Fringe Box



Opinion: Your Local Vote on May 7 Will Count The Most

Published on: 15 Mar, 2015
Updated on: 15 Mar, 2015

ballot boxby Martin Giles

It’s Thursday, May 7 – general election day.

You go into the voting booth and your pencil hovers over the ballot paper. Even if you have not read any of the party manifestos, perhaps you have listened to the debates on the economy, the NHS, defence, welfare spending, the huge national debt and the deficit, immigration and EU membership, etc.

Or perhaps you have decided which way to vote on your view on the party leaders or your loyalty to a particular party: the way you have always voted, even if with reservations.

You might be indirectly voting presidential style,  for David, Ed, Nick, Nigel etc. Or you could even be one of a small minority that actually votes on the basis of your assessment of the local candidates, on how good they will be as a constituency MP.

Opinion Logo 2Placing your cross in a box you might reflect, with a sigh, that under the first past the post system your vote does not matter much in any case. If the bookies are to be believed (and their is money at stake for them), Guildford should be a safe seat for the Tories*, especially in the wake of disaffection with the Lib Dems, however unfair that might be.

But wait, you were handed two ballot papers. The second one is for the local election of our borough councillors.

What should you do? You might be one of the majority who does not even vote in local elections normally. You might admit that you are not even sure what the borough council does. Isn’t there a county council too? What’s the difference?

The easy option might be to simply follow the choice you made in your general election vote and vote on party lines. Now you are here it might be awkward to say you only wish to vote in the ‘important’ election.

But which is the most important election? The result of the local election could have far more impact on our day to day lives than any likely result of the general election.

As a town, as a borough we face a major decision. How do we wish Guildford to change?

Of course change is inevitable, some change would be widely or univerasally welcomed. No one has argued that the town and borough should be frozen as it is. Local politicians should stop putting those words into their opponents mouths. We can all see that, lucky though we generally are in Guildford, there are plenty of problems to put right.

But do you agree with Stephen Mansbridge’s, the current council leader, espoused view that Guildford ‘must grow or die’?

If you do fine, but more houses mean more people and more people means more cars. The town is already frequently gridlocked and there seems little possibility of significant change to our local road network without despoiling some of the surroundings many of us value.

Of course, it is not just roads. We all know how difficult it can be to get a doctor’s appointment quickly these days and parents know how problematic securing a preferred school place for children is. What proposals are there to address these infrastructure problems surely an essential part of any Local Plan.

Then there is the decision of where any new developments should go. Proposals to release some areas of green belt have been strongly and bitterly opposed by some, it has even caused the creation of a new political party. Others feel giving up a small percentage of the green belt is necessary and a price worth paying. What you feel about such proposals might well be central to your voting decision.

But green belt development is not the only important planning issue to face. There is the redevelopment of North Street, how do most of us want that carried out? And the railway station, current proposals for a high rise construction have already proved controversial. They might reveal just how powerless we all are, even the council, to control unwanted developments.

The future of one market town in the South East of England might be small beer compared with far bigger issues at home and abroad but this town, this borough, is our home. We should care. What happens here will affect our lives directly.

So think very carefully about the way you vote in the borough council elections. Find out what the different parties, the different candidates are saying. A sceptic might say that kicking the Local Plan into the long grass before the election was very politically convenient. It’s profile has been lowered somewhat and it might allow voters to forget it and vote along traditional lines.

Let’s hope not. Whether you are for major growth or against it, for development of the green belt or against it, vote for a candidate that you feel will best represent your view and hold them to account.

*On May 15 Ladbrokes were quoting the following odds for the Guildford seat: Conservatives 1/100; Lib Dems 20/1; UKIP 25/1; Labour 100/1.

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Responses to Opinion: Your Local Vote on May 7 Will Count The Most

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    March 15, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    What Guildford needs is someone who has the foresight to look to the future, while understanding the past.

    A case in point: the 10 year expensive and unsucessful crawl to move the Slyfield water works. In 1890 the then ‘new fangled idea’ of shipping sewage down gravity fed pipes to a central point for treatment was put forward and the best site for the job was chosen within green fields within a 20 square mile radius of Guildford.

    Now 100-plus years on someone whats to move it to a location that was not considered good enough in 1890, and has no better choices now.

    So why move from the best location (when a choice was available) to a not so good choice with no other options?

    Council officers, who are trying to dam the Wey valley floodplain with an un-needed road, steadfastly refuse to sort out the base road which is causing the problems. These very same officers advised councillors that it was an unsuitable route in 2001.

    We have bus lanes “like we have public transport systems in London” loosing 50% of our road capacity for a period of eight minutes per hour.

    We need councillors who will put a stop to these irrational proposals, while making new proposals wich are logical and last another 1,000 years.

  2. Graham Moore Reply

    March 15, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    I could not have put it better myself!

  3. Peter Shaw Reply

    March 15, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    I wonder what odds Ladbrokes would put on Guildford Greenbelt Party? Seeing them in action?

