Fringe Box



Letter: What Changes Will a New Council Leader Bring?

Published on: 12 Nov, 2015
Updated on: 12 Nov, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 12.42.36From George Dokimakis

A member of the Guildford Labour Party and the Labour candidate in the forthcoming by-election in Ash South & Tongham ward.

We have a new leader of the Tory group whose election as council leader will almost certainly be officially completed in December. Let me be the first to say: Welcome Cllr Paul Spooner [Con, Ash South & Tongham].

I, alongside many other residents, am very keen to see what direction the council will take and if it will deviate from the current course. Since the election, we have effectively lost a museum and about to lose a theatre (unless we are surprised by the reports to be submitted by the different working groups, chaired by Cllr Geoff Davis).

Obviously, culture is not a priority for this council. Who needs mental stimulation when there is money to be made?

Would Cllr Spooner be kind enough to explain his vision to the residents of GBC?  A comment on this letter would be a good start.

Does he stand by the Conservative corporate vision for our community?

Does he have an unbridled desire to change our community into a corporation where unfettered economic and housing development can finally give way to pesky and irksome concerns of community spirit and cohesion?

Will he follow suit and restrict access to services and entertainment only those that can afford to pay as our Conservative Surrey County Council is doing by planning to charge for parking in Newlands Corner?

Guildford Borough Council is already badly bruised. The stories both at national and local level keep coming out. Undoubtedly more will follow since we have a number of new councillors leading key committees with dubious experience as well as a number of councillors that were paper candidates representing large population areas.

What’s next? Can Cllr Spooner tell us?

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Responses to Letter: What Changes Will a New Council Leader Bring?

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    November 12, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Perhaps Cllr Spooner will just keep the seat warm for Mr Mansbridge to return as an elected major, I mean mayor? Is there a Putin/Medvedev style ‘accommodation’ between the two? Will we notice any difference in the meantime?

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    November 12, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Hopefully he will bring some honesty, openness, truthfulness and even, perhaps, a little humility to the post.

    If so Freedom of Information requests can become a thing of the past. After all the GBC is not part of the Ministry of Defence and secrecy simply does not have a place in the democratic process.

  3. Mary Bedforth Reply

    November 12, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Is the question rhetorical?

    I was looking back just now –

  4. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    November 12, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    But Cllr Spooner has shown the, “I will see you in court/let’s see what the ombudsman thinks,” attitude to councillors who have pushed GBC on their refusal to reveal information after Freedom of Information requests – I believe it was towards Cllr David Reeve.

    Not really encouraging and no real evidence to date from Cllr Spooner that he will do anything different to make Mr Allen’s wish come true.

  5. Brian Miller Reply

    November 13, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    In answer to the question, I suggest no change.

  6. Jeff HIlls Reply

    November 16, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Stephen Mansbridge, hypocritically, kept secret his preference for an elected mayor form of governance at Guildford Borough Council but surely it would be more democratic for us to directly elect a mayor who could exercise power over the council rather than just have a ceremonial figure, as he/she is currently, elected only by councillors, or an Executive appointed by a council leader, effectively appointed by only his/her party colleagues?

    • George Potter Reply

      November 16, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      At the moment we elect multiple councillors who in turn elect a council leader and, crucially, can remove the council leader if necessary as well as block and amend things like the council budget.

      An elected mayor has all the power of a council leader concentrated into the hands of one individual. An individual who is in place for four years and cannot be removed by the councillors and who makes decisions, like the budget, which cannot be blocked or amended by councillors.

      An elected mayor, effectively, is an elected dictator who absorbs all the powers of the council with elected councillors having no power other than the power to talk without being able to do anything.

      At least right now there’s the possibility of councillors rejecting a budget that would cut funding to places like the Electric Theatre. An elected mayor, on the other hand, could make the decision to cut funding for the Electric Theatre unilaterally with no one able to do anything about it.

      Is that really an improvement on the system we have now? I think not.

  7. Valerie Thompson Reply

    November 16, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Our present mayor seems unbiased and interested in activities around the borough.

    The mayor should have no power, just like the Queen.

    It should be a ‘figurehead’ position.

    Let’s keep any voting by the council out of it and have a borough-wide vote.

    Then, maybe, we can all vote for someone we think will be best, not connected with any political party.

    Indeed, their political views should have no bearing on their election.

  8. Lisa Wright Reply

    November 16, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    I agree with Mr Hills. If a very decent person who is keen to protect Guildford’s heritage, countryside, town and residents were elected perhaps they could steer the council away from the corporate “growth at all costs” trajectory and concentrate on improving the lives of the people that already live here.

    However, it is likely that enough money will be thrown at this election to ensure the mayoral position is given to a pro-Conservative, pro-growth, pro-stuff the rest of us politician who aims for personal glory rather than public service.

  9. Bernard Parke Reply

    November 17, 2015 at 8:10 am

    Under the committee system the mayoralty had considerable influence and regardless of party label acted in a non-political way for the good of all Guildfordians.

    They were able top achieve a great deal through the guidance of our trained local government officers and by listening to councillors of all parties.

    Under the present system the Leader of the Council has almost the same autonomy as an elected mayor.

    Do we really want even more of this in the shaping of our future environment?

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