Leader rings changes to Guildford Borough Council’s executive

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Council leader Paul Spooner has announced the changes after his deputy leader was appointed as the new deputy mayor of Guildford

Leader of Guildford Borough Council, Councillor Paul Spooner

The future of the Electric Theatre and Guildford Museum will now be guided by the town’s former mayor, Nikki Nelson-Smith, after a reshuffle of the borough council’s executive.

Councillor Paul Spooner, leader of Guildford Borough Council, has announced changes to the executive after his deputy Nigel Manning took over as deputy mayor on Wednesday (May 4).

Cllr Nelson-Smith, ward member for Christchurch, has now taken up the portfolio holder role for internal business systems, heritage and the arts, which includes responsibility for dealing with the Electric Theatre and Guildford Museum.

Cllr Geoff Davis, who was lead member for economic development, tourism and heritage, had been managing the future of both venues but has now been moved to lead member for asset management.

The future of both the theatre and the museum has been mired in controversy in recent months, with a tendering process ongoing for interested parties to take over the Electric Theatre’s lease, plus the threat of relocation hanging over the museum.

Grahame Larter

People fighting to keep the Electric Theatre in Guildford for community use

Cllr Spooner was quick to emphasis that the change in roles was not a reflection on the performance of Cllr Davis.

He said: “Nikki Nelson-Smith will be dealing with that [the theatre and museum] under her portfolio, but Geoff Davis will still be very much involved with the handover process – but longer term, it will be Nikki’s responsibility.

“Geoff’s expertise is in asset management and that is always the position he wanted, so I wanted to take advantage of that.

“This is not a reflection of any success or otherwise.”

The council leader said he was sorry to see his deputy leader and finance portfolio holder, Cllr Manning, step down from his roles to become deputy mayor of Guildford.

He said: “I was sad to lose the skills of Nigel and the effect of that is I had to find a new finance person.

“But Nigel will still very much be involved and he is very supportive of the new portfolio holder Michael Illman.”

Cllr Illman, member for Shalford, is a lawyer by trade but Cllr Spooner said he was confident in his expertise to keep the council on a financially strong footing

Another new face to the executive is Cllr David Bilbé, ward member for Normandy, who will take on the portfolio for economic development.

Cllr Nigel Manning has been appointed the new deputy mayor of Guildford

Cllr Spooner said: “I have been very much impressed with Cllr Bilbe, he has been a strong backbencher, a very good contributor and a good team player.

“He has a strong relationship with the business community and I thought it was appropriate to bring him in.”

Cllr Matt Furniss, a strong ally of Cllr Spooner, has been appointed deputy leader of the council to replace Cllr Manning and will now be lead member for infrastructure and governance.

Cllr Spooner also told Get Surrey that he saw Cllr Furniss as a future leader of the local authority.

The new executive team will be presented at the next full council meeting on May 10.

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