This month, we met with Paul Spooner, Leader of Guildford Borough Council, to learn more about his involvement in the borough.
How long have you lived in the area?
I was born in Guildford and brought up in Guildford, Weybourne and also in Aldershot. My parents were both local from Ripley. As a teenager we moved to Mytchett and I settled in Ash when I married in 1993. I used to work at Vickers PLC, a big multi-national in Old Woking, working in export sales; my job involved travelling the world working in Moscow, Australia and Hamburg. But my roots have always felt firmly in Guildford.
How did you become involved in the council?
Once my travels with work had concluded I became involved in Ash Parish Council. Having served as Vice Chair of the council at parish level, I was then asked to stand for the Borough. This then followed on to becoming elected as a Borough Councillor, and then promoted to Lead Member and elected by my Group and Council as Leader.
What do you most enjoy about being a leader of Guildford Borough Council?
There’s a lot to enjoy about this job. Fundamentally it is the success of seeing positive results for the community. I have always enjoyed the decision-making process, as well as the company of councillors of all parties. Seeing the vast majority focus on improving Guildford before anything else is what’s so important.
In your opinion what makes a good councillor?
A person who has a genuine interest in the community, a local understanding of the Borough, is a good listener and is prepared to give up their time. I think it’s also important that councillors are elected from all types of backgrounds – everyone should feel that they are being represented within their community.
Guildford has been shortlisted for High Street of the year. How are you helping Guildford to cope with the national High Street crisis?
The High Street crisis is a national challenge and the fact we have been able to maintain a very strong retail offer in Guildford is testament to the hard work of a lot of people within the town.
One of the key issues we have focused on when looking at new retail-led schemes is ensuring that we don’t have a negative impact on what is already here. The High Street itself is strong, we have a good mix of larger retailers, as well as a lot of independents.
What about the issue of homelessness in the town?
This is a very complicated issue. Woking and Guildford are the two areas that have the homeless overnight accommodation, so we get homeless individuals coming here for support - I believe that moving forward, Surrey should offer support county-wide.
Is there anything in particular that you’re currently focusing on?
Yes, there are several objectives I am concentrating on. It would be great to implement more affordable, starter homes in Guildford. I’d also like to make travel across the borough easier, with a ‘Go Green’ initiative in mind. I want to focus on improving infrastructure and town centre regeneration projects and focus on supporting the vulnerable.
Why is your Twitter feed @PaulKGB?
I’ve kept the same Twitter handle through various social media iterations over the past 25 years. P4KGB my car registration is simply a joke! It runs through from the 1990s when I was living in Russia; I had a Saab and paid to have P4KGB on the number plate, knowing I was picking up Russian guests from the airport and it would be a talking point. It certainly worked! My social media ‘handles’ follow the same warped sense of humour.
How would you advise local Guildford residents to get involved with their local council?
If you want to get involved, the best place to start is to visit the customer service centre at Millmead. Whatever your political persuasion, I want to encourage people to get more involved in politics as a means of engaging with the community.
To contact Paul, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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