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Petition for an Elected Mayor Resurrected – Council Verifying New Signatures

Published on: 19 Feb, 2016
Updated on: 19 Feb, 2016

GBC petitionA controversial petition that, if accepted, will force Guildford Borough Council (GBC) to hold a referendum on whether the borough should have an elected mayor has been re-submitted.

Originally presented in May 2015, it was rejected when the council found that it did not contain sufficient valid signatures – 5,012, or 5% of the borough electorate.

A GBC press release stated: “We received a new petition on Thursday 11 February 2016. We are currently validating each entry to make sure that all of the new signatories are on the borough’s electoral register. This validation must be completed by Thursday 10 March 2016.

“The role of a directly elected mayor is different from the current ceremonial mayor of Guildford. A directly elected mayor would have wide ranging decision-making powers.”

The existence of the original petition emerged during the run up to last May’s elections. Some Conservative councillors were known to be angry that their recently convicted colleague, Monika Juneja, still, until the elections, a serving councillor, was organising the petition even while the council was reviewing their governance model under former council leader Stephen Mansbridge’s leadership.

In July 2015, during a full council meeting, the council leader appeared to deny he desired to be an elected mayor and any link to the petition. But on October 13 The Guildford Dragon NEWS published an article showing that the council leader had, in March 2015, approached the Students’ Union at the University of Surrey for support of the petition and assistance with the collection of signatures.

Shortly afterwards local entrepreneur Michel Harper, who in February 2015 told the Surrey Advertiser that he had been communicating with Guildford Borough Council’s managing director Sue Sturgeon and council leader Stephen Mansbridge about his plans to demolish Guildford’s “Casino” and open a new £19 million landmark complex in the town centre, said that he had provided funding to pay the students.

Stephen Mansbridge resigned as council leader and as a councillor for Ash South & Tongham on October 19. He said that he had resigned because he could not accept the council’s decision to adopt a new hybrid governance model which retained the leader and executive cabinet but re-organised the scrutiny committees.

When the vote was taken in full council, Cllr Mansbridge was almost alone in voting against the new model but made no intimation he would resign. He agreed that scrutiny needed to be strengthened and claimed that he had never felt challenged by any question put to him by his fellow councillors during the scrutiny process.

Another petition organised by Cllr Susan Parker (GGG, Send), before she was elected as a councillor in May 2015 and started before Monika Juneja’s petition, is still being raised. It seeks to force a referendum on whether the council should return to a committee style of governance. The organisers have so far been unable to collect sufficient signatures and now face the problem that some of the collected signatures have passed their 12 months’ validity.

It is understood that once any referendum on the council’s governance model has been held another could not be conducted for a decade.


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Responses to Petition for an Elected Mayor Resurrected – Council Verifying New Signatures

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    February 19, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    If a mayor is elected, does that mean no councillors are required?

    I.e. do they all get the sack?

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    February 19, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    To answer Lisa:

    We now have 48 Guildford borough councillors.

    Only nine make policy and six of those nine live several miles away on the Hampshire border, in what could be described as a suburb of Aldershot.

    Do we really need 48 councillors?

  3. C Stevens Reply

    February 20, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Last August we were told that there was to be a three-day desk-top review of the way GBC deals with complaints against councillors.

    This seems as good a time as any to ask what happened to the review?

    Was it completed? What were its conclusions? Who has seen it? When will it be published?

  4. George Potter Reply

    February 21, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    If you have an elected mayor then you have all the councillors, but the elected mayor can pick a cabinet of whomever they like and all decision-making powers rest with the mayor.

    It’s effectively an elected dictatorship lasting four years at a time.

    And while the current system concentrates power in the hands of a small executive it at least offers the option for the council to sack the leader and the executive in between elections if they’ve gone in a very bad direction.

  5. Paul Spooner Reply

    February 21, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    As accurate as ever Bernard?

    Name the six Executive members on the Hampshire border please as I am struggling!

    Residents of the whole borough are entitled to represent the council at every level, although I know you don’t look very far from your front door.

    Cllr Paul Spooner is the leader of Guildford Borough Council

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