THE Liberal Democrats have turned down an offer from Woking’s ruling Conservatives to have seats on the borough council’s executive.

Council leader David Bittleston invited two opposition councillors to join the committee after winning a confidence vote at a special meeting last week.

Council Leader Cllr David Bittleston

But Lib Dem councillors Ken Howard and Ian Johnson have declined to sit with the Tories on the council’s main decision-making body.

Cllr Bittleston faced the confidence vote – proposed by his party – at a meeting of councillors described by the Lib Dem group leader as an “absolute joke”.

The leader of a minority administration, he made his offer of executive places after 13 Conservatives voted in support of his leadership, with two Independents voting against and 13 Lib Dem and Labour councillors abstaining.

Lib-Dem group leader Cllr Ann-Marie Barker called the most recent confidence vote “an absolute joke”

Cllr Howard, who was offered a climate change responsibility on the executive, said this week: “It could be quite difficult being an opposition member of a Tory executive when it takes decisions I don’t agree with. There doesn’t seem to be any advantage in it.

“I would like Woking to be taking a lead on climate change, but I can continue to pursue this as chairman of the climate change working group,” added the St John’s representative, who has been a councillor since 2000.

A meeting of the executive scheduled for last Thursday was cancelled in favour of a special debate prompted by Cllr Bittleston losing a Labour no-confidence motion in July. Lib Dem leader Ann-Marie Barker had followed up the lost vote by telling Cllr Bittleston he should have his status as leader of the council confirmed by the Conservative group.

However, it was ruled by council chief executive Ray Morgan that only the full council can confirm the leader.

For the full story get the 19 September edition of the News & Mail

HIGH-RISE developments could go up across the borough if the current plans for Cardinal Court, the housing development next to Woking Football Club, go ahead, say campaigners.

South Woking Action Group (SWAG) is seeking to scale down the planned building of 1,100 one and two-bedroom flats in Kingfield, which will help to pay for upgrading the Cards’ stadium to Football League standards.

MP Jonathan Lord addresses the meeting alongside Katie Bowes, centre, and Monique van Bellen

“If the development goes ahead as suggested, this sets a precedent for this scale of development in other low-lying areas of the borough and surrounding areas,” said Katie Bowes, a SWAG committee member.

SWAG held a public meeting last Saturday and is planning to ask questions at the Woking Joint Committee meeting at Woking Borough Council next Wednesday (25 September).  The group will also present a petition to a full council meeting on 17 October, currently signed by 584 people, calling on the council to “stop [the] extreme proposal” contained in the development plan.

Katie, who will present the petition, said the group was not seeking to halt any development of the area and football club, but wanted it to be respectful of and in character with the local community.

“We want to work with the relevant parties on the development. We want to be involved and heard and not have decisions made ‘in the interests of the local community’ without our input,” Katie said.

For the full story get the 19 September edition of the News & Mail

MEMBERS of Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking presented a cheque for £1,300 to Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex on a recent visit to its operations base at Redhill Aerodrome.

The mosque, in Oriental Road, has supported the life-saving charity for the past two years. By organising collections after prayers and hosting a fun day locally with Woking Tigers football club, it has now raised more than £3,500.

FLYING HIGH – Representatives of the Shah Jahan Mosque present Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex with a £1,300 cheque after their latest fundraising drive. Pictured, from left to right,  are First Officer David Milton, Mohammad Habib, Ghulam Arshad from Woking Tigers, Muhammad Farooq and paramedic Alan Cowley

The air ambulance, which is capable of reaching any part of its region in 25 minutes, is  funded almost entirely by public donation. It requires about £11 million annually to sustain the service.

Last year the charity flew 2,500 missions to serve a population of almost 5 million, Mohammad said: “We feel the air ambulance plays a vital role in emergency situations where help is needed as quickly as possible to help save lives. Any of us could need the service and it is important to help keep them operating.”

For more information on the work of Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex or to donate, please visit www.aakss.org.uk. To find out more about the Shah Jahan Mosque, please visit www.shahjahanmosque.org.uk.

For the full story get the 12 September edition of the News & Mail

PRIDE in Surrey has announced that it is building on the success of August’s event by staging the county’s first Winter Pride this year.

