Fringe Box



Absent Parish Councillor Resigns Hours Before Disqualification Meeting

Published on: 29 Nov, 2022
Updated on: 30 Nov, 2022

Helen Gorham

By Martin Giles

One of two physically absent parish councillors has resigned hours before a meeting was due to be held to decide if she should be disqualified. The meeting has now been cancelled.

Helen Gorham, together with her husband Tony, has been at the centre of a row between angry Ash residents and the Conservative-dominated parish council for the last 12 months. The couple moved to Wiltshire in 2020 but remained parish councillors.

The meeting planned for this evening was due to consider Mrs Gorham’s apparent lack of any kind of attendance in the last six months, the maximum allowed before disqualification. At the last full council meeting council chairman Nigel Manning attracted derisive laughter from the public gallery when he said he believed the meeting minutes were wrong and she had attended a meeting within the six-month period.

See also: Comment – Why the Derisive Laughter Over a Council’s Behaviour Is Understandable

Ash Parish Council without Cllr Helen Gorham, as shown on the council website today (November 29).

Some residents have claimed the decision for them to remain in post was taken to avoid by-elections. If so, it has been successful as there is now less than the minimum six-month period until the next parish council election.

Both Helen and her husband Tony have only attended online meetings since the end of the emergency lock down provisions in May 2021, which allowed all council meetings to be virtual.

It appeared both should have been disqualified last November but the parish council chairman said he had been advised, in an unrecorded and unconfirmed phone call with the National Association of Local Councils, that their virtual attendance was permissible. No other parish council in the borough permits it.

Both the monitoring officer at Guildford Borough Council and the chair of the Surrey Association of Local Councils wrote that the couple appeared to be disqualified but the council sought further legal opinion, which surprised many by saying the couple’s virtual attendance was acceptable. The national implications of this advice are still unknown.

The terse statement published today on Ash Parish Council’s website

The Dragon has been informed that parish councils are self-governing so no one can direct them to take any particular action but if complaints are received they are considered within the borough council’s complaint process.

Cllr Nigel Manning refuses to communicate with The Guildford Dragon NEWS. Tony and Helen Gorham have failed to respond to all our email requests, to date, to comment.

See also: The Continuing Saga of the Absentee Parish Councillors: Chairman Calls a Special Meeting




Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *