Fringe Box



Council Leader Steps Down – ‘I Cannot Accept Governance Changes’

Published on: 19 Oct, 2015
Updated on: 22 Oct, 2015
Stephen Mansbridge, who resigned as council leader and leader of the GBC Tory group today

Stephen Mansbridge, who resigned as council leader and leader of the GBC Tory group today (October 19)

Stephen Mansbridge has resigned as leader of Guildford Borough Council and as a councillor.

His resignation follows revelations in The Guildford Dragon NEWS relating to his covert involvement with a petition demanding a referendum on whether Guildford should have an elected mayor.

The petition was ostensibly organised by his friend, business associate and disgraced former councillor Monika Juneja.

But Cllr Mansbridge, who represented the Ash South & Tongham ward, has said that the reason for his resignation is the adoption of a new governance model at the council voted in almost unanimously at a recent full council meeting.

Although there has been disquiet in the Tory group following the news of his covert support earlier this year for the petition it is understood that his resignation decision, shared with senior colleagues on Saturday (October 17), was unforced.

Councillors were informed of the resignation by email at 8am today (October 19) at the same time that local media were allowed to publish the news.

Deputy council leader Cllr Nigel Manning (Con, Ash Vale), a loyal lieutenant of Stephen Mansbridge, will take over until a new leader is announced. A first step will be the election of a new Tory group leader at the group’s next meeting on November 28th.

A new council leader will then need to be formally elected at a full council meeting scheduled for December 8th.

A by-election in Ash South & Tongham will also need to be held.

Cllr Nigel Manning said: “I would like to thank Stephen for all the hard work he has done for the group and the council in providing clear leadership through difficult times. As leader of the council, it is business as usual and we will continue to provide clear direction and excellent council services for Guildford’s residents.”

In a resignation letter Stephen Mansbridge writes:

“I have decided to resign as the leader of Guildford Borough Council and have done so this morning. I have also resigned as a councillor.

“I have been minded to step down for sometime and, whilst I have been asked to stay, I no longer feel able to do so. I hold strong views about how the council is run and about its ability to make strong and good decisions. I cannot accept the changes in Governance, which is why I voted against them at a recent council meeting.

“I have been passively in favour of a petition for a directly elected mayor because a successful petition would nullify any petition that attempts to weaken the council’s governance under the shroud of improved democracy. My view has evolved, in line with George Osborne’s direction for greater devolution, to be that we need larger entities with directly elected mayors.

“Guildford is an amazing place and it has it all: a world class university, virology institute, music academy and law university; great businesses with a strong momentum for innovation; a superb hospital, which is a leading centre for oncology; outstanding cultural and heritage offerings; an excellent retail offering; and it is set in the glorious Surrey Hills countryside.

“Through my leadership and with the support of my group of councillors, we have established an ambitious agenda that will see much needed improvements to our infrastructure; a strong case for conditional growth to fuel our powerful business, education and healthcare sectors; a development agenda that will provide much needed homes; and a social agenda which will see quantum improvement in north Guildford over the coming years.

“I have put my heart and soul into driving a change programme for over three years to enable Guildford to live up to being the best regional place in the South East. Whilst I have been heavily criticised, I have always put the place in which we all live first and I hope that my successor will continue to improve our borough in a dynamic and positive way.

“I am grateful to my group for the support they have shown over the years and to the many council officers who I have worked alongside and who have done so well to meet a demanding action plan.

“Governance is the key and strong governance is essential if Guildford is to continue to excel. Democracy is exercised at the polls and strong processes should not be misrepresented as being devoid of public involvement.

“I have enjoyed representing my ward of Ash South and Tongham and I wish my successor good fortune in fighting hard to control excessive development there.”

To all those who have supported me, thank you.”

Mr Mansbridge, whose mother died at the weekend, has said that he will not be giving interviews for the next few weeks.

See also: Dragon Interview: Michel Harper and the Petition for an Elected Mayor; Reactions to ‘Councillor Denies Misleading Council’ Story; Reaction to the News Of Council Leader’s Resignation

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Responses to Council Leader Steps Down – ‘I Cannot Accept Governance Changes’

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    October 19, 2015 at 9:25 am

    The webcast of 28 July shows Mr Mansbridge saying he would accept the proposed governance changes.

