Fringe Box



Guildford Rejects An Elected Mayor System of Council Governance

Published on: 14 Oct, 2016
Updated on: 7 Jan, 2017

Elected Mayor Opinion PollGuildford voters have rejected the proposal to have an elected mayor by a margin or four to one.

Over 20,000 voted to retain the existing system and almost 5,000 to have an elected mayor.

In the referendum held yesterday, October 13, voters were asked how they would like Guildford Borough Council (GBC) to be run.

20,639 voters selected the option: “By a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors – which is how the council is run now and 4,948 opted for: “By a mayor who is elected by voters – which would be a change from how the council is run now.  22 votes were rejected.

The Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour councillors at GBC mounted a joint campaign against the proposal. The Guildford Greenbelt Group were also opposed.

A council spokesperson said: “This means that the council will continue to be run how it is now, with a leader and cabinet system.”

The overall turnout was 25%, which although significantly lower than normal elections was higher than some predicted. Some councillors feared that a low turnout could have favoured those who supported the elected mayor model.

The council leader, Paul Spooner (Con, Ash South & Tongham) said: “I would like to thank everyone involved in the campaign to keep the current effective system of governance. It was great to see all political parties working together on a common cause.

“I would also like to thank the electorate for voting to keep the current system.”

Guildford’s MP, Anne Milton also expressed pleasure with the result: “I am delighted that Guildford voted so conclusively against a directly elected mayor. I never considered that their was any real support for this and I am sorry that it has cost council tax payers a considerable sum of money to go through this exercise.”

Angela Gunning, leader of the Labour group at GBC, reacted: “I’m so so relieved at the outcome. But the low turnout is disappointing, although not surprising.

“The cost of this referendum has wasted thousands of pounds precious council funds. I hope now the council will continue to run the borough to the best of our ability.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves, opposition and Lib Dem group leader said: “We are delighted by the result of the referendum. Although a low turnout it is clear from the votes cast and the many people we have spoken to during the campaign that the prospect of an elected, political mayor was an unwelcome one.

“The result means that Guildford’s elected Lib Dem councillors who represent the views of their communities and have a proven track record of commitment to these and the wider community can get on with their jobs again.

“Most importantly it means that as Liberal Democrats we can get back to building a positive future for Guildford and within that provide the scrutiny need to ensure a Local Plan that works for the whole of Guildford rather than risk poorly thought-out planning and development by appeal.”

Cllr Susan Parker, leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group leader said: “The Guildford Greenbelt Group are delighted that the proposal for a local political mayor has been quashed. It is also good news that it cannot be reconsidered for ten years. It would have concentrated far too much power in the hands of one individual. Decisions would have been taken in camera.  Such covert governance has been definitively rejected here.

“The council now needs to remember that it has already voted to approve the hybrid model – a combination of the old committee system and the strong leader model.  

“The views and concerns of backbench councillors must not be disregarded. We need accountability, transparency and responsibility.

“The people of Guildford care about democracy, as they have just shown, and councillors will recall that we are already a third of the way through the current borough council term.   It is important that there is open and accountable democracy in our council, and that future decisions are not taken behind closed doors.”

Bill Stokoe of the Guildford Vision Group (GVG) said: “GVG stayed out of the debate as our group is apolitical. But for the good health of the town centre, GVG has always wanted Guildford’s administration, of whatever shade, to be forward-looking, committed to regeneration of the centre and determined to drive through an exciting programme of intelligent change.

“The referendum result doesn’t end the need to examine how best to handle and execute the game-changing programme of major development that is in prospect right now.

“Guildford’s long running inability to put in place an approved Local Plan suggests the current system of governance does have its weaknesses and limitations. The town centre infrastructure deficit is clear evidence of that and other shortcomings in the way we run our local affairs.

“We continue to ask the council to follow a collaborative approach, for it to make localism real and meaningful, in preparing the town for the challenges ahead.”

No comments have, so far, been received from those who organised the campaign for an elected mayor.

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Responses to Guildford Rejects An Elected Mayor System of Council Governance

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    October 14, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    What a waste of council taxpayers’ money.

  2. Paul Bishop Reply

    October 14, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Ah, great. Now we’ve managed to maintain the status quo, let’s get on with moaning about it again!

    • John Perkins Reply

      October 15, 2016 at 10:00 am

      It is not “moaning” to express an opinion that the present system is imperfect; rather it’s a simple demonstration of democracy in action.

      20,000 people took the time and trouble to vote because they believed that the suggested alternative was worse. However, choosing the lesser of two evils does not imply that the chosen option has any merit.

      • Paul Bishop Reply

        October 16, 2016 at 9:57 pm

        It’s just what we do in Guildford. Complain and oppose any change and then fail to offer a workable alternative.

        Every single issue here goes the same way. As a residents who wants the town to grow and develop its massively frustrating. Look at any other town around here and how much they have done in the last 10 years, then compare it to the lack of any progress in Guildford. It’s embarrassing and frankly disappointing.

        My comments weren’t about the referendum, more about the predictability of the outfall.

      • David Pillinger Reply

        October 17, 2016 at 5:34 pm

        “However, choosing the lesser of two evils does not imply that the chosen option has any merit.”

        A bit like voting Brexit!

        • John Perkins Reply

          October 18, 2016 at 10:57 am

          Precisely so!

          • Jim Allen

            October 22, 2016 at 5:35 pm

            The problem with this voting process is that now we are stuck with the present ‘executive’ system for the next 10 years, so we can’t vote for a committee system in all that time should we want to.

            Was this their intention from the beginning?

  3. Valerie Thompson Reply

    October 14, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    What a relief!

    Hopefully that is the last we will hear from Monika and her “friends”.

    However, Guildford Borough Council must not sit back and think it has secured unqualified approval from the electorate to do whatever it pleases.

    It must remember that the present councillors were elected having made many promises, not least to preserve the green belt.

    This referendum failure does not endorse their intention of concreting over large swathes of rural countryside, and those of us, intent on preserving the green belt for our families, for visitors and for the future, will not give up the fight lightly.

    Take note, this result does not mean we can’t vote out councillors who break promises or fail to listen to the public at the next local election.

  4. Cllr James Walsh Reply

    October 14, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    The result reflected what we were seeing on the street during the campaign, though I was still surprised by the thoroughness of the trouncing the “Yes” triumvirate got.

    This was never anything more than the creature of the few people who fronted the “Yes” campaign, and the residents of Guildford were never going to be fooled by talk about “bringing democracy to the borough”.

    Representative democracy is not a perfect system, but no political system is. Many dislike politics, politicians and the whole kerboodle surrounding it all, but we have to work with the best of what we have and improve where improvement means improvement.

    That’s why Guildford Labour Party decided to join forces with the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and GGG to oppose this attempt to concentrate local decision-making in a single pair of hands and to ensure that accountability remains in the council chamber in the hands of elected representatives from across the borough.

    Let’s hope we’ve now heard the last of this from Mr Mansbridge, Juneja and the rest.

    James Walsh is a Labour councillor for the Stoke ward of Guildford.

  5. Graham Hughes Reply

    October 14, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    I find it ‘curious’ that the actual vote for an elected mayor appears to be less than the number of signatures on the petition that called for this referendum.

    So there must be a number of people who signed the petition but couldn’t be bothered to vote for the proposition that they were backing.

    This casts further doubt on the process by which that petition was organised and I think that there should be some searching questions for the proposers of the petition to answer, not least “why have they wasted so much public money in a time of austerity?”

  6. Mary Bedforth Reply

    October 14, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    If I never hear the names Juneja and Mansbridge again, I will be very happy.

    So goodbye to £145,000 of council taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

    • Stuart Barnes Reply

      October 15, 2016 at 8:49 am

      If £145,000 was the actual cost of this farce, surely there should be some way of stopping such frivolous votes?

  7. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 14, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    I would like to think that this sorry pairing of Mansbridge/Juneja will now finally withdraw from public life, although somehow I doubt it.

