Walberswick Parish Council needs space to move forward after dispute
PUBLISHED: 08:04 09 February 2015
The parish council chairman of a village near Southwold has said the authority needs to be given "the space to move forward" following a dispute that led to the resignation of its clerk.
A group of villagers in Walberswick have been at loggerheads with the parish council over procedural conduct and correspondence, including requests for information.
The row has led to the resignation of the clerk, Jeremy Solnick.
Esme Richardson, chairman of Walberswick Parish Council, said: “The clerk resigned because of a lot of pressure from a small group of people in the village, who he felt were personally attacking him.”
Mrs Richardson said the resignation brought the number to more than 15 in the past four years.
In the past year, auditors BDO reported on the council’s financial year for 2012/13, saying it did not follow proper procedures when approving salary increases.
In that year, then clerk Jane Gomm had her salary increased by more than £6,500 while she dealt with requests initially regarding a controversial planning application for a small housing development but later about other issues, including the running of the parish.
The report added: “The council also obtained an advance precept which was not necessary and increased the value of assets held, although assets were donated to them at no cost.
“The council has not followed proper practices in assessing and documenting the increase in salary of a member of staff.
“The timesheets maintained did not provide an adequate audit trail to confirm the hours worked were valid.
“The increase in salary costs were more than £6,500 and therefore has an impact on the budget.
“While the underlying timesheets were not clear, it must be noted the council did approve these payments in their meetings.”
In response to the report, Mrs Richardson said: “This parish council accepts the report including the comments made on the annual return.
“We cannot undo the past but we can try to do better in the future.
“I am determined the parish council will conduct itself in a fair and transparent manner and, as far as possible, use best practice in its administrative function and its financial affairs.”
Mrs Richardson said: “The parish council needs to be given the space to move forward and achieve projects.
“I hope the village as a whole will support the actions of the parish council.
“The village needs to move on.”
What do you think about the Walberswick Parish Council dispute? Write, giving your full contact details, to: Journal Postbox, 147 London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or email email@example.com