Fringe Box



Letter: Can Cllr George Potter Really Do It All?

Published on: 6 Mar, 2023
Updated on: 6 Mar, 2023

Cllr George Potter

From: Paul Robinson

Received Sunday, March 5

This weekend the latest edition of Burpham Pages, a local news magazine, dropped through my letterbox. In it are statements from Burpham ward candidates for the forthcoming local elections.
One of the candidates standing for re-election is Cllr George Potter [Lib Dem].
I wonder if Cllr Potter has taken on too much. After I commented on the Guildford Facebook site last year that he hadn’t even acknowledged the two or three emails I had sent him, his public response was: “…please bear in mind that being a borough councillor is not a full-time job, and I have a day job 4.5 days of the week, so it’s not always possible to provide a reply as quickly as I might like.
Further to this my wife wrote to him on the February 8 and a follow up February 14 this year and has yet to receive even an acknowledgement.
I find myself asking if Cllr Potter has a job that takes up 4.5 days per week and is also a borough councillor and a county councillor, how can he devote the time and attention to the needs of his constituents that they deserve and expect?
The Dragon referred Mr Robinson’s letter to Cllr Potter. This is his response…

I am very sorry if Mr Robinson feels I have let him down, and if there are any emails he has sent me which I should have, but did not, reply to then I can only apologise.

I have looked through my email account for all emails from Mr Robinson and I am afraid that the only ones I can find are from May last year, plus an additional one from December. The one from December was about the London Road Active Travel scheme and was sent to Cllr Fiona Davidson with myself cc’d in, and it was replied to completely by Cllr Davidson before I was able to reply myself.

The emails from May (which is also when the social media exchange referred to by Mr Robinson took place) all concerned flooding on the Thorneycroft Path in Christchurch ward, and, as far as I can tell, were responded to and resolved by council staff within three days of Mr Robinson asking me to lobby council staff to sort out the issue.

As for the emails from Mrs Robinson, I am afraid it is indeed correct that she hasn’t had an acknowledgement from me yet, and I can only apologise for that. She is, I am afraid, not the only one, as I was sick for a week in February with the very nasty cold that has been going around and I am still yet to catch up on all of the emails that I missed while I was sick, especially the ones involving more complex and intractable problems such as the one raised by Mrs Robinson.

However, whilst excuses can always be made for individual lapses, Mr Robinson makes a very fair point. Being a borough councillor is a serious commitment, being a county councillor even more so, and balancing those commitments and responsibilities with holding down a full time job is challenging at the best of times. In particular, it makes you very vulnerable to unexpected disruption (such as illness); once you get thrown off track it is very difficult to catch up again.

This hasn’t been helped by GBC having been in budget season for the past two months whilst also being in the run up to the pre-election period, meaning an immense amount of council business to get through.

Whilst I would dearly love to focus on casework (it is, in fact, the most satisfying part of the job to be able to sort out a problem for someone), the unfortunate reality is that council meetings are a lot less time-flexible and cannot be postponed or deferred, and are just as much a part of a councillor’s duties as responding to emails from residents, which means they often have to take priority.

I am not going to say hand on heart that I always get the balance completely right, but I do think that, overall, I generally manage to strike a balance which means that the most important issues all get dealt with and that as many less important issues are dealt with as possible; especially given the unfortunate reality that there are always going to be more problems to solve than there is time to solve them, even for those without a day job to distract them.

And I should also point out that an unfortunate practical reality of being a GBC Executive member (a position I only reached in November last year and which I’m still adjusting to) is that, whilst it means I am able to do more on a borough-wide level for my community, it does also limit how much individual casework I can do.

But Mr Robinson is also completely right to question whether it makes sense to elect as a councillor someone who has a full-time job. Certainly someone who is retired, or does not have to work, is better able to focus on the role of being a councillor with far fewer distractions. But, at the same time, a council comprised solely of people who do not have to work is unlikely to properly represent all of society.

