Fringe Box



Letter: Residents Were Not Properly Informed About ‘Merger by Stealth’

Published on: 25 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 25 Mar, 2024

From: Richard Mills

Conservative borough councillor for Castle Ward

See: Godalming & Ash Candidates Cross Swords Over Council Collaboration

The petition supported by Jeremy Hunt to end the current “merger by stealth” between Guildford and Waverley brings back uncomfortable memories of my conversations with innumerable Castle Ward residents during last year’s local election.  Barely any felt that they had been informed, still less consulted, on this major change in the status and constitution of the town and the impact it will inevitably have on the borough’s identity and sovereignty.

The Liberal Democrat administration claims that it is not a change of any great significance –   just a merger of a few senior staff posts at the two councils to save a bit of money.

If this is the case, why did it require a “vision statement”, and all the paraphernalia of consultation and harmonisation across so much of the councils’ business?

And how can residents be expected to believe it when integration of the two Councils’ computer systems and junior staff terms and conditions has recently been under consideration?

Additionally, how can a simple merger of a dozen senior staff positions justify consideration of a new joint headquarters building?

Most tellingly of all, if this is just a minor change to save a few pounds why are they not now unwinding the merger in the face of evidence that the savings, if any, have been negligible?

Sadly, the past year has not been short of instances of wilful blindness and misinformation from the ruling Lib Dem majority on Guildford Borough Council:

  • the representation of the recent disposal of the Blackwell Park ransom strip as a minor matter rather than one of major strategic and development significance;
  • the lack of openness and transparency over the crisis in the Housing Department;
  • the poor financial management which over the past five years has seen the decimation of the council’s reserves, repeated failures to deliver a balanced budget; and
  • the absence of effective leadership and management that could have prevented the overspend and possibly fraudulent loss of up to £18.5 million of the council’s Housing Revenue Account.


Yet the lack of openness and transparency over the potential merger with Waverley is more important than any of these as it goes to the heart of the Town’s governance and identity.


It is time for residents to be allowed the open and informed public debate that was denied them three years ago.

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