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‘Residents Agree with Our Values ‘ Says Lib Dem Leader in Wake of Election Victory

Published on: 6 May, 2023
Updated on: 6 May, 2023

By Chris Caulfield

local democracy reporter

The Liberal Democrats’ outright victory in the GBC election is the first since 1995 when they won 23 seats out of 45. Yesterday’s tally of 25 seats (out of 48) is also their highest-ever number of seats won.

As well as the 25 seats the new council is now made up of 10 Conservatives the second largest party, 7 Residents for Guildford and Villages, the biggest losers in the election, 3 Guildford Greenbelt Group and 3 Labour.

The Liberal Democrats’ win follows their coalition with R4GV since 2020.

The Residents for Guildford and Villages group came into the day on 14 seats and seemed to be facing a whitewash going into the final hours of the count.

In the end, the group held on to seven seats. The Guildford Greenbelt Group were able to hold onto three of the four seats they came into the count with.

Labour gained one seat to finish the day with three after picking up one seat in Westborough.

The Green Party lost their one seat and the Independents their two

Cllr Julia McShane

Leader of the Liberal Democrats group Julia McShane, said: “I’m overjoyed and grateful for the support of the residents.

“I am delighted to be leading the Liberal Democrats who now have overall control of Guildford Borough Council.

“It’s clear that residents agree with our values for a greener, fairer and thriving future for all of the borough.

“This victory has been down to hard work, talking to lots of people but it is also sad for James Steel who lost in Westborough. He has been a fantastic leader member for environment.

“I would also like to thank Pauline Searle, David Goodwin, Liz Hogger and Ted Mayne who are long serving councillors and who are now having a well-deserved retirement – also to Will Salmon and John Askew.

“They all contributed so much to our group over a number of years.”

Asked if she expected to take overall control of the council she said: “We hoped to. That was what we wanted but you never take anything for granted.

“We know how hard you have to work for every seat in Guildford. I am really excited by it.

“It’s going to be great to be working with a team of fantastic Liberal Democrat councillors to take forward the greener, fairer, thriving vision we have got for the whole of the borough and residents.”

Joss Bigmore, R4GV group leader was unable to attend the county as he was in hospital having undergone eye surgery.

Bob Hughes

Bob Hughes, Conservative member for Tillingbourne and county councillor for Shere, said: “I’m delighted we’ve made the gains that we were hoping to make but you can never tell beforehand.

“But we’ve made significant gains including in my ward. It bodes well, very well, for (Conservative MP for Guildford) Angela Richardson.”

“I also think the bubble for Residents for Guildford and Villages has burst. They have won some seats but it’s good for a borough as historic as Guildford that their bubble has burst.

“We’ve made strides in the constituencies of Guildford and Godalming.”

Paul Spooner (taken in 2019)

Conservative group leader Paul Spooner was running in a new ward this year. After not picking up enough votes to stay on the council he said: “I was looking forward to a bit of rest.”

“I had long Covid last year and that really did set me back. Rather than just try to fight on, I thought I’d have a rest.

He said was really pleased to see his colleagues picking up seats “…particularly for the Guildford Conservative Association. It’s been a bit sad, [including] on Monday, when I officially stand down. But on a positive note we have got some great new councillors.”

Brian Creese, chair of the Guildford Labour group said: “Yesterday I was asked what would constitute a good day. I said one more councillor and we got that, moving from two councillors to three.

“But also we’ve increased vote share across the board and established ourselves as second to the Lib Dems in key wards and did respectably in the villages where we’ve not traditionally done well.

“We’ve positioned ourselves well for the next round of elections. It’s been a satisfying day.”

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Responses to ‘Residents Agree with Our Values ‘ Says Lib Dem Leader in Wake of Election Victory

  1. J Holt Reply

    May 6, 2023 at 11:21 am

    The remarks made by Bob Hughes (below) sum up why residents should not vote for councillors affiliated to national political parties.

    Such councillors are more interested in national politicians than the residents they were elected to represent.

    Bob Hughes, now a Conservative member for Tillingbourne and county councillor for Shere, said: “I’m delighted we’ve made the gains that we were hoping to make but you can never tell beforehand.

    “But we’ve made significant gains including in my ward. It bodes well, very well, for (Conservative MP for Guildford) Angela Richardson.”

  2. Sara Tokunaga Reply

    May 6, 2023 at 4:13 pm

    At least we now know who the leader of the Guildford Liberal Democrats is. She has been a very elusive figure throughout this campaign. I am saddened that a national party has regained control. Guildford deserves better.

    • George Potter Reply

      May 6, 2023 at 10:10 pm

      I certainly thought it was very elusive of Julia to be out knocking on hundreds of doors, being interviewed by the BBC Surrey and the LDR, and appearing on BBC regional TV news, not to mention standing for election and featuring on thousands of leaflets. Truly she must be one the most elusive figures in Guildford history!

      George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

      • Joe Taylor Reply

        May 7, 2023 at 2:19 pm

        Perhaps Cllr Potter should take a more respectful tone with the residents of Guildford now that his party has a majority. His smart response wasn’t needed.

        • S Page Reply

          May 9, 2023 at 9:32 am

          Cllr Potter should always take a respectful tone with the residents of Guildford. He would do well to remember that he is an elected official with an obligation under his code of conduct to “treat others with respect” and not sneering sarcasm.