For my part, I am one of the youngest members of the council and one of a minority of councillors who also works a regular job. I feel that this enables me to contribute a perspective to the council which might otherwise be less well represented, which in turn helps contribute towards better, more well-rounded decision-making. But it is definitely a trade-off, and it is absolutely fair for each individual voter to decide for themselves what is more important to them in a local councillor.

When it comes to the future, I am sure I will continue to have to maintain a challenging balance between work and council commitments, if I am re-elected. Maintaining that balance will be helped by being lucky enough to have a job which allows flexible working, by having another ward councillor which whom I can share the workload (Burpham is a two-councillor ward), and also by being single, without children, and therefore able to devote almost all of my free time to being a councillor.

I would not be re-standing again if I were not confident that I could manage the workload for another four years, but at the same time, I will freely admit that I will be very glad to finish what I have set out to achieve on the county council in the next two years and then hand on the baton to someone else when my term as a county councillor ends in 2023.

Ultimately, it will be up for the people of Burpham to decide in May whether my record of action over the past four years (as I have summarised in the Burpham Pages), is deserving of another term of office or not. Until then I will continue to be their councillor to the best of my ability and will continue to be contactable by email, telephone and letter.

I would also encourage all residents of Burpham to come to the hustings, hosted by the Burpham Community Association, on March 23, so that they can see the candidates standing in Burpham first-hand and judge for themselves who they feel would do the best job as local councillor.

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Responses to Letter: Can Cllr George Potter Really Do It All?

  1. Paul Robinson Reply

    March 7, 2023 at 8:48 am

    First, let me thank Cllr Potter for his prompt response.

    He is correct in saying I was referring to the Thorneycroft Wood exchange where he failed to respond to my emails but I have to say when I write to my local councillor I expect at least an acknowledgement of my communication regardless of whether the complaint has been taken up by the council.

    In this particular case what prompted me to contact Cllr Potter was the frustration of being in communication with the Parks Department over the matter for some time and all I ever got back from them was “it’s on the to-do list”. Funny how efforts to resolve the problem commenced about 18 hours after my Facebook post.

    To be fair, I should add my emails were also addressed to Cllr Ted Mayne who also failed to acknowledge them.

    With regard to my exchange over the London Road issue I have no complaints, Cllr Davidson replied to my emails promptly.

    Cllr Potter may have well been too ill to reply to my wife but he contacted me from a GBC corporate email account (; is there no “out of office” reply facility which can give an automatic response? In this case, it might say “Thank you for you mail, but due to ill health I am unable to reply in detail right now.” This woulkd allow his constituents to be assured the mail has been received.

    That said, I am still not convinced Cllr Potter can be an effective county and borough councillor when, at best, he can only devote 2.5 days a week to the task and in that time he has to have some time off for the good of his health.

    For clarity, I am not active in politics and have nothing against Cllr Potter as a person, it has just been my family’s experience in contacting him that prompted this concern.

  2. Sandy Saunders Reply

    March 10, 2023 at 5:37 pm

    Councils should have a fair representation of society as Cllr Potter rightly points out. Also, working councillors often have transferrable skills to bring to their council work which can often benefit their constituents.

    Indeed second jobs for MPs is a contentious issue at present with the likes of Boris Johnson abandoning his constituency for weeks on end, travelling the world to attend events as a public speaker, raking in hundreds of thousands of pounds and Matt Hancock zipping of to the Australian jungle to appear in reality TV again abandoning his constituents in time of a cost of living crisis, so he can enrich himself.

    However as we know from MP Rosena Allin-Khan who is a qualified Dr and worked throughout the pandemic, her knowledge and experience were invaluable in giving first-hand accounts of the lack of PPE, ventilators and beds due to years of Conservative underfunding in the NHS. Her dedication to her constituents and patients alike should be applauded and is a fabulous example of her two skillsets working together.

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