A motion by Conservative opposition councillors at Waverley Borough Council calling for Waverley’s immediate divorce from crisis-council Guildford has been defeated.
The motion was put forward by Tory members Peter Martin (Godalming Holloway), Michael Goodridge (Bramley & Wonersh) and Carole Cockburn (Farnham Bourne) at Tuesday night's Waverley full council meeting.
It resolved to “review the collaboration arrangements with Guildford Borough Council with an intention to seek an orderly termination of those arrangements”.
The Tory motion also requested that “within 90 days, a full review of the costs, benefits and disadvantages of these arrangements to date be undertaken by officers together with a full review of the costs, benefits and disadvantages of and a reasonable timetable for that termination”.
However, after a long debate with members queuing up to speak, it was resoundingly defeated by 35 votes to nine – with the council’s Lib Dem, Farnham Residents, Green and Labour members conspiring to vote it down.
It came just a week after a similar Conservative motion was voted down at Guildford Borough Council last week.
Waverley’s back-office merger with Guildford was introduced in 2021 as a way of saving money across the two councils. However, the staff- sharing arrangement has been rocked in recent months after the councils’ joint chief executive and executive head of finance quit their roles.
Guildford is also tackling a projected £18 million budget gap over the next four years and narrowly avoided declaring bankruptcy earlier this month, a fraud investigation in its housing department is under way, and last week its leader faced a no-confidence vote amid claims she had “presided over two major financial scandals”.
Councillor Julia McShane (Lib Dem, Westborough) survived the Conservative-led vote, with 24 councillors backing her to 15 against. And similar numbers of Guildford councillors voted down the Tory motion to end its “extremely expensive” Waverley partnership.
The motions at Waverley and Guildford do though suggest the Conservative groups at both councils are now conspiring to bring down the partnership, with the political gloves off at both councils.