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Borough Council Leader Resigns As Planned, Leadership Passes Back to Liberal Democrats

Published on: 23 Sep, 2022
Updated on: 23 Sep, 2022

Cllrs Joss Bigmore and Julia McShane

By Martin Giles

Joss Bigmore has resigned as leader of Guildford Borough Council. The anticipated announcement came at a council meeting last night.

The change of leadership was agreed over two years ago as part of the power-sharing agreement between the two biggest political groups at GBC, the Liberal Democrats and Residents for Guildford and Villages which Cllr Bigmore (Christchurch) leads.

Julia McShane (Westborough) who leads the Lib Dem group will now take over as acting leader until her expected confirmation by the full council on October 11.

Commenting on a Facebook post, Guildford MP Angela Richardson said: “It has been a genuine pleasure to work with Joss over the last two years, which have included some very challenging times for both our community and the council. I wish Cllr McShane all the best as she takes over as Leader at GBC.”

Cllr Bigmore continues as a member of the Executive with lead councillor responsibility for governance including corporate Health and Safety, Corporate Strategy, Guildford and Waverley Partnership, Partnerships, and Strategic Planning.

Cllr Bigmore announcing his resignation at last night’s council meeting

He told the meeting: “A handover like this is unusual in local government, but our residents were looking for a new approach in politics and my party and the Liberal Democrats continue to be committed to delivering that.

“Leading this council over the past two years has been one of the privileges of my life. We have faced challenges unique in my lifetime. I’m proud of the way this borough and this council have worked together to overcome everything that has come our way.

“Whilst the response to the pandemic remains perhaps our greatest achievement, we’ve managed to progress a number of important projects despite the dark shadow of Covid.

“I’m particularly pleased with how Weyside Urban Village is progressing with Guildford Park Road and the North Street development closely behind showing this administration’s commitment to housing to urban regeneration and sustainable development.

“Our collaboration with Waverley Borough Council is progressing well and will provide significant financial benefits also improving the resilience of services.

“Tonight also marks progress in our most ambitious project; Shaping Guildford’s Future is a masterplan that will ensure our town is fit and ready for the challenge of the future by comprehensively addressing the problems of today.

“On a personal level, I’d like to thank my group, I’d like to thank the Executive and the council officers for their support. It is well known that I’ve only been in the council offices twice in my life before I was elected, so to be chosen as leader in over a year meant that I needed, and arguably still need, quite a lot of help.

“This help also came from very unexpected places. Whilst there’s obviously certain theatre to council meetings, and politics is sometimes necessary evil, I can quite honestly say there isn’t a single councillor in this chamber that has not offered help and advice when I’ve asked. That has been a very, very pleasant surprise and I thank you all for your help and your support.

“Now, unlike Cincinnatus, I will not be resigning from the Executive and returning to my plough and I look forward to supporting whoever the council should decide, should be my replacement.”

Cllr Julia McShane

Acting leader, Cllr Julia McShane’s said later: “I would like to thank Joss for his leadership over the past two years. His experience, energy and enthusiasm have been welcome, and I fully expect him to continue in a senior role on the Executive.

“I’d like to reassure residents that as we move into the final phase of our joint administration we will continue to focus and prioritise their needs, providing as much help and support as we can to everyone who is or may face financial challenges in the cost-of-living crisis.

“We are also progressing our common aspiration of tackling climate change. We continue to work hard together to deliver what our residents want and deserve.”

The next borough council elections will take place in May 2023.

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