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Mansbridge Survives Unprecedented Challenge To His Council Leadership

Published on: 19 May, 2015
Updated on: 20 May, 2015
Stephen Mansbridge Speech feature new

Cllr Stephen Mansbridge- re-elected as council leader.

The leader of the Conservative group at Guildford Borough Council (GBC) faced an unprecedented challenge to his appointment as council leader this evening (May 19).

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Stephen Mansbridge (Ash South & Tongham) was challenged by the leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Caroline Reeves (Friary & St Nicolas).

Normally the protocol is that the opposition groups readily accede to the choice of the majority group on the council but this time, according to David Goodwin (Lib Dem, Onslow), their group felt that they had to “make a point.”

Their challenge was supported by the three Guildford Greenbelt Group members led by Susan Parker (Send) and the sole surviving Labour member Angela Gunning (Stoke).

Cllr Jenny Wicks - abstained

Cllr Jenny Wicks – abstained

Eventually, Cllr Mansbridge easily defeated the challenge by 31 votes to 12.

All the opposition councillors from the Lib Dem and GGG groups as well as the sole remaining Labour member, Angela Gunning, (Stoke) joined forces to support the challenge but two Tories abstained, Cllrs Jenny Wicks and Matthew Sarti who both represent Clandon & Horsley.

One Lib Dem member was heard to comment: “They would get lynched if they went back to their ward having voted for Mansbridge.” The two councillors themselves declined to comment.

Although it was clear from the outset that Cllr Mansbridge would win the vote, the challenge allowed a debate on his appointment. The council heard several voices of disquiet as well as those of support for his leadership.

Cllr Matthew Sarti - abstained.

Cllr Matthew Sarti – abstained.

Liz Hogger (Lib Dem, Effingham) proposing Cllr Reeves said: “The last year has been traumatic for this council. Under the leadership of Cllr Mansbridge we have seen a chaotic attempt to prepare a Draft Local Plan which was put out for consultation when it clearly wasn’t ready.

“In the last year too we have seen the criminal prosecution of the former lead councillor who was responsible for that Local Plan and who has now pleaded guilty to five charges. I think that the appointment of Monika Juneja to that role, and all that has followed since then, calls into question Cllr Mansbridge’s judgement and threatens to bring our council into disrepute.

“So I believe we now need a new council leader who will restore the reputation of this council for probity and will ensure that a sound Local Plan is brought forward that is fair to all the communities in this borough.

“If the Conservatives had proposed that new council leader this time the Liberal Democrats would have accepted that their majority gave them the right to propose that leader and we would have sought to work with them to correct the flaws in the previous Draft Local Plan. We regret that that has not happened and we therefore offer the council a different choice.”

Cllr Tony Rooth, (Con, Pilgrims), a former council leader unseated by Cllr Mansbridge in 2012, who has now been re-appointed to the Executive said: “Some of the debate both inside and outside this chamber has been unfortunately focussed upon personalities, and one personality in particular.

“As far as the issues that were raised in relation to the previous councillor Juneja, as I understand it, these related to her professional standing and her qualifications.

“But, as far as I can see, they are completely irrelevant to the governance and indeed the actions of this local authority. What your professional qualifications are for your job… are not relevant to the working of this borough council.

“As far as the Local Plan is concerned it is an extremely difficult issue for many people in this borough, those who need housing and perhaps those who don’t necessarily see the need.

“As a formal leader the council all I would say is that Cllr Mansbridge has led a very good administration and I have every confidence the next one will be too. And that is why I would support him.”

Susan Parker (GGG, Send) in her first contribution as a councillor at Millmead, said: “I think it significant that Cllr Mansbridge’s agenda for change was not supported by a very significant proportion of the electorate.

“It is interesting also that most of the Conservative members sitting in this chamber will recognise that the proportion of the national swing is not actually replicated in this borough.

