Aldershot Byelaws, whilst not unique, are rare and Section 2 grants recreational access at all times when not in use for military training. If this does not make the local community very significant stakeholders then what would?

This ability to ignore does not come as a surprise to us.

DIO SE, and in particular Mark Ludlow (DIO SE Security and Access) and Lt Col Dickie Bishop, have a track record of ignoring the local community and we have Parlimentary Ombudsman complaints seeking answers.

Either way and for whatever reason, the fact Mr Dalton can apparently ignore elected representatives indicates the internal levels of distain and contempt for politicians and the ethos runs right to the very top of DIO.

The Power of Us

TAG know many of the community has raised their voices and concerns. Public voices helps keep the issues DIO SE trigger in sharp focus. DIO must be held to account for their decisions and be compelled to uphold the standards in public life.

From whatever angle, failing to respond to not one but two Council letters cannot be seen as meeting the minimum expectations. TAG have written to the local MP Ranil Jayawardena, pressing Jeremy Quin MP for some answers; seeking responses from Mr Dalton whilst pressing the issue of why DIO are empowered to ignore everyone – politicians and communities alike – and what is being done to change this completely unacceptable behavior.

If you find a lack of positive engagement from DIO disturbing, and the idea of unelected civil servants remaining unaccountable and enabled to ignore instructions, then do please take a moment to contact your MP:

Write to Them

At time of writing both Councils have written again to Mr Dalton with follow-up letters and emails. This is something that should have been unnecessary, and another good example of how DIO waste public time and money.

We will publish Mr Dalton’s reply – if one is every forthcoming – in due course.

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