Fringe Box



Opinion: Remember the Local Issues in the Next Local Election

Published on: 23 Mar, 2015
Updated on: 23 Mar, 2015

Local issuesDemocracy is important to The Guildford Dragon NEWS. We support no political party although we do strongly believe that it is all our duty to get involved, to use our invaluable right to vote.

But when the minority of us, who do bother to vote in local elections, put our cross against a name what, actually, are we voting for?

Through this online newspaper’s opinion pieces we keep banging on about the importance of local issues to our everyday lives. We think it is important. So what are the LOCAL issues that should influence the way we vote for our borough councillors in May?

Perhaps top of the list should be the Local Plan. Proposals put forward to build more than 600 houses each year in the borough, some of them on green belt land, have been passionately opposed in some quarters; for some protection of the green belt is the overriding issue, even if it means high-rise development in the town, but others say how else are we to provide homes for those, including our own children, who wish to live in the borough?

And if more houses are built how could local people be prioritised? Most houses are simply sold to the buyer offering the most, wherever they come from. Doesn’t our proximity to London mean, as Guildford’s parish council forum say, that the demand for houses here is insatiable?

Opinion Logo 2Social housing. The only current housing sector where local people can be prioritised. But is there enough and what would the various parties do to ensure any extra provision required?

How do we want our town developed? We know that the north side of North Street will be redeveloped but who will decide how the project will be carried out and, importantly, how the finished product will look, feel, and function? Normally ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’, so if the project is to be funded by major developers or retailers how will the people of Guildford, through the council, retain control?

What do you think of proposals to develop Guildford’s railway station? Will it provide much needed extra housing units and improve the lot of Guildford rail travellers or is it just an ugly and unwelcome attempt to squeeze every last penny of profit from a property asset regardless of local sentiment?

Parks and leisure. Guildford’s parks and gardens are among the town’s best assets. How should they be maintained and what do you think about the proposal to revamp facilities at Stoke Park? Are you happy with the provision and management of other leisure facilities in the borough?

Culture and heritage. Some were heartbroken to see the demise of the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra, but are the arts now properly supported by the council? What about the museum? Some feel it is totally inadequate for an historic county town, and the attempts so far to attract lottery funding have been unsuccessful. What style of architecture should the council advise developers would be most acceptable in our historic town centre and when will we see the granite setts on the High Street properly repaired and maintained?

Environmental services. Guildford does pretty well when it comes to recycling and we seem to have accepted less frequent refuse collections without much complaint, but what could be done to clear up litter that still disfigures some parts of the town and borough?

Car parking. Many already complain about insufficient car parking in the town centre and more houses in the borough are bound to add to demand. Shopkeepers complain about the off putting price of car parking. Meanwhile we have one park and ride car park that is greatly underused and there are no bus services to the park and rides on Sundays, now one of the town’s busiest shopping days. What policies are the candidates offering?

Traffic. Highways are a county council responsibility but the borough council does have a say on how traffic problems are addressed in Guildford. What ideas are on offer to tackle Guildford’s already regular gridlock? What ideas are on offer including better facilities for cyclists and pedestrians?

Councillor integrity and ‘whipping’. The standing of politicians has rarely been lower. It is not just the various scandals and misdemeanours, our borough councillors are not exempt from these, it is that many of us have lost trust in them to deliver beneficial change that most of us would support. Even the existence of party politics at local level seems to some questionable. It is said that there is no organised whipping of councillors to vote a certain way, especially on planning issues. But some councillors do report that they feel pressurised to follow party lines and if there are not party lines to follow then why have political parties on the council?

Dragon Says 470

We say vote for councillors that show they understand that:

  • the desire for economic growth must always be balanced with the need to protect the town’s character and heritage;
  • most of us choose to live in Guildford because, despite some shocking planning blunders over the years, the town is still an attractive place with beautiful countryside close at hand which should be preserved;
  • any Local Plan must be based on sufficient and sensitive development of local infrastructure, especially our road network, and fully appreciate the constraints this represents;
  • they must remain mindful that even in a wealthy borough such as ours there are many less advantaged who are part of our community and who must be included and supported;
  • councillors should represent the majority view of their constituency, not act as if they know best, they have no more a monopoly on wisdom than the rest of us.

Finally, don’t confuse the issues you are voting for in the borough council election with those at county council level. The borough council can do nothing or little about, road maintenance, schools, local health services or policing (now a matter for the police commissioner). Actually the council can’t even have the final say on planning thanks to central government giving that power to the unelected planning inspectorate, something you might wish to tackle the parliamentary candidates about.

