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Anger Over Postponement of Mayor’s Awards for Political Reasons

Published on: 8 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 8 Apr, 2021

By Martin Giles

The Mayor’s awards for community service have been postponed because of political “purdah” rules in force in the run-up to the county council election, a decision that has left at least one nominator angry and the council leader surprised.

GBC’s managing director James Whiteman said: “Our annual Mayor’s Award ceremony was originally planned to take place online on 21 April but with the local elections in early May, pre-election restrictions now apply to this event as our councillors are involved in presenting the awards and some of the nominees are from political parties.”

James Whiteman

The Local Government Association advice, quoting the Local Government Act, states: “…councils should not publish any material which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party'”. But councils are allowed “to continue to discharge normal council business”.

The postponement was unexpected and unprecedented. The awards, normally presented in April, coincide with the run-up to a county or borough council elections every other year. A council spokesperson said: “This time, of course, we’re in a pandemic and have government health restrictions on top of pre-election restrictions. There seems to be more interest in the awards than usual and only few weeks later than we first planned.”

But council leader Joss Bigmore said: “I was very surprised that we are having to move the Mayor’s Awards at late notice due to pre-election restrictions affecting an award nominee.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

“Frankly I find the advice extremely difficult to reconcile with the legal opinion that adopting the Local Plan was acceptable in the pre-election period proceeding the May ’19 elections. However, that was different times with different politicians and different lawyers.

“I have no argument with the advice I received from our Monitoring Officer regarding this issue. I don’t know who first raised the issue of the timing of the Mayor’s Awards, but it’s a shame if politics has delayed us recognising the efforts of those that have contributed so much to our community as we have tackled this pandemic.”

Deputy Mayor, Cllr Marsha Moseley

Reports that the matter was raised by the deputy mayor, Marsha Moseley who was due to present the awards have been denied. Asked if it was true that the reason the Mayor’s Awards have been postponed was that she did not wish to give an award to a winner, who is also a Lib Dem candidate in the county council election, Cllr Moseley responded unequivocally: “Absolutely not true, it is because of purdah!”

The awards ceremony will now be held after the county council election in May. MD James Whiteman said: “We’ve once again seen some fantastic nominations from our communities and look forward to celebrating these remarkable achievements on 10 May.

“In addition to our much-loved Service to the Community Awards, this year we’ve launched a new award called the Community Heroes Award. This special award recognises those who have made a real difference and an outstanding effort during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.”

Those receiving awards have been informed but a council spokesperson said: “We’ve asked all those receiving an award not to share any details until the Mayor of Guildford, Cllr Richard Billington formerly announces them on that day [May 10].”

Danielle Hunter who nominated someone in Ash for their community service during the pandemic told The Dragon: “Back in February I nominated an individual who has been a real local champion for the Mayor’s Community Award and also a group that has helped thousands of residents. During another award ceremony earlier this year, the leader of GBC mentioned a date in April for the presentation.

“I was then emailed by Guildford Borough Council and that April date was confirmed. Just a few days after that a follow-up email came saying that due to the elections, they have had to postpone this event.

“I have since realised that this event is usually held in April, election or not and it has never been an issue before. The timing of the hasty delay certainly seems suspicious and I intend to dig further. I am really angry that politics has got in the way of recognising the amazing work some in our community have done.”

 

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test 4 Responses to Anger Over Postponement of Mayor’s Awards for Political Reasons

  1. Paul Spooner Reply

    April 10, 2021 at 1:51 pm

    A pathetic decision. How can the adoption of the Local Plan (issues and options) Part 1, under my tenure, have been considered appropriate in April 2019 and yet a none partisan, apolitical Mayoral Awards ceremony be postponed in 2021. This is an embarrassment to Guildford Borough Council.

    Paul Spooner is a former leader of Guildford Borough Council and a Conservative borough councillor for South Ash & Tongham.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 11, 2021 at 9:46 am

    Both events, the awards, and the passing of the Local Plan in a purdah period simply demonstrate a lack of judgement from the Managing Director.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    April 11, 2021 at 2:59 pm

    James Whiteman is as much the author of the disastrous Local Plan as the then Guildford Conservatives. Like them he is long, long past his sell-by date.

  4. Ramsey Nagaty Reply

    April 12, 2021 at 7:11 pm

    The Mayoral Awards should recognise outstanding service to the community. They should not relate to politics, political parties or affect the election.

    Those nominated, who have been successful, clearly deserve their award and should receive it as usual. The Local Plan clearly was political and should not have been adopted during the purdah period. Sadly the Conservatives pushed it through ignoring all objections, including that of purdah.

    Ramsey Nagaty is leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group and a borough councillor for Shalford.

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