“It is worth noting that those Conservatives who campaigned on an agenda of protecting the green belt should recall that they were not elected to support that agenda for change, for a corporate plan that had never been subject to any consultation whatsoever. Therefore we have enormous pleasure in supporting the nomination of Councillor Reeves”

David Wright, (Con, Tillingbourne responded: “We are already well used to the mischievous series of allegations that have typified the contribution of the Greenbelt Group to political debate in this council for the last year and a half. Many of these allegations and comments are quite easy to make and easy to justify on the doorstep when you are talking to someone who doesn’t know.”

Accepting the appointment as council leader, Stephen Mansbridge said:  “Thank you to the council for my appointment… We will form our agenda around a collective decision of the Conservative group.

“We are very fortunate to have been so well thought of by our electorate. One in two people in Guildford voted Conservative and we took 47% of the vote; the best that we have done for many years.

“We took five seats in North Guildford and if you examined the block vote compared to the mixed vote, the mixed vote being considerably higher, you will realise that the people, the residents, were thinking hard about who they voted for.

“It wasn’t, as Cllr Parker has helpfully pointed out, the national swing it was the intellect of our residents, realising who they should vote for that delivered the victory.

“It was sad to lose three seats, very sad, but in terms of the balance of voices in this council I would point out that the Greenbelt Group represent one and bit villages: we represent, or have representation in, every single ward, bar three, of this entire borough and I believe that is a mandate for us to move forward as a Conservative group, as a Conservative led council, very strongly.”

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Responses to Mansbridge Survives Unprecedented Challenge To His Council Leadership

  1. Valerie Thompson Reply

    May 20, 2015 at 7:56 am

    Well done Liz Hogger and Susan Parker for their comments on the debate regarding this re-appointment. It is a pity that more councillors did not have the courage to vote with them, or even abstain.

    I note that the Conservatives claim they received 47% of the vote in Guildford. That means that 53% of residents did not support them. The Conservatives should be asking themselves “why?”

    One answer is that many people have lost confidence in a council led by Stephen Mansbridge, a man with such a poor sense of judgement and misplaced loyalty, that he continued to support the disgraced Monika Juneja up to the highest level – at The Old Bailey.

    • Mary Bedforth Reply

      May 20, 2015 at 10:52 am

      The Conservatives claim they received 47% of the vote in Guildford. That means that 53% of residents who voted did not support them.’ 30% of the electorate did not vote, such is the lack of interest in national and local government.

      Are we surprised? No.

      These are the Seven Principles of Public Life.

      Perhaps the matter should be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman? It won’t die down. This is how to make a complaint.

    • Michael Walker Reply

      May 22, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      I watched the webcast of the meeting and thought that Cllr Susan Parker came across as condescending and resentful. This is only going to result in her and her party being even more isolated.

      As for Cllr David Reeve’s performance in trying to propose an amendment to the committee structures giving the GGG an additional seat on the planning committee, that was embarrassing to watch.

      Ms Thompson may say that many people have lost confidence in Stephen Mansbridge’s leadership, but it certainly didn’t seem that way given the voting in his ward nor when watching the support given to him by the councillors during the vote in the council chamber.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 20, 2015 at 8:29 am

    I read Cllr Rooth’s comment with utter incredulity. So it is irrelevant, that a criminal was appointed to head of governance, he says, has no bearing on the governance of the council.

    He maintains that fraudulently claiming to have qualifications as a planning lawyer, and being appointed as lead for planning, has no impact on the workings of this council.

    This is monstrous, and shows that the Tory leadership has learned nothing.

    Cllr Mansbridge has shown himself to have an appalling lack of judgement, and is not fit to lead the council.

    Much praise must go to the only two Tory councillors who had the courage not to support him.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    May 20, 2015 at 9:07 am

    The council is by law subject to the Nolan Principles – which are enshrined (however imperfectly) in its constitution and its Code of Conduct and Probity in Planning code.

    It is remarkable that Mr Mansbridge appointed a, now confessed, forger and deceiver to lead both the council’s governance and planning functions. Remarkable that Mr Mansbridge did this whilst in a business partnership with that person.

