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Guildford Tory Councillor Ellwood Sacked by SCC For Failing to Attend Meetings

Published on: 29 Jan, 2021
Updated on: 31 Jan, 2021

Cllr Graham Ellwood

By Martin Giles

Guildford Conservative Graham Ellwood has been disqualified as a county councillor for failure to attend council meetings for six months, although all meetings have been online during the pandemic and do not require travel.

Mr Ellwood, who had represented Guildford East, has not responded to The Dragon’s invitation to comment. Family responsibilities are given as the reason for his absences.

Normally, councillors are warned by council officers and party colleagues if they are coming up to the six-month disqualification threshold. Whether Mr Ellwood was warned is not clear.

Merrow GBC Election result, May 2019

But Conservative colleagues told The Dragon Mr Ellwood’s family situation was only partly responsible and the unexpected loss of his Guildford Borough Council seat had deeply affected him, causing loss of motivation.

In early 2020, he withdrew from the Conservative candidate selection for the forthcoming SCC elections. Some felt it was because he could see he was unlikely to succeed.

George Potter, the prospective Lib Dem candidate for Guildford East at the SCC elections, still scheduled for this May, told The Dragon: “Although I’ve had many political differences with him, for many years Mr Ellwood did his job as a councillor well and, when I was first elected, he was professional and helpful whenever I needed to speak to him about a local issue.

“But for the past 18 months he seems to have almost completely disappeared from view, without explanation.

George Potter

“I’ve heard this may have been due to him having to sort caring arrangements for a vulnerable elderly relative, and I think it’s completely reasonable for a councillor to take a temporary step back from public duties to resolve a personal situation.

“What is not reasonable is to abdicate your responsibility to the people you represent and to continue to sit as a councillor, a position to which is attached a £12,660 a year allowance, while not doing that job.

“If Mr Ellwood realised he was no longer able to give the role the time it required then he should have done the decent thing and stood down.

“But the real question is why the Conservative party failed to do anything about the situation. They knew Mr Ellwood wasn’t turning up to meetings. They knew he wasn’t doing his job properly.

“Some requests were even made to my party colleague, Fiona White, who represents Guildford West at SCC.

“And they knew resident’s requests were going unanswered and unrepresented. Indeed, they’ve already selected a replacement for him as their candidate at the next election. (See: Surrey County Elections to Go Ahead As Reorganisation Doubts Remain)

“But instead of asking him to stand down, or arranging for another Tory councillor to cover his workload, or even to suspend him from the party for not doing his job properly, the Conservatives simply allowed the situation to continue.

The formal notice from SCC announcing a vacancy which cannot be filled until an election can be held

“The result of this inaction is that the people of Guildford East will now go completely without representation on the county council for three months until the next elections, following almost a year of unofficially going without representation.”

Cllr Tim Oliver

SCC council leader Tim Oliver, who also leads the Conservative group, said: “Graham Ellwood has been heavily involved in supporting a close relative with long-term care and health issues for a long period. This has impacted on his ability, at times, to keep up with his council commitments.

“We thank him for his service and wish him and his family well in the future. He was retiring from the council in May and announced that intention some months ago.

“Any resident who has an issue that relates to Surrey County Council services should either contact Cllr Keith Taylor, a fellow Guildford councillor, or me.”

Cllr Graham Ellwood with taxi proprietor Richard Gough

In the previous GBC administration, Mr Ellwood served on the Executive as the lead for licensing, environmental health and community safety and had overseen the introduction of the teal-coloured Guildford taxis, unpopular with some drivers to whom it caused extra expense.

In September 2018, he was criticised by an elderly couple who had been locked in Tunsgate when the barrier was secured. They claimed Mr Ellwood, their borough and county councillor at the time, had “seemed more concerned with how The Guildford Dragon NEWS had obtained the story, and the identity of the informant, than about our awful experience”.

In November 2018, he surprised colleagues by standing in the SCC leadership election. But he was unable to attract any significant support and quickly withdrew.

In December 2018, he faced criticism when the Merrow cul de sac, in which he lives, was resurfaced by the county council when, it was claimed, other roads were in worse condition.

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