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Lib Dems Handover Borough Council Leadership to R4GV in Planned Move

Published on: 23 Sep, 2020
Updated on: 24 Sep, 2020

Cllr Caroline Reeves

The leader of Guildford Borough Council announced her expected resignation last night (September 24) at a meeting of the council’s Executive.

Under a deal struck between the two largest political groups at Millmead, the Liberal Democrats and Residents for Guildford & Villages, power was to be shared with each taking the leadership role for two years of the four-year term.

Explaining her decision Cllr Reeves said:  “Earlier in this year I shared with residents that, as promised, I had reviewed the leadership arrangements at Guildford Borough Council and had agreed with Joss Bigmore, leader of Residents for Guildford and the Villages (R4GV) to transfer leadership to him in the Autumn.

“This decision, while perhaps unusual, was made with the interests of the residents of Guildford Borough at its’ very heart. In the May 2019 elections, the Lib Dems and R4GV won 17 and 15 seats respectively and it was clear that residents were looking for a new, more collaborative approach to running our Council. Tonight, I made good on that promise.

“Following discussions with R4GV it was agreed that this handover should take place at the 6 October Full Council meeting, and so I formally resigned as leader this evening with the decision coming into effect at midnight tonight.”

Clearly a little emotional as she completed her statement, Cllr Reeves handed over to her party colleague Jan Harwood who, after saying: “It was a pleasure serving under you,” had to pause briefly before continuing with the meeting’s other business.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Cllr Joss Bigmore (Christchurch) will now take over as acting leader pending the expected ratification at the full council meeting.

Responding to the announcement he said: “Personally I would like to thank Caroline for her willingness to freely share the benefit of her experience with me.  Her support has, and I hope will continue to be invaluable as this administration moves to its next stage.

“The borough also owes her a debt of thanks, her compassionate and assured leadership has helped us navigate through what we hope was the worst of this pandemic.  She has also signalled a decisive shift in emphasis towards action combating the Climate Emergency, this Council must set an example for others to follow ensuring our planet can be enjoyed by the generations to come.

“I fully expect Caroline to continue in her role on the Executive, the R4GV-Lib Dem relationship is strong, this transition has been expected and planned for, we continue to work hard to deliver what the residents of this Borough want and deserve.”

Caroline Reeves continued: “This may seem a strange time to be changing the Council leadership right now, and I should explain for residents that the original agreement between the Lib Dems and R4GV was that this should happen a year after the borough elections in May of 2019. However, given that we were in the early stages of the pandemic I felt very strongly that such an action would be detrimental to the borough as we were all living through an unprecedented and life-changing situation.

“Ironically, we are still in the midst of the pandemic, and I suspect that we are about to face a surge in cases and new guidance changes to try and manage this. I have assured R4GV’s leader and GBC’s Deputy Council Leader Cllr Bigmore that the officers here in Guildford will offer exemplary support. I cannot overemphasise what an amazing team we have supporting residents through this, the most challenging of circumstances.

Cllr Paul Spooner

In a personal statement, Cllr Paul Spooner (Ash South & Tongham) reacted: “It has been known for many months that the Lib Dems in Guildford would hand over control of the Executive.

“I would like to thank Cllr Caroline Reeves for her efforts. She can be very proud of her legacy with respect to the council’s response and handling of the Covid-19 challenges over the last six months.

“R4GV is a registered political party that made many manifesto promises across the borough to win many seats in May 2019 and they no longer have any excuse for not being able to deliver on those promises to the electorate.

“I personally look forward to seeing R4GV deliver a new bus service through Tongham, the stopping and ‘repositioning’ of development, the Ash Station level crossing issues being resolved, the diversion of commuter traffic of ‘non-residents’ and, most important for many in my ward, the promised new Medical Centre in Tongham.

“I am sure residents across the borough await progress updates on the popular promises made under R4GV Council Leadership. I wish Cllr Joss Bigmore well in delivering on those promises!”

Cllr Ramsey Nagaty

Ramsey Nagaty leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group was also generous to the resigning leader: “Cllr Reeves is to be applauded for honouring her pledge to share leadership of the Council and hand over to Joss Bigmore, R4GV.

“Caroline has long experience of local government and will continue to be involved in the Executive and council. She has been a stalwart in guiding GBC through the pandemic.

“It is to be hoped that the new leader will reflect and advance further the aims, aspirations and desires of the electorate expressed so strongly at the Local Elections last year.”

Cllr Reeves’s statement continued: “After the borough elections in May 2019, we had a large number of new councillors and shielding, self-isolation and lockdown have not been the best introduction to the vagaries of local government!

