Planned change of leadership
Following a meeting of the Executive last night, Councillor Joss Bigmore resigned as Leader of the Council. As the office of Leader is now vacant, under the terms of Article 6 of the Council's Constitution, the current Deputy Leader, Councillor Julia McShane will act as Leader and is entitled to exercise all functions reserved to the Leader until a new Leader is elected by the Council at its next meeting on Tuesday 11 October 2022.
The current co-operative approach to running the Council, as it continues into the fourth year since the borough elections in 2019 reflects the fact that the Residents for Guildford and Villages group and the Liberal Democrat group have an equal number of seats overall on the Council and many shared priorities.
Cllr Joss Bigmore continues as a member of the Executive with Lead Councillor responsibility for Governance including corporate Health and Safety, Corporate Strategy, Guildford and Waverley Partnership, Partnerships, and Strategic Planning.
Cllr Joss Bigmore's statement to Councillors
'I would like to inform Councillors about my intention to resign formally as Leader of the Council immediately after the Executive meeting this evening. Councillors will be aware of the arrangements agreed between the two main political groups in terms of the planned transfer of leadership. A handover like this is unusual in local government but our residents were looking for a new approach to politics, and my party and the Liberal Democrats continue to be committed to delivering that.'
'Leading this Council over the past two years has been one of the privileges of my life. We have faced challenges unique in my lifetime and I'm proud of the way this Borough and this Council have worked together to overcome everything that has come our way. Whilst the response to the pandemic remains perhaps our greatest achievement, we have managed to progress a number of projects despite the dark shadow of Coronavirus (Covid 19).
'I am particularly pleased how Weyside Urban Village is progressing, with Guildford Park Road and the North Street development closely behind, showing this administration's commitment to urban regeneration and sustainable development. Our collaboration with Waverley Borough Council is progressing well and will provide significant financial benefits whilst improving the resilience of our services, ensuring we can maintain services despite the drastic cuts in our funding, and the extra pressure caused by rampant inflation. Tonight also marks progress in our most ambitious project. Shaping Guildford's Future is a Masterplan that will ensure our town is fit and ready for the challenges of the future by comprehensively addressing the problems of today.
'But it's also been about current issues like tackling air quality and climate change. I am proud we re-established Car Free Day last year, and it takes place again this Sunday. Last year 25,000 people joined us to enjoy a pedestrianised town centre and take part in loads of free fun activities while finding out more about how we can all play our part in reducing our carbon footprint.
'On a personal level I would like to thank my group, the Executive, and the Council Officers for their support, it is well known that I had only been in the Council Offices twice in my life before I was elected. To be chosen as Leader in little over a year meant that I needed, and arguably still need, a lot of help. This help also came from unexpected places. Whilst there is a certain theatre during council meetings, and politics is somewhat of a necessary evil, I can quite honestly say that there isn't a single councillor from any group that has not offered help or advice when I have asked. That has been a very pleasant surprise and I'm grateful to all of you for sharing the benefit of your experience.'
Acting Leader, Cllr Julia McShane's statement to Councillors
'I would like to thank Joss for his leadership over the past two years. His experience, energy and enthusiasm have been welcome, and I fully expect him to continue in a senior role on the Executive. I'd like to reassure residents that as we move into the final phase of our joint administration we will continue to focus and prioritise their needs, providing as much help and support as we can to everyone who is or may face financial challenges in the cost-of-living crisis. We are also progressing our common aspiration of tackling climate change. We continue to work hard together to deliver what our residents want and deserve.'