Fringe Box



Tories Cling to Power in Neighbouring Surrey Heath

Published on: 21 May, 2019
Updated on: 22 May, 2019

Cllr Richard Brooks the new leader at Surrey Heath Borough Council.

By Rebecca Curley

local democracy reporter

with additional content from Martin Giles

The Conservative Party has clung to power in neighbouring Surrey Heath with a majority over all the other parties of a single seat. But a Labour councillor has hit out at what he called their “farcical” decision to appoint their members to head-up committees and other council posts.

The Tories saw their majority slashed from 15 to one following the May 2 Local Elections, with Liberal Democrats gaining nine seats and Independents and Green party members winning in some wards.

With 18 members the Conservatives are the largest party at Surrey Heath Borough Council followed by Lib Dems with 10, Independents with four, Green Party with two and Labour with one.

At the first council meeting since the elections on Wednesday, May 15 councillors were elected to chair and vice-chair roles for all the committees with a Tory winning each seat.

But Labour’s Cllr Rodney Bates, a councillor for 16 years, said he was disappointed with the ruling administration which he said with only a slim majority had rejected all attempts for cross-party involvement.

SHBC’s leader and Conservative Cllr Richard Brooks defended their decision and said they had offered positions to the opposition.

Posting on social media about the meeting, Cllr Bates wrote: “Truly farcical & embarrassing scenes tonight at Surrey Heath Borough Council as every single Conservative Cllr apart from the outgoing Mayor now has a special responsibility allowance having voted them through by their single vote majority…

“Amongst the more ludicrous appts tonight by the Surrey Heath Tories were refusing the Deputy Mayor to an Independent Cllr who has 40 years volunteering in favour of a Tory who was Mayor only 2 years ago & refusing a chartered accountant as the finance scrutiny chair- wonder why?

“However, I am very proud at the positive way in which 15 opposition Surrey Heath Cllrs representing 8 different political views behaved tonight. “

During the meeting, councillors elected a leader, mayor, deputy mayor plus chair and vice chair roles for the committees.

The opposition groups put forward a candidate for deputy mayor and all committee positions up for grabs except the chairman role for planning, licensing and appointments and vice-chairman for appointments.

Members voted with all positions going to a Conservative.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Bates said: “It was a whole series of utterly farcical decisions by the Conservatives who clearly are in it for selfish and party political reasons and not for the best interests of residents in Surrey Heath.

“It sets a sad and negative tone for the next four years.

“It was both disappointing and encouraging. I’m disappointed the Conservatives decided they wanted to play factional games and that was more important to them than residents.”

He said he was positive about how the breadth of talent in opposition may work to scrutinise policies and decisions.

Cllr Richard Brooks was re-elected as leader of SHBC with Cllr Charlotte Morley appointed as deputy.

Defending their actions at the meeting Cllr Brooks said the Conservative members had met before the meeting to agree a “consensus of what we wanted to do”.

And he said he did hold conversations with Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Sashi Mylvaganam about sharing roles between groups.

Looking at the year ahead, Cllr Brooks said without central government grant funding, he wanted the council to look at “cautious and sensible investment which will enable us to drive the council forward”.

He said: “We have got a completely new council with new opposition and new councillors so we will have to see how things pan out. We have to be sure where we are as we move forward.”

Also elected at the meeting was  Cllr Robin Perry, Conservative, who was chosen to become the 47th mayor. He was last year’s deputy mayor.

And winning the election for deputy mayor was Conservative Cllr Valerie White who won the most votes against Cllr Pat Tedder, Lib Dem. Cllr White served as mayor of SHBC for 2017/18. The position of mayor and deputy mayor is apolitical.

Surrey Heath, whose MP is Michael Gove, is one of four parliamentary constituencies that overlap the Guildford Borough border. In addition to the Guildford parliamentary constituency, the others are Woking, which covers Pirbright (Cllr Gordon Jackson) and Normandy (Cllr David Bilbe) wards, Mole Valley which covers five wards in the east of the borough, including Tillingbourne where Cllr Richard Billington managed to survive but lost his Conservative ward partner David Wright.

None of the Guildford Conservative Association wards returned a Conservative councillor to GBC.

Surrey Heath Conservative Association oversees the selection of Conservative candidates for Guildford Borough Council elections in the wards of Ash Vale, Ash Wharf and Ash South & Tongham, where six of the nine remaining Tory councillors at GBC were elected.

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