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Council Leader Says City Status Bid is Nearly Complete

Published on: 1 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 3 Dec, 2021

Supporters of the bid for city status for Guildford at its October launch in Guildford cathedral.

The leader of Guildford Borough Council has defended the “nearly complete” bid for city status against criticism by Dragon reader Anthony Mallard.

Mr Mallard, in a comment on the article Plea to Replace Mayor’s Car Made as New Mayoral Candidates Are Nominated, accused the council of making the bid, which he described as a “vanity project”, “without any meaningful consultation” and said that if it was granted it would “doubtless result in many changes to road signs and the many other aspects of the council that are marked with the, by then, redundant ‘borough’ suffix or prefix” with the associated costs at a time of great budgetary pressure.

But Council Leader Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch) countered: “If we are granted city status we don’t anticipate any substantial costs. I am sure we will all be excited to celebrate our new status and we will want to make a few changes.

“Any changes would be subject to Council approval. This could include what we might want to replace and when, such as signs and stationery.

“As a council, we are now digital-first, so we use limited traditional stationery and much digital design work could be changed very cheaply and quickly. We would expect the majority of signs around the borough to be replaced as part of the usual repairs and maintenance cycle. Where possible we will look at sponsorship.

“I would think our borough businesses would be very keen to be involved if we became a city. I have had offers of help such as printing costs for the submission bid but I have not taken this up.

“The campaign for our bid for city status is nearly complete. The government specifically asked for a very simple submission in order to make the competition open to everyone.

I would like to reassure everyone that a change to city status will not wipe away our wonderful heritage and culture and replace with urban sprawl” Joss Bigmore

“We will submit it on December 8 and we’ve been overwhelmed with amount of support from our communities, from our MP to the Bishop of Guildford, to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and to Business South and the Federation of Small Businesses.

“I’ve had over 60 direct letters of support. We’ve had a dedicated steering group made up of representatives from Surrey County Council, borough organisations and local experts and influencers. They have all given their time for free and helped us write our submission.

“The only cost to the council has been a limited amount of officer time and a few hundred pounds on a photographer and a promotional banner.  However, I believe the bid document itself is worth far more as a promotional document for our borough whether we are successful in our application or not.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Cllr Bigmore concluded: “We have received much more support than messages of concern. We recognise that some people love Guildford as it is, and some residents are nervous about what city status might mean for them. I would like to reassure everyone that a change to city status will not wipe away our wonderful heritage and culture and replace with urban sprawl.”

Other English towns believed to be considering entering bids are: Newport on the Isle of Wight; Reading; Boston in Lincolnshire; Dudley, West Midlands; Swindon; Medway in Kent; Wrexham;  Middlesborough, Warrington; Blackburn and Doncaster.

The government launched the competition on June 8th 2021 and hasn’t confirmed how many places will win the status. In 2012, for the Diamond Jubilee, four towns became cities with one chosen from each part of the UK – Chelmsford (England), Perth (Scotland), St. Asaph (Wales) and Armagh (Northern Ireland). However, that format hasn’t been highlighted for this competition.

City status, requiring “letters patent”, is often granted for major royal celebrations. The Platinum Jubilee competition will be the first to be open to areas in the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.

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Responses to Council Leader Says City Status Bid is Nearly Complete

  1. Frank Phillipson Reply

    December 1, 2021 at 3:36 pm

    But still no mention of any tangible benefits that city status will bring, it’s all “it will be good”. Really? The statement that “we don’t anticipate any substantial costs” means that there will be costs which could turn out to be substantial.

    Do we really need to be focusing on this, to me, seemingly unimportant issue, when there are far more significant things that should be being addressed? Personally, I don’t particularly wish to live in a city. A borough/market town/county town are all fine by me.

    Besides, it’s good to be able to correct people who think we’re a city because of the cathedral!

  2. William Lawrence Reply

    December 1, 2021 at 5:43 pm

    Okay, so lots of organisations want this. However, there seem to be few residents who want this. Indeed, the residents of Guildford don’t seem to have been given the opportunity to object to this.

    I have seen very few comments of support on social media, while there are huge numbers of objections.

    A quick internet search for councils that have rebranded, seems to put the costs into hundreds of thousands. A council that treats the disabled community with contempt should have better priorities. GBC should make its buildings accessible before it applies for city status.

  3. Dave Middleton Reply

    December 1, 2021 at 5:50 pm

    Editor – Please publish as a comment, not a separate letter. Thank you.

    Originally, I was frankly indifferent as to the proposed change from Borough to City status. However, this proposal seems to me, to be being steamrollered through without any meaningful public consultation whatsoever and that’s what puts me off, regardless of any pros or cons.

    Anything I’ve seen from Cllr Bigmore and his supporters, has just consisted of comments stating what a wonderful idea it is and inviting support for the scheme.

    Cllr Bigmore states that there have been 60 supporting letters and goes on to rather vaguely comment, “much more support than messages of concern.”

    Just how many positive responses have there been from the borough population of nearly 150,000? Unless there have been at least say, 76,000, I would say that the council does not have a mandate to impose such a change on the borough.

    I’m also still waiting for someone to provide solid, clear and positive benefits for such a change of status. Vague comments about potentially increasing trade and tourism, simply are not enough.

    Perhaps it might be better and dare I say, more democratic, to put the plan on hold until the electorate can be consulted properly, perhaps by means of referendum, at the next General, or Borough election?

    In the meantime, Cllr Bigmore could perhaps apply himself to ensuring the the services the council are supposed to provide to the population of the borough are actually provided? For instance, the repair of the collision damaged, bright blue painted, pedestrian railings at the junction of Maple Grove and Stoughton Road at Bellfields (which are a GBC responsibility), that I reported as damaged in April of this year, which are still broken, some eight months later!

  4. M Smith Reply

    December 3, 2021 at 3:07 pm

    If I wanted to live in a city I’d move to one.

  5. Martin Elliott Reply

    December 3, 2021 at 7:47 pm

    I have no issue with living in a “cathedral town”. I even moved here from another one, Dunblane in Perthshire (Stirlingshire). At least, with a 13th-century cathedral (Victorian restored), it also had some history.

    There are many tales that Guildford was historically not too interested in titles (badly confusing) resulting in transfers to Kingston.

    As I understand it, unlike centuries ago, city status does not bring any benefits financially or legally such as chartered markets or vague business incentives as mentioned by Cllr Bigmore.

    But it would still be ethical if the campaign was to provide deliverable advantages for businesses and residents of this “half-sized city”.

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