Liberal Democrats

THE first shots have been fired in a possible short but intense general election campaign in Woking with the selection of Will Forster, the former Mayor, as the Liberal Democrat prospective candidate to be MP.

He is the first prospective parliamentary candidate to be announced for Woking with the possibility of an early election being called.

Former mayor of Woking Cllr Will Forster has been selected as the Lib Dem candidate for MP

Mr Forster told the News & Mail that he was hopeful that the Green Party would stand aside to maximise the anti-Brexit vote and said that discussions about election tactics and pacts were taking place between parties at national level.

Mr Forster said that the Lib Dems were the “clear alternative to the Conservatives” saying the party won the European elections in Woking earlier this year.

Mr Forster was Mayor of Woking until mid-May this year and is a longstanding borough and county councillor, representing Hoe Valley and Woking South respectively. 

He said: “It is a huge honour to have been chosen as the Lib Dems’ candidate to be Woking’s MP.  I want to be Woking’s strong and local voice in parliament that people can trust. 

“The plans for Brexit, especially a no-deal Brexit, will be disastrous for Woking and for the country and I intend to do my utmost to stop them. I know so many people, including lifelong Conservatives, who are unhappy with Woking’s current MP for backing a Hard Brexit agenda, despite the majority of Woking voting to Remain.”

Jonathan Lord secured the Woking seat two years ago with 29,903 votes, a 16,724 majority over Labour’s Fiona Colley with Mr Forster third for the Lib Dems. The Greens polled 1,092 votes.

Mr Lord told the News & Mail that he intends to stand as the Conservative candidate at the next election, whenever that will be.

See the full story in the 5 September edition of the News & Mail

DAVID Bittleston has survived as leader of Woking Borough Council despite losing a motion of no confidence amid an angry exchange of words between the ruling Conservatives and opposition groups.

The council has been politically unsettled since the local elections in May when it officially went into No Overall Control, with no single group enjoying a majority of councillors. However, the Conservatives retain  all seats on the executive as they are the biggest group, with 14 councillors, while the Liberal Democrats have 10 and the Labour Party and  Independents three each.

Council leader David Bittleston

Since the local elections, the opposition groups have been agitating to remove Cllr Bittleston but have  failed to find a way of achieving this.

The Lib Dems were hoping that a Conservative councillor would be willing to replace the leader and a motion of no confidence was scheduled for last Wednesday.

However, it appears that the suggested alternative leader was not prepared to stand and the Lib Dems abstained from voting in the motion, as did all the Conservative councillors.

The motion was passed by six votes to nil and Cllr Bittleston offered to resign if opposition groups proposed an alternative leader by noon on Monday this week. No such proposal was made, leading the Conservatives to accuse the “political alliance” of getting cold feet.

Cllr Bittleston said: “To no-one’s surprise, when they realised that actual work and responsibility for taking often difficult decisions was involved, none of them wanted to  take over from us.  “I hope now that we can continue to run the business of the council for the rest of the year without these continual whispers of motions of no confidence. The political alliance really has had the chance to step up and has shown on three occasions its unwillingness to do so.”

Lib-Dem leader Anne-Marie Baker

Ann-Marie Barker, the Lib Dem leader, countered by saying that not  a single Conservatives supported their own leader during the no confidence vote.

“The vote was never about changing the party that runs the council. It was only about changing the leader. Cllr Bittleston deliberately misinterpreted the no confidence motion and still has the arrogance to stay despite  not even his own group supporting  him.”

Cllr Barker said she was looking to work closely with the other opposition groups and there was a possibility of replacing the executive with a committee system in which the  leader would have less power than at  present.

Labour and the Independents both  criticised council officials with Labour leader Mohammed Ali saying a short council statement on the matter was biased, while Independents’ leader John Bond accused council chief executive Ray Morgan of exaggerating the impact removing the council’s leader would have.

For the full story get the 1 August edition of the News & Mail

A LEADING Conservative Woking borough councillor has joined the Liberal Democrats, less than a month before crucial local elections.

Graham Chrystie, who has represented Pyrford for eight years, accused David Bittleston, the council leader, of curtailing debate within the Conservative group and proceeding with projects which lacked transparency.

Cllr Graham Chrystie has accused the Conservative party in Woking of failing in transparency and openness

“The Conservative Party in Woking is failing on openness, proper consultation and financial disclosure,” said Cllr Chrystie. 

He added he was surprised that the Conservative administration seemed to be proud that Woking has borrowed more money than almost any other local authority in England. 

“I cannot in conscience remain a member of the Conservative Group,” Cllr Chrystie said.  “I now feel I can work more effectively for my ward residents and deliver what local people want, within the Liberal Democrat group, where I can operate within an established, harmonious and effective team.

“Residents have not been properly consulted on key decisions such as plans for a pub/restaurant on West Byfleet Recreation Ground, a site held by the borough only as a trustee for local residents.”

He will cross the floor for the final council meeting of the year this evening, effectively leaving the council under no overall control of any single group. The Conservatives will have 15 councillors, the Liberal Democrats nine and Labour and Independents three each.

For the full story get today’s (4 April) edition of the News & Mail