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Mayor Loses Official Car and Driver to Save £25,000 a Year

Published on: 1 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 2 Mar, 2021

The Mayor of Guildford’s Jaguar in 2016 before it was switched to a “greener” Lexus.

By Martin Giles

Guildford’s Mayor Richard Billington has lost his official chauffer-driven car, withdrawn to save the cash-strapped borough an estimated £25,000 a year.

In future, Mayors and Deputy Mayors will drive their own cars on official duties, use taxis or hire cars with drivers for safety reasons.

At the moment the Mayor’s appointments have been cancelled because of the Covid lockdown but the policy will come into effect as restrictions are eased and will continue when Mayor-elect Cllr Marsha Moseley takes over and Cllr Dennis Booth becomes her Deputy.

A mayoral car has been provided since the borough was formed in 1974. Only four of the other 10 Surrey boroughs have a mayor’s car and driver. Both drivers at Guildford have taken early retirement.

The council has a £6 million budgetary shortfall in the years to 2025 and Cllr Tim Anderson (R4GV, Clandon & Horsley), lead for resources warned in November (2020) that “those affected are going to scream”.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Council leader Cllr Joss Bigmore said: “Our commercial income streams have been severely impacted due to the outbreak. We have been supporting our residents throughout by continuing to provide our services and supporting those who are most vulnerable.

“[With] retirement of the mayor’s chauffeur and the car reaching the end of its lease, we thought now would be an appropriate time to review transport arrangements.”

A small panel of former mayors, with the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Deputy Mayor-elect, Cllr Bigmore and managing director James Whiteman decided not to recruit a replacement chauffeur and end the car lease.

Logistical factors were raised, such as parking and arrival time, but changes will be made to appointment-booking to highlight the need for a parking space.

GBC is also examining whether the Mayor and Deputy Mayor should have parking permits for any borough car park when attending an official engagement that has no parking. This would not guarantee a space, but it would reduce the time needed to park.

Mayor of Guildford Richard Billington is serving for two-years because of the pandemic.

Mayor Billington, who is undergoing post-operative medical treatment, sounded a note of caution. “Being mayor isn’t particularly desirable and when councillors realise they will be driving themselves, I doubt there will be many takers.”

Cllr Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch) said: “We are mindful that we need to continue to save money where possible, especially following such a difficult period for many frontline services.

“While restrictions are in place, engagements requiring a physical mayoral presence will be reduced throughout 2021, allowing us to make further savings.

“The Civic Office will ensure the Mayor’s schedule allows for additional time and will provide additional support regarding the location of events and parking arrangements.”

Cllr Paul Spooner

But Cllr Paul Spooner (Con, Ash South & Tongham), the former GBC leader, thinks the saving may be false economy.

He said: “Having seen first-hand the value of the Mayor in direct and indirect fundraising and in raising the profile of Guildford across Surrey, I am concerned that the decision, apparently taken primarily to cut costs at GBC, has not been thought through.

“Our mayoral office is exceptional and during my time as a councillor, and especially during my council leadership, I had the privilege of attending and supporting events with the Mayor of the day.

“I was also fortunate enough to share the mayoral car on occasion, and there is no doubt in my mind that the flexibility employed by having a mayoral car and driver allows for many more attendances and support for good causes as well as raising Guildford’s profile than would be the case with a ‘taxi’ service that has now been agreed.

“I have not had an answer to the plan for taxi provision. Given that the Mayor may do several events in a day and timing can change and plans change accordingly, will the taxi driver be retained on a daily basis, or is the Mayor expected to call up and wait for a taxi when he/she is ready to move on, and is there a contract to ensure the Mayor is not kept waiting due to lack of availability?

“Guildford charities and good cause events will be the poorer for the loss of the service, and what will the ‘savings’ really be after the indirect costs of alternative provision is taken into account?”

What do you think, sensible economy or another blow to Guildford’s prestige? please use the Leave a Reply feature below to have your say.


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test 8 Responses to Mayor Loses Official Car and Driver to Save £25,000 a Year

  1. Harry Eve Reply

    March 1, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    Why not take the bus or ride a bike? It would set a good example.

  2. Christian Holliday Reply

    March 1, 2021 at 9:06 pm

    A false economy if ever there was one, akin to scrapping the Royal Yacht.

    Imagine the disappointment when residents, community groups and businesses see the Mayor turning up to their events and stepping out of a taxi or a Ford Focus. What kind of image does that portray?

    Christian Holliday is a former Conservative borough councillor.

  3. Daniel Heathcote Reply

    March 1, 2021 at 9:15 pm

    Slightly insensitive of the mayoral incumbent to say that having access to a mayoral vehicle (an expensive one at that), and a chauffeur, when staff going out on official business are expected to drive themselves and park for themselves, making time between appointments as appropriate.

    Trust me, it’s not having access to a luxury car that would make me not want to be Mayor. Let’s get real here – they’ve had an ever-increasing black hole in finances for well over a decade as have all local authorities, and those that have these cushy perks like luxury mayoral cars it is time to ask is it really needed?

    One could even query, do we need a Mayor? Especially in view of other stories regarding council payments of Right to Buy money to the government, recently reported in The Dragon.

  4. Sharon Stokes Reply

    March 2, 2021 at 12:08 am

    Very sad to see this. It was lovely to see the Mayor arriving at events in the mayoral car. It created a real buzz and really helped the serving Mayor to attend several events.

    We were very lucky to have Jenny Jordan attend community events and she was always very busy.

    She found her driver and car to really help her in the role. A bad decision in my opinion, although I understand the thinking behind it.

  5. Shirley West Reply

    March 2, 2021 at 9:56 am

    It is very sad news to lose the mayoral car, another part of our civic pride being taken away from us.

    It’s very exciting to see the Mayor arriving in the car with the Guildford mascot on the front, especially when they visit schools.

    I think the council should spend the money on the Guildhall which needs some investment and keep the car for our Mayor.

  6. Barbara Ford Reply

    March 2, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    Wouldn’t it be possible to hire a limousine with driver for the day or half-day from time to time? That is, a smarter more elegant version of a taxi, which would still be reasonably impressive but still represent a considerable saving.

  7. Wayne Smith Reply

    March 2, 2021 at 8:00 pm

    Why does a Mayoral car have to be a gas guzzler such as the Jaguar in the picture? GBC was quick to jump on the Climate Emergency bandwagon, so show some original thinking and use a small electric vehicle suitably adorned with messages about the benefits of electric vehicles. Perhaps even carry some advertising for the supplying dealership in return for a better deal on the purchase.

    The world has moved on and the days of tugging forelocks as the big black car pulls into view are gone.

    Editor’s comment: The Jaguar pictured was replaced by a more fuel-efficient Lexus but unfortunately, we could not obtain an image of it.

  8. Aubrey Leahy Reply

    March 2, 2021 at 11:37 pm

    I have been led to believe that before the war the Guildford Borough Police force had to hire a taxi to attend a crime scene too far to walk or quickly cycle to.

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