The Surrey Heath Borough Council Leader has announced she will be resigning from her role after 21 years.
Councillor Moira Gibson, Ward Councillor for Windlesham for 28 years and the second longest-serving Borough and District Council Leader in Surrey, announced at an Extraordinary meeting of the Council on Wednesday 30 January that she is stepping down as Leader of the Council on 26 February 2019 and will not be standing in the local elections in May of this year. “It’s time for something new for Surrey Heath, and for me personally,” said Councillor Gibson.
Councillor Gibson has fulfilled a number of roles on behalf of Surrey Heath during her time as Leader, most notably as Chair of the Regional Planning Committee, (later the South East Planning Committee) where she was responsible for a programme of work regarding housing allocation for the South East of England, including the provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites.
As Local Enterprise Partnerships were introduced across the country Councillor Gibson served for 6 years on the Board of the Enterprise M3 LEP. She was instrumental in developing stronger relationships with the business community to improve economic development, not only in the Borough but across the entire EM3 region. Surrey Heath Borough Council (SHBC) has secured funding from EM3 for a number of projects helping to improve the local environment, roads and transport links.
The regeneration of Camberley Town Centre has been a major priority for the Council during Councillor Gibson’s leadership. “After years of work on the project it was hugely exciting to see the demolition of the old car park before seeing The Atrium rise out of the ground,” said Councillor Gibson.
“The Atrium provided much needed new housing, as well as new retail and leisure spaces for residents and visitors to enjoy.”
SHBC went on to purchase and refurbish The Square Shopping Centre in Camberley, unlocking other town centre sites for development, most notably the London Road Development site facing the A30. “The Council has achieved a huge amount during my time as Leader and I am proud to have played my part,” added Councillor Gibson. “Local government funding has dramatically changed and we are faced with challenging times ahead. I am delighted to have been able to drive forward an investment strategy for Surrey Heath that has meant we have not had to cut any services to our residents.”
Forging stronger working relationships with neighbouring Boroughs, Districts and Counties has been a trademark of Councillor Gibson’s leadership. As Chair of the Surrey Heath Partnership, Councillor Gibson helped ensure that residents benefit, with different sections of the public sector working together for the community.
In recent years, Surrey Heath House, where SHBC is based, has become home to Surrey Heath Police, Surrey Heath NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, parts of Surrey County Council and Camberley Job Centre Plus. SHBC was one of the first authorities to make this innovative move, bringing a number of services under one roof for cost efficiency and ease of access for residents.
Councillor Gibson said: “My proudest achievements as Leader haven’t been the big projects but the things I have been able to achieve for others. Ensuring that the parents of a young disabled boy could get the facilities their son needed, for example, changed not only the life of their family but gave a young child a life he may not otherwise have had.”
She added: “I will be stepping down as Leader with the Council in the very safe hands of our Chief Executive Karen Whelan. I have always been able to count on Karen's wise counsel since she became Chief Executive in 2010 and she has been instrumental in helping the Council drive forward our ambitious plans for the Town Centre. Together we have worked tirelessly to put Camberley and Surrey Heath very firmly on the map. I would also like to pay tribute to Barry Catchpole who, as the then Chief Executive, helped guide me as Leader in my early days.
“We have achieved a huge amount for Surrey Heath, but with challenging times ahead for Surrey there’s more to do. I wish the new Leader and new Councillors coming in in May all the very best in the future for retaining Surrey Heath’s special character.”
Current Deputy Leader, Councillor Richard Brooks (Town Ward Councillor and Portfolio Holder for Assets) is set to be elected as the new Leader at the Full Council meeting on 27 February 2019.