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Controversial Parish Council Chair Only Nominee for Guildford’s Next Deputy Mayor

Published on: 10 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 11 Feb, 2023

Nigel Manning when made mayor in 2017

By Martin Giles

Cllr Nigel Manning was nominated at Guildford Borough Council’s full council meeting on Wednesday (February 8) to be the next deputy mayor. He has already served as mayor in 2017-18.

The nomination was made by his Conservative group leader Paul Spooner and seconded by the leader of Residents for Guildford and Villages and GBC deputy leader Joss Bigmore.

The formal election takes place at the mayor-making ceremony in May at the Guildhall. After a year as deputy mayor, those nominated normally proceed to be the mayor.

Once mayor, Cllr Manning would chair full council meetings, entrusted to ensure they are run in accordance with the appropriate rules and protocols.

Cllr Manning has been a controversial figure in his role as chair of Ash Parish Council, a position he is believed to have held for around 20 years. His apparent determination to keep the council exclusively Conservative attracted criticism eventually leading to two by-elections won by Independents.

See more Ash Parish council articles here.

Subsequently, in what seemed to be an attempt to avoid further by-elections, he refused to act against two parish councillors who had moved away to Wiltshire and had not physically attended a council meeting since the pandemic lockdown in 2020.

Ash Parish Council’s meeting in May 2022. Cllr Manning wearing a bow tie. Ash resident Mike Jacobs, a retired Justice of the Peace, said afterwards: “So this was democracy in action?”

GBC’s monitoring officer and the chair of the Surrey Association of Local Councils both advised that following six months’ non-physical attendance, the two councillors should have been disqualified. But Cllr Manning refused to accept their advice and sought a barrister’s opinion at a cost to the council of £2,400. The barrister’s conclusion was that the two councillors could remain in post.

See: Ash’s Absentee Councillors: Anger Erupts Again After Barrister’s Advice Is Revealed

One of the two absent councillors has subsequently resigned but too late for a by-election to be held before the next borough council elections in May.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Today Joss Bigmore said: “Part of my time as council leader coincided with Marsha Moseley’s tenure as mayor, supported by Nigel as her consort. They made an excellent mayoral team, raising a lot of money for [the charity] Shooting Stars, and showing an insatiable appetite to support hundreds of worthy events across the borough.

“To act as mayor is a huge commitment. Nigel was the only volunteer and I was happy to second his nomination. I believe his candidacy passed unanimously.”

In the light of Cllr Manning’s performance as chair of Ash Parish Council and also his refusal to be accountable by answering questions from the Guildford Dragon, Cllr Bigmore was asked if he thought his decision to second Cllr Manning’s nomination was wise.

He replied: “To be honest this didn’t cross my mind, although maybe it should have done.

“I was focused on the mayoralty and my experience of Cllr Manning in that role.

“I am aware of the issues The Guildford Dragon has reported as regards Ash Parish Council, but also that Cllr Manning is still in place as chair and hasn’t been found guilty of any offence.

“There have certainly been decisions taken at APC that I personally find difficult to understand, but the ultimate test will be the elections in May of this year. If the residents of Ash Vale do not return Cllr Manning to GBC he will not be deputy mayor. I think they are, rightly, the arbiters.

“As regards accountability, he is not alone amongst councillors in refusing to engage with The Dragon.”

Two other borough councillors Paul Spooner and Graham Eyre, both Conservatives, have written to inform The Dragon they will not respond to questions.

Cllr Bigmore continued: “I would rather focus on the fact that not I nor anyone from R4GV have ever refused an interview with you, despite some uncomfortable topics. I think we are alone amongst the major parties to be able to make that claim.”

Cllr George Potter

Commenting on Cllr Manning’s nomination, Lib Dem councillor George Potter (Burpham) said it would ultimately be up to the new council in May to consider Cllr Manning’s merit.

He said: “The nomination was only submitted just prior to the start of the meeting so therefore it was uncontested and there was little time to consider it.

“Waiting until after May would have been my preference so that newly-elected councillors could be considered, but that was no longer an option once the nomination was properly submitted.

“The merit of Cllr Manning for this important role should be considered in light of his record as chair of Ash Parish Council, and it will ultimately be for the new council in May to consider that merit when deciding on whether or not to elect him as deputy mayor.”

Cllr Carla Morson

In May 2021 Carla Morson, who Ash Parish Council had refused to co-opt as a parish councillor, was elected in a parish by-election and also defeated Nigel Manning in the county council elections to represent Ash.

Commenting on the GBC decision Cllr Morson said: “The nomination of Cllr Manning to be Guildford’s deputy mayor next year isn’t actually up to the borough council. Ultimately, whether he becomes deputy mayor will be the decision of the people of Ash. They will decide on May 4th.”

See also: ‘Mr Ash’ Becomes the Mayor of Guildford and Encourages Community Spirit


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Responses to Controversial Parish Council Chair Only Nominee for Guildford’s Next Deputy Mayor

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    February 10, 2023 at 5:02 pm

    Just don’t. This guy is not the right person to be our mayor.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    February 10, 2023 at 5:03 pm

    Would not be the people’s choice.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    February 12, 2023 at 12:41 pm

    Oh come on, this cannot be serious.

    Why doesn’t our former MP, Anne Milton, apply for the job?

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