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Ash Parish Council Chairman Criticises Fellow Councillor Over By-election

Published on: 29 Jan, 2022
Updated on: 2 Feb, 2022

Cllr Nigel Manning, chairman of Ash Parish Council

By David Reading

The election of independent candidate Cllr Pat Scott onto Ash Parish Council has triggered a negative reaction from the council’s Conservative chairman, Cllr Nigel Manning. 

He made his comments in a report written by fellow Conservative parish councillor John Tonks in the Ash Parish News – the council’s online mouthpiece.

See also: Ash Parish News is Not a ‘Mouthpiece’ for Ash Parish Council

The election for a seat in the Ash Wharf Ward – made necessary by the resignation by Cllr Ed Schofield – was uncontested. And so Cllr Scott was elected automatically.

In the Ash Parish News article Cllr Manning is asked why no candidate had been put forward from the dominant Conservative Party and he replied: “Prior to the election being called I made it known that the Conservatives would not be standing a candidate for this by-election. Instead, a co-option would be the most economic way to replace the APC member of Ash Wharf ahead of the scheduled elections in 2023.”

The co-option process would have allowed Ash PC to select a member of its choosing by means of a vote among its members but this is only allowed if less than ten members of the relevant electorate, in this case from Ash Wharf ward, do not request a by-election. Which they did.

Describing the background to the latest by-election, Cllr Manning said he contacted fellow parish councillor Carla Morson, who is a Lib Dem supporter sitting on the council as an independent, and proposed that she may be able to suggest a candidate, which the Conservatives would not contest.

Cllr Manning added: “At a time of tighter budgets, I am disappointed that a by-election was triggered by Cllr Morson and Cllr Pat Scott among others, instead of co-option, and that now APC must pay Guildford Borough Council election costs which could have been avoided.”

Ash Parish News said: “Whilst Ash Parish Council will not need to fund the full cost of a contested by-election, there are associated fees in the event of an uncontested election which are understood to be in the region of £1,000.”

Cllr Carla Morson

Cllr Morson said she was extremely disappointed by the chairman’s comments and was firmly against the idea of the council choosing its own members.

She said: “Cllr Manning is quite correct in that he and I discussed the possibility of co-option to fill the vacancy. I took the matter away to consider. However having seen the views of the community and spoken with as many as I could, it confirmed my feeling that there should be a by-election. I advised Cllr Manning of this during a second discussion. He was also aware of the views of the community.

“I am extremely disappointed that he has felt it appropriate to labour on the cost of a by-election rather than the fact that it is the democratic right of our electorate to have their say and it was known that this was the option they preferred.

“Co-option would have meant that only existing parish councillors would have been able to vote on who would represent Ash Wharf on the council and in principle I am against this method of selection. As councillors we are the representatives of the community we serve and they, should they so choose, be able to have a say in who it will be.”

She added: “Any costs associated in allowing the community to choose their preferred representative cannot in my view be considered a waste of money, in fact quite the opposite.

Cllr Pat Scott

Cllr Scott, who formerly served as borough and parish councillor as a Conservative, also said she was extremely disappointed at the chairman’s response to her election success.

She said: “I am delighted to be back on Ash Parish Council, and am somewhat embarrassed by the sheer number of congratulations and support I have received from our local community.  However, I admit to being somewhat disappointed with the response from Cllr Manning, especially as I worked hard as a previous Ash parish councillor for 16 years, and have continued to work with him on the Ash Parish Events Working Group.”

The co-option process proved controversial in 2020 when Ash PC voted fellow Conservative Bill Cole into its ranks in preference to independent Ms Morson. There were complaints that a by-election had not been requested by any voters because the councillor vacancy had not been adequately advertised.

Members of the public who attended the online co-option meeting were convinced the selection of Cllr Cole had been determined by councillors in advance.

One person who attended told The Dragon: “The whole way the meeting was run indicated that it was a done deal before the meeting. I don’t believe Carla had a chance.  In my view, she was by far the better candidate. The whole thing was pre-determined.”

Cllr Paul Spooner

Cllr Paul Spooner, whose resignation from the parish council, following his falling out with Cllr Manning, had created the vacancy, attended the selection meeting as a borough councillor for Ash South and Tongham. He said at the time: “I was not surprised at the result (of the vote) as I understand that the parish councillors had met a week before to discuss the merits of both candidates from a political perspective.”

Months later, Cllr Morson was elected onto the council to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Paul Spooner ally Cllr Graham Eyre.

The latest controversy involving Cllr Scott’s election drew a retort from a member of the public, Carl Cookson, in the Ash Parish News comments section. He questioned why the publication did not seek a balanced view by contacting Cllr Morson for her response.

Speaking to The Dragon, Mr Cookson was critical of the Ash Parish News website.

He said: “In the ‘About’ section it is stated: ‘This website has been set up and run by Ash Parish councillors in an effort to spread fact-checked, reliable information and news regarding Ash Parish. It is in response to growing amounts of misinformation being spread on local social media groups.’ ‘

“Unfortunately it appears to me to be a mouthpiece for the Conservative councillors in Ash Parish only, and only seems to carry stories that are supportive of the Conservative agenda. Whilst I am sure there is a need for a Conservative site for those that are inclined within the parish, it should be labelled as such.”

The Dragon was unable to obtain Cllr Manning’s reaction because he refuses to talk to us.  The author of the Ash Parish News article, Cllr John Tonks, has been invited to comment.

See also:

Independent Candidate Elected Unopposed for Ash Parish Council

Residents Rebel Against Total Tory Control of Ash Parish Council

Ash Residents Angry After Tory Parish Council Co-Opts Political Ally

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Responses to Ash Parish Council Chairman Criticises Fellow Councillor Over By-election

  1. David Roberts Reply

    January 30, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    So the story seems to be that Cllr Manning is sore at being unable to control this appointment behind closed doors.

    He and his pals have had a baleful effect on Ash and Guildford politics for many years and it is high time they retired. It is a mystery to me what kind of weird personal kick they get by hanging on and playing toy-town politics.

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