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Dragon Interview: Carla Morson, Community Support Organiser in Ash

Published on: 28 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 30 Jul, 2020

Carla Morson

Carla Morson has become a well-known figure in Ash Vale, having founded in March the Coronavirus Support Group to help people hit hard by the pandemic. Now she is hoping to extend her community role and become co-opted on to Ash Parish Council following the resignation of Cllr Paul Spooner. It will be her first entry into local politics.

Here, in an interview with The Guildford Dragon’s Ash reporter David Reading, she talks about her community work and her hopes for the Ash and Ash Vale area should she become successfully co-opted.

Carla moved to Ash Vale when her father completed his Army service in 1976 and lives with her partner Paul and her elderly mother. Since taking voluntary redundancy from the MoD in 2011, she has been occupied with looking after her nieces’ children while their parents are at work and with helping her mother. She has been a voluntary generalist adviser with Ash Citizens Advice since 2014. Recently during Volunteers Week, Carla received a special thank-you from Surrey Heath MP Michael Gove for her work in support of the community.

How did the Coronavirus Support Group come about?

With the advent of Covid-19 and a probable lockdown becoming more and more likely I decided that our community would need help throughout the pandemic. At the time I had seen nothing about any help and support specifically aimed at our area so took matters into my own hands. I will admit to being a bit naïve at the start but so many of our community offered help and this enabled us to provide a much-appreciated service to anyone needing support.

Can you describe the work the group has been doing?

The group has approximately 1,500 members and of those around 270 volunteered to help others. In the time we have been running we have delivered around 1,200 prescriptions, made at least 300 shopping trips and ensured people got to their medical appointments. In addition, our volunteers have helped to combat the loneliness felt through lockdown, making regular phone calls ensuring people living on their own had someone they could talk to.

There have been low points as some of the people we’ve supported were receiving end-of-life care and when they passed away we all felt sadness. We have, however, also had high points. Early one morning we took a young lady to the hospital to have her baby. Just a few hours after giving birth she sent us pictures of her beautiful baby girl. This we all celebrated.

What problems did you find out there in the community?

Lockdown has had a profound effect on everybody but more so for those with health problems, both mental and physical. The fact that our volunteers live locally to those they have supported has enabled them to gain people’s trust and this support has been much appreciated.

We have helped people in very real need by providing food when they literally had nothing to eat in the house and were unable to feed their children. And we have also helped those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and cannot afford to buy food as any benefits to which they may be entitled have not yet been received. In order to be able to help people in financial difficulties, we have been able to provide around 400 food parcels since April.

Quite apart from the pandemic, what do you see as the chief problems faced by the Ash and Ash Vale area and how might these be addressed?

In the last 20 years, Ash and Tongham parishes have seen a large number of new homes built. This has been a particular problem over the last five years as the rate of house building in Ash, Ash Green and Tongham required infrastructure support and this needs addressing urgently with Guildford Borough Council. The increase in our population has a knock-on effect on our local area, not simply relating to higher traffic levels, resulting in increased pollution, but in regard to school places and GP availability.

We also have Ash Vale Station which has no step-free access and with regard to Ash Station, there is no footbridge making crossing dangerous. We also lost our Sure Start Centre and this affects a variety of church and other groups as they don’t necessarily have the expertise to be able to deal with the issues raised with them.

And we are now finding that we are excluded from the range floor on Ash Ranges, which means that those with mobility issues can no longer have the benefit of using the ranges for recreation. It is understood that a Bye-Laws Review consultation will be issued in the next few months. However so far there has been no discussion with residents regarding this. On top of all of this, we have an issue relating to antisocial behaviour amongst some of our younger residents. We do however have a Community Street Team (which I will be joining) that is trying to address this.

It has been stated recently, in the light of Paul Spooner’s resignation, that parish councils are not the place for party politics and party squabbles. Do you have anything to say about that?

