Fringe Box



Can the Conservatives Retain Their Two Town Centre Divisions?

Published on: 25 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 25 Apr, 2021

Percentages do not add to 100 because of rounding.

By Martin Giles

The Liberal Democrats are maintaining their dominance in the Guildford town centre divisions, a Dragon straw survey of voters indicates, as the May 6 Surrey County election draws near.

But inroads made by R4GV (Residents for Guildford & Villages), a party created only two years ago, just before the 2019 borough council elections, appears to be at the expense of all three national parties although most keenly felt by the Conservatives.

Support for the Green Party appears static, but none of their candidates is standing in the town centre divisions this time.

How the town centre votes were shared between parties in the 2017 SCC election.

And 13% of our sample hadn’t decided who they will vote for or even if they will bother, so ardent campaigners know some votes are still up for grabs.

The views of 83 voters were collected yesterday (Saturday, April 24) in various locations in the town centre. Nearly all responding came from the town centre divisions. Three of these five divisions, Guildford West, North, South West are held by the Lib Dems.

The question now might be whether the Conservatives can still hold on to Guildford East and South East.

In both divisions, they face Lib Dem and R4GV candidates. Will the two parties who have partnered to control GBC rue the missed opportunity to come to an election pact?

In fact, across all the 10 Guildford divisions, the Tories are likely to be taking comfort that the vote against them is likely to be split.

But although voters in the rural Guildford divisions have been firmly Conservative by tradition, there remains significant disquiet over the Local Plan. Whether this will materialise into seat losses for the Tories remains a key question.

In the east of the borough, where R4GV’s Colin Cross is hoping to gain The Horsleys, there are also signs some are dissatisfied with his party’s failure to have reviewed the Local Plan despite their restated fears that a review would risk an increase to the housing target.

When it comes to the reasons motivating voter decisions, no single issue dominates and others are not within the county council remit.

The NHS and the pandemic is the most often mentioned reason but this could be positive or negative for any national party.

Planning is still a major concern for a significant number of voters, most expressing dissatisfaction with the Local Plan, although planning is a borough issue, not a county council one. And Brexit remains a keen decider for some, perhaps more than would be expected.

The Green Party and GGG (Guildford Greenbelt Group) parties might be heartened to see the climate emergency is a deciding issue for 13% of voters but by going head to head in the Shere division they seem to have played into Conservative hands.

SCC Budget 2020-21

Roads, a county council responsibility, were mentioned by only 9%, and child and adult social care which have performed poorly in Surrey in recent years, and together account for more than half of SCC’s £1 billion budget, were seldom raised by those interviewed.

Perhaps surprisingly, 64% of the sample felt they were very well, well or quite well-informed on local issues. Most respondents were familiar with The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

Although the Dragon poll was random, the respondents were almost exactly balanced in gender terms, 49% being female.

Across the range of interviews, the 51 to 65 age group was over-represented and those aged 65 and over were less so.

Perhaps strangely, among respondents there was little or no mention of the mounting national volume of complaints about Tory corruption and sleaze or of the internecine political war which has erupted in Downing Street. One person said they intended to vote Conservative because they were the strongest party.

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Responses to Can the Conservatives Retain Their Two Town Centre Divisions?

  1. Peter Mills Reply

    April 26, 2021 at 12:07 pm

    I’m no statistician, but I do know that 83 people is not a representative sample. Do you really feel you can draw conclusions from 83 people that led to this lead sentence?

    “The Liberal Democrats are maintaining their dominance in the Guildford town centre divisions, a Dragon straw survey of voters indicates, as the May 6 Surrey County election draws near.”

    Editor: We have made clear that this was just a straw poll survey and because seats will be won, division by division, under first past the post, individual results cannot be predicted. Nevertheless, we feel that the percentages do indicate a trend which could be threatening the Tory hold on their two remaining town divisions.

    We received similar comments in 2019 after the poll we conducted before the November general election. It turned out to be quite accurate.

  2. Jonathan Horsley Reply

    April 27, 2021 at 5:13 pm

    Well done on picking up here on the local disquiet over the failure of the R4GV/Lib Dem-led coalition at Guildford Borough Council to deliver on their promise to review the Local Plan.

    Many of us voted R4GV last time because we were unhappy at the Local Plan’s dumping of huge and inappropriate developments on our doorsteps. The lack of action on what was surely their number one pledge and the issue that dominated the debate two years ago is disappointing.

    Will this election focus minds at GBC on delivering on the promises made to local residents, especially in stopping developments like Three Farms Meadow? I hope so.

    I see that some R4GV candidates won places on GBC last time. I do appreciate that being a councillor is hard and often thankless work. In fact, I posted a comment a week ago saying we should perhaps spend less time criticising those who give up their time as councillors and appreciate all the good they do, for which I got a strong response from Cllr Cross accusing me of Tory bias.

    So I’ll add that I recognise that R4GV councillors have likely had a lot to do since taking office and I appreciate their hard work – but surely it would be better to fulfil past pledges before seeking election to additional positions?

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