The event will be held in Guildford on Sunday 1 December – World AIDS Day – and will include a vigil remembering those lost to and living with HIV and Aids.

Nikki Nugget and Khaleesi Georgia show the flag

“It will celebrate how far we have come whilst educate on the importance of regular testing and the services available to people in Surrey and surrounding areas,” said a spokesman.

The first Pride in Surrey event brought more than £300,000 revenue to Woking businesses, say the organisers.

Pride in Surrey 2019, which is based in Woking, is working with the Academy of Contemporary Music and the Electric Theatre in Guildford to organise a celebration with “minimal ticket prices and which still celebrates, educates and connects the LGBTQ+ community and its allies”.

Stephen Ireland, founder of Pride in Surrey and now Patron of Outline Surrey, added: “I am really excited that we are using the momentum to bring something else this year, this time in Guildford. And, of course, our eyes are on the 2020 event.”

For the full story get the 12 September edition of the News & Mail

A SUPER slimmer has been named Woman of the Year at Byfleet’s Slimming World thanks to her 5st 6.5lbs weight loss.  

Super Slimmer AnnMarie Davies with her Woman of the Year Award

AnnMarie Davies, 29, from Byfleet went from 16st 10lbs to 11st 3.5lbs in just 18 months, down-sizing from dress size 18/20 to a 12, which saw her go on to represent the local group at the regional finals of Slimming World’s national competition, one of 40 women from more than 680 groups.

AnnMarie 18 months ago

“When I first joined I never dreamt that I would be in the position I am now. Losing weight has made such a big difference to my life. My health has improved, I have more energy, I’m happier and I feel more comfortable in my own skin,” she said.

“I feel like a different woman to the one who walked into Slimming World 18 months ago and winning Woman of the Year is a real honour because there are so many amazing women in our group. I remember feeling like I would never be happy in my own skin again, but I’ve realised that when people believe in you – and you believe in yourself – you can do anything you set your mind to.

For the full story, get the 12 September edition of the News & Mail

DAVID Munro, the Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner, has delivered a stinging attack on the Conservative leadership after he was expelled from the party.

Mr Munro said that if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal, “life will be easier for international criminals”.

Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner David Munro has been expelled from the Conservative Party after over 30 years as a member

He said a “no deal” exit would mean that “all the carefully negotiated arrangements, such as the European Arrest Warrant, will disappear and it will be difficult to replace them.”

The PCC was speaking to the News & Mail after receiving an email telling him he had been expelled from the party he joined more than 30 years ago.

“In these new intolerant days, I’m being accused of campaigning against Conservative candidates. This is a lie – I have never, in over 20 years’ service to the party, campaigned against the party. Most recently, I worked hard in the May 2019 local elections to help Conservatives all over the county,” he said.

The move follows his deselection as the Conservative candidate in the PCC elections in May next year after a secret ballot of Surrey party members in December.

“I decided it was no longer appropriate for me to belong to the Conservative association of PCCs. The association is informal and doesn’t have strict discipline. I joined the independent group, which has never met.

“I was told that by default I was campaigning against Conservative candidates,” Mr Munro said.

He campaigned for and voted Remain in the 2016 referendum, but said he accepted the result and thought the Withdrawal Agreement presented by former prime minister Theresa May was a good deal.

He said it would be “very undesirable” from a policing perspective to leave with no deal, adding “the police will make do – the police are good at that.”

“I am appalled by the shenanigans in Parliament. I will be offering to campaign for the three Surrey MPs expelled from the Conservatives standing as moderate Conservatives at the next general election.” He was referring to Guildford MP Anne Milton, former Chancellor Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge) and East Surrey MP Sam Gyimah.

Mr Munro said he was entitled to appeal against his expulsion from the Conservative Party “but I don’t want to belong to a club that doesn’t want me.”

For the full story, get the 12 September edition of the News & Mail

THE giant spider that was apparently abandoned in a service station car park is settling down in a new, comfy home.

Aragog the tarantula has been taken in by Liz Wood, deputy manager of the RSPCA’s Millbrook Animal Centre.

Liz Wood’s photograph of Aragog looking more healthy in his new home

The Mexican red knee tarantula was found by a motorist wandering across a car park at Wisley services on the southbound A3 on Thursday last week.