    And going to Surrey University Students’ Union to advocate a petition is hardly ‘passive’.

    To issue a local plan without having the necessary studies on transport, environment and heritage was incompetent. To put someone in charge whose pretended professional qualifications were bogus was bad enough. But not to apologise or admit that anything was wrong was unconscionable.

    The vanity of supporting Monika Juneja has meant that at least some of the £3m spent on the local plan has been wasted. If implemented, the draft Local Plan would have caused further traffic chaos and reduced the quality of life of everyone in the borough.

    If ignoring facts and riding roughshod over due process is strong leadership, we’ve had more than enough of it.

  2. George Potter Reply

    October 19, 2015 at 10:01 am

    The timing of this resignation is quite coincidental considering it comes a few days after Guildford Lib Dems had a meeting where putting forward a motion of no confidence in Mansbridge as council leader was mooted.

    Obviously Stephen Mansbridge wouldn’t have known about that meeting, or the decision, but I doubt the Lib Dems were the only people on the council considering a motion of no confidence, so perhaps he finally realised that misleading the council and the public, as well as opposing a more accountable governance structure, meant that his days were numbered and decided to jump before he was pushed.

    • Frank Phillipson Reply

      October 20, 2015 at 12:48 am

      Quite coincidental?

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    October 19, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Interesting times…

  4. Brian Miller Reply

    October 19, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Well at least Mr Mansbridge has resigned before possibly being removed.

    It reminds me of Mrs Thatcher who ‘was not for turning’ but eventually was forced out by her own party.

  5. Valerie Thompson Reply

    October 19, 2015 at 11:01 am

    About time too!

    What a pity there are no independent councillors on the GBC. It would be better if the leader were not allied to any particular party, with a agenda of its own.

    Perhaps now some of the ‘moderates’ among the Conservatives will consider aiming for the role of leader of the council, in particular, those who are not involved personally with development or construction companies.

    Perhaps too, the GBC can now get away from aggressive attacks on other council members and lead with honesty, fairness, openness, transparency etc…all those words which came from the council over the last year or so.

    Perhaps the new leader will actually listen to what GBC residents have been saying in their protests about excessive development, particularly east of Guildford.

    I note with interest Mr Mansbridge’s comment, that he hopes the councillor for Ash and Tongham, his own area, will fight against excessive development there. What a surprise.

  6. Demetria Watkins Reply

    October 19, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Mansbridge has resigned!

    Great news to start the week.

    And fantastic writing in The Dragon over the past few weeks.

  7. Mary Bedforth Reply

    October 19, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Many, many months too late and who comes next?

    “And always keep a hold of nurse
    For fear of finding something worse.”
    Hilaire Belloc

    But I do send condolences on the death of his mother.

  8. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 19, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    I do not accept for a moment the reasons given. Either he was pushed by colleagues continuously frustrated by his shocking behaviour and outbursts, or he has another plan, perhaps to lie low until he hopes that a petition will be successful in pushing for a mayoral referendum, with him as front runner, given his links with the questionable coalition which seems to be behind this.

    He does however have my deepest sympathy for his recent loss.

  9. Jan Messinger Reply

    October 19, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    At long last. This should have happened a long time ago.

    Well done Guildford Dragon NEWS for keeping the residents of Guildford so well informed regarding issues in Guildford.

    So much of the residents money has been wasted by Guildford Borough Council.

  10. Martin Dowland Reply

    October 20, 2015 at 1:00 am

    This is almost a non-story. We still have a vast swathe of Conservatives on the council.

    Mr Mansbridge was acting for the most part as a true Conservative and was in step with his National party.

    There are, until the next election, many more to replace him to carry on his work.

  11. Marjorie Baylis Reply

    October 21, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    ” and a social agenda which will see quantum improvement in north Guildford over the coming years.”

    In physics, a quantum (plural: quanta) is the minimum amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction.

    I do wish people would use the proper words sometimes.. it isn’t much of a boast, is it?

    Wiktionary gives, as a metaphorical definition: “An abrupt, extreme change.” Just saying. 🙂 Ed

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