SURREY County Council has given in to political pressure and accepted opposition councillors Andy MacLeod and Stephen Spence on to the Farnham Project Board – the group charged with finding a solution to the town’s chronic traffic and pollution woes.
Farnham Residents’ members for Farnham North, Cllr Spence, and Farnham Central, Cllr MacLeod, had been left off the guest list for the newly-formed board’s inaugural meeting on Friday (May 22).
Cllr MacLeod’s omission was particularly noteworthy given he is the ward councillor for the town centre.
And making their absences all the more noticeable was the fact Wyatt Ramsdale, the Tory councillor for Farnham South, had been included.
A fierce debate over the group’s make-up has subsequently been brewing at the town council since March, leading to accusations by councillors and members of the public the Conservatives were seeking to take control of the project despite holding only one of Farnham’s three county council seats.
However, after Mr MacLeod submitted a question to an informal meeting of the county council on Tuesday querying the make-up of the group, Surrey leader Tim Oliver conceded and gave both councillors a seat at the table.
In his question to council, Cllr Macleod praised the setting up of the board, as a continuation of the cross-party group initiated by MP Jeremy Hunt in 2017.
However, he described as a “democratic deficit” the fact neither he nor Cllr Spence had even been consulted on the new project .
Responding, council leader Mr Oliver highlighted the need for “consensus” and the “importance of listening to as many views as possible”, concluding: “With Andy MacLeod and Stephen Spence joining the board, I believe that will assist in that wider engagement with the residents of Farnham.”
See this week’s Herald, on sale Thursday, May 28, for a full report and analysis of the Farnham Project Board’s first meeting.