Guildford Borough Council leader to resign – letter

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The leader of Guildford Borough Council is to stand down

Stephen Mansbridge

8:00am 19th October 2015
(Updated 8:30am 19th October 2015)

In a story which first broke on Eagle Radio, Stephen Mansbridge said he is stepping aside because of recent changes to the way council decisions are made.

He says the recent introduction of new Executive Advisory Boards will slow down decision making at the council.

Adding: ‘I cannot accept these changes.’

Mr Mansbridge is the man who has led the council through some very controversial Greenbelt issues, the Masterplan and Local Plan, and of course the much-debated introduction of Waitrose in the town centre.

In the letter he says: “I have been minded to step down for sometime and, whilst I have been asked to stay, I no longer feel able to do so.

“I hold strong views about how the council is run and about its ability to make strong and good decisions.

“I cannot accept the changes in Governance, which is why I voted against them at a recent Council meeting.”

So what then does this mean for you and me? Well it could mean more delays around plans for major developments in Guildford.

But this may not be the last we see of Mr Mansbridge as he is now publicly backing moves for an elected Mayor in the borough.

Although he does not suggest he would ever intend to stand he does say: “I have been passively in favour of a petition for a directly elected mayor because a successful petition would nullify any petition that attempts to weaken the council’s governance under the shroud of improved democracy.

“My view has evolved, in line with George Osborne’s direction for greater devolution, to be that we need larger entities with directly elected mayors.”

Stephen Mansbridge’s resignation letter in full

I have decided to resign as the Leader of Guildford Borough Council and have done so this morning. I have also resigned as a Councillor.

I have been minded to step down for sometime and, whilst I have been asked to stay, I no longer feel able to do so. I hold strong views about how the Council is run and about its ability to make strong and good decisions. I cannot accept the changes in Governance, which is why I voted against them at a recent Council meeting.

I have been passively in favour of a petition for a directly elected mayor because a successful petition would nullify any petition that attempts to weaken the Council’s governance under the shroud of improved democracy. My view has evolved, in line with George Osborne’s direction for greater devolution, to be that we need larger entities with directly elected mayors.

Guildford is an amazing place and it has it all: a world class university, virology institute, music academy and law university; great businesses with a strong momentum for innovation; a superb hospital, which is a leading centre for oncology; outstanding cultural and heritage offerings; an excellent retail offering; and it is set in the glorious Surrey Hills countryside.

Through my leadership and with the support of my group of Councillors, we have established an ambitious agenda that will see much needed improvements to our infrastructure; a strong case for conditional growth to fuel our powerful business, education and healthcare sectors; a development agenda that will provide much needed homes; and a social agenda which will see quantum improvement in North Guildford over the coming years.

I have put my heart and soul into driving a change programme for over three years to enable Guildford to live up to being the best regional place in the South East. Whilst I have been heavily criticised, I have always put the place in which we all live first and I hope that my successor will continue to improve our borough in a dynamic and positive way.

I am grateful to my Group for the support they have shown over the years and to the many council officers who I have worked alongside and who have done so well to meet a demanding action plan.

Governance is the key and strong governance is essential if Guildford is to continue to excel. Democracy is exercised at the polls and strong processes should not be misrepresented as being devoid of public involvement.

I have enjoyed representing my Ward of Ash South and Tongham and I wish my successor good fortune in fighting hard to control excessive development there.

To all those who have supported me, thank you.

Stephen Mansbridge

19 October 2015

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