Fringe Box



Opinion: What Does The General Election Result Mean for Guildford?

Published on: 8 May, 2015
Updated on: 10 May, 2015

RosettesBy Martin Giles

So it’s all done and dusted.

Against all expectations the Tory’s have won an outright majority, Dave has been to see the Queen and given his victory speech, saying: “We are on the brink of something special.” Hmm.

Meanwhile the leaders of Labour, UKIP and The Liberal Democrats have all fallen on their swords.

From the result it seems that it really is the economy stupid. Our financial well being is most likely to be the main thing on our minds when we mark our crosses and choose our MP. Local issues, in particular, don’t seem to get a look in, just take a look at GGG’s total of just 538 votes.

Perhaps it is even worse than not getting a look in – perhaps most of us living in Guildford Borough have little idea of what is at stake locally and who stands for what. The results later today (May 8) of the local election might reveal more on that score.

Anyway, what does the result of the general election mean for Guildford? Here are my predictions for life under the next government:

  • The pressure on Guildford to grow significantly in size will be maintained. A Local Plan without a high new housing number is unlikely to be approved by the Planning Inspectorate.
  • Population in the borough will continue to grow, putting more pressure on our roads, health services, schools, and environment.
  • The proposals for Wisley and Blackwell Farm will both be given approval in the face of all opposition.
  • A scaled down version of Solum’s unpopular station development proposal will be approved. It will still increase the height of the station significantly.
  • The government will fund some significant infrastructure projects to answer some of the criticism that growth without improved infrastructure equals disaster.
  • Further council economies will be required as the squeeze continues on their funding.
  • Guildford’s food banks will remain to fill the gaps in the welfare process – a process that could be under even greater pressure.

One thing I cannot predict is what will happen to Anne Milton. Will she be offered a more senior ministerial post, stay as a government whip or return to the back benches?

She should have a good chance of, at least, maintaining her position, especially as without the Lib Dems in government there will be more posts to go round.

Here in Guildford we can have absolutely no complaints about the parliamentary constituency result. Anne Milton secured 57% of the votes, partly, no doubt, because she has earned wide respect as a good constituency MP.

But nationally there remains a significant disconnect between the views of most people and the 36.9% who voted Conservative. In particular the discrepancy between the popular vote for UKIP and the Green Party, and the amount of seats they won especially when compared with the disproportionate, over representation of the SNP.

This might worry or irk many of us but history says that a government that has done well under first past the post will continue to resist any calls for change.

We can’t really complain. We were given the chance to change things and vote for the “Alternative Vote” system but we rejected it. In the end we do get the governance we deserve.

But life in our town and borough will not become terrible overnight. In fact, Guildford will remain a really good place to live, even if we do start, what could be an inexorable trend, to nibble at the margins of the green belt and be careless about the quality of the architectural legacy are we leaving.

We live in a consumer age: we are the consumer generation. “Let tomorrow look after itself.”

Maybe, but what if one of the things we are all too quickly consuming is the very quality of our environment, of our town, of our borough. We can’t just go and buy some more.

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Responses to Opinion: What Does The General Election Result Mean for Guildford?

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 9, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Let’s hope the newly elected Conservative councillors who openly professed their protection of the green belt last week, honour those pledges.

    I hope the three Conservative councillors in Ash South and Tongham, including Mr Mansbridge honour their ‘In Touch’ leaflet pledges to protect the green fields in Ash.

  2. Mary Bedforth Reply

    May 9, 2015 at 9:26 am

    I would like a referendum on a different and better voting system. Under the FPTP system 43% of those who voted are not represented in Parliament.

  3. Stuart Barnes Reply

    May 10, 2015 at 8:57 am

    I agree with Mary Bedforth on the FPTP system. It is outrageous that despite getting four million votes UKIP got just one MP. Even worse that the far left and rather frightening SNP got their MPs on approximately 25,000 voters each.

    Unfortunately “Cast Iron” Dave is unlikely to do anything about it especially as any change would help UKIP and his hatred for real Conservatives is obvious for all to see.

  4. Gordon Bridger Reply

    May 11, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    A very thoughtful assessment – it does not help that local elections are all too often fought on national issues.

    My brother in law in Santa Barbara, California expressed great surprise as in his state people divide between those who want more development and those do not – this only partially reflects the situation here as so many vote for councillors according to their view on the national situation.

    In Guildford we have, according to a consultants survey the wealthiest community, outside London, in the country and the second best educated (after Edinburgh).

    So it is not surprising that so many people think that we should not encourage more development which would erode out attractive countryside and cause more traffic congestion.

    While I have always been keen on conserving this heritage I have realised that we can only do this if we have the wealth producing economy to do so.

    Most of our wealth now comes from professional services – not retail – a huge range of educational facilities and London. Alas our advantages are now undermined and other areas are becoming more attractive to investors as Guildford house prices (average £363k) are so high. These prices are preventing the young people we need to ensure the provision of our basic services and to expand the knowledge based services, so important to sustaining our incomes, from coming here.

    In this respect immigrants who are prepared to live in lower quality housing have been a great boon.

    I am astonished that some people claim there is no “housing crisis” – maybe not for us but there certainly is for those of the important younger generation not destined to inherit. The high costs of houses is 2/3 due to land costs.

    And for those who argue that we cannot provide affordable housing – of course we can. The developers of the abandoned Wisley airfield are offering as many as 800 – on the low side, and a university development on parts of Blackwell Farm (not, in my view, on the Hog’s Back) could provide just as many, maybe more.

    Before anyone accuses me of “desecrating” the green belt, both of these two sites occupy less than 0.4% of it.

    Why should birds and bees and views get precedence over homes for young people?

  5. Brian Miller Reply

    May 11, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Even locally, with the outcome of the borough elections, the current voting system produces a result unrepresentative of the majority of the voters.

    We should remain concerned that the green belt will continue to be under threat of development with the old aristocracy in the east, such as the Onslow Estate trying to propose 1,000 new homes on the pay-as-you go golf course in Merrow, and the new aristocracy in the west i.e. the university proposing an even larger development at Blackwell Farm.

    Does our healthy society have to be mainly focused on unremitting economic progress?

  6. Gordon Bridger Reply

    May 12, 2015 at 10:08 am

    I appreciate and share Mr Miller’s concerns to a certain extent.

    But the alternative of no development is decline. In Britain we no longer have any natural resources to sustain our economy and must depend on our wits and energy. We can only survive in the international economy, created largely by Britain (see Niall Fergusson’s brilliant “Empire – How Britain made the Modern World”) if we compete.

    Our competitors are no less intelligent and normally harder working than we are. Our only real comparative advantages are education and the English language – all too easily erodible.

    Of course I personally and the vast majority, fortunate to own our own homes, would prefer to have no growth but is this in the long term interest of others?

    As Mr Miller states we are a “healthy society” (in liberal terms much of this health is dependent on immigrant labour) and indeed an extremely well educated one – but as any economic historian will tell you successful societies are eventually overthrown by more vigorous challengers.

    Alas it looks as if we are doomed.

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