Fringe Box



Councillors to Vie For Key Chairs at GBC Selection Meeting

Published on: 16 May, 2020
Updated on: 18 May, 2020

Two important committee chairmanships at Guildford Borough Council are to be contested at Tuesday’s (May 19) selection meeting.

Fiona White (Lib Dem, Westborough) is standing against Marsha Moseley (Con, Ash Vale) to chair the council’s Planning Committee and Deborah Seabrook (R4GV, Merrow) is taking on incumbent Nigel Manning (Con, Ash Vale) as a candidate for the chair of Corporate Governance and Standards.

Both roles have an extra annual allowance of £5,924 on top of a GBC councillor’s basic allowance of £7,405.

Cllr White, who has just stepped down as deputy leader, has many years of council experience and was GBC leader from 2000 till 2003.

She is among four former Lib Dem Executive members to be nominated as committee chairs. The others are Cllrs Pauline Searle (Stoughton), Angela Goodwin (Friary & St Nicolas) and David Goodwin (Onslow), but the allowances for their roles is lower, at £3,703.

The challenges appear to be moves by the two main parties, the Liberal Democrats and Residents for Guildford & Villages, to assume more power now that their new councillors have become established, a year after the 2019 shock election result.

Although present planning legislation has diminished the control of local authorities, it is still one of the most important and sensitive council functions and can often be controversial.

Cllr Moseley retained her place as Planning chairman partly because of the independence she had shown, even when dealing with Paul Spooner (Con, South Ash & Tongham), then her council and political group leader. Councillors are bound to act apolitically when considering planning applications.

The Corporate Governance and  Standards committee oversees Audit and Accounts activity, Corporate Governance, and Ethical Standards including the handling of allegations of misconduct.

Summary table of nominations for GBC committee chairs 2020. Source GBC

Another committee chair role, attracting the £5k allowance, is chair of the Overview & Scrutiny. Cllr Spooner is the unchallenged nomination to continue in this role.

Membership of the various council committees will also be decided at the meeting. Most committees are required to represent proportionally the political profile of the council, so the larger the political group in terms of seats the more committee memberships are secured.

In November, as part of the review which increased councillors allowances, a survey was conducted. Thirty of the 48 councillors responded. One of the questions posed was: “Do you feel the current allowances scheme adequately meets the expenses you incur in performing your duties and responsibilities as a councillor?”

The six Executive members responding said yes. The Mayor and Deputy Mayor were divided, one said yes the other no. Of the backbenchers, 15 said yes and five no.

One councillor commented: “Councillors are under-paid for the work they do. …This makes it harder to get people to come forward as councillors, especially if they are part-time or on low income.”

Another said: “So far, the only time I have been able to do the role of being a councillor as effectively as I like has been during a brief period when I was unemployed since I was then able to act on issues during the day time.”

And a third: “I am retired with a good pension, so the current allowance is adequate for me as I don’t need the income. But it would not be enough for a councillor of working age who needs to earn a living and cannot afford to give up so much time to council work. I believe the allowance should be enough to enable younger, working-age people to undertake the role without financial worries.”

But only four of the respondents said councillors’ allowances had been “a relevant consideration in deciding whether to stand for election as a borough councillor”, although 10 said they were aware it had influenced the decisions of other prospective candidates.

One councillor concluded: “If the council is to become a more diverse place in terms of age and class, the remuneration will need to be increased so the financial hit is decreased and it’s more feasible to stand as a councillor at the beginning of a career.“

Off the record, several new councillors have said they have been surprised to find how important the allowances are to some councillors.

How GBC allowances compare with other lower-tier authorities in Surrey. Source GBC report.

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Responses to Councillors to Vie For Key Chairs at GBC Selection Meeting

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 16, 2020 at 7:08 pm

    About time we had a real focus on Corporate Governance and Standards at GBC, as we’ve had none for at least eight years.

    No complaints against councillors have been given credence, apart from the various witch hunts against dissenters to the leadership.

  2. Martin Elliott Reply

    May 17, 2020 at 8:49 pm

    What a strange report. Initially reasonably factual, though I’m still not sure if councillors are bidding for the authority and direction they can give the post or bringing real experience and interest.

    Then suddenly it’s about allowances – effectively the salary or compensation for the required work.

    Yes, allowances can be contentious, but really on the scale of directors and executives of a similar-sized commercial concern assets/ turnover.

    It’s only the “gutter” press and sometimes opposition politics that draw attention to allowances. So why has The Dragon slid to that level suddenly rather than concentrating on the competency and record of the candidates?

    If sleaze is wanted, why not a reminder of complaints against candidates and written off apologies?

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      May 18, 2020 at 6:54 pm

      I would say that it is important that those in office, receiving these allowances, should actually make a contribution to the office conferred upon them. Particularly those “double-hatters” with roles on both GBC and SCC.

      As no effective scrutiny of standards or corporate governance has occurred in living memory, let’s give Cllr Seabrook a crack at it. It could not possibly get any worse.

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