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Planned change of leadership

Councillor Caroline Reeves resigned as Leader of the Council at a meeting of the Executive last night. As the office of Leader is now vacant, under the terms of Article 6 of the Constitution, the Deputy Leader, Councillor Joss Bigmore will act as Leader and is entitled to exercise all functions reserved to the Leader until a new Leader is elected by the Council.

The new co-operative approach to running the Council as it moves into the second year since the borough elections in 2019 was announced at a meeting of Full Council in May 2020. The new approach reflects the fact that Residents for Guildford and Villages (R4GV) and the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dem) have an almost equal number of overall councillor seats and many shared priorities.

The election for the new Leader will take place at the next Council meeting on Tuesday 6 October 2020. Cllr Caroline Reeves continues as a member of the Executive and Lead Councillor for Housing, Homelessness, housing standards (HMOs, private rented sector), Development Control and Enforcement, Public Relations and Communications.

Cllr Caroline Reeves' statement to the Executive.

'Councillors will be aware of the arrangements agreed between the two main political groups in terms of the transfer of leadership in the Autumn. It has been agreed that this process should take place at the 6 October Full Council meeting, and so I intend to formally resign as leader at midnight tonight, following the meeting of this Executive.

This may seem a strange time to be doing this, and I should explain for our residents that the original agreement was that this should happen a year after the borough elections in May of this year. Given that we were in the early stages of the pandemic I felt very strongly that such an action would be detrimental to the borough as we were all living through a life changing situation. Ironically, we are still in the midst of the pandemic, and I suspect that we are about to face a surge in cases and new guidance changes to try and manage this. I can assure Cllr Bigmore who as Deputy Leader has now taken up the role of Leader following my resignation, that the officers here in Guildford will offer exemplary support. I cannot over emphasise what an amazing team we have to deal with this, in the most challenging of circumstances.

We had a large number of newly elected councillors after the borough elections for whom shielding, self-isolation and lockdown have not been the best introduction to the vagaries of local government. The difference between being part of the system and working in the private sector are many and can be hard to understand at the best of times. Those of us who have been part of this world for longer are perhaps better placed to appreciate the strength of leadership that our management team has shown throughout the evolution of the strange world that we find ourselves in. The support that I have had has been invaluable and I hope that this team work continues.

A handover like this is unusual in local government but I have always said that it was clear from the votes cast in May 2019 that the residents of Guildford were looking for a new kind of politics, and the Lib Dems and I are committed to delivering that. I wish Cllr Bigmore all the best as he prepares to take over the leadership and I look forward to continuing to work with him and R4GV as part of the shared Lib Dem - R4GV Executive. These are difficult times thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, but I know that together we can continue to deliver for the people of Guildford borough.

Finally, for myself I would like to thank a few close friends who have helped me to maintain a semblance of normality and I look forward to having a better work/life balance in the months ahead.

It has been an honour to lead this Council and our borough.'

Acting Leader, Cllr Joss Bigmore's statement.

'I would like to thank Caroline for her time, help and support over the past two years. Her experience will continue to be invaluable as this administration moves to its next stage and I fully expect Caroline to continue in a senior role on the Executive. I'd also like to thank her on behalf of the borough as her compassionate and assured Leadership has helped us navigate through what we hope was the worst of this pandemic. She has also signalled a welcome and decisive shift in emphasis towards tackling the Climate Emergency and we must continue to prioritise this work. I'd like to reassure residents that the R4GV Lib Dem relationship is strong and this transition was agreed, planned and expected since the borough elections in 2019. We continue to work hard together to deliver what our residents want and deserve.'

Published 23 September 2020