Fringe Box



Local Parties Finally Bow to Pressure and Reveal Power-Share Details

Published on: 1 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 1 Oct, 2020

By Martin Giles

The Liberal Democrats and Residents for Guildford & Villages parties, pushed to fulfil their pledge of openness when elected last year, have finally released details of the power-sharing deal agreed earlier this year.

They had faced calls for openness from Cllr Paul Spooner (Ash South & Tongham), leader of the breakaway Conservative ‘independents’, Labour Cllr James Walsh (Stoke) and The Dragon, among others.

The May 2019 borough elections returned 17 Liberal Democrats and 15 R4GV (Residents for Guildford & Villages) councillors. The sole Green Party councillor then joined the R4GV group, causing a close-matched council where no one grouping could claim overall control.

Cllrs Joss Bigmore and Caroline Reeves

The leaders of the two main groups agreed a more collaborative style of council politics was required. But a council leader had to be appointed and most of the then nine Conservatives and both Labour councillors supported Lib Dem Caroline Reeves (Friary & St Nicolas).

Shortly after, power-sharing talks between R4GV and the Lib Dems broke down over how many seats R4GV would get but Cllr Reeves formed an Executive which did include Joss Bigmore (Christchurch), leader of R4GV and Susan Parker (Send), then leader of the four-member Guildford Greenbelt Group.

Today (October 1), in a joint Lib Dem/R4GV press release, they say: “After a year of working together our parties decided to negotiate an agreement to create a formal coalition administration to achieve our shared goals, giving the borough a stable leadership team throughout the full term of this administration.”

But other sources say the talks reopened because, correctly or not, the Lib Dems feared a power grab by R4GV, supported by the Conservatives.

The press release continued: “Both our groups have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) drafted with the assistance of the Local Government Association (LGA) to agree the details of how the coalition administration will operate, and the full text of the MOU has been published on our websites.

“The key features of the MOU are:

  • A balanced Executive, featuring equal representation from both parties;
  • A rotating leadership, with each party holding the leadership for two out of the four years of this council term;
  • A rotating deputy leadership, held by whichever party does not currently hold the leadership; and
  • Each party to choose which of its councillors serve on the Executive.

“In keeping with the MOU, and due to a delay caused by the need to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Liberal Democrats have now formally rotated the council leadership to R4GV, with Cllr Reeves standing down as leader to allow Cllr Bigmore to be elected leader at the next full council meeting, where he will be supported by both parties.

“Under the terms of the MOU, Cllr Reeves will then be appointed deputy leader, and the leadership itself will be rotated back to the Liberal Democrats in October 2022, at which point the deputy leadership will be rotated back to R4GV.”

The agreement in full…

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