“The difference between being part of the system and working in the private sector are many and can be hard to understand at the best of times. Those of us who have been part of this world for longer are perhaps better placed to appreciate the strength of leadership that our management team has shown throughout the evolution of the strange world that we find ourselves in. The support that I have had has been invaluable and I hope that this teamwork will continue.

“As I’ve said already, a handover like this is unusual in local government but I have always said that it was clear from the votes cast in May 2019 that the residents of Guildford were looking for a new kind of politics, and the Lib Dems and I are committed to delivering that. I wish Cllr Bigmore all the best as he prepares to take over the leadership and I look forward to continuing to work with him and R4GV as part of the shared Lib Dem – R4GV Executive. These are difficult times thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic but I know that together we can continue to deliver for the people of Guildford Borough

“Finally, for myself, I would like to thank a few close friends who have helped me to maintain a semblance of normality and I look forward to having a better work/life balance in the months ahead.

“It has been an honour to serve the residents of Guildford Borough as Leader of Guildford Borough Council.”

Cllr Bigmore is expected to appoint his deputy and any changes to the Executive once his appointment has been confirmed at full council.

Further reaction will be added as it is received. Please check back.

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Responses to Lib Dems Handover Borough Council Leadership to R4GV in Planned Move

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    September 23, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    This is welcome news. Hopefully, we can now look forward to R4GV delivering the promised review of the Local Plan, which the Lib Dems promised, and so signally failed to deliver.

    As it has now been shown that Guildford had sacrifices nearly half of the total greenbelt land given over to developers in the whole of England, the case could never be stronger.

    As to Cllr Spooner’s comment: “I personally look forward to seeing R4GV deliver ….. the stopping and ‘repositioning’ of development” this is laughably rich as he is entirely responsible for the obscene level of development in his rushed-through Local Plan.

    • Abbey Jarman Reply

      September 23, 2020 at 8:26 pm

      I heartily agree with Jules Cranwell. It is hard to believe that Cllr Spooner has the front to say anything about promises being delivered. I hope it’s not too late to get the plan reviewed.

    • Paul Spooner Reply

      September 24, 2020 at 9:29 am

      The comments Mr Cranwell refers to are R4GV pledges made in Ash South & Tongham to win in May 2019. They are not attributed to me.

      Local residents have seen almost nothing within the ward of the successful R4GV councillor, Paul Abbey, since he won. Perhaps now he can start delivering on his promises for residents in Ash South & Tongham, or will he clarify for residents that the R4GV manifesto always was impossible to deliver and was written just to win seats.

      R4GV should do what they promised the electorate and tear up the Local Plan and start again, but I fear the result of that promise will be 200+ more houses per annum and the loss of the current defence that my administration put in place to ensure development is tied to infrastructure, and if infrastructure investment was not forthcoming the development must be scaled back.

      Mr Cranwell should be careful what he wishes for.

      Paul Spooner is the Conservative ‘independent’ borough councillor for South Ash & Tongham.

      • Jules Cranwell Reply

        September 25, 2020 at 10:23 am

        Cllr Spooner appears to have forgotten his party’s promise before the 2015 election: “Conservatives Say Greenbelt to Stay”. Now is maybe a good time to apologise for this lie.

  2. Sue Hackman Reply

    September 24, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    As a member of the Labour Party, I am not often moved to appreciate the other parties, but I am pleased to thank Caroline Reeves for being a thoughtful and responsive leader.

    My concern lies in the casual shift of control from one party to another. The Lib Dems didn’t mention this to their voters at the election or even just after it when they saw the numbers. It seems like an act of bad faith to me.

    I don’t feel I have been given much information about the wider policies of our new ruling party, other than what they are against ie development. Perhaps the Lib Dems know?

    Editor’s comment : Please see Shock Council Move as Leader Reeves Hands Over Power To R4GV’s Joss Bigmore published May 5.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      September 25, 2020 at 10:47 am

      It matters not what colour of politics as long as those in charge act in good faith, respect the electorate and remember the residents are not their servants but rather they are the elected servants of the community.

      I hate to say this as a committed political freelancer, but the Liberal Democrats have acted with responsibility and respect of their position. I believe R4GV will do the same. At least they appear to be listening and acting on what they hear.

      The word “consultation” was reverse defined in recent years at GBC to mean only: “We’ll keep you informed.”

  3. Howard Smith Reply

    September 25, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    Another Labour member here.

    The only solid conclusion that can be drawn from – in their words, this “unusual” turn of events – is that the Liberal Democrats feel they are not the best party to lead at GBC (and they presumably feel the residents group are).

    But I can’t help being curious as to why they feel that way.

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