Could council appointments finally mean peace in Walberswick?

The village sign for Walberswick

The village sign for Walberswick - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

A troubled Suffolk council at the centre of a long-running community row has been returned to working order more than eight months after a series of resignations brought it to its knees.

Walberswick, pictured on a sunny day

Walberswick, pictured on a sunny day - Credit:

Three new members were last week drafted in to make Walberswick Parish Council quorate once again, bringing an end to months in which the picturesque coastal village had been left without its first tier of local government.

For five years the council had been locked in a bitter dispute with a small group of villagers .

The fallout from the dispute led to more than a dozen previous resignations.

The tempestuous situation had