Fringe Box



Dragon Interview: What Caused UKIP Councillor George Johnson To Change His Mind?

Published on: 10 Mar, 2017
Updated on: 12 Mar, 2017

George Johnson the UKIP county councillor for Shalford has decided to change his mind and defend his seat in May against the ambitious Conservative candidate Matt Furniss, the youngest of Guildford Borough’s councillors but already its deputy leader.

Martin Giles questions George about his decision and what he thinks of his prospects…

Cllr George Johnson

You previously said that you would not be standing again. What has made you change your mind?

In answer to your previous request for a statement of my intentions, I said: “I think it extremely unlikely that I will hold on to my county council seat at the next election because it is not my intention to stand   –   subject, of course, to an armed supportive uprising by residents of the nine parishes it has been my pleasure to serve!”

Well, it was hardly an armed uprising, but a remarkable number of residents, individual parish councillors, even a few of my county and borough colleagues, have urged me to reconsider.

You acknowledged, at the time of your election in 2013, that you only won the seat because of the mistake made by the Conservatives which meant that their candidate was not properly nominated and could not stand. Do you really think you stand an earthly chance of retaining this normally safe Tory seat?

Why not?  There is about the Tory administration a certain cosy complacency that, in my view, fails the aspirations of residents and allows administrative costs to rise without appropriate control. I think this is recognised by many people in Shalford division.

In the last four years I have worked hard to properly represent the views of my parish councils, and give support to their practical requirements; without detriment to fiscal awareness.

Throughout, I have also borne in mind that in the 2013 election, there were 102 spoiled papers – a clear indication of angst among traditional Tory voters. This has occasionally influenced my stance in council in such a way that, where possible, I have veered in favour of policies that I felt were in tune with these voters. It is the job of an elected councillor to represent all the electorate.

George Johnson making his victory speech at the 2013 election count

Why should a voter vote for you rather than any other candidate?

For the very simple reason that I will be there to represent the people, not my political party.  I have no political ambitions and, as a UKIP member, I don’t have to follow any opinions other than those of my residents. Unlike the Tories, we are not “whipped”.  There have been occasions in council when I have voted against my UKIP colleagues. Our divisions have different requirements. There can be no “one size fits all”.

What have you achieved for the Shalford division during the last four years?

By attending parish council meetings on a regular basis I have tried to become part of the community, supporting the best interests of the parishes, and providing practical improvements to local infrastructure, schools and road safety.  I have initiated consultation on a number of important highways issues, often successfully.  As a result, with the co-operation of council officers and borough councillors, at my instigation, there have been many improvements to roads, public rights-of-way, parks, and recreation grounds.

Additionally, it has been my pleasure to support charitable institutions within my division: the Wey and Arun Canal Trust and Mane Chance, to name but two.  At the county council, I have served my residents on the Planning Committee, Economic Prosperity Committee, Environment and Highways Board, The Improvement Board, a number of task and scrutiny groups, and the Highways Customer Excellence Committee.

Now that the EU referendum has been won by those wishing to leave the EU what is the point of UKIP?

We are now one nation committed to withdrawing from the EU.  UKIP’s job is to prevent backsliding and ensure that a clean Brexit is achieved, to the benefit of all. We should ensure that individuals and businesses are well placed to benefit from the changes that Brexit will bring.

This will include redistributing foreign aid money, reinstating grammar schools and technical colleges, properly equipping our emergency services and armed forces, challenging our convoluted tax system, attacking the bloated House of Lords – though I was glad to note that they want protection for contributing EU residents from the risk of repatriation – and the morass of quangos stuffed with highly paid cronies, all tax-payer funded.

At local level,  UKIP councillors will work solely in the best interests of the community. We will consistently care about the individual, involve ourselves in the activities of parish councils and the many voluntary and church organisations working so hard – and unpaid! – to improve the lot of the disadvantaged.

What different policies do UKIP have for Surrey County Council?

We listen to what residents really want.  Encourage transparency – something the Tories talk about but are reluctant to put into practice – and ensure that there is proper consultation between councillors, officers, and those who may be affected by council decisions.

We would review the SCC property portfolio to see if there are assets that can be sold to mitigate future council tax rises and consult again on the recently introduced household waste charges.  We would also ensure that fly-tipping is identified and acted against. In my division I would like a sensible review of speed limits within our villages.  I would also like a comprehensive review of those administrative practices which lead to over-staffing, this requires constant and thorough scrutiny.

What would you do about funding adult social welfare?

This should be covered by national government, not locally by way of council tax which discriminates against the least well-off in society because it is not payable according to income, as with national taxes.

Councils across the land, including those who have managed their finances better than Surrey, and who suffered less from withdrawal of central government funding, are admitting that they are finding it impossible to provide statutory services to an acceptable standard.  UKIP policy, which I support, is to properly merge health and social care.  I believe the current government understands this, and that we cannot continue to muddle on with the NHS and social welfare on two separate tracks fighting over the same bit of bread.

What would you do about the additional traffic that can be expected from the Dunsfold development and those included in the Guildford Local Plan?

Three of my parishes are particularly affected by the Dunsfold development: Shalford, Compton and Artington.  I will take on board the views of residents and, encourage a comprehensive assessment of how best to mitigate the looming local situation.

The Guildford Local Plan is, of course, more far-reaching but, ultimately, I will support those ideas and possible solutions that ring true to the will of the majority.  In attempting this, I am confident of support from elected members and officers.

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Responses to Dragon Interview: What Caused UKIP Councillor George Johnson To Change His Mind?

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    March 10, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Anyone but another so-called Conservative. And especially anyone but Cllr Furniss whose track record at Guildford Borough Council shows that his over-reaching ambition is inconsistent with doing good things for local people. The last thing anyone in Shalford needs is someone dead set on another ‘grand projet’ or some folie de grandeur – like the Guildford Local Plan.

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