All-out elections are taking place in Guildford Borough Council today – so what can we expect?
The previous elections in 2019 saw the end of years of dominance by the Conservative Party in Guildford. Instead, a new residents group, Residents for Guildford and Villages (R4GV) stormed the elections to gain control alongside the Liberal Democrats. However, with boundary changes coming into effect for this year’s elections, plus a very active campaign against R4GV, every vote matters in Guildford this time around.
The Liberal Democrats and R4GV have been running the Council together since the elections in 2019, however the relationship between the two parties has soured quite dramatically, particularly in the past 12-18 months. This became apparent during the run-up to and in the aftermath of the consideration of North Street Regeneration. The proposals were heavily promoted by R4GV but they were left embarrassed after the application was refused at Planning Committee by the committee chair, Cllr Fiona White (Liberal Democrat), after councillors voted seven in favour and seven against. This decision threw the partnership between the parties into total disarray, with R4GV blaming the loss on the Liberal Democrats, and the subsequent planning committee meeting being abandoned after all available committee members refused to chair the meeting.
With the current friction between the parties, a second coalition could be a painful and unwilling one, but that begs the question, who is likely to have the upper hand following May 4th?
R4GV have experienced some sticky moments since their rise to power, including their support of North Street and their failure to review the controversial Local Plan. The recent publication of a video titled “The Battle for Guildford” has certainly raised some eyebrows and has exacerbated the criticism of their performance over the last four years.
The safety of some current R4GV seats is said to be rocky, with many members choosing not to stand for re-election. There are thoughts that the party may become more Guildford focused, picking up seats in the center but not performing as well in the seats on the outskirts of the borough. R4GV have also entered a partial electoral pact with Guildford Green Group (GGG) whereby they will avoid fielding candidates in the same seats – with the exception of Send & Lovelace ward.
The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, appear confident that they will be able to secure a majority and that they will be able to make gains from R4GV as well as from the Conservatives and from Labour in Bellfields & Slyfield, as Angela Gunning retires. Despite voting in favour of the Local Plan and having an unclear planning policy, the Liberal Democrats have garnered less criticism when compared to R4GV and are seen by many as the ‘safe’ choice.
It will be interesting to see whether R4GV are able to maintain or even build on their momentum from 2019 or whether they will capitulate which will leave to door open for the Liberal Democrats to potentially gain control. We’ll let you know how it goes on Friday!
4th May 2023