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Updated – Lib Dems Secure Leadership Of Borough Council With Tory and Labour Votes

Published on: 15 May, 2019
Updated on: 17 May, 2019

Cllr Joss Bigmore lost out to Lib Dem Caroline Reeves

Guildford’s Lib Dem chief Caroline Reeves was voted in as new leader of the borough council last night (May 15, 2019) in an unusually contested election caused by no party having overall control after the May 2 poll.

Article updated with two video interviews. Please see below.

She beat Joss Bigmore, the R4GV candidate by just four votes, 23 to 19. Cllr Bigmore and his proposer, John Rigg, gave powerful speeches in support but such votes are not won solely by oratory.

All 17 Lib Dems supported Cllr Reeves, and the R4GV (Residents for Guildford & Villages), GGG (Guildford Greenbelt Group) and the lone Green Party councillor supported Cllr Bigmore so, as expected, it all came down to the votes of the nine surviving Conservatives and two Labour members.

GBC councillors voting for one of the committee chairmanship appointments at last night’s meeting.

To no great surprise, the two Labour members voted for Cllr Reeves. Their group leader, Cllr Angela Gunning, clearly holds much respect for her longstanding council colleague, regardless of party differences.

But the Conservatives did not vote as a single block. Apart from the traditional abstention of the new mayor, Richard Billington, three others abstained, Ash Vale councillors Marsha Moseley and Nigel Manning, as well as Andrew Gomm from neighbouring Ash Wharf.

Cllr Paul Spooner

In her speech, Cllr Reeves paid a warm tribute to the former council leader, Cllr Paul Spooner (Ash South & Tongham), and he returned the compliment with his vote. Sources said his efforts to secure committee positions with offers of support to both main groups had been rejected. And after the leadership election, Cllr Spooner also lost to Cllr Bigmore on the key role of chair of the Overview and Scrutiny committee and had to settle for the consolation prize of chair of the Guildford Joint Committee.

Cllr Marsha Moseley, stays in place as chairman of GBC’s Planning Committee

One other noteworthy appointment was Tory Cllr Marsha Moseley, re-elected as chair of the Planning committee. Her independent chairmanship in recent meetings appeared to have been duly noted by the R4GV councillors who backed her over Lib Dem Liz Hogger.

After the meeting closed, Cllrs Reeves and Bigmore reiterated the need for cross-party working. It will be interesting to see how this is reflected in the Executive appointments. This issue, some sources said, was why the two groups could not form a coalition.

In a press release issued within hours of the council meeting Caroline Reeves said: “I want to say thank you to the voters of Guildford for all your support. This was a historic election as Guildford has been run by Conservatives since 2003. Yet they have been reduced to just nine councillors.

The voters of Guildford and the villages have placed faith in the Lib Dems, and we will not let them down. The Lib Dems and I will demand better from Guildford Council.”

“Voters have clearly said they want change and as a Lib Dem council we will give them that. We are looking forward to working with colleagues from across all parties for the benefit of Guildford Borough and will be reaching out to form a more politically diverse Executive to deliver a new type of politics here in Guildford.

“Our top priorities as we begin our leadership of Guildford Borough Council will be to review the Local Plan, work to urgently combat climate change, to tackle the housing crisis, and strive for more open governance at Millmead.”

The following interviews were recorded immediately after the council meeting. Apologies for the sound qaulaity. Please use the sub titles.

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test 12 Responses to Updated – Lib Dems Secure Leadership Of Borough Council With Tory and Labour Votes

  1. Valerie Thompson Reply

    May 16, 2019 at 8:32 am

    What a shame!

    This would have been a great opportunity for the public to be represented by independent-thinking councillors, whereas we will still continue to have party-politics as the main driver.

    For Councillor Reeves to say now that she will “review the Local Plan” after she had voted it in is “double-speak”. Will we be able to trust the Lib-Dems any more than we trusted the Conservatives to work for the best future of the borough?

    • Jan Todd Reply

      May 16, 2019 at 9:12 pm

      Cllr Reeves has explained the reasons why she voted for the Local Plan – though some people have obviously chosen not to listen – but as a resident of the town centre ward she represents, I am grateful that she did.

      The review has been instigated in order to clarify for new councillors any misunderstandings they may have about the Plan and to address any questions they have. This should be welcomed.

      Cllr Reeves has said that she is looking forward to working with colleagues from across all parties for the benefit of Guildford, something I am sure we all want (though this is something she has been criticised for in the past, so it seems she can’t win).

      Shall we give them all a chance to work together now?

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    May 16, 2019 at 8:38 am

    This is really bad news.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    May 16, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    Heaven forbid that a new party be included in the establishment selections.

  4. Jan Todd Reply

    May 16, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    This is really excellent news.

