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Tied Votes As Power Shifts At Borough Council Selection Meeting

Published on: 20 May, 2020
Updated on: 20 May, 2020

by Martin Giles

Close votes on rarely contested committee chairmanship roles at the GBC selection meeting last night (May 19) resulted in two ties, 21-21 votes (three abstentions), that had to be settled by the drawing of lots.

Lib Dem Pauline Searle (Stoughton) drew the short straw, literally, in her contest for the chair of the Guildford (SCC/GBC) Joint Committee, allowing R4GV’s John Rigg (Holy Trinity) the post, while Labour’s Angela Gunning (Stoke) successfully chose the long straw to retain the chair of the Place Making and Innovation Executive Advisory Board, Steven Lee (Merrow) of the Lib Dems losing out.

And in a further close contest, another Lib Dem was defeated in the contest for chairmanship of the Corporate Governance & Standards Committee. Nigel Manning (Con, Ash Vale) saw off the challenge from George Potter (Burpham) by a single vote (20-19 and six abstentions) after the withdrawal of Deborah Seabrook (R4GV, Merrow), who had been nominated for the chair. She was elected as vice-chair without contest and, according to one source, will chair the Openness and Transparency Working Group.

Cllr Marsha Moseley

But there was no close call in the selection of the chair of the council’s Planning Committee, perhaps the council’s highest-profile committee chairmanship. Marsha Moseley (Con, Ash Vale) who has held the post for around seven years, not always without controversy, lost heavily (9-33 and three abstentions) to another veteran councillor, Fiona White (Lib Dem, Westborough), who recently stepped down as GBC deputy leader.

The close votes reflected the even spread of power at Millmead. There are 17 in the Liberal Democrat group and just one fewer in the group of Residents for Guildford and Villages. Five of the eight committee chair positions are now held by councillors from those groups.

Many were predicting Cllr Moseley’s demise and perhaps more surprising than her defeat was her success in retaining the chairmanship last year, shortly after the historically bad Tory borough council election defeat. Her independence when dealing with councillors from all sides was recognised but her often blunt, even combative style cost her support. One councillor said: “She always seemed to be backing the council officer’s recommendation. If we do that why have a committee?”

Voting by using comment boxes, part of the online meeting tool used, was not always straightforward and some corrections were necessary. Cllr Tony Rooth (R4GV, Pilgrims) abstained throughout. He subsequently told The Guildford Dragon he believed such votes should be secret to be free of any political pressure.

Former GBC leader Paul Spooner (Con, Ash Vale) retained his position as chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee unchallenged.

Several other positions were retained unchallenged including: Employment Committee, Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) Community EAB, Angela Goodwin (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), Licensing, David Goodwin (Lib Dem, Onslow).

Last year’s Independent Remuneration Panel report recommended that the extra burden the chairmanship roles represent should continue to attract extra allowances, now ranging from £3.7k to £5.9k, on top of the basic £7,405 councillor allowance.

It was also agreed that the Councillor Champions roles are to continue unchanged.

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test 5 Responses to Tied Votes As Power Shifts At Borough Council Selection Meeting

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    May 20, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    An interesting comment away from the main business.

    “Voting by using comment boxes, part of the online meeting tool used, was not always straightforward and some corrections were necessary.”

    This system was installed at some large expense during the council chamber refurbishment, several years ago. It should allow quick, accurate, easy and transparent voting immediately recorded as well. It seems though its hardly ever used. Traditional show of hands and no record of HOW councillors voted. It seems some councillors think that residents knowing how they vote, as say MPs in HoC is an intrusion.

    As reported Cllr Tony Rooth (R4GV, Pilgrims) abstained. “He subsequently told The Guildford Dragon he believed such votes should be secret to be free of any political pressure.”

    Editors note: Councillors attending the online council meetings, during the lockdown, have no access to the system installed in the council chamber at Millmead. In the past, The Guildford Dragon NEWS has asked the council, on several occasions, why the installed voting system is not used but has never received a response.

    • S Callanan Reply

      May 20, 2020 at 5:28 pm

      I’m not suggesting this applies to Cllr Rooth, but couldn’t a decision to abstain, ie not to cast a vote, be subject to political pressure as much as a decision to vote for or against?

      • Martin Elliott Reply

        May 20, 2020 at 7:33 pm

        Whether political pressure or pressure from residents and whether a councillor is a delegate or a representative, why, in a democratic system, should the vote cast not be recorded every time.

        It happens, as I have said before, in the House of Commons and we have a very expensive electronic system in the council chamber to do this.

        For this from a R4GV councillor seems chutzpah at the very least.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 20, 2020 at 4:15 pm

    Great news about the planning chair, but no so great for corporate governance. I don’t believe there will be any for several years.

  3. H Trevor Jones Reply

    May 20, 2020 at 11:27 pm

    Glad to see a mix of people from different parties.

    I hope each one was the best from all the council for his or her job, regardless of party. But I accept the wisdom of sharing the burden between different people, so one person, even if best at everything, shouldn’t get every position.

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