    I know they care passionately about the future of Guildford, its people and having a transparent and accountable local council.

    I know who I will be voting for this May!

  4. Garry Walton Reply

    March 16, 2015 at 7:37 am

    We need a council that keeps it promises.

    Every voter who read ‘Our pledge to you, to continue to protect the green belt’ in the Conservative manifesto in 2011 was shocked and appalled to see them ignore that pledge, and decide to take 16 villages out of the green belt.

    We need a new broom to sweep them away.

    For me that new broom is GGG.

  5. Bernard Parke Reply

    March 16, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    I am sure that most people who live in Guildford do not agree that Guildford must ‘grow or die’.

    To grow there must be the room to grow and a need to grow.

    Such a need is very debatable.

  6. Martin Elliott Reply

    March 16, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Firstly, thank you for raising LE2015 and the issues that we might have control over. I hope other local media follows soon.

    I do wonder about local elections and the cabinet system though.

    As we’ve seen, not only do most of the elected councilors ignore their constituents (one of mine actually told me he was ignoring me because I obviously didn’t support him), they also ignore the manifesto that they used for the election.

  7. Lisa Wright Reply

    March 20, 2015 at 1:18 pm


    It may also be worth mentioning pollution and space to exercise. If you don’t like smog and you like to take a picnic or walk at the weekend, don’t build on the green belt.

  8. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 20, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Ladbrokes are going to look a little silly on May 8th, when GGG sweeps away the Tory majority.

  9. Ben Paton Reply

    March 20, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    The way people vote on May 7 in the local election has a greater than usual chance of affecting this part of the world.

    There is a choice between GGG candidates who have pledged to look at housing need rationally on the basis of the evidence with a view to building what is needed and no more and the rest.

    The rest buy into the popular fad cooked up by the housing lobby – that lack of house building has created a housing crisis.

    The fans (fanatics) of this crooked thinking (like Stephen Mansbridge) peddle the idea of a crisis in order to give permission for unneeded housing on green fields which will change our corner of England forever.

    So what is the housing crisis? First and foremost it is a time of very high house prices. The number of houses built has a very small or negligible effect on average house prices. House prices are driven by the cycle of monetary policy and are high now because of Bank of England money printing together with foreign investment.

    GBC could build all over the county and it would not satisfy foreign demand. See this BBC programme called The Great Property Race:

    Secondly, there is a shortage of social housing. But that’s entirely self inflicted: GBC has not built any social houses for some 30 years. In the meeantime it has been selling them off. And housing associations lost a lot of money on interest rate bets and have not invested either. Mr Mansbridge has said nothing about how he plans to get housing associations to build.

    Yes of course new housing needs to be built. But that does not mean that we have a moral responsibility to house every person who comes over from the EU. Their countries of origin also have a responsibility to develop and build houses. (Surrey statistics ( show that 7% of the population of the borough has arrived since 2004.)

    We also have to protect and pass on the quality of our borough to posterity.

    The choice is between people who want to do just that and other people who want to promote badly thought out policies passed down from their central party ideologues. I say vote GGG.

  10. Helen Jefferies Reply

    March 20, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    You mention the doctors’ appointments. What about the hospital? Especially as there is the proposed merger with St Peter’s – no A&E at the RSCH and a nice queue all the way to the alternative.

    Real housing need for locals should be delivered where the reliance on the private car is minimal.

    That certainly isn’t what we’ve seen over the last two years from the Tories.

    They are now waking up to the fact that their assault on the green belt might well split the parliamentary vote in Guildford and they are facing the prospect of losing the seat.

    If they had listened to the silent majority and others 18 months ago they would not be in the mess they find themselves in today.

  11. David Bilbe Reply

    April 28, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Very interesting exercise in PR that the GGG euphoria comes in the main from GGG members.

    There is little room for debate with GGG. I offered the view that the housing target, when finalised, should be spread across the 23 parishes with regional variations.

    View from GGG? No. That is far too prescriptive.

    The fact is that the strategy, in my view, is all about protecting the East of the Borough and there is little concern for the Western corridor including Normandy and Ash.

    The refusal to accept a shared responsibility and say it all has to go on the alleged but little understood brownfield site is exactly the same as with traveller development. Not on my patch – Normandy can have the challenge. GGG nimbyism.

  12. Lisa Wright Reply

    April 29, 2015 at 10:55 am

    I would say nonsense, to Mr Bilbe, the Conservative candidate for Normandy.

    This is the same rhetoric that was pumped out by Conservative GBC councillors in the early days of GGG in the hope that they could start a war between east and west Guildford. Rather a childish response to a very serious debate.

    The reality is somewhat different. You’ll notice that we are fielding candidates in Ash South and Tongham, Pirbright, The Pilgrims, Worplesdon and myself in Normandy. Our members and supporters come from all over the borough.

    In Normandy, How comes residents are pleased to see me? Why have the people of Normandy bought and displayed GGG placards around the village? It’s because Normandy cares what happens to its future, I care, the whole of GGG cares.

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