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Guildford Mayoral Referendum

Leader or Directly Elected Mayor?

That is the question we will be asked on October 13.

It is after the Council received a valid petition in April 2016 calling for a referendum on how it is run.

As the date gets closer we will bring you all the information to help you decide which way to vote.

On Thursday 6th October Guildford Borough Council Leader Paul Spooner and Stephen Mansbridge clashed in a live debate on the issue, hosted by Peter Gordon.

Listen again: 



Who can vote?

To be able to vote you must:

  • be 18 or over on 13 October 2016
  • be a British citizen, or a citizen of another EU country, or a qualifying Commonwealth citizen
  • be on the Guildford Borough's electoral register

You must also have registered to vote in time.

How do I register to vote?

You must be registered to vote by Tuesday September 27 to vote in this referendum.

If you are not already registered in the borough, you can register online here.

Or you can email the Electoral Services team electoralservices@guildford.gov.uk or call 01483 444115 to request a voter registration form.

What will I be asked?

A referendum is a vote - but instead of voting for a candidate in an election - you are asked a question.

Your ballot paper will ask how you would like the council to be run.

  • Either by a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors - which is how the council is run now.
  • Or by a mayor who is elected by voters - which would be a change from how the council is run now.

The wording on the ballot paper is set by Government regulations.

Photo of a man voting

How can I vote?

In person: 

You will head to a polling station on Thursday October 13 any time between 7am and 10pm.

Your polling card will come in the post before this date and tells you where your polling station is.

By post: 

Postal ballot papers must be received by 10pm on October 13.

You should receive your postal ballot paper about a week to ten days before polling day.

If you are not already registered to vote by post you will need to fill in and return an pdf icon application to vote by post [133kb] and return it by 5pm on September 28.

By proxy: 

This is when someone votes on your behalf at your polling station.

When you apply for a proxy vote you will have to state why you cannot vote in person.

Anyone can be your proxy as long as they are also eligible to vote and are willing to vote on your behalf. You will have to tell them how you want to vote in the referendum.

You will need to fill in and return an pdf icon application to vote by proxy [340kb] and return it by 5pm on October 5.

What happens after polling day? 

No minimum turnout is needed so the votes will be counted and the result will be announced. 

If the majority of voters are in favour of changing to a directly elected mayor (DEM), then we would hold the first mayoral election on May 4, 2017.

The term of office for the first DEM would be two years until 2019, and four years thereafter as the DEM election would then be held at the same time as borough council elections.

If voters prefer to retain the current Leader and Cabinet system, we will continue with that system.

The result is legally binding and cannot be changed for 10 years.

What both sides say

Councillor Paul Spooner

Councillor Paul Spooner

Council Leader Paul Spooner on why he thinks the current system is the better option:

We asked the Elected Mayor Campaign for an interview, but they provided a statement instead:

"We want to see Guildford have a leadership structure that will help change our town for the better.

"A mayor would help open up local politics and give people a real say on big decisions.

"A mayor need not be a 'professional politician', it could just be an ordinary person who is passionate about making a difference in their area.

"It's important to note that having a mayor would cost around the same amount as the current 'Leader of the Council' system, but be a far more effective system of local government that works for everyone.

"We hope that Guildford votes for accountable, transparent and effective leadership on 13th October."

So, what do I need to know?

Things will be done slightly differently dependant on whether the borough council is run by a leader or a directly elected mayor.



  • The council leader is elected by the full council of 48 locally elected councillors - and is one of the 48 councillors.

  • They are elected for a period of up to four years and can be removed from office by a majority vote at full council.

  • They present an annual budget and major policies to the council. These must be approved by a majority and any changes proposed by councillors also require majority approval.

  • They are held to account through full council and at least one overview and scrutiny committee. 

    They also have to stand for election as a local councillor every four years in one of the borough's 22 wards.

  • There is no cost to the council to elect a leader, which is done at a meeting of the full council.

  • The council has a 'hybrid' Leader and cabinet arrangement, with two executive advisory boards. 

    Their main function is to involve backbench councillors in early stage discussions with the leader and the cabinet to advise on the development of policy and major projects.


  • The directly elected mayor is elected by eligible registered voters in the borough. They are not a councillor and would be in addition to the 48 elected councillors.

  • They are elected for four years and cannot be removed from office by councillors.

  • They present an annual budget and major policies to the council.

    These must be approved by a majority, but any changes proposed by councillors would need to have the support of at least two-thirds of them, not just a majority.

  • They are held to account through full Council and at least one overview and scrutiny committee, as well as through a borough-wide mayoral election held every four years.

  • If approved at the referendum, the first mayoral election in May 2017 would cost the council £70,000.

  • A similar arrangement to the 'hybrid' leader and cabinet arrangement could be introduced under a directly elected mayor model should they want it.


Both a council leader and a directly elected mayor appoints a cabinet, which must include at least two and up to nine of the 48 councillors, one of whom they appoint as deputy leader.

They have the responsibility of deciding the size of the cabinet and the responsibilities of each of its members.

Both have the power to make decisions within the budget and policy framework set by the full council.

They can take these decisions or choose to delegate them to the cabinet, a committee of the cabinet, individual cabinet members or council officers.

Voters cannot remove the leader of directly elected mayor from their post during their term of office.

The council appoints a range of committees for functions that, by law, the leader or directly elected mayor cannot perform.

These include planning, licensing, overview and scrutiny, and corporate governance & standards.

You can follow both sides of the debate on Twitter:

Keep up to date with the latest news on the Referendum

The Eagle Radio news team will bring you the latest updates in the lead up to the referendum - and the results after polling day - on our news page.