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Opinion: Keep Party Politics Out of Local Government

Published on: 22 Jan, 2019
Updated on: 23 Jan, 2019

By Colin Cross, Bob McShee and Tony Rooth

Independent Alliance borough councillors

“Keep party politics out of local government, keep local government local,” said Cllr Eber Kington of Epsom and Ewell council. And so said all of the 300 local residents (except a few party political supporters) present when he spoke at the meeting organised by Residents from Guildford and Villages on 15th January.

Unfortunately, local government in Guildford and Surrey is steeped in Conservative party politics with no effective opposition.

Do you know what our local councils provide for Guildford’s 143,000 residents?

Independent Cllrs Colin Cross, Tony Rooth & Bob McShee

Guildford Borough Council provides local services including your refuse collection, Local Plan, planning, social housing, older people’s services, heritage, leisure. Guildford owns the Guildhall, Spectrum, G Live, museum and subsidises the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

Cllr Paul Spooner is both council leader and lead councillor for the Local Plan and town centre regeneration.

Surrey County Council services include highways, transport, education, social services and overall waste management.

Cllr Matt Furniss is now lead councillor for Highways, as well as deputy leader of Guildford Borough Council.

Both councils suffer from continuous cuts in central Government funding. Guildford’s government grant has been cut in half over recent years by Conservative and Conservative/ Lib Dem Coalition governments.  The “Age of Austerity ” is certainly not over for local councils.

Therefore, how should Guildford council spend your always increasing council tax?

Surely not on expensive “vanity ” projects. The Conservative leadership has wasted £1,000,000 on the disastrous “Pop Up Village”, spent £1,200,000  solely on consultants fees for the Walnut Bridge and made a partnership with Dongying, a Chinese industrial city famous for making tyres!

Independent Alliance councillors challenge these and other projects – we three have asked twice as many questions as the remaining 45 councillors added together.

Do you think your council should be based on open, independent, democracy rather than domination by the leadership and party, behind closed doors?

Was our Independent Alliance council motion that Guildford Council should fully support the three key principles of democracy, accountability, and transparency so controversial that justified Conservatives and Lib Dems voting it down?

Residents from Guildford and Villages need councillors who are themselves, residents, independent from party politics and want to make more sensible decisions. Epsom and Ewell council has been controlled by residents independent of party politics for years and has Surrey’s lowest council tax.

Guildford Borough Council is running a “Becoming a councillor” event on Monday 11 February 2019 from 6pm to 9.15pm in the council chamber at Millmead House, Guildford GU2 4BB.

The Borough Council elections on Thursday, May 2nd are your chance to make a real difference and “keep party politics out of local government, keep local government local”.

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test 9 Responses to Opinion: Keep Party Politics Out of Local Government

  1. George Potter Reply

    February 8, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    I have one simple question for all of these three gentlemen:

    Where was their opposition to party politics in local government when they all, on multiple occasions, contested local elections under national political party labels?

    And where, in particular, was Tony Rooth’s opposition to party politics in local government during seven years as a Conservative on the Guildford Borough Council Executive and two years as a highly partisan Guildford Borough Council leader?

  2. Colin Cross Reply

    February 11, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    The answer to George Potter’s simple question is equally straightforward.

    When I was recently confronted by the incontrovertible evidence that my own party leader chose to act in support of the Tory leadership over the GBC Wisley Garden Village Funding Bid I was forced to accept party politics held sway over local issues.

    At no point was I ever considered, consulted or apologised to for my ward’s primary interest being sold down the river in the name of a cosy working relationship.

    No amount of any political party togetherness could survive such betrayal I’m afraid.

    • George Potter Reply

      February 11, 2019 at 4:38 pm

      I think it’s a real shame that Mr Cross has offered an answer which is so heavy on spin yet so at odds with the facts.

      Whilst I might not be intimate with the exact details of what was said when and to whom, it’s pretty clear from reporting around the funding bid that the bid being made has zero impact on whether or not Wisley will be built on but does mean that there might be funding available for better infrastructure to minimise the impact on local people if development does take place.

      Far from Mr Cross’s ward’s interests being sold down the river, that sounds rather more like something being done to look out for its interests.

      Still, I think it’s ironic that Mr Cross is saying that party politics is such a scourge when he and Messrs McShee and Rooth are now busy setting up and recruiting for a political party which consists of, surprise surprise, a party of people with similar views on the issues.

      So I would dearly love to know how we are meant to keep “party politics” out of local government when these three individuals’ are being so quick to set up what is, in effect, a new party to contest local elections?

      Speaking as someone who actually campaigned to get Mr Cross elected in the first place I do find it rather disappointing that he and his merry gang’s actions seem to be so consistently at odds with their rhetoric.