  5. Dave Fiddler Reply

    May 16, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    How can anybody think that R4GV isn’t the establishment?

  6. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 16, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    It is evident that with a success rate of 88% of candidates proposed elected, R4GV would have had a majority, had they been able to muster even a half dozen more candidates. Such was the hunger for a new way of working at GBC.

    It is a lamentable missed opportunity that Joss Bigmore was not offered the deputy leadership. This truly would have shown that we had been listened to. I’m sure that if the shoe had been on the other foot, we would have seen a Lib Dem deputy.

    Let’s hope we see the remaining Executive appointments made on the basis of talent, rather than party.

  7. Colin Cross Reply

    May 17, 2019 at 12:11 am

    Of course, why have residents running local politics? What a silly idea!

    Let’s leave it to the national political parties as they are so obviously good at it.

    The very idea that the residents might know better than Westminster is absurd. Or is it actually a blindingly obvious statement of fact?

    Look at GBC on Wednesday night; the three national parties ganged up to thwart the people’s vote. Their view of democracy is a purely national one, R4GV is the future for Guildford.

    Colin Cross is the R4GV borough councillor for Lovelace (Ripley, Wisley and Ockham).

  8. James Walsh Reply

    May 20, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Disingenuous tosh, from Colin Cross.

    We’re all “local residents”, as well he knows, and Westminster plays no part in decisions made locally – again, as he well knows. I have no idea what Jeremy Corbyn’s view is of the North Street redevelopment but, even if I did, it’s nowt to do with him.

    Fact is, the Lib Dems won the largest number of seats, so no one “ganged up to thwart the people’s vote” – if Cllr Cross wanted to run the council, his party should have won more seats – simple as that. Angela Gunning and I would have liked a crack at forming the new Executive too, but we’re a little way off after our poor results on May 2 – and that’s democracy.

    Let’s get away from this “democracy thwarted” garbage so redolent of the likes of Nigel Farage, shall we, and get back to the way it really is in Guildford – with most of us agreeing on key issues and all of us working for the benefit of the borough.

    The biggest danger we all face is the “doing down” of politics and politicians, like Colin Cross has done in the comment above. Let’s leave that to the likes of Farage and Robinson and fight it together instead.

    James Walsh is a Labour borough councillor for Stoke.

    • John Perkins Reply

      May 20, 2019 at 4:55 pm

      If Westminster plays no part in decisions made locally then why associate with national parties at all? In fact, we know they do play a part because the build-at-all-costs policy so clearly expressed in the Local Plan came from the Conservatives in central government and is backed up by the Secretary of State’s inspectors.

      The previous council leader claimed that parties were more important than Independents and favoured Labour councillors over them for committee seats despite them having equal entitlements. Cllr Walsh’s intemperate rant at Cllr Rooth last October shows he agrees and is also capable of “doing down” others.

  9. N Nev Reply

    May 20, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    Everything about the passing of the Local Plan to the removal of our villages from the green belt must be re-visited.

    Any hint of the new council leadership (who are only there by virtue of a protest vote) continuing to ignore the thousands of notices of objection to these plans must be vigorously contested.

    The specious argument for support of a Plan swiftly taken before the elections was an egregious miscarriage of residents views. The Conservatives, who we voted for previously, have let us all down with their complacent disregard of us all and I for one will be watching these new temporary councillors very carefully.

  10. Colin Cross Reply

    May 21, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    Cllr Walsh may like to rethink his argument. Although the Lib Dems won the most seats for a single party (17 as against R4GV’s 15), the inclusion of the Green Party councillor, Diana Jones, in our group and our alliance with the other local group, GGG, means that together we are 20 councillors, still not a majority admittedly.

    Of course, we at R4GV should have found more candidates but with only a few weeks at our disposal and with limited funds and other resources an 88% success rate was pretty good and a lot better than the Labour success rate of 8%, or so.

    The point I made, and defend now, is that the overwhelming opinion of everyone both at the council meeting or watching the webcast was that all but three Tories then supported the Lib Dems power grab. The general view being that the national political groups were reacting to a new local threat by forming an unholy alliance.

    Cllr Walsh’s assertion that “Westminster plays no part in decisions made locally” is either remarkably naive or a brave attempt to deny the blatantly obvious – the Tories at national level are putting in place the most draconian new housing plans for the South-East of England of all time and plundering the green belt to achieve this.

    Forget Brexit, this election result is primarily a direct result of the unhealthy rush of our local Tories to do as their masters commanded. The fact that both Labour and most Lib Dem councillors supported them is another indication of the veracity of my assertions.

    So is it me talking disingenuous tosh? Cllr Walsh might like to consider.

    Colin Cross is the R4GV borough councillor for Lovelace (Ripley, Wisley and Ockham).

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