Fringe Box



Independent Members Will Outnumber the Tories on Ash Parish Council

Published on: 13 Apr, 2023
Updated on: 15 Apr, 2023

By David Reading

Ash Parish Council will have six Independent councillors after the elections next month – outnumbering the Conservatives 6-3.

Only nine people put themselves forward to contest the 12 places, so voting will not be necessary. A further three members may be co-opted when the new council meets.

In recent years, the council has been dominated by the Conservatives under the strong chairmanship of Cllr Nigel Manning, but that will all change from May.

Cllr Manning and two other Conservatives currently on the council – Cllr Marsha Moseley and Cllr John Tonks – will remain. The other six Conservatives have stepped down.

Jo Randall

The Dragon asked five of them why they had reached their decision not to stand but only one, Cllr Jo Randall, replied. The sixth Conservative member, Cllr Tony Gorham, is ineligible because he now lives 60 miles away, in Wiltshire.

Cllr Randall said: “I decided a while ago that I would be retiring from local politics at the end of this current term. In all, I will have been an Ash parish councillor for a total of 16 years – eight years representing Ash South and for the last eight representing Ash Wharf.”

Carla Morson

At present the council has three Independents. Of those, Cllr Carla Morson and Cllr Richard Lucas will remain, while Cllr Pat Scott is retiring.

Joining the council will be Independents Fiona White (who at present sits as a Lib Dem on both Surrey County and Guildford Borough Council), Carl Cookson, Philip Bellamy and Paul Golding.

Cllr White said she was standing because she believed the present council had not been open and transparent in the way some of its business was handled. She was particularly shocked at the way the council failed to remove two members who moved to Wiltshire in 2020 and did not attend a single meeting in person since then.

Fiona White

She was referring to Helen and Tony Gorham, who – supported by the chairman – chose to remain on the council even after their departure from the area. They continued to attend meetings online, but not in person, even though two legal sources advised that this was not permitted. Helen Gorham only decided to step down after many months – on November 29, 2022.

Mr Cookson has strongly challenged the current parish council on numerous occasions, notably over the vexed issue of Tony and Helen Gorham. On several occasions he attended parish council meetings to ask searching questions about their continued presence on the council.

Carl Cookson

Asked why he had decided to stand, Mr Cookson said: “I want to help raise topics which are concerning Ash residents and do my bit to ensure their voices are heard. There has been a lack of ownership and transparency on the council over the last four years, with some decisions which were a waste of parishioners’ money.

“There have also been decisions which felt political rather than in the best interests of the parish. By standing, I believe I will have a stronger voice to debate and change these decisions in the future with parishioners in mind first and foremost.”

Mr Cookson said party politics should not be relevant at parish council level – a view echoed by Fiona White and by retiring Independent councillor Pat Scott.

Pat Scott

Cllr Scott said: “I have always believed parish councils should not consist of any party politics, hence my standing in early 2022 as an Independent. And I note that six out of the nine candidates are standing as I did – in an Independent capacity.”

Asked why she was retiring, Cllr Scott said: “As I am approaching 76 years of age, I felt someone younger could take my place.  I have only ever wanted to help residents and although sometimes this has not been easy, especially when working with others, this has not distracted me and I have always done my best representing residents.”

Long-time Ash Vale resident Richard Lucas remains on the council having been co-opted in January this year following the resignation of Helen Gorham.

Richard Lucas

Asked about his ambitions for the parish, he said: “I want to play a part in building a brighter future.

“I am concerned about things that help to bind Ash Vale together as a community, and I am keen on to promote and support activities and facilities that bring together people such as Scouts, the Community Youth Club and activities for our older people.

“I want to help our community thrive, and become a fairer and greener place for us all.”

Expressing similar sentiments, Cllr Morson said: “I am determined to improve services for the young, older people and the vulnerable.

“I want to see improved infrastructure to address the large amount of development taking place, better GP access, improved public transport and safer roads. It is for all these reasons that I am standing.”

Another fierce critic of Ash Parish Council is Independent Paul Golding, a 44-year-old father of four who has lived locally since 1987.

He has closely followed the issues faced by local people such as housing developments, roads and crime, and has also experienced problems himself.

“There has been damage to our fields, fences and slingshots used to shoot our horses. I tried reaching out a number of times to the parish council and the police but no one was all that interested in helping, apart from Cllr Morson.

“I care deeply about my area and fellow residents and believe enough is enough. They need someone who will stand up and help to fight for what is right. Ash Parish Council seems to be operating in a stale, stagnant manner. Change and modernisation have not been adopted.”

Cllr Manning was invited to comment on how he saw the future of the parish council, but no statement was received. He has said previously that he does not wish to communicate with The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

The full line-up:

 Ash South Ward (four places)

Carl George Cookson (Independent)

Paul Golding (Independent)

Ash Vale Ward (four places)

Richard Charles Lucas (Independent)

Nigel Manning (Conservative)

Carla Jane Morson (Independent)

Marsha Jayne Moseley (Conservative)

Ash Wharf Ward (four places)

Philip Edward Bellamy (Independent)

John Kenneth Tonks (Conservative)

Fiona Jean White (Independent)

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Responses to Independent Members Will Outnumber the Tories on Ash Parish Council

  1. Martin Burgess Reply

    April 17, 2023 at 7:35 pm

    Sorry for the late response. I have been away for a few days.

    I have been on the council for eight years. My reasons are straightforward, I have recently moved to Worplesdon.

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