Fringe Box



By-election Required to Fill Vacancy at Ash Parish Council 

Published on: 16 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 17 Dec, 2021

By David Reading

A by-election is to be held for a vacant parish council seat in Ash.

Elaine Bradbrook, Electoral Services Manager at Guildford Borough Council, confirmed this week: “We have received a call for an election from ten registered electors within the Ash Wharf Ward, and have informed the parish council.”

Under the rules, where at least ten voters request an election an alternative option for a council to co-opt a candidate of their choice is disallowed. In September 2020 some residents were angry when Ash Parish Council, exclusively Conservative at the time, co-opted another Conservative in preference to an Independent.

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

Voters living in the Ash Wharf ward will now go to the polls in 2022 if more than one nomination is put forward. If only one nomination is received that person will be elected uncontested.

Ms Bradbrook said: “A Notice of Election will be posted after the Christmas holidays and if we receive more than one valid nomination then an election will be held on the date stated on the notice.”

The vacancy arose in November when Cllr Ed Schofield resigned because of work commitments.

See: Ash Parish Councillor Resigns Because of Work Time Pressure

The council remains dominated by Conservatives, all but one, Bill Cole, elected without contest in May 2019. There is only one non-Tory member on the council. Cllr Carla Morson, a Lib Dem supporter, was elected as an Independent in May 2020 following the resignation of Conservative Graham Eyre.

Ash Parish Council, December 2021 Source APC website

The date of the by-election has not yet been given but will be included in the Notice of Election. The notice will also invite nominations.

In a similar by-election in July this year (2021) for Shere North ward, part of Shere Parish, there was a period of five weeks between publication of the notice and the election.

Ash Parish Council faced controversy recently when The Guildford Dragon again highlighted the fact that two councillors who now live 60 miles away, Cllr Helen and Cllr Tony Gorham, had not attended one council meeting in person for six months – May to October 2021.

See: Who Can Say If Parish Absentees Are Still Qualified Councillors?

Ash Parish Council’s last meeting, which had been scheduled for December 13, was cancelled at short notice because of the assessed risk of Covid infection.

A statement from the parish clerk, posted on the APC website, read: “Councillors and members of the public are informed that due to the rapid rise in Covid 19 cases and following a risk assessment, the parish council meeting on Monday 13 December 2021 has been cancelled.

“It is disappointing to take this decision, but the health of our residents, staff and councillors is paramount.

“We would not wish anyone to become ill or have to isolate over the Christmas or New Year period, as this would be devastating for many who wish to see family and friends over this time.”

By law, parish and town councils are only required to hold four meetings each year. But certain decisions cannot be taken outside such meetings, so it is expected that outstanding agenda items will be added to the agenda of the next meeting when scheduled.

Irrespective of whether the rules have been broken or not, many councils across the country believe virtual meetings are essential during the current pandemic.

See: Council Leaders Ask for Permission to Hold Virtual Meetings to be Reinstated

The issue of council regulations falls under the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, headed by Michael Gove, whose constituency includes Ash.

In the face of the current Omicron threat, some expect that another emergency Act might be put through Parliament to allow, temporarily, such meetings once again.

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