Conservatives Tighten Their Grip On The Borough Council – But GGG Win Three
With only one result still to come, it is clear that Conservative domination of Guildford Borough Council (GBC) continues and the number of opposition councillors reduced.
Of the 45 council seats declared there are: 34 Conservatives; 7 Liberal Democrats; 3 Guildford Greenbelt Group; and one Labour. For full detailed results click here.
The election of three Guildford Greenbelt Group councillors, including their leader Susan Parker, caused the biggest stir of the evening while Lib Dems looked glum as they struggled to hold on to seven of the 13 seats they previously held. Labour held on to one of their two seats.
A recount for Stoughton ward will take place on Monday morning at the council offices in Millmead. Previously solid Lib Dem, it seems that at least some the three remaining seats will go Conservative.
A reflection of the swing towards the Conservatives seen in the general election was evident in some of the results. Westborough Ward, normally the fertile hunting ground for Lib Dem and Labour candidates, returned two, surprised looking, Conservative councillors.
Council leader Stephen Mansbridge, who easily defended his seat in Ash South & Tongham said, before the full results were known: “If we do have a healthy majority that is a good thing in terms of strong decision making and getting things done.
“In terms of having [only] a small opposition; the people of Guildford have voted and they have given us… a very strong mandate to move forward with an agenda that they can very clearly see and that is what we will do.
Trousers suitably blue, contrasting with multi-coloured, odour free socks, a victorious Stephen Mansbridge sportingly poses for The Guildford Dragon News
“It is for the opposition, using the council systems to scrutinise us as harshly and as healthily as they can and I welcome that scrutiny.
On the impact of the election result on the Local Plan Cllr Mansbridge said: “The Local Plan has never stopped, contrary to what some people have said: it has never been kicked into the long grass.
“A great deal of work has gone on since last September and that work will continue and we will move forward to a consultation, probably at the back end of this year when we will see a new Draft Local Plan building on the many comments that we have had.”
“We will go on fighting for our area so that development is appropriate and infrastructure is delivered – and where that can’t happen there is no development.”
Answering a question on the significance of his eye catching multi-coloured socks, Stephen Mansbridge said: “They are multi-cultural, multi-party, multi-just about everything.” But, he insisted, not multi-odour.
After little sleep in the previous 48 hours, a tired and obviously sad Caroline Reeves, leader of the Liberal Democrat group and the opposition, said: “It is very disappointing to have lost seats. We worked very hard.
“We did a lot of canvassing and delivery of literature, engaging with our residents. It is disappointing that feelings relating to the general election influenced the local election results so strongly.”
Asked how her group will be able to work with other political groups, Cllr Reeves said: “Some of them will be councillors that we have worked with before but there will be a lot of new councillors and it always takes time to form new working relationships.”
Her party colleague Colin Cross, who retained his Lovelace ward [Ockham, Ripley and Wisley] seat in a sensational by election result last September, said of his win: “I am extremely pleased that my figures have held up in the light of there being two serious opponents this time around, as against just the Conservative opponent [in the by-election].
Asked to comment on the fact that, in a previously very safe Tory seat, the Conservative candidate had only come third behind him and the GGG candidate, Cllr Cross said: “This seemed inevitable when the Conservative campaign manager decided to ditch his own candidate in favour of supporting the GGG candidate and effectively it split the opposition vote.”
An excited Susan Parker, leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group, reacting to the Send ward result that saw her and Mike Hurdle, the first ever GGG candidates, elected, said: “It’s fantastic. I am absolutely delighted. Enormous gratitude to the people of Send and all the people who have helped us.
“The voters there really understood the issues and they took on board what we had to offer. I think it is a shame that other people, throughout the borough, don’t seem to have appreciated that and have believed some of the spin and hype. They have not, perhaps, followed the issues with as much attention as the people in Send seem to have done.”
Asked how her small group will be able to influence council decisions Cllr Parker said: “We will be an articulate voice expressing dissent from the plan. We will be able to shine a light on decisions that we think are inappropriate and we will be able to scrutinise inadequate process.
I response to a question on whether previous acrimony between her party and other political groups will affect relationships in the council Susan Parker said: “I am sure that I will be able to develop good working relationships with lots of councillors. The acrimony seems to be targeted toward GGG and myself from the Executive but I have to say that the councillors outside the Executive have not shown the same hostility.