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Comment: Council Decision Day Looms as Winning Parties Dicker and Deal

Published on: 12 May, 2019
Updated on: 14 May, 2019

By Martin Giles

Corroborated reports, including one from within the Lib Dem party, indicate Caroline Reeves was re-elected as the leader of the 17-councillor Lib Dem Group at GBC during their party AGM held yesterday (May 11, 2019). It is understood she was unopposed. Confirmation has been requested.

If true, it is now likely there will be two nominations for council leader at the GBC meeting on Wednesday: Cllr Reeves (Friary & St Nicolas) and Joss Bigmore (Christchurch) leader of the Residents for Guildford & Villages (R4GV) Group. Neither can succeed without support from other parties.

Cllr Bigmore’s bid will almost certainly be supported by the four-councillor Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) party, who had an electoral pact with R4GV during the election. The two party’s policy objectives are similar. GGG support would mean 19 votes for Cllr Bigmore, six short of the necessary 25 (assuming no abstentions).

For Cllr Reeves to reach 25 votes the Lib Dems will need support from other parties, ie the Conservatives (nine members) and Labour (two).

Cllr Joss Bigmore

If that is the way the vote goes the council will divide on established party vs “Independent” party lines, something the former council leader Paul Spooner (Con, South Ash & Tongham) often played on during his term.

He excluded the GGG party from the Local Plan committee, and included Labour councillors who had fewer seats, while keeping the Independent Alliance councillors off the Planning committee for as long as he could, in both cases admitting it was because he simply preferred the established or “main” parties.

Cllr Caroline Reeves

If Cllr Reeves is elected, as seems most likely, she will then, under the leader and cabinet model of governance adopted by GBC, select members of her Executive. The Executive committee (up to 10 members) need not be exclusively from her own party but it is expected the R4GV and GGG councillors would not accept positions, even if asked.

Normally, minority governments, national or local, seek agreements with other parties for support to enable them to win votes and get their business done. Sometimes these are called “confidence and supply” agreements, such as that in place between the Conservatives and the DUP who have agreed to support the government on all motions of confidence and on the Queen’s Speech, the Budget, finance bills, money bills, supply and appropriation legislation and estimates. In return, usually some concessions are given to the minority party.

Whether we end up with any such agreement suitable for local government remains to be seen but without one the governing party risks repeated defeats which eventually can make their situation untenable, culminating in a vote of no confidence.

The risk of such an outcome might be increased with the Lib Dem policy of imposing no whip. They have been openly split on several issues during the last council and it is hard to see them having the necessary discipline to maintain minority government for very long, especially as newer Lib Dem members become increasingly confident and independent.

Another concern for some Lib Dems must be the perception of their party relying vote after vote on Tory support. Even in the absence of a formal agreement a voting alliance would appear, in those circumstances, to be in place and such a perception could be toxic for the Lib Dems.

And it will not sit well with their election campaign claim: “Only the Lib Dems will take the fight to the Conservatives” or their criticism, under a heading “More Conservative Chaos”, “Conservatives on Guildford Borough Council want the controversial Local Plan agreed just before the local elections.”

One completely unknown commodity in all this manoeuvering is the position of the single Green Party councillor, Diana Jones (Tillingbourne). We hope to learn more.

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test One Response to Comment: Council Decision Day Looms as Winning Parties Dicker and Deal

  1. John Rigg Reply

    May 12, 2019 at 10:38 am

    R4GV [Residents for Guildford and villages] are keeping all avenues open in our discussions with the Lib Dems.

    So I would like to correct the comment that ‘it is expected the R4GV and GGG councillors would not accept positions, even if asked.’

    We are for constructive cooperation and a new approach to local council politics. We will release a fuller statement later today.

    John Rigg is a R4GV councillor for Holy Trinity.

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