    If all of this and much else besides does not bring the council into disrepute it is hard to see whatever might.

    The rules are honoured in the breach. Councillors ignore them with impunity. Honest critics are lampooned.

    The new councillors are like the courtiers in Hans Christian Andersens’ tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

    • Michael Walker Reply

      May 22, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      I once went out with a girl who turned out to be cheating behind my back.

      Does that make me guilty by association?

      • Jenny Procter, Save Send Action Group Reply

        May 23, 2015 at 12:40 pm

        Michael Walker’s girlfriend’s cheating and his personal lack of judgement or awareness affected only him.

        Committed by a person who was in public office, Juneja’s cheating affects us all.

        Jenny Procter is a member of the Save Send Action Group

        • Michael Walker Reply

          May 23, 2015 at 4:36 pm

          Juneja cheating as Ms Procter puts it, might have affected us all, but I don’t think to any real extent. She was merely the councillor put in charge of fronting the local plan.

          She certainly did not decide which land to develop as this was compiled following extensive reviews carried out by council officers and consultants working under the guidelines of the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework].

          What I am trying to say is that if any other councillor was put in charge of the Local Plan the sites suggested would have been the same.

          For the GGG activists to now try and turn Juneja’s cheating on Cllr Mansbridge is unfair unless they have proof that he knew of her deception when he appointed her to the role. So I say either, “Put up or shut up!”

          Cllr Mansbridge standing by Juneja and indeed giving her a character reference when she was in the dock is the action of a loyal and forgiving friend and in my book has to be commended.

          • David Clarke

            May 23, 2015 at 5:14 pm

            I am sorry, the fact is someone who was supported by the council leader but who we now know is a criminal, was in charge of some serious business in the council.

            I for one will be looking forward to the council’s response after Miss Juneja’s sentencing in June.

            GGG are a bit part players in my eyes and should be pretty much ignored. For the Conservatives in the council to lay all blame on these single issue councillors is just trying to cover over the more serious issues that need to be addressed.

            A bit of a rant but sometimes it needs to be said. Mr Walker may disagree as is his right.

            As for the comment from Cllr Rooth – if I said I was a convicted forger would he employ me?

          • Mary Bedforth

            May 31, 2015 at 9:07 pm

            Loyalty. A fine human quality. Found within membership of criminal gangs, even in the Mafia!

  4. Tony Edwards Reply

    May 20, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Quote of the year: “What your professional qualifications are for your job… are not relevant to the working of this borough council”. Cllr Tony Rooth. May 19th 2015.

    • John Robson Reply

      May 20, 2015 at 11:10 am

      Does this explain why Cllr Rooth has been re-appointed to the Executive?

  5. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 20, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I was not surprised to see the majority of new Conservative councillors line up to support Mr Mansbridge last night, regardless of some of their strong vocal opposition to him in recent hustings events.

  6. Andrew Procter Reply

    May 20, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    I believe the time has now come, after so much attempted blatant rolling over of the wishes of local communities in the favour of developers, for the GBC Conservatives to adhere to their own manifesto promises and create a Local Plan with complete honesty and transparency that protects the green belt.

    The head of planning Barry Fagg has recently stated at a public meeting at Fairlands that Guildford is being swamped by a tsunami of housing demand from London. What a very interesting and revealing observation.

    He also admitted that there had been under investment in local infrastructure over 30 years which was the worst he had seen. It appears that the he is now awaiting “political direction”.

    Given these observations; why on earth should we now have to open our gates to London? This is surely a fairly brain dead approach and surely is missing the point. As virtually every major city in the world has concreted over its outer suburbs in the style of Los Angeles London is supreme and unique in meeting well thought out resistance in the form of the green belt and is so much the better for it.

    The green belt was actually invented in Guildford by Guildford people by a Local Act of Parliament before the war. As we say in Send on our posters….. “the fight goes on”…. until that is, the time comes for GBC to see sense and stop their growth agenda which is based purely on vested interest, not local interest.