      • John Perkins Reply

        February 12, 2019 at 9:06 pm

        George Potter displays the intolerance of the fundamentalist.

        Before he accuses these gentlemen of setting up a political party he should check with the Electoral Commission who can inform him that “Independent” is not a word they allow to be used in a party title or description. They are forming a loose alliance of representatives not affiliated to any party.

        To claim that the bid for “Garden Village” funding has “zero impact on whether or not Wisley will be built” is misleading when the funding can only be made available if development does go ahead.

        As a local representative Cllr Cross has a responsibility to defend the interests of residents of the ward. Anyone is free to stand against him as a candidate on a platform of support for the bid. He was perhaps lucky to be elected twice with the support of Mr Potter.

      • Ben Paton Reply

        February 13, 2019 at 7:47 am

        Is Mr Potter the official spokesman for the Lib Dems and Cllr Reeves? Does he support all of his party’s decisions, ‘right or wrong’? Isn’t this what’s wrong with party politics? Should we support parties just because they are ‘identity groups’?

        Surely people should support a policy because it makes sense not because they identify with a particular party or group be it Liberal or Conservative, a race or a creed.

        Mr Potter’s claims that Mr Cross is guilty of spin and that the Garden Village bid helps the residents of the borough and of Ockham are Orwellian doublespeak, not to say Putinesque.

        So which fact has Mr Cross got wrong? And how exactly does the Garden Village Bid help residents? Or does party matter more than facts?

  3. Alan Davies Reply

    February 13, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    George Potter is membership secretary of Guildford Lib Dems according to their website. Can he really recruit members when Lib Dem councillors led by Caroline Reeves almost always support Cllrs Spooner and Furniss?

    Is he jealous that his former Lib Dem colleague Colin Cross and former Tories Cllrs Rooth and McShee can help attract 300 people to a recent Independent rally?

    Looks like Mr Potter is well behind the trend that people are increasingly fed up with national party politics and their local party representatives.

  4. Colin Cross Reply

    February 14, 2019 at 1:05 am

    Mr Potter has decided to argue about a topic of which, on his own admission, he knows very little. My resignation from the Liberal Democrat party, late last year, was both a deeply personal and cathartic decision about which he has no insight or understanding.

    My explanation above contains no spin, such as he accused me of, but only outlines the events leading to my resignation. For him to conclude this was “at odds with the facts” is both nonsensical, he does not know the facts and indicative of a “witch hunt” mentality.

    I acknowledge his help in my first campaign but what he fails to realise is that the record 47% swing from the Tories was not related to massively newfound popularity for the Liberal Democrat party in Lovelace. It stemmed solely from a huge groundswell of support for someone willing and able to defend Lovelace Ward in the face of a Tory-led assault intending to desecrate and destroy our historic villages.

    I thank the LibDems for their support but those involved all know it was not party popularity that won out here. Ask Sue Doughty.
    Never lose sight of the fact that this is about local issues, not party politics.

    Mr Potter’s grasp of the GBC Wisley Garden Village Bid shows a total reality disconnect and life is too short to even begin to explain what the Tory game plan is for this site.

    Finally, when I said “party politics” I was referring to national parties involved locally, the point being that we don’t need national political parties involved in local issues.

    Our newly formed alliance have been overwhelmed by the recent goodwill messages and offers of support since announcing our intention to launch a Guildford, residents-led, Independents party. Come the May election perhaps Mr Potter might consider trying his luck by returning to Lovelace as the new Lib Dem candidate?

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

  5. Chris Fox Reply

    February 15, 2019 at 9:08 am

    Mr Cross says now he has launched residents-led Independent party. I am generally very confused as I thought the trio claimed not to be a party.

    Perhaps he could also explain why his party is residents-led and the other parties are not. Also, could he explain who these residents leaders are and how they are chosen?

    Chris Fox was a Liberal and Lib Dem councillor from 1979-1997

  6. Colin Cross Reply

    February 16, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    Without wishing to be pedantic it seems Mr Fox is living up to his name in craftily reinterpreting my statements and giving them a different meaning.

    Firstly, I did not say I had launched a party of any description. After the 300 or so locals filled the hall at our recent public meeting our efforts have been directed at launching a residents-led independent group, as stated. It will need to be registered as a political party if we are to be allowed to put our title/logo on the ballot paper like the national political parties are already permitted to. It is, so far, a work in progress and we will report developments in due course.

    Secondly, he has translated “residents-led” to “residents leaders” and then asks how they are chosen. It’s the universally accepted process. We each put ourselves forward to stand as local candidates and make our case. The electorate then votes for its choice of candidate.

    We are happy to stand or fall in the pursuit of our beliefs so let the Guildford voters be the final arbiters.

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

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