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We Need to Earn Your Trust, New GBC Leader Bigmore’s Pledge to Guildford

Published on: 7 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 7 Oct, 2020

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Guildford’s residents generally hold politicians in low regard so councillors need to earn and keep their trust.

This was a key message from Joss Bigmore, the new leader of Guildford Borough Council after his election at last night’s (October 6) full council meeting.

The vote for Cllr Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch) was not unanimous. Thirty-five councillors voted in favour but three of the four Conservative “independent” members [Correction: It was originally reported all four had voted against] and the two Labour ones voted against. The four “official” Conservatives abstained.

The new leader summarised some of the challenges being faced. “Throughout this borough, just as all around the world, people are suffering: physically, mentally and financially.

“Our economy is barely off life-support and our government’s coffers are empty. We face the starkest reality of Brexit in a few months, and we have a county authority that challenges our very existence as a part of local government.”

Cllr Bigmore listed changes he felt necessary at GBC, twice noting the need for greater openness. “We remain committed to lead the most open and transparent council that Guildford has ever seen,” he said.

“All information used to evidence decisions will be accessible to everyone, except where confidentially is necessary for commercial or legal reasons. And it is my intention that any such justification will be rigorously challenged.”

On one thorny issue, he said: “Planning remains our most controversial responsibility. Having inherited a much-criticised, half-finished Local Plan, this council must now ensure the Plan is finished and further, that we start a review during this council term.

“We must resist further encroachment of, and indeed protect the beautiful and irreplaceable countryside that provides this leafy borough with its unique character.”

But Cllr Bigmore had to qualify this. “Whether we like it or not, there will continue to be significant pressure on Guildford borough to grow in terms of housing and population. But none of us in this chamber wish to see our town gradually become a large and faceless suburb of London.”

And he had a defiant message for the Conservative-controlled county council. “I am committed to opposing a single unitary authority for Surrey,” he said. “And we will continue to work with our fellow districts and boroughs to present a constructive, viable alternative.”

He concluded on a positive note: “We face a challenging period ahead, but I remain optimistic. I am confident that, collectively – and by genuinely listening to and serving our community – this council will find solutions that will deliver the very best for our Borough, now and for generations to come.”

He also confirmed his wish for the present borough Executive to remain, with former leader Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) staying as his deputy.

Cllr James Walsh

Cllr James Walsh (Labour, Stoke) said he felt the move towards the leadership switch had been “shoddy” and betrayed those who voted for Cllr Reeves after the 2019 election.

He said: “No details [of the agreement] were shared… it was only made clear last week when it was published on the pages of The Dragon and the websites of the leading groups.”

Cllr Graham Eyre

Cllr Graham Eyre (Con ‘ind’, Ash South & Tongham) was even more critical. Citing the power-share agreement between the two parties, he accused R4GV of betraying those who voted for them by “selling out” to the Lib Dems.

His party colleague, David Bilbe (Normandy) said R4GV’s motivation appeared to be “power at any cost”. What was now clear, he added: “if you vote R4GV you get Lib Dem.”

Cllr Ramsey Nagaty

But Ramsey Nagaty (Shalford), leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group, said he was looking forward to Cllr Bigmore’s leadership and to working with him. His recollection of the leadership election in 2019 differed from that of Cllr Walsh, pointing out Cllr Reeves had said then she wanted to introduce a more cooperative form of local government.

Martin Giles will be interviewing Cllr Joss Bigmore today. Please check back to view.

See also:

GBC webcast

New Lib Dem Leader On Visit Praises Our ‘Amazing Council Team’ Power-Share

Local Parties Finally Bow to Pressure and Reveal Power-Share Details

Labour Calls GBC Leadership Handover ‘Puzzling’ and ‘a Shoddy Business’

Lib Dems Handover Borough Council Leadership to R4GV in Planned Move


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Responses to We Need to Earn Your Trust, New GBC Leader Bigmore’s Pledge to Guildford

  1. Valerie Thompson Reply

    October 7, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    We look forward to a more open and honest Borough Council under Joss Bigmore’s leadership.

    We also look forward to a review of the Local Plan, with its many faults, which was pushed through by the Conservatives, as a last-minute rejection of all the public’s criticisms in the run-up to the last election.

  2. Richard Norman Reply

    October 8, 2020 at 12:08 am

    The Conservatives just cannot get over the fact that they were kicked out of office by the previously non-existent R4GV who came from a standing start only five or six months before the election, with no record and with no national machine and resources behind them. It was an astonishing result and reflected incredibly poorly on the Conservatives.

    Good luck to Joss and his team. Thank Heavens they are a team, unlike some others.

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