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Borough Council Braced for Another Elected Mayor Petition Submission

Published on: 22 Apr, 2016
Updated on: 26 Apr, 2016

GBC petitionGuildford Borough Council (GBC) is bracing itself for another attempt by former councillor Monika Juneja to cross the 5,184 threshold with her “Elected Mayor Petition”, before some existing signatures lose their twelve months validity.

If the threshold is successfully crossed the council would be forced to hold a referendum on whether GBC should adopt an elected mayor form of governance.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS has seen the petition and noted that the first signature was collected was on April 27th 2015. A large number of signatures were collected around the time of the elections in May 2015 by Ms Juneja and her team, which included students paid £1 per signature, collected.

It was revealed by The Guildford Dragon NEWS last October that former council leader Stephen Mansbridge, a close friend and political ally of Ms Juneja, had met, without the knowledge of his other political colleagues, the University of Surrey Students’ Union in order to obtain its support for the petition.

After this, and the admission by local businessman Michel Harper that he had funded the petition, became known, Cllr Mansbridge resigned both as council leader and Conservative ward councillor for Ash South and Tongham.

Ms Juneja has already presented the petition three times but on each occasion it has failed validation. In May 2015 3,570 signatures were deemed valid, in February 2016  4,831 and in March 2016 4,814.

One of the reasons for existing signatures becoming invalid is if it is discovered that the signee has moved out of the borough, quite likely if that person was a student who has completed their studies.

Last week it emerged in a Surrey Advertiser report that the petition showed former councillor Mansbridge had been collecting signatures himself around Tongham in February and March this year (2016). How evidence of this activity came to the Advertiser’s attention is unclear.

Stephen Mansbridge told the Surrey Advertiser: “In my old ward people feel the council has done nothing to protect their area from unplanned house building. People feel that leadership is now invisible and that there is no positive will to allow democracy to follow its course.”

Susan Parker (GGG, Send) leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group said: “This grubby saga seems to run and run.

“It is time that Mr Mansbridge realised that he is no longer leader of this council, and that he cannot dictate what happens in Guildford.

“Mr Mansbridge has supported Ms Juneja’s petition from the start, has collected signatures for it, and that petition received funds from Mr Harper.”

Former Lib Dem MP for Guildford, Sue Doughty said: “Locally who wants it [a referendum]?  We have a disgraced and criminally convicted former councillor, her business partner and close friend who was forced to resign after his apparent denial of any involvement was proved to be untrue, and a nightclub owner who wants a casino in Guildford and is unhappy that the council has not supported his desire.

“Who would pay for it?  We would – both the cost of the referendum, and the cost of another layer of administration.

“But if Guildford is to be saddled with this, it will be essential that we elect the right person for the job and I would suggest that the people mentioned above who are not banned from public office need not apply.

“Our council has many challenges in difficult financial times.  We can debate the quality of the outcome but what is clear is that pushing this referendum forward would be a waste of our money and our time which could be spend so much better in supporting our community.”

It is understood that GBC have been given legal advice that there is no cut off date that can be applied to such petitions. However, as stated, signatures only remain valid for 12 months.

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Responses to Borough Council Braced for Another Elected Mayor Petition Submission

  1. John Perkins Reply

    April 23, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Perhaps Stephen Mansbridge can tell us where the “unplanned house building” is in Ash South and Tongham, his old ward. Surely it must have had permission?

    While he was leader of GBC he allowed his friend and business partner Monika Juneja to take the lead on production of the Local Plan and, following her being charged with criminal offences, took the lead himself.

    The Local Plan still contains plans to build houses all over the borough by reducing the area of the green belt, except for Tongham. Leadership certainly wasn’t invisible during his reign and democracy didn’t seem to be following a course known to many people.

    He is now advocating a new system that might possibly return him to power.

  2. Stephen Mansbridge Reply

    April 25, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Four points in response:

    1. To be accurate, the 5% figure from 1 April 2016 is 5,184. [Thank you. This has been confirmed by GBC and now corrected. Ed]

    2. Clearly, Cllr Parker does not recall her own attempts to change how the council works, both through her Legal Democracy Ltd petition and her campaigning against development on the green belt, so her comments are entirely hypocritical.

    She was all for democracy at one point or, maybe, democracy now looks different from inside the council chamber? When confronted in a meeting with the possible cost of a referendum on her own petition, her comment was that there was no price on democracy. For once, I agree.

    3. Whilst the editor has his own tin eared and jaundiced view of a balanced argument, Sue Doughty needs to be corrected: I resigned of my own volition and for the reasons given in my press release at the time; no one forced me to go, actually quite the opposite. Also, I am surprised of her attitude to the 8,000 people who, at the very least, just want a referendum to ask a crucial question.

    I thought that being a Liberal was synonymous to believing in the virtues of a democratic society; obviously, that assumption was wrong and council finances come before a democratic act and any respect towards the electorate. This petition has garnered eight per cent of real people, whether the council chooses to recognise them or not, who have concerned views and feelings about this serious issue, which councillors seem to wish to blanket out. By contrast, nine per cent was the overall turnout of the last Police and Crime Commissioner election.

