Fringe Box



‘This Council Expresses No Confidence in the Current Leader’ Motion Tabled

Published on: 2 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 3 Oct, 2023

By Martin Giles

Guildford Conservatives have tabled a motion of no confidence in the Lib Dem council leader Julia McShane.

Philip Brooker, leader of the ten-member Conservative Group, is proposing the motion, an unusual step at GBC. It will be debated at the full council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, October 10.

It is unlikely to succeed because the Lib Dems have a majority, albeit very slim, and should win a vote even if all the opposition members from R4GV, Labour, the Guildford Greenbelt Group join the Tories to support the motion. But even if they fail, “no confidence” motions can leave political leaders wounded and vulnerable.

Joss Bigmore has been publicly critical of the council leader’s performance and it is likely his group (R4GV) will support the motion. Perhaps GGG will also follow suit but Labour might prefer to abstain or even support Cllr McShane than be seen to join forces with the Tories.

The Lib Dem majority is only two members so any size of rebellion in their ranks could make the result uncertain but challenges like this often make parties pull together rather than divide.

The grounds for the “no confidence” motion are based on GBC’s poor financial performance and “the realistic prospect that a section 114 notice (because the council cannot balance its books) may have to be issued next year.

According to the motion the situation has been brought about through the erosion of reserves since 2019 when the Tories were dramatically ousted from power at GBC.

See: Councillors Told of £16 million Contract Overspend in Closed Meeting

The motion continues to say:  “…recent disturbing disclosures [relating to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA)] indicate that a contractor has overrun his contract value by several million pounds.

“Councillors have only been made aware of this vast overspending in mid-September 2023.

“It has to be said that such astronomic differences between contract value and authorised payments would have been well documented with detailed reasons given in virtually any other commercial organisation.

“However, within Guildford Borough Council, it seems to have taken senior officers and controlling portfolio holders by surprise, indicating a total breakdown in all types of financial control and management.

“The current Leader of the Council was in office as Leader for part of the coalition administration and was also the portfolio holder for Housing for the whole of the period covering the excess payments being made within the HRA; she is deeply associated with these debacles.

“Therefore, this Council expresses no confidence in the current Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Housing, and requires her immediate resignation.”

The Tory Group have simultaneously tabled three additional motions critical of the current Lib Dem administration.

Key Performance Indicator reporting

One, proposed by Cllr David Bilbe (Normandy), who is the shadow portfolio member for finance, calls for a concise (maximum four-page) monthly report of key performance indicators or KPIs for circulation to all councillors to containing “at least” the following:

“a forecast of projected current deficit or surplus in the next three-month period together with a rolling forecast for the next 12 months;

“details of service cost expenditure by service category comparing performance to both original and more importantly revised budget (as submitted to full Council today);

“a summary of cost-saving proposals and consequences for service delivery;

“proposed asset disposals and yield enhancement performance progress;

“a schedule of expected non-current expenditure costs including capital project payments, debt repayments, costs of planning appeals (inter-alia); and

“any other significant matters which are considered to have an effect on financial outcome or management stability.”

This motion might succeed if some Lib Dems accept that what is suggested would be an improvement.

Sharing of senior staff

Cllr Richard Mills (Castle) is to propose that: “after consultation with Waverley Borough Council, to end the current arrangement for sharing senior staff as quickly as possible.”

Also to review “Job Sharing” contracts rapidly, so as to bring them under the sole managerial authority of GBC” and to “ensure that all future senior appointments are dedicated appointments solely for the benefit of GBC.”

The Conservative group has been critical of the shared appointments from its inception. But it was introduced by the R4GV-Lib Dem coalition as a cost-cutting measure and if abandoned there are likely to be extra costs to GBC.

Given the history of the proposal, it is unlikely that R4GV members will vote for it and therefore its chances of success are probably very small.

Management of Housing Revenue Account

The fourth Conservative motion calls for GBC to request that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) send in a “Best Value Commissioner” no later than four weeks from today, to independently assess the Housing Contracts and management of the Housing Revenue Account.

In addition, the motion proposed by Cllr Matt Furniss (Pilgrims), calls for more openness and transparency by resolving to publish all [related] documentation…  for the public to be able to see the extent of the challenges faced by the council”.

See: Allegations of Potential Fraud Involving ‘£Millions’ at GBC – Officers Suspended, Employment Contracts Terminated

The council leader, Julia McShane, has been invited to comment.


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Responses to ‘This Council Expresses No Confidence in the Current Leader’ Motion Tabled

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    October 2, 2023 at 8:49 pm

    Truly amazing request for openness from County Cllr Furniss [Con, Shalford] in view of his ability to ignore public openness in respect of the London Road scheme over four years.

    A classic case of the pot calling for the kettle to be cleaned!

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