    Andrew Procter is a member of the Save Send action Group

  7. Garry Walton Reply

    May 20, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    Congratulations to Caroline Reeve, Susan Parker, Mathew Sarti and others who made it clear that there are some principled people in Guildford Council who will not be bullied into voting for a supporter of the criminal Monika Juneja.

    Councillor Rooth said re the counts of deception, forgery and pretence:

    “But, as far as I can see, they are completely irrelevant to the governance and indeed the actions of this local authority. What your professional qualifications are for your job… are not relevant to the working of this borough council.”

    Do the Conservative’s have a code of ethics?

    If they hold the belief that anything goes in this council I fear that there will be more disclosures of wrong doing.

  8. Sally Parrott Reply

    May 20, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    “Accepting the appointment as council leader, Stephen Mansbridge said: ‘We will form our agenda around a collective decision of the Conservative group.’

    It might have been reassuring if he had followed that statement with: “…and in the interests of the people of Guildford as a whole”.

  9. Peta Malthouse Reply

    May 20, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Sadly our councillors have been very slow to recognise the ‘lack of judgement’ shown by Cllr Mansbridge. They still do not recognise it. He is, I believe, still a co-director of two companies with Ms Juneja.

    I think it would be reasonable to ask what steps he has taken to distance himself from his connections with a criminal. I have seen nothing that should allow the Conservative majority at Guildford to be wholly confident in him. Let him correct me and my concerns: we need to hear from him.

    I am afraid I am still rather taken aback by the fact that Ms Sturgeon was also a character witness. What is a Local Government Officer doing in allowing herself to be drawn in to the debacle? Have we all lost our moral compass?

    And why is it that GGG are the baddies here? It took me ten years to qualify and practice as a lawyer how simple and how much cheaper to just claim to be one and give everyone the benefit of my very ignorant opinion with gravitas.

    We are all victims of a those who deceive us and especially one whose has been so dishonest in her public life.

    Can I remind everyone that Ms Juneja finally admitted her guilt after the election. How would we have voted if we had known beforehand, as did she? Mr Mansbridge should have known.

  10. Michael Bruton Reply

    May 20, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    The comments above have laid bare the values and standards of Guildford Borough Council.

    I concur with Tony Edwards’ comments about Mr Rooth a propos Ms Juneja. If councillors of any persuasion lie about their qualifications then what trust can we put in them as councillors? Life is not compartmentalised between private and public life. Liars do not compartmentalise they can lie when it suits on any matter anywhere.

    Let us imagine that we had a GP or dentist who was a councillor. If their qualifications were found to be bogus that would be OK then for Guildford Tories? I wager Mr Rooth would not like to be treated by such a person.

    As a worship leader in the Methodist Church I was appalled by the so called opening prayers at the council meeting for the election of the leader. No mention whatsoever of the requirement in public life for integrity, decency, honesty and the Nolan principles.

    Perhaps such basic virtues do not matter in public life 2015? They certainly matter to most of us.

    Mr Rooth’s comments should join Mr Mansbridge’s reported comments last year, “Don’t complain if you are not a victim”, in the GBC lexicon.

  11. Mary Bedforth Reply

    May 21, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    The Augean stables need clearing out.

    Where is Hercules when he is needed?

  12. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 21, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Hercules will rise anew from those newly elected councillors, those who will not offer succour to this discredited apologist for a proven criminal.

  13. Terry Stevenson Reply

    May 21, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    As with most elections, the public generally vote along party lines, or failing that, a single issue party that holds a particular resonance with them.

    Therefore, if the public have, and continue to vote in this way, the personal qualities of the individuals voted for are, quite frankly, immaterial.

    As a result, the public gets what they deserve, for better, or worse. Democracy is a beautiful thing, be it first-past-the-post, or the recently rejected, proportional representation.

  14. Brian Miller Reply

    May 29, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    We now have further national media exposure to the lack of morals at our local Council. Private Eye’s latest issue, in the rotten boroughs section, has an article on the Monika Juneja scandal and the newly elected Leader and local Conservative Party support for her.

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