    Now, I hope that the current leadership will not see this as an unqualified endorsement of their strategy, it isn’t. It is just that Guildford has spoken up for the lesser of two evils.

    They still have to go a very long way to demonstrate openness, transparency, and respect for the electorate.

  8. Paul Bishop Reply

    October 25, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    As Jim Allen rightly points out, and the point everyone else seems to have missed, is that we haven’t just voted for the better of two evils. What has actually happened is that we have locked ourself into the current system for a minimum of 10 years. It’s a system which, as the comments here clearly show, people aren’t overly keen on.
    Well, because everyone was too pre-occupied complaining and bringing up petit arguments about Juneja/Mansbridge not one of our councillors or their parties managed to do their job and come up with a better solution to get onto the referendum paper. But, I’m sure those same people will be plenty vocal enough at every opportunity in the future to continue complaining about it. Once again, short sightedness, moaning and stagnation rather than ideas, big thinking and development.
    Seems to be the norm for this town these days.

    • Anna-Marie Davis Reply

      October 26, 2016 at 11:28 am

      It was the monitoring officer at the council who determined that the ballot paper only have one option on it, despite it being formally suggested that a return to the previous committee style of local governance also be included as an option.

  9. Brian Holt Reply

    October 25, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    In reply to Paul Bishop’s comment:

    Everyone was pre-occupied complaining and bringing up petit arguments about Juneja/Mansbridge.

    Of course they were, no-one wanted a criminal found guilty on serious fraud charges, having any further involvement in Guildford council issues.

    The pair have wasted £145,000 council tax-payers’ money, and he calls it petit.

  10. Chris Fox Reply

    October 26, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Mr Bishop should be complaining about our government and not our councillors.

    It is the government who laid down the choice between the existing system and the mayoralty system not the local council.

    Oh that the government encouraged our councillors think of better solutions!

  11. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    October 26, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    As far as Mr Bishop’s comment is concerened, as far as I understood it, the “vote”, was technically for a DEM – yes or no – with the default position that if the proposal lost for the status quo to continue – resulting in no posibility of another vote for 10 years.

    There is no legislation to allow for a third option to be considered at the same time.

    This was a proposal that GGG were advocating that an alternative should considered at the same time which theirs was a return to the committee system.

    It was not for the want of trying (like the proposal or not) but the legislation did not allow for.

  12. Paul Bishop Reply

    October 27, 2016 at 6:55 am

    How many goes at getting the referendum petition to the right numbers did the DEM brigade have?

    Plenty. Plenty of time for the GGG of whoever wanted to have got a separate petition going, which if they could have had the right support, might have pushed the DEM one out on its ear before they even got the petition to 5k.

    What some people seem to struggle to understand is that the democratic process in this country was always going to allow a petition to trigger a referendum, anyone is free to trigger a referendum.

    This process and the cost associated with it is just one of the costs of our democracy. What our bright councillors should have done was get a better referendum on the table before this one even got enough signatures.

    If at least the same effort went into that at as went into all the personnel attacks, we might even have a ended up with a better solution!

  13. Mary Bedforth Reply

    November 15, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Surrey Police are not taking any action against Ms Juneja for the lack of an “imprint” on her referendum literature which is an offence under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

    Surrey Police have responded: “This matter was referred to Surrey Police by Guildford Borough Council’s Democratic Services Manager.

    “A number of enquiries were made and it did appear that the leaflets did not comply with the legislation relating to an imprint containing details of the people responsible. National guidance suggests this would normally be dealt with by way of advice unless there were aggravating features.

    “The council’s managing director dealt with the matter at the time by writing to the person involved and reminding them of their obligations. As advice has already been given, no further police action will be taken.

    “The matter has been recorded and will be shared with the Electoral Commission as is usual practice.”

  14. Dave Middleton Reply

    November 15, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    While I am certainly no fan of Ms Juneja or her chums and I was personally quite disappointed that she didn’t receive an immediate custodial sentence for her compounded fraud etc, in this instance this seems to be a reasonable response to a very minor offence and a formal prosecution would have been an over the top reaction.

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