What issues do you think voters should call to mind when voting for their borough councillors. Please use the ‘Leave a reply’ feature below to have your say.

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Responses to Opinion: Remember the Local Issues in the Next Local Election

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 23, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    This is an inspired and balanced opinion piece. However I would point out that, although GBC does not have direct influence over such areas as roads, health facilities, schools etc, they do have a most important indirect influence through planning decisions. The risible proposal of the Tory executive to build over 800 homes per year, nigh on 16,000 over the term of the local plan, would have a calamitous impact on these services.

    As to integrity and whipping, the former has been demonstrably lacking from the incumbents, and the latter has been ruled out, as a manifesto pledge, by GGG. You decide on May 7th.

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    March 24, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Do we really need 48 borough councillors when only nine of that number make policy, and the majority of that number do not live in central Guildford.

    At present there are in most wards three borough councillors in addition to a county councillor.

    Surely one councillor per borough ward would suffice, and in doing so help to keep down council tax.

  3. John Robson Reply

    March 24, 2015 at 9:30 am

    The structure of this council has to change. The all-conquering Executive wields too much power, its main protagonists remain at the behest of Westminster, big business and some of Guildford’s institutions with the autocratic nature of the Executive seemingly suffocating the life out of any real debate in the council chamber.

    Whilst you need an efficient decision making tool, it appears to me the current system is little more than a dictatorship and for too long now the majority of the diligent and hard-working councillors have no voice.

    This cannot be healthy for the balanced development of this town where it appears the pursuit of money, power and direction from Westminster will ride roughshod over the real needs of the people of Guildford.

    If the town is developed in line with the current proposals in the Draft Local Plan, i.e. 13,000+ houses parachuted onto the green belt onto the periphery of the town, the youth who you seek to build “affordable homes” for will simply vote with their feet, the developers will suffocate the life out of this town quicker than they will extract their profits from selling your green belt.

    Basic common sense appears to be in short supply. Where is the vision? Where is the long term strategy? The town needs to be redeveloped from the inside out, not the other way around, we cannot absorb the immediate impact of the housing proposals within the draft local plan, 5-6 years in the making and we still do not have a joined up, sustainable local plan.

    Already and without the implementation of this plan, services are already deteriorating. Notwithstanding the fact we’re constantly told Guildford is 89% Greenbelt who wants to send their kids to schools with no green spaces, their playing fields built over to accommodate “bulge classes”? Who wants to join the endless queues for doctors, hospitals or the queue to simply drive 2-3 miles into town on a daily basis because there is no viable alternative?

    Who will want to live in a town like this? Most of the Executive don’t. They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk.

    All I know is that we didn’t choose to live in the 33rd Borough of London, nor did our children. If you continue to vote for the current regime you soon will.

  4. Dominique Kelly Reply

    March 24, 2015 at 9:37 am

    An interesting piece and well thought through. However, I’d like to emphasise a couple of points so readers understand the actual trajectory the leader of the Conservative controlled council and his Executive have consistently put forward. This is reflected in the sites and number of houses currently earmarked for housing in Guildford Borough Council (GBC) documents.

    I believe most residents oppose the proposals to build over 600 houses per annum, the vast majority on the green belt.

    This proposal is from a party who promised to protect the green belt. GBC Conservatives blame central Conservative government – does anybody spot the common thread?

    An Oxford Conservative councillor is promoting the greenbelt development/devastation of Wisley and Ockham.

    Start to get the picture?

    And the only bit of green belt being proposed to be added to the borough is in Cllr Mansbridge’s (GBC and local Conservative leader) own ward of Ash South & Tongham.

  5. Peter Shaw Reply

    March 24, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Don’t forget this was the same executive that tried to increase the number of petition signatures to hear a petition in the council, after a number of petitions bought unwanted publicity to Guildford Borough Council (GBC) (

    GBC tried to make it harder to bring petitions to council. Didn’t seem very democratic to me, so as a member of the Guildford Greenbelt Group I spoke out about it.

    I know who I’ll be voting for on the 7th May.

  6. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 24, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    John Robson puts it very well.

    Readers do have the opportunity to change the system back to the democratic committee system, by joining the petition available at:

    Unfortunately, the council denied us the opportunity to have this on-line, but you can print, sign, get your neighbours to sign, and send it to us.

    (Jules Cranwell is a member of the Guildford Greenbelt Group)

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