  3. David Bilbe Reply

    May 7, 2023 at 10:46 am

    I hope the new majority party exhibits balance, humility and courtesy as they form an administration. There has been little of that of late, especially during the campaign.

    It is Guildford and its future which is important. Personally, my experience, after eight years as a councillor, has not led me to be particularly positive about the Lib Dems but hopefully, that will change for good reason. They should not let this go to their heads and should remember that the Conservatives had 28 seats eight years ago and in this election, Lib Dems secured 31 per cent of the popular vote and Conservatives 30 per cent.

    This is not a general election – it is a challenge to restore service and financial prudence in the borough.

    David Bilbe is a Conservative borough councillor for Normandy & Pirbright

  4. David Bilbe Reply

    May 7, 2023 at 11:52 am

    Julia Mcshane has been perhaps elusive with policies ideas and principles is what I read from Sara Tokunaga’s comment. Cllr Potter’s defensive invective seems to have started early. Personally, I would stress the positive rather than discredit a resident.

    David Bilbe is a Conservative councillor for Normany and Pirbright

  5. Sara Tokunaga Reply

    May 7, 2023 at 9:16 pm

    In response to Cllr Potter’s comments I would like to inform him that not everybody, myself included, listens to the radio or watches BBC news.

    The literature I was bombarded with made no mention of the Lib Dem leader, but was smothered with Zoe Franklin’s [Zoe Franklin is the prospective Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate] name to such an extent I would not have been surprised to see her name on the ballot paper.

    A third of one page of one leaflet was taken up with national election statistics. What has that to do with local issues?

    Maybe Cllr Potter should check with the local Lib Dem office, where he will see I sent a complaint on this very subject.

    Cllr Potter [Lib Dem, Burpham] seems to have forgotten he is meant to be serving the local electorate not attempting to score cheap points off of them.

    • S Page Reply

      May 9, 2023 at 11:22 pm

      I echo much of what Ms Tokunaga writes about recent political literature. The “not so liberal” and “hardly democratic” Lib Dems mentioned so little about local issues I thought they had sent the wrong leaflet out.

      A formal complaint about Cllr Potter’s behaviour has been sent to his party’s leader. Some of our party-based councillors are clearly trying to be noticed so that they move out of the “little” league – the sooner they are gone the better!

      As for the Conservatives, I received a flyer regarding a Guildford congestion charge which is a simple lie.

      Let us keep national politics out of local government. We need people who care about Guildford and not what the national leaders are saying. Stop bickering about party allegiances and get on with maintaining and rebuilding the town.

  6. Stuart Barnes Reply

    May 8, 2023 at 9:20 am

    I note Mr Bilbe’s comment that the Conservatives’ and Liberals’ total votes were only 1% apart. Does that mean that tactical voting was the reason for the striking difference in seats?

    I would mention that I had only one canvasser (a Conservative) and she got my vote, but unfortunately not the seat. Until she called I was an undecided.

    Editor’s comment: Please also see our article: Some Borough Council Election Statistics

  7. Helena Townsend Reply

    May 9, 2023 at 10:24 am

    The R4GV Group constantly criticised the Lib Dem Leader, Julia McShane for not communicating or carrying out a face-to-face interview – they seem to have gone awfully quiet now – perhaps their leader would make a statement on Thursday night’s performance.

    Editor’s response: as reported from the count, R4GV leader Joss Bigmore required urgent surgery for a detached retina. He is likely to be out of action until later this week, at least.

    • John Redpath Reply

      May 9, 2023 at 3:38 pm

      Why did George Potter respond to Sara’s comment rather than Julia McShane? Is anyone sure who will be running the borough council going forward – I think not!

      John Redpath is a former R4GV borough councillor.

  8. David Bilbe Reply

    May 9, 2023 at 2:43 pm

    Tactical voting is not really the name of the Conservative game although I cannot speak for other parties and their tactics. All I can see is that splitting the vote among two to three candidates, when cumulatively one would have beaten the actual winner, tells a different story.

    We really do need humility and well-balanced, experience-based decision-making, not cheap, acidic comments from elected councillors, as we have seen already.

    Let us see if the Lib Dems can rise to the challenge and deliver for Guildford. The first big challenge will be to see whether the North Street appeal proceeds and leads to high-rise buildings.

    The fact is that Lib Dems hold no power at Westminster so persuading the Secretary of State to get involved in what could ruin Guildford will not be easy for them.

    What we need is a vast improvement of the planning department, much better engagement with voters, financial prudence and improved service levels from the merger with Waverley.

    We will see.

    David Bilbe is the Conservative borough councillor for Normandy & Pirbright

  9. Ross Connell Reply

    May 12, 2023 at 3:28 pm

    Bob Hughes’ comment that his party’s gains bode well for Guildford’s MP Angela Richardson is delusional. She came from nowhere to replace the excellent Anne Milton.

    Richardson signed the Boris Johnson loyalty letter and was a keen Brexiteer. But since then she cooled on Johnson, maybe to gain some local support. But like Raab in Esher it will be goodbye to Richardson as Zöe Franklin wins via much anti-Tory tactical voting.

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