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Council Leader Denies Assurance of Executive Seat Was Given to Defecting Councillor

Published on: 11 Nov, 2021
Updated on: 12 Nov, 2021

By Martin Giles

A claim that GBC leader Joss Bigmore promised a place on the council Executive to Jan Harwood, despite his dramatic defection from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives, was denied this evening.

And if the intention of the Tory group leader Paul Spooner was to persuade the council leadership to allow Cllr Harwood back on to the Executive it seems to have failed, with Cllr Bigmore saying: “We have not yet decided on a new team, but Cllr Spooner’s intervention may have made those discussions more straightforward.”

See also: Sacking of New Tory Councillor Showed Council Leader’s Weakness

Cllr Paul Spooner

In a letter to The Dragon Tory group leader at GBC, Paul Spooner, said that in a meeting he attended between Cllrs Harwood and Bigmore Jan Harwood was told “that whilst it was very unlikely that he could retain deputy leadership of the council or remain as lead member for Planning Policy… he was assured he should be retained on the Executive for Climate Change”.

But Cllr Bigmore rejected the claim. He said: “It’s disappointing that Cllr Spooner has dragged me into the debate about Cllr Harwood’s decision to change his political allegiance.  However, I need to correct a blatant misrepresentation of what was discussed at a meeting between Paul, Jan and me.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

In no way did I assure Cllr Harwood he would be retained on the Executive.  I said it was possible but I would need to consult both the R4GV and Liberal Democrat groups before deciding on a new leadership team.

Cllr Harwood is undoubtedly a talented councillor, but he is not the only one in the chamber.”

It was announced early on Thursday morning (November 4), the day after Cllr Harwood’s decision to cross the floor, said to have emerged during a private meeting of the council Executive, that his appointment as deputy council leader and all his Executive portfolios had been removed.

Although all Executive positions are in the gift of the council leader, because of the partnership agreement between the Lib Dem and R4GV groups that control the borough council, it seems unlikely that the Lib Dems, clearly angry about the defection, would have tolerated any such decision and Cllr Bigmore will have been aware of this.

See: New Conservative Councillor Removed from Former Appointments

Cllr Bigmore continued: “Cllr Spooner seems to rate the Conservatives’ “skill” and “experience” very highly especially in comparison to us mere political mortals.  But he may want to reflect on what the public wants, rather than what he thinks is best for Guildford.

“In 2019 the voters of the borough completely rejected his administration, voting for change and a fresh approach over his “highly experienced and skilful” team.  This was reinforced at the Surrey County Council elections earlier this year where the public chose to elect brand new councillors from R4GV and the Lib Dems to replace experienced Conservative incumbents.

“Cllr Spooner’s obsession with the politics rather than the residents does his group no favours and the Conservative election results are evidence of his repeated failings.

“As I have said, I wish Cllr Harwood well and I am grateful for his contribution to my Executive.  We have not yet decided on a new team, but Cllr Spooner’s intervention may have made those discussions more straightforward.”

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test One Response to Council Leader Denies Assurance of Executive Seat Was Given to Defecting Councillor

  1. Linda Parker Picken Reply

    November 11, 2021 at 4:12 pm

    Far from remaining on GBC’s Executive, surely Jan Harwood should be stepping down to allow Merrow residents to vote in a by-election on whether they want to be represented by a Lib Dem candidate, which is what they elected, or a Conservative

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