Stephen Mansbridge resignation: Ash councillor favourite to take on leadership of Guildford Borough Council

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Councillor Paul Spooner, who represents Ash South and Tongham, has put himself forward to take over Mr Mansbridge’s role

06:30, 2 NOV 2015 UPDATED 07:12, 2 NOV 2015
BY JAMES WATKINS

Following Stephen Mansbridge resigning, councillor Paul Spooner has put himself forward to take over Mr Mansbridge’s role

In the wake of Stephen Mansbridge’s resignation as leader of Guildford Borough Council, a fellow Ash ward member is the favourite to take on the role.

Mr Mansbridge resigned as a councillor and leader last month having represented Ash South and Tongham ward, claiming he could not accept recent changes to the decision-making process at the Conservative-led council.

Councillor Paul Spooner, who also represents Ash South and Tongham, has put himself forward to take over Mr Mansbridge’s role as leader of the council and leader of the Guildford Borough Council Conservative group.

Holy Trinity councillor Geoff Davis, who was elected to the council in May, has ruled himself out of the leadership race, saying he was too new to the council but said he would support Cllr Spooner.

The only other confirmed candidate for the role is Holy Trinity ward member Dennis Paul, who was also elected in May.

It is understood he has only put himself forward to give party members a choice in the election and if other people come forward, he will withdraw.

Merrow councillor Graham Ellwood has not ruled himself out of the running.

Susan Parker, leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group and councillor for Send, said: “I would like there to be a strong challenger offering a different vision for Guildford – preferably a vision on which the Conservatives campaigned through the election, which was protecting the green belt.”

Nigel Manning, deputy leader of the council, executive member and ward representative of Ash Vale, is acting leader of the council but has confirmed he does not want the position on a permanent basis.

At a meeting of the executive committee last Tuesday,(October 20), it was agreed that Cllr Spooner would take on the role of temporary deputy leader, with a new leader due to be appointed in December.

The borough council’s Liberal Democrats have criticised the reaction to Mr Mansbridge’s resignation and called for the outcome into a review, requested by the party into the council investigation process for internal complaints, to be published as soon as possible.

“After many, many months of accusations, court appearances, misinformation, threats and evasiveness, a Tory assurance that it is ‘business as usual’ at Guildford Borough Council is not good enough,” said Guildford Lib Dem leader Caroline Reeves.

“The surprise U-turn by Stephen Mansbridge over our proposed governance hybrid system shows that in spite of his rhetoric, he did not understand the depth of anger about the lack of transparency and the lack of engagement that many residents and councillors felt about the work of the council leadership and the way they made decisions.

“All councillors must maintain their integrity, regardless of the brick-bats thrown at them.

“While the Liberal Democrats may not be shouting from the roof tops all the time, we have steadily challenged the Tories to listen to the voices of all our residents, not just those who shout the loudest, and to clean up their act and make sure the disgraceful Juneja affair can’t happen again.

“We still await the outcome of the review into the council’s investigation process for internal complaints I asked for at full council in July.

“I call on the council to publish that review report without delay and to take on board its outcome and recommendations.

“The borough council needs a fresh start, a clean break from Stephen Mansbridge’s interminable discredited trajectory.”

The review was called for following the conviction of former councillor Monika Juneja, who was given a 14-month suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to three forgery charges, obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and pretending to be a barrister.

At the time, Mr Mansbridge, who was Ms Juneja’s business partner and supported her during her court appearance at the Old Bailey, welcomed the review.

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