As a second long-serving Tory councillor Bob McShee resigns from the Conservative group on Guildford Borough Council and as stories surface of the deselection of others, it is now becoming obvious that this is not just a matter of private grief for Tory members. It’s clear that there are in fact two overlapping issues: Firstly, the leadership style of Cllrs Paul Spooner and Matt Furniss, and secondly, the extraordinary willingness of our cash-strapped council to spend millions on a series of vanity projects.
Without doubt, this new Tory leadership has been desperately keen to stamp its mark on the council ahead of next year’s elections, and they seem to have opted for a rather extreme line, whipping their calmer-minded colleagues through contentious votes and being vindictive to colleagues who disagree with them. The deselections appear to be a direct consequence of opposition to hair-brained schemes such as the ‘twinning’ with the city in China, though those who (correctly) opposed The Village are also having to look to their futures. Opposing the leadership can quickly turn you into a pariah, bringing years of diligent council work on behalf of your constituents to an end.
The background to these rows are the vanity projects favoured by Cllr Spooner and Cllr Furniss – the Dongying ‘twinning’, the Village (where the council wasted over £1m), another £1m plus spent on the relaying of Tunsgate and now the new Walnut Bridge (£3.3m for a new bridge, without a development plan for the area). And of course rather than listen to the views of local people the council leadership always seems to prefer to spend yet more of our money on external consultants (a fortune on the bridge apparently, with more promised to consultants on a new town centre development plan).
Guildford Labour Chair, Richard Mithen commented “For a council that constantly tells us it has little money to spare, there always seems to be plenty for outside consultants! Why do they not listen to their own residents but only to their rich business associates? Enough is enough. It is time we told this shambolic, divided warring Tory leadership to get their act together or leave it to those of us who are ready to run the council for the residents.”