    4. People have signed this petition from all over our borough and the broader public should be asking the question – why? The simple answer is a dislike of inertia, with which we have lived for far too long.

  3. Pauline Surrey Reply

    April 25, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with Sue Doughty. Mr Mansbridge should leave the political scene now, please. Gardening is very nice this time of year, I am told. He should stop wasting GBC time and money.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      April 26, 2016 at 12:03 am

      Methinks he doth protest too much.

      Seriously, Mr. Mansbridge is sounding rather desperate. Please give it up and save the ‘hard working’ from further unwanted expense.

  4. Dave Middleton Reply

    April 25, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    So, by Mr Mansbridge’s post, some eight per cent of “real people” have signed this elected mayor petition. Perhaps that means that the other 92 per cent of the local electorate don’t want a referendum, or are at best indifferent towards it?

    Perhaps the another reason for the apparent hostility towards this petition, is the character of the people that appear to be behind it, a convicted forger, a twice convicted drink driver and a person who appears to feel that planning regulations don’t apply to him and also owns the biggest eyesore in the town.

  5. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    April 25, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    Mr Mansbridge has been shown to have been “economical with the truth” in politics whilst holding the highest position this borough can bestow. He misled the public of Guildford. He should keep a low profile as should Ms Juneja who was supposed to be taking a back seat from public life, as suggested by the judge at her conviction sentencing.

    Cllr Parker started a petition whilst a member of the public and ran for election on the beliefs she had. She was voted in.

    Mr Mansbridge’s statement, “Cllr Parker does not recall her own attempts to change how the council works, both through her Legal Democracy Ltd petition and her campaigning against development on the green belt…”

    How the council works? A councillor is not elected to allow continued inertia and the way a council has been previously run. As an example, the council has to work in the matter of planning in line with the NPPF and Cllr Parker has done nothing but try to hold the council to account in this matter.

    Mr Mansbridge still seems to feel that his “trajectory” with regards to rolling back the green belt is untouchable, divine and anybody disagreeing should be lambasted despite being democratically elected, standing on that very policy with which she has been so challenging.

    Mr Mansbrigde stood and was voted in yet, it was clear, to all, that he could not be trusted with what he was saying in chamber in front of councillors, officers and the public.

    Whether he was pushed or jumped, irrelevant.

  6. Lisa Wright Reply

    April 26, 2016 at 8:02 am

    With reference to Mr Mansbridge’s point 4, perhaps people have signed as they are so disgusted with their elected council representatives, mostly Conservative, who promised to protect their green belt, have been found to be less than trustworthy with their election promises.

    Maybe they think it’s a good chance to vote for someone who will cherish their quality of life, urban and countryside, that we all enjoy?

    If we do choose to have an elected mayor, I’m hoping David Attenborough stands.

    • Harry Eve Reply

      April 28, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      I’d second David Attenborough. We would need someone who understands, values and respects the environment – and who is also greatly respected.

  7. Valerie Thompson Reply

    April 26, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Susan Parker’s petition was to increase the number of people on the council taking part in the making of important decisions, not to put in place a dictator.

  8. Eddie Russell Reply

    April 26, 2016 at 10:14 am

    If, as Mr Mansbridge claims, there are at least 8,000 people who want a referendum, how come the magical figure of 5,184 has not yet been reached. Is it because over 3,000 of those people were students who are no longer registered as living in the borough?

  9. Peta Malthouse Reply

    April 26, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Perhaps Mr Mansbridge is worried that we will find him out if he is not in power. I notice it is proposed to create new green belt around his home, in an area, Ash and Tongham, that has always been marked for development and which has had central government funds to ensure there is some infrastructure.

    There are supposed to be exceptional reasons to place land in new green belt as well as removing it. Being behind the former leader’s house isn’t good enough, I am afraid.

  10. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    April 27, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Interesting tweet from the council leader this week:

    “Conservative, Lib Dem & Labour leaders at GBC united in suspicion at some of the ‘accepted’ signatories on Mayoral petition #Guildford”

    I asked him via twitter to tell us more, but no response yet. Does he want a Freedom of Information request that he is so keen on?

  11. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 27, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Given the past form of the petition organiser, is it not about time this matter was referred to the police?

    It would be helpful for the council leader to elaborate on what these suspicions are. If they suspect forgery, then the police would, I believe, most definitely be interested.

  12. Peta Malthouse Reply

    April 28, 2016 at 8:46 am

    We should be in no doubt, if this petition is finally approved it will cost the council a lot of money to organise a referendum and on only one question, “Do we want an elected mayor?”

    There would be no opportunity to look at other more suitable options, like the more inclusive committee system.

    I have one representative in my councillor and I want him to vote on every decision taken by the council in full council meetings rather than being left to act as a rubber stamp.

    Business can be run just as effectively with proper management and good organisation and we would have the benefit of full prior scrutiny. I want my councillor to be able to do his job properly. Power needs to be in the hands of the many, not the few.

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