Fringe Box



R4GV Leader Defends Colleague While Opponents Admit Meeting Campaigner

Published on: 17 Apr, 2023
Updated on: 18 Apr, 2023

By Martin Giles and Hugh Coakley

R4GV leader Joss Bigmore has repeated his claims of  a “smear campaign” being conducted against the Residents for Guildford & Villages candidates by “an apparently well-resourced private individual”.

And a report received by The Guildford Dragon NEWS of meetings between Robin Horsley, the author of the controversial campaign video “The Battle for Guildford”, and GBC councillors from the Conservative and Lib Dem parties, has been confirmed.

Bigmore sent a strongly worded statement to The Dragon responding to information sent to The Dragon by a reader, Michael Brown, giving links between R4GV candidates and developers. But the only new information contained was that R4GV candidate Nikki Ackerley owned the property PR company Property House Marketing (PHM), who acted for developers on both the cathedral and North Street schemes.

Joss Bigmore

Bigmore said he was “proud of the diversity of its candidates and the wealth of experience they bring to our group and Guildford Borough Council”.

He questioned the attacks saying: “Is it not helpful to have candidates who are financially literate? At a time when the borough has a home building programme in excess of £500 million is it a bad thing that we have chartered surveyors in our group?

“And when we are trying to improve the way the council communicates with residents, why would people throw mud at a candidate who has built an award-winning Comms and PR business?”

He said councillors deal with conflicts of interest all the time. “Nikki has been open and transparent that she has clients in the development industry, and like any councillor, if elected, will not participate in any decisions should a conflict occur.

“Unfortunately personal attacks and baseless insinuations against me, my deputy leader, and now other R4GV candidates are appearing on a daily basis.

“We have excellent candidates thinking about dropping out of the election as a consequence, which is of course the ambition of those leading the attacks, undermining democracy and a fair election outcome.  Is it so hard to believe that candidates from all groups just want to serve the borough?”

Nikki Ackerley

Nikki Ackerley, who is standing as an R4GV candidate for St Nicolas, said: “My involvement in PHM was clear from the outset when I joined Guildford Vision Group in 2012.

“Berkeley, and its St Edward division, is a longstanding client of PHM. PHM was appointed to run the public consultation for the North Street project; it was not paid on a results-led outcome.

“If I am elected, I have no intention of sitting on the Planning Committee for as long as I am involved in PHM. I will therefore have no vote on any planning application at all.

“I am standing as a councillor to make a positive difference for the future of my town, just like any other candidate who lives and works here.”

All elected councillors are required to complete a register of interests which is a public record.

Report of meetings

Following up a report that meetings had been held between the creator of the Battle for Guildford video Robin Horsley and GBC Conservative group leader Paul Spooner as well as, separately, leading Liberal Democrat councillor George Potter, The Dragon asked both councillors to confirm whether the claim was true.

The video, published on social media and recommended by some Conservative councillors, exhorts watchers not to vote for R4GV or GGG because of their support for the North Street scheme and their electoral pact.

George Potter

When asked, George Potter originally denied he had met Robin Horsley but once Horsley had contradicted this, saying that it had been held “in a public place deliberately”, Potter admitted there had been a meeting.

He said: “I did meet with Mr Horsley, but it did not feel appropriate to discuss a private meeting with an individual without first gaining that individual’s agreement.

“We met to discuss the North Street planning application (its background and what might happen with the site in the future). Mr Horsley requested the meeting after the application was refused, as he said he was impressed by the argument I had made against approval of the application.”

Asked why, if he was concerned about privacy, he did not say “he did not wish to discuss it” or  “no comment” Potter responded: “I’m afraid that, having been put on the spot whilst in the middle of knocking on doors, with a question I was not expecting, saying “no comment”, whilst probably the wisest thing to do, did not come to mind given that it would undoubtedly have been interpreted as confirmation that there had been a meeting.”

Paul Spooner

Paul Spooner said today: “I met with Robin Horsley last week, so it was after his video was published. [He] asked to meet me as he wanted the history behind the Local Plan and to understand the statutory requirements that resulted in the SHMA [strategic housing market assessment] and OAN [objectively assessed (housing) need]. I was happy to provide him with the information.

“We met at the Britannia Pub in a busy public place, and for the record we purchased our own drinks, in my case a Diet Coke.

“During the conversation, it became clear that Mr Horsley had met with at least one other councillor (not Conservative) but I do not know the context of that meeting.”

When contacted yesterday (April 16), Ciaran Doran, chair of the Guildford Lib Dems, said he did not know that the meeting between Horsley and Potter had taken place but added that after the “Battle for Guildford” video had been published he had advised all members not to liaise with Horsley. However, he understood the meeting with Potter had taken place before the video’s publication and his advice.

Today, once the meeting had been admitted, Doran argued that Potter had a duty to deny the meeting as it was with a constituent of his county council division.


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Responses to R4GV Leader Defends Colleague While Opponents Admit Meeting Campaigner

  1. Julian Lyon Reply

    April 17, 2023 at 5:17 pm

    George Potter’s explanation is as clear as mud. The same mud that has been thrown around liberally by anyone and everyone, it seems, who is afraid of R4GV and its professional and pragmatic approach.

    Julian Lyon is a R4GV candidate for Stoke in the forthcoming borough council election.

  2. Sue Hackman Reply

    April 17, 2023 at 8:52 pm

    Vote Labour instead. We don’t go in for this cloak-and-dagger campaigning, for mud-slinging or for clogging up community channels. We are grown-ups.

    Sue Hackman is a Labour candidate for Stoke in the forthcoming GBC election.

    • Maddy Redpath Reply

      April 18, 2023 at 12:09 pm

      You might want to check Howard Smith’s Twitter feed before making claims like that.

      Maddy Redpath is a R4GV candidate for Castle ward in the forthcoming GBC election.

  3. Daniel Hill Reply

    April 18, 2023 at 4:35 pm

    Trying to cover up secret meetings like this before an election is shocking behaviour. Maybe George Potter could explain his understanding of openness and transparency in local democracy.

  4. Graham Hibbert Reply

    April 18, 2023 at 8:25 pm

    I abhor this mudslinging politics. Guildford deserves better.

    The Conservatives were in power from 2003 to 2019. They were late in refreshing the Local Plan from the early 2000s and are now trying to blame R4GV and the Lib Dems for their own failures.

    Like everyone else I don’t not know the political leanings of the maker of the video but it is biased and inaccurate in my view. I also reject unsubstantiated insinuations against councilors who are working hard to support local democracy. Such insinuations are unmerited, whether you agree with their decisions or not, and just feed apathy in the community.

    Graham Hibbert is the former chair of the Guildford Residents Association

  5. Martin Cull Reply

    April 19, 2023 at 9:19 am

    Perhaps instead of arguing amongst themsves, they could try door knocking in Stoughton/Woodbridge Hill. Not seen one prospective candidate yet. One of which lives less than 200 yards away from my home.

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