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New Group “Residents for Guildford and Villages” Call Meeting to Encourage More Independent Candidates

Published on: 5 Jan, 2019
Updated on: 9 Jan, 2019

The logo of the new “Residents for Guildford and Villages” group

“Widespread dissatisfaction across the borough at the way Guildford Council is currently operating and ignoring people’s wishes” is said to be the motivation behind an initiative to encourage more Independent candidates to stand for election at Guildford Borough Council.

A new group “Residents for Guildford and Villages (RGV)” have called a public meeting on Tuesday, January 15 at The Baptist Centre, Millmead, to encourage more local residents to support, and stand as, Independent candidates in the local elections in May.

The initiative has received qualified support from two opposition party leaders, Lib Dem Caroline Reeves and Susan Parker of the Guildford Greenbelt Group. Cllr Reeves welcomes anything that would improve the political balance at GBC but both question the “real” independence of some of those currently under the Independent umbrella.

According to a statement from the meeting organisers, “Nearby councils like Woking, Farnham, Elmbridge, Tandridge, Spelthorne, Reigate and Banstead have Independent resident councillors, and Epsom and Ewell is controlled by residents’ groups – it is time for Guildford to do the same.

“People attending the meeting will learn how and why they can support independent candidates or stand themselves in the coming local election, what help is available and how everyone can play a part in changing the balance of power on the council to make a difference.”

Joss Bigmore of RGV said: “Nearly everyone we speak to is thoroughly fed up with the way Guildford Council is behaving.

“There have been tens of thousands of responses from people objecting to the proposed Local Plan, yet the council is relentlessly pushing through massive developments, concreting over the green belt while failing to provide enough sustainable housing in the town centre.

“There are vanity projects like the pop-up village and the Walnut Bridge which waste millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, and the handling of the Solum development which will blot Guildford’s skyline.

“There is a huge amount of frustration and anger at the way the leadership of the council, in particular, ignores residents’ wishes, lacks transparency in decisions and expects councillors to simply do what they are told to do.

“Only by having more Independent councillors who really represent residents can we change this and, like Epsom and Ewell, have a properly democratic council with a sensible balance of power.

“We urge anyone living in Guildford and its surrounding villages who has had enough of Guildford Borough Council’s behaviour to join us at our meeting on 15 January to find out more, ask questions and meet like-minded fellow residents.”

Independent Cllrs Colin Cross, Tony Rooth & Bob McShee

Speaking at the meeting will be all three of the Guildford Borough councillors who have left their original political parties to be Independents: Tony Rooth (Pilgrims) and Bob McShee (Worplesdon), both former Conservatives, and Colin Cross (Lovelace), a former Liberal Democrat.

Julian Lyon

They are expected to reveal why they have become Independents, their experiences of how undemocratic and unresponsive the current council is behind the scenes and how this can be changed.

Julian Lyon, who has stepped down as Chairman of the Guildford Society to stand as an Independent and has for many years been a leading campaigner for a “better Guildford”, will, organisers say, outline some of the key issues facing everybody living in the borough and the solutions he believes the current council is not grasping.

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Caroline Reeves, leader of the Liberal Democrats at Millmead, responding to news of the meeting, said: “We welcome the greater involvement in the democratic process Independent councillors could bring and, of course, we Lib Dems have long believed the Tory-dominated council must be transparent and held to account over its decisions.

“The present perception appears to be that the council is only about planning, so we hope that the Independents who do stand will be truly independent, not either Tory party rejects or those concerned with only a single issue. Matters of concern to residents vary across the wards and can be as diverse as people trafficking to parking issues.

“The overwhelming majority of Tories on the council leads to a blind belief that they can do as they please. Voting for a balancing alternative, Lib Dem or otherwise, would limit that perception of arrogant domination, to the greater good for Guildford residents.”

Asked for her view on Independent candidates, Susan Parker, leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG), said: “Are Guildford Greenbelt Group pro-independence? You bet.

“We’re a local party for local people. Independent of any national party. United in the belief that our woods and fields are all safer if we stand together.

“We don’t have any links to developers or estate agents. For five years, in the council chamber and outside, we’ve campaigned passionately to protect our environment and heritage.

“Three GGG councillors were elected; we’ve stood alone against a united council chamber. This year, we’ll welcome new candidates under our umbrella. We’ll also work with real Independents who share our values.

“But we think voters should look very carefully at candidates. Is Guildford Society (GSoc) truly independent? We recall: GSoc/GVG supported the Mansbridge/Juneja Local Plan; Mansbridge appointed Julian Lyon to chair his Forum to defuse dissent; GVG/GSoc committee members attacked GGG at hustings; Stephen Mansbridge has recently endorsed Julian Lyon. You believe in U-turns if you want to.”

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Responses to New Group “Residents for Guildford and Villages” Call Meeting to Encourage More Independent Candidates

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    January 5, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    Who do these councillors think you are – making comments that imply the new Independents are not independent but fifth columnists of the far right and far left? I think they will find them all moderates who care for their own communities and have a balanced realistic approach.

    They are not Nimbies but they will be called that by opponents of Independent councillors will trot out at each and every opportunity, without understanding either the origins or the true nature of the insult.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 6, 2019 at 8:45 am

    I can’t bring myself to believe in the independence of Julian Lyon, from a planning perspective, given he is a director of Savills, which is involved in the proposed development of Three Farms Meadows in Ockham.

    Should he become a councillor, it would have to be extremely difficult for him to oppose a scheme in which his employer is involved.

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