Liz is using her previous experience of keeping large, hairy arachnids to help Aragog recover from an ordeal that left him in need of some TLC.

“He was very dehydrated and under-weight, and had a lot of wounds on his abdomen,” said Liz, who has previously looked after two tarantulas that needed a new home. “He had definitely been outdoors in his own for a little while.”

Aragog is now living in an aquarium which has the humid atmosphere he needs to help him thrive. Liz is providing his favourite food of crickets and grasshoppers. “He’s looking a lot better than he did when he came to the centre,” she added.

For the full story get the 12 September edition of the News & Mail

A WOOD recycling charity that also gives skills to people who are struggling to find a job has been opened in Woking.

The Useful Wood Company opened its doors this week at the former Jobcentre premises in Goldsworth Road.

Tony Hewat, chairman of the Useful Wood Company board of trustees, left, and George Varney, the operations manager

It is entirely staffed by volunteers with supervisors and helpers, including some nominated by organisations such as the York Road Project. They include the long-term unemployed, people with mental health problems, the homeless and ex-offenders.

The volunteers will collect unwanted wood from building sites and sort them into material that can be turned into items for sale, with the rest becoming firewood or being pulped for biomass.

“The idea is to stop wood waste going into landfill and reducing CO2 emissions and at the same time we will help people on the margins who need to reintegrate into the society and the workplace,” said operations manager George Varney.

The wood that can be used will be turned into items such as wine racks, planters and outdoor tables and benches.

For more information, visit www.usefulwood.org, email info@usefulwood.org or call 07432 278281.

For the full story get the 5 September edition of the News & Mail

A ROBBER who left a 79-year-old woman with a broken arm after he stole her handbag has been jailed for nine years and nine months.

“This monstrous act of violence has left me with mental and physical scars for the rest of my life,” the victim said in an impact statement.

John Turner has been jailed for nine years

“Was the theft of a handbag and its contents really worth it to the party involved and the consequences of his terrible act?

“He has robbed my confidence and my quality of life and it will never be the same again.”

John Turner, 28, from Chertsey, attacked the women in Guildford Street in the town on 23 February this year.

He was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on 29 August after pleading guilty to the robbery earlier last month when he also admitted to a burglary in Chertsey in 2017.

Turner was charged after analysis of CCTV footage and after witnesses came forward identifying him as the suspect.

Detective Constable Joseph Smith, who investigated the case, said: “The witnesses that came forward were crucial in progressing our investigation and I am grateful for the public’s support in this case.

“Their testimony helped put a violent criminal behind bars. I would urge anyone who witnesses a crime taking place to always come forward – the information you give us could help us to make the streets safer for everyone.”

See the full report in the 5 September edition of the news & Mail.

TWO young brothers from Sheerwater and their dad have walked the length of the Basingstoke Canal towpath to raise money for a local youth group charity.

Jack Hardy, 11, his brother Aiden, 9, and father Scott, covered the 32 miles over two days and raised nearly £400 for Knaphill branch of the Woodcraft Folk.

Scott Hardy with his sons Jack and Aiden

Scott said Jack had first suggested they walk the length of the Thames, but he was persuaded to reconsider and came up with the more manageable target.

They set off on a Saturday from where the canal meets the Wey Navigation at New Haw. The first stop was at Mytchett, where they caught a taxi to a hotel at Farnborough, and then continued the next day, finishing at the Greywell Tunnel.

They were met at the finish point by Scott’s wife Laura and their other sons Ronnie, 7, Charlie, 5, and Stanley, 3.

The wider family have been involved with Woodcraft Folk for decades. Laura runs the Knaphill branch and her parents were leaders in the 1970s and 1980s. Jack and Aiden, like their mum, first went along at the age of three.

The branch meets at the Dianthus Building, the Sea Cadets’ headquarters in Goldsworth Park.

“It’s a wonderful youth charity that is centred around inclusivity,” said Scott. “They meet once a week, play games and learn and discuss topics such as politics, environmental issues and human behaviour.”

Scott helps at the group’s woodland camps, which are held several times a year.

He said the next plan was to try to cycle the route in one day and that he or Laura would accompany the boys.

Asked if having five sons keeps the couple busy, Scott said: “It keeps us outside.”

For the full story get the 5 September News & Mail