Parish councils are definitely not the place for party politics and the current in-fighting is doing nothing but harm for our community. It’s taking councillors away from what they should be doing. Currently, Ash has a parish council that is working to their own agenda, not those of us that live within the parish, and this cannot be considered right.

You are a Lib Dem supporter but if you are co-opted, you will be sitting as an independent. Why do you think this is important?

The role of parish councils is to improve the wellbeing of the people within their communities and provide them with the services required to meet local needs. None of what I’ve just said relates to politics in any way. It really doesn’t matter whether anyone is interested in politics or not. The main requirement of a parish councillor is that they care about their community, want to ensure people have the services they need and most importantly want to bring it together.

Currently and unusually (in the Guildford borough at least) the parish council is made up entirely of councillors who have declared their membership of one political party and the chairman has said the parish council is ‘political’. Do you have a view on that?

My personal view is that Ash does have a “political” council and I believe this to be wrong. Ash parish has changed greatly over the last 20 years yet there has been no recognition by our council of this. Through speaking to people and reading comments on social media. I have noticed there is a general perception that Ash is a much-forgotten part of Guildford borough.

The parish council chairman has also claimed a mandate to select another Conservative councillor. No one contested the nominated Conservative parish council candidates in 2015 so doesn’t he have a point?

No. I believe the reason why we have so few elections for parish councillors is that they are not widely advertised. Ash Parish Council is very much a closed shop and as I saw recently the chairman believes “There is no reason why the elected councillors should not wish someone with the same values to be part of the council” (as reported in The Guildford Dragon).

Of course, I have values and beliefs when it comes to politics, and therefore I happen to be a member of a party which I feel reflects those values, but it’s the values, not the party, that matter at the local level. My values include things like making sure people are listened to and that we look after our community, and I don’t think it’s healthy to pretend that people from different political viewpoints can’t still share those fundamental values.

Why did no one else stand in 2015?

I can only think that advertising of parish elections are not made widely known. Rarely is there any literature about the elections.

Do you have a view on the fact that the same people represent Ash at parish, borough and county level?

I believe it to be extremely unhealthy for Ash parish to be represented at all levels of local government by a single political party because not only does it remove the opportunity for any scrutiny, it also misses out on the possibility of other ideas which may be beneficial for us.

How will you maintain true independence from the Lib Dem party if you remain involved in it as a member?

I strongly believe in openness, transparency and our community. I can sincerely say that I will never put party before Ash parish. As an Independent parish councillor, my views and actions would relate to what is right for our community.

What political ambitions do you have? Do you aspire to be a Lib Dem councillor at a higher level than the parish council?

I am determined to make sure our villages are better represented. I will continue to work with the community and anyone I believe best represents us. If I do stand for something more in the future, it will be because I myself and other people believe that I am the best person to represent Ash parish.

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Responses to Dragon Interview: Carla Morson, Community Support Organiser in Ash

  1. Pat Scott Reply

    July 30, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    Carla Morson has not only been instrumental in starting and keeping going the Corona Support Group she has ensured that all she set up should grow and “morph” into a wonderful community local group.

    She has been a wonderful role model to help Ash, Ash Vale and Ash Green stay as a strong community. Her dedication and energy to help everyone in our parish.

    She inspired me, with help from Bill and Jen Cole plus my husband, to set up the Face Mask Project to make and distribute face masks from donated cotton. All financial donations go to our very own Ash Football Club to buy track-suits for all players and have them emblazoned with thanks to everyone of our residents who supported the project.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    July 31, 2020 at 7:03 am

    It seems that Carla Morson has done more for her parish than the entire parish council. Ash could do a lot worse than to disband the parish council, and install Ms Morson to run things single-handedly. Hopefully, we will also see her stand as a borough councillor at the next opportunity.

    With the infighting that’s been going on, it is clear that the local Tory monopoly on power has been dysfunctional and new blood could only be a good thing.

    Should the Tories reject her candidacy, it would be a travesty.

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