Fringe Box



Over 300 Attend Independent Candidates’ Meeting – Organiser Encouraged by Support

Published on: 16 Jan, 2019
Updated on: 17 Jan, 2019

An audience of over 300 attended the launch meeting last night (January 15, 2019) of a new residents group which aims to promote the election of Independent councillors in May’s Borough Council elections.

Among the panel of speakers, at the Baptist Centre Millmead, were the three current Independent councillors at Guildford Borough Council (GBC), Julian Lyon who has stepped down as chair of the Guildford Society to stand and Eber Kington an Independent councillor from Epsom & Ewell where Independent councillors are in the majority.

Independent Cllrs Colin Cross, Tony Rooth & Bob McShee

The three councillors spent a long time explaining their motivation for leaving their former political groups and criticising the existing setup at GBC including criticism focussed on the council leadership, Cllrs Paul Spooner and Matt Furniss. The opposition Lib Dems were also accused of being ineffective.

Some in the audience became impatient with the lack of interaction during the lengthy speeches becoming vociferous in their demands to be listened to, rather than spoken at. The length of the meeting also resulted in considerable numbers leaving before the end. But the majority stayed and clearly supported the initiative.

A section of the 300+ audience that gathered to hear about the Independents and their plea for more candidates.

Speaking to The Dragon this morning, John Rigg, who will be standing as an Independent, said: “This was our first meeting and we wanted to set out our stall.

“It has been a steep learning curve and future meetings will be much more interactive, giving more time for discussion with the people there to find out what they want from us as their representatives.

“As a first step we found it very positive, and now everyone knows why we are standing it is important we find others who share our passion and principles and encourage them to stand with us.”

Joss Bigmore

Joss Bigmore organiser of Residents for Guildford and Villages said: “We are very excited by the turnout for the meeting and the support we received – it is very encouraging and inspiring.

“Clearly the people of the borough have had enough of not being listened to by the current council and want change.

“They recognise that change can only come about by having more resident councillors who genuinely represent local people on local issues in their own communities and not the interests of national political parties.

“They want residents to regain control of the council, and last night’s meeting demonstrated that we have massive support for that.”

Mr Bigmore added that already more than 100 volunteers have stepped forward to help the campaign to elect resident group councillors in May and that RGV is in discussions with a number of people who now wish to stand as candidates.

Julian Lyon

Julian Lyon, in his speech, was quite direct in his criticism of the current council leaders. He said, presumably referring to declarations of hospitality received in GBCs register of interests: “You have to ask rhetorically, whether the hospitality enjoyed with developers has gone to their heads?” and, “It isn’t inclusive government but rather a lust for power.”

The personal criticisms did not find favour with everyone. One audience member said: “I thought that some of the personal criticism was beyond the pale. That’s the kind of thing, which I have witnessed in the council chamber, we need to move away from.”

John Rigg, GVG

John Rigg, the chairman of the Guildford Vision Group, concentrated on what he saw as the poor planning capabilities of the council and asked, “How do we stop the self-inflicted planning failures like Solum?” a proposal that was unanimously refused by GBC but allowed on appeal. But he also levelled criticism at councillors saying: “Political ambition, control and power is driving the council,” and said his experience was that the current council failed to listen to good ideas and suggestions from residents.

Colin Cross, the borough councillor who resigned from the Lib Dem Group over the council’s Wisley Garden Village bid, added: “Planning decisions mean that residents are ending up as losers time after time,” and, “We need new faces and less politically motivated decisions.” And Bob McShee, who quit the Conservative group gave the example of the Dongying partnership as evidence that the council was both secretive and out of touch.

Cllr Eber Kington, guest speaker from Epsom & Ewell

The Independent Eber Kington, a councillor from Epsom and Ewell Borough Council, where 31 of the borough council’s 38 councillors, and three of its five county councillors, represent residents’ associations, was at the meeting to give tips on how to get Independent candidates elected. He advised: “Keep party politics out of local government…, keep local government local,” and, “Work to your own agenda, not yaboo politics.”

Two local political party members attended the meeting. Bob Hughes, chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association said: “The claim that Guildford is undemocratic is just empty rhetoric – anyone can be a candidate in the elections. We take nothing for granted, and Conservatives will campaign on the many successes of our council.

Bob Hughes

“Having attended the meeting, perhaps I can offer the Independent group some advice? Extreme rudeness as displayed last night generally goes down badly. The Borough Plan and the GVG ideas have much in common and people should be told that. Lastly, shouting down audience members who dared to query what they heard went down badly. In a democracy, people are entitled to be listened to.”

Ciaran Doran, chair of Guildford’s Liberal Democrats had a different point of view: “Last night’s meeting makes two things clear:  residents have been let down by Conservative-run Guildford Borough Council and; residents want councillors who truly listen and act on their views.

“Despite these core concerns discussion was dominated by planning – but being a councillor is about much more than that. Guildford Liberal Democrats completely agree on these core concerns. We have a strong, diverse group of councillors and candidates who work hard for their residents, all year round and who are aware of all the needs faced by residents and businesses across Guildford Borough. We fight tirelessly on their behalf.”

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Responses to Over 300 Attend Independent Candidates’ Meeting – Organiser Encouraged by Support

  1. John Perkins Reply

    January 17, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Perhaps Bob Hughes is more sensitive than me – I didn’t notice rudeness at the meeting, let alone anything that could be described as “extreme”. He should observe the behaviour of some of his party fellows in council meetings.

  2. John Lay Reply

    January 19, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Two things emerged from this meeting:
    1. GBC is in complete disarray.
    2. Eber Kington of Epsom & Ewell BC explained in detail how their 31 councillors, all, from local residents associations were able to manage their region so successfully.

    There is surely a moral here ? Best we take heed.

  3. Alan Davies Reply

    January 19, 2019 at 11:37 am

    I was there together with many others who are dissatisfied with how Guildford Borough Council is run and how it spends our money. £1 million on the Pop-Up Village and another £1 million just on consultants for the Walnut Bridge are a ridiculous waste of our taxpayers’ money.

    The speeches were too long and perhaps too many but they were a start for a public discussion about a council dominated by party politics and its leadership, Cllrs Spooner and Furniss. Democracy needs more debates.

    It was good to hear from a councillor on another Surrey borough, Epsom and Ewell who have got it spot on: “Keep party politics out of local government, keep local government local,” and, “Work to your own agenda, not yaboo politics.”

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 19, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    Long-term observers of GBC know that the standard for extreme rudeness is calling the public a “bloody rabble”. Did it meet that test?

    What this has shown is that Paul Spooner is going to regret giving no voice to residents.

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