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Opinion: R4GV Has Shown What Change Can Achieve

Published on: 9 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 25 Apr, 2021

Continuing in the series of opinion pieces from the parties standing in the Surrey County Council elections on May 6

By Fiona Davidson

Chair of R4GV and the SCC candidate for Surrey South East

The Conservatives have been in control at Surrey County Council for the last 24 years. Like any political group that has become used to an overwhelming majority, it has not had to take account of opposition. Consequently, the Conservatives have become far too inward-looking and deaf to what residents are saying.

This was exactly the situation at Guildford Borough Council in May 2019.

Despite huge dissent, the large Conservative majority on GBC voted for the highly controversial Local Plan in the pre-election regulated period, days before the borough council election, when it is considered inappropriate for contentious political issues to be debated, still less implemented.

Fiona Davidson, chair of R4GV and a candidate for Guildford South East in the Surrey County Council elections on May 6.

The voters of Guildford Borough made their dissatisfaction crystal clear when they voted against the Conservatives (reducing their seats from 32 to 9) and voted for a very recently formed Residents for Guildford and Villages group who promised to put the needs and concerns of residents first.

In the two years since R4GV Councillors were first elected, we’ve worked hard to bring change to Guildford.

We’ve promoted much-needed openness and transparency and we’re leading the revitalisation of the town centre through the Town Centre Master Plan. Through our Brownfield First ambitions, we are pushing ahead with housing, improving value for money and ensuring the highest level of scrutiny on all decision-making.

As we recover from the pandemic we’ll be focusing on restoring the physical, mental and economic health of our communities.

We believe the same resident revolution now needs to happen at Surrey County Council.

And, crucially, we need the support of SCC to provide the vital investment in infrastructure that will enable us to develop housing on brownfield sites and to revitalise our deteriorating town centre and which will protect the precious green belt.  We want Guildford to be a desirable and affordable place to live for all who choose to be part of our community.

We also want services for children, the elderly and those who need help to be as good as they can be.  The record of failure of Children’s Services at SCC is particularly alarming.  Children’s services have not been prioritised as they should have been. Politicians who fail children fail in their responsibility to the society that they are elected to serve.

Elsewhere in Surrey, voters agree that the Conservative fiefdom must be challenged. Nine of the eleven district and borough councils in Surrey are no longer Conservative-controlled. Who would have thought this was possible in the four years since the last SCC election?

Surrey County Council’s record of service failure and financial mismanagement would be sufficient reason for believing that change is necessary. But now the Conservatives are even proposing to remove the layer of local democracy (district and borough councils) that is closest to residents.

There’s probably no coincidence that the proposal for a single unitary authority emerged following the changes in political control at district and borough councils.

R4GV believes that there are advantages to some merging at a local level.  There are definitely service improvements and savings to be made by removing unnecessary duplication and we are actively looking for opportunities with our neighbours.

But, a single unitary authority for Surrey removes the ability of residents to make their voice heard and have their needs met.  We know that one size doesn’t fit all. Rural areas have different priorities and needs from urban and suburban areas.

If the Conservative majority on SCC is not challenged, it is likely we will lose the layer of local government in which voters have rejected Conservative control, and the one that most directly reflects the voice of residents.

I urge Guildford residents to vote for change on May 6.

R4GV has shown what change can achieve. We deserve better. What do we have to lose?

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test 3 Responses to Opinion: R4GV Has Shown What Change Can Achieve

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    April 9, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    We should all vote for the person and personality not the colour of their politics. Who was it said no person who wants to be an elected politician should be selected to represented the community?

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 9, 2021 at 5:07 pm

    I’d be more impressed if R4GV had delivered on their promise to review the Local Plan, and restore the green belt status to the (mostly eastern) villages. Why has this not been done?

  3. Sue Reeve Reply

    April 13, 2021 at 6:42 am

    Ms Davidson clearly doesn’t live in the Horsleys. A lot of new housing currently being built or in planning stages and only a miniscule portion on land that could be defined as brownfield.

    Some are Local Plan sites but equally other landowners are jumping on the bandwagon after green belt protection has been removed. And there are no plans for extra school places, and so on, to accommodate this.

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