Waverley's Tory leader calls it quits in wake of poll

By Daniel Gee   |   Head of Content   |
Saturday 15th May 2021 9:15 am
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MP Jeremy Hunt, Julia Potts and Waverley chief exec Tom Horwood ()

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JULIA Potts has resigned as leader of the Waverley Conservative Group after five years – and just days after the Tories took just two of the nine Waverley divisions up for grabs at last week’s Surrey County Council elections.

Announcing her decision at a meeting of Waverley Conservative Group on Monday, Councillor Potts said: “I have been privileged to hold a number of cabinet and leadership roles in the last Conservative administration at Waverley and for the past two years have served as leader of the principal opposition.

“As we emerge from the Covid pandemic, and as our lives begin to stabilise to a new normal, I felt the time was right to hand over the leadership of the Waverley Conservative Group. The group will now select a new leader.

“I look forward to working with that new leader as we continue to take the Conservative Party forward and prepare for the 2023 Waverley elections.

“This will enable me to focus on my business and my role as a ward councillor for the villages of Frensham, Tilford, Dockenfield & Churt.

“I would like to thank all those I have worked with in my various political roles during the past ten years, fellow councillors cross party, Waverley officers and, of course, South West Surrey & Guildford Conservative Associations and our respective Members of Parliament for their support.”

South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt said: “Sad to hear Cllr Julia Potts is standing down as Waverley Conservative leader.

“She was an outstanding council leader who resolved numerous vital issues for the future of the borough and worked in a non-partisan way for all of us.

“Thank you for your great and dedicated service, Julia!”

First elected as a councillor in 2011, Miss Potts quickly rose through the ranks to become deputy leader, then leader of Waverley Borough Council from 2016 until the Tories lost their majority at the 2019 borough elections.

It was during her three-year stint as leader that Waverley:

? Saw off a High Court legal challenge against Farnham’s Brightwells scheme, and finally commenced work on the development.

? Completed a £3.2 million refurbishment of Farnham Memorial Hall to accommodate the Brightwells Gostrey Centre’s move from East Street.

? Adopted Part One of the borough’s Local Plan, giving Waverley its first up-to-date planning blueprint since 2002, and later defended the document against a judicial review.

? Supported the initial Farnham ‘masterplan’ that later blossomed into the current £139 million Farnham Infrastructure Programme.

However, her administration also courted controversy when disgraced air quality officer Ann-Marie Wade blamed “political pressure” for her deliberate fudging of pollution figures in Farnham – a claim strongly denied by Miss Potts.

And she clung on to her council role in 2019 only after trading her seat in Upper Hale for the safer ward of Frensham, Dockenfield and Tilford, as Waverley’s Tory group was cut from 53 to just 23 members.

Speaking to the Herald after the 2019 elections, Miss Potts said the time had come for the Conservatives “to carefully listen to our residents and re-connect”, and refused to blame just national politics for the Tories’ poor showing.

She is self-employed, running a sales and training consultancy business.

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