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Guildford’s new leadership. Intention or chance?


It is no secret that at times Guildford Borough Council’s ruling coalition of Liberal Democrats and Residents’ for Guildford and Villages (R4GV) councillors have not always seen eye to eye. However, not many suspected that Tuesday 5th May would begin with rumours of a wholesale change of the council’s leadership. 

Local news outlet The Guildford Dragon trailed an article suggesting that Council Leader Cllr Caroline Reeves (Liberal Democrat) was standing down to let Leader of R4GV Cllr Joss Bigmore take charge of the Executive for two years before it reverts back to Liberal Democrat control in the year before the May 2022 Local Elections. This is a somewhat confusing arrangement as the Liberal Democrat group are still the largest at the Council and make up the majority of the Council’s Executive. 

Suffice to say we all awaited the Full Council meeting that evening with bated breath. After some technical issues where the public had to dial into a conference call instead of watching a live webcast the meeting began. However, only a few minutes in it was clear that the supposed changes were not all going to happen. At least, not immediately.

Instead we got a wholesale reshuffling of the Executive. The number of positions has been reduced from 10 to 8 and is now split 50:50 between the two ruling groups alongside a new Deputy Leader of the Council in Cllr Joss Bigmore. During her speech Cllr Reeves cryptically claimed that now was not the right time for a change in leadership and that it would not be right for her to walk away from her position but also that a new leadership is planned for September (presumably when COIVID-19 is less of a crisis). 

The sense we got here at Cratus is that bigger things were planned for this month but the trailing of an early article in the local press possibly turned some heads away from making a full leadership change during a global pandemic, probably a sensible decision. 

Cllr Reeves will be in for a busy few months as she retains her Leadership position and has taken on the newly formed Housing and Development Control Portfolio. This puts her in charge of the council and seemingly in charge of all development outside of the town centre. The Town Centre appears to remain the domain of the Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and former Chair of the Guildford Vision Group, John Rigg (R4GV).  

In the next three years before the 2023 Local Elections, the new Executive will have to prove that this ‘co-operative approach’ to running the Council can work if they want to avoid a return of Conservative control. Not easy when they will also be competing with each other. Guildford has proved itself in recent years to be a council full of many surprises and whilst the Liberal Democrats remain the most powerful party for now, we don’t think it will be long until we’re writing an article about a new Leader at Guildford Borough Council.