One of Guildford’s Hon Aldermen, Bernard Parke, is accusing the borough council of double standards, following advice he says he was given that nominating a council candidate would be deemed a political act and could lead to him losing his Hon Alderman status
The council officer involved denies that he gave this advice but Mr Parke remains adamant that he did.
“I spoke to a council officer in Legal and Democratic Services, who I know well, on the phone. He told me that if I acted as an assentor for a candidate, in the forthcoming local election, it would be deemed a political act which could mean that I could no longer be allowed to continue as an Hon Alderman.”
“I reluctantly accepted his advice and told the candidate concerned, Karen Stevens, of the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG), what had happened.
“Then, when the full list of candidates was issued by the council, I was amazed and angry to see that another Hon Alderman, Linda Strudwick, had seconded the three Lib Dem candidates in Onslow ward.
“I don’t know what is going on but I think I am owed an explanation.”
“The policy of barring Hon Alderman from participating, in any way, in local politics is wrong. Petty, small minded councillors, who cannot tolerate views contrary to theirs being espoused by experienced former councillors, are behind this. It is not acceptable in a democratic society.”
“I have nothing to gain personally from speaking out. But I still care about Guildford and I will give my views as I see fit. Who do these people think they are to deny me that right?”
The council officer who took the enquiry from Bernard Parke said that he did not recall speaking with him specifically about whether it would be proper for him to be an assentor* for a candidate.
“I thought we had only spoken (and written) about his position as Honorary Alderman in the event that he decided to stand for election.
“I think the question as to whether it is deemed a ‘political act’ for an alderman to be an assentor is not a matter for me to comment on or advise. The council deems the role of honorary alderman to be non-political.
“The protocol on the appointment, role, status, rights and obligations of honorary freemen and honorary aldermen approved by council last year provides that if an honorary alderman wishes to stand for election, he/she relinquishes the title.
“It also sets out a procedure for councillors to bring a motion to council to seek the withdrawal of the title of honorary alderman if they believe that an honorary alderman’s conduct warrants such action.
“That conduct may include the honorary alderman engaging in political acts but it would be up to the council to determine whether such conduct [i.e. assenting] was incompatible with being an honorary alderman.”
The council does not check to see if any of those making nominations are GBC hon aldermen, it would be for the councillors to decide if nominating candidates should be deemed a “political act”, under their protocol.
No complaint is believed to have been made regarding Hon Alderman Linda Strudwick’s assenting candidates.
*An assentor is someone who signs the nomination form for a candidate.