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Residents’ Rebellion Against All-Tory Ash Parish Council Rumbles On

Published on: 23 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 24 Oct, 2020

Cllrs Helen and Tony Gorham

By David Reading

An official complaint against two members of Ash Parish Council has been dismissed by Guildford Borough Council.

In September, Cllrs Tony and Helen Gorham moved 60 miles away to the Marlborough area, rejecting suggestions they should stand down.

Resident Peter Corns made his official complaint because he believed they would not be able to represent their constituents effectively at that distance. He said the situation had caused a great deal of anger among residents.

But the borough’s legal department decided they had not breached the parish council’s code of conduct.

At the time the couple moved, Mr Gorham said they were confident they could continue to be able to represent the people of the parish.

He said they would be frequent visitors to Ash Vale and, in any case, over the past year much of the council work had been online so distance was no obstacle to their obligations.

Cllr Nigel Manning – chairman of Ash Parish Council

Cllr Nigel Manning, chairman of the 12-member, all-Tory parish council, also said moving away did not mean a councillor had to resign.

Mr Corns has now been told candidates seeking election to parish councils are required to meet certain conditions on the day of the election under the Local Government Act 1972.

But councillors who later decide to move are entitled to do so and can legally remain as councillors for their remaining term of office.

Now Mr Corns intends to press his complaint further. “That anyone could think it appropriate for councillors to act in this way is incomprehensible,” he said.

“No doubt, when their code of practice was drafted it was done in the belief councillors not only needed to reside in the parish to be elected but also they would maintain that status.

“It is even more disappointing the rest of the parish council feel this to be an acceptable situation. Complacency will reap its own reward when election time comes.”

Another resident, Carla Morson, herself a critic of Ash Parish Council, said of the Gorhams’ decision: “It may be within the parameters of what is allowable within the code of conduct, but it cannot be considered morally or ethically acceptable.”

Some residents believe the reluctance of Mr and Mrs Gorham to resign may reflect the desire of Cllr Manning to maintain the Tory grip on the council.

Mr Corns has written to the parish council asking for guidance on the correct course of action needed to amend their code of conduct and how he could achieve this.

As of today (October 23), Cllr Tony Gorham’s profile on the Ash Parish Council website reads: “We are part of the Ash and Ash Vale community, involved in the village and its people, a diverse population enriching our lives.”

Cllr Helen Gorham’s profile reads: “I have lived in Ash Vale since 1989 and still enjoy living in the village.”

The Dragon has asked the parish council whether Mr and Mrs Gorham’s declarations on the council website are up to date. Under “Disposable Pecuniary Interests”, both declare their interest in their former home in Oaklea, Ash Vale.

At one stage, an estate agent’s “Sold” sign was seen outside, but the council has so far failed to clarify the situation.

This skirmish is part of a rumbling residents’ rebellion against Ash Parish Council. Last month, there was an outcry when council members co-opted Bill Cole, a fellow party supporter, into their ranks to fill the vacancy left by Cllr Paul Spooner.

They rejected popular candidate Carla Morson, a Lib Dem supporter who pledged to sit as an Independent. Critics believed the Tory selection had been settled at a private meeting a week earlier.

They also complained there had been insufficient publicity about the vacancy, allowing little chance to gather the 10 nominations from residents to ensure an election.

Shortly after, Cllr Graham Eyre resigned and residents joined forces to make an election certain, in May next year.

Three further complaints, in addition to the one from Mr Corns, are being considered by the borough council.

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test 3 Responses to Residents’ Rebellion Against All-Tory Ash Parish Council Rumbles On

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    October 23, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    It was suggested by some that I stand for Ash at the last elections. I dismissed the idea because I had no knowledge of their daily ‘problems’ and day-to-day events. I live the other side of Guildford Borough.

    If I was a parish (or borough) councillor for any parish or ward. Morally, I would feel obliged to either live or work in that parish and be there most days – because Parish councillors are ‘expected to be ‘on the spot’. Why anyone would want to be a parish councillor for a parish 60 mile away is extremely hard to understand.

    Whatever the reason it isn’t for the benefit of the parish.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 24, 2020 at 6:40 am

    I do not believe that GBC has ever upheld or even properly investigated a complaint of breach of the code of conduct against councillors.

    After all, it found no case to answer over the complaints about Monica Juneja, later convicted at the old Bailey.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    October 24, 2020 at 11:05 am

    There’s an episode of Yes, Prime Minister on the question of civil service investigations.

    The civil servant under the spotlight is Sir Humphrey himself. He is accused of not conducting a proper investigation – from some decades earlier in his career.

    The episode is: “Yes Prime Minister: One of Us”

    Sir HA: “I had to conduct the enquiry myself, virtually.”

    PM: “You didn’t find evidence of anything incriminating?”

    Sir HA: “Of course not. In the first place, John Halstead was one of us…and in the third place the whole object of internal security enquiries is to find no evidence…”

    Is this art imitating life or a thinly disguised documentary on the way our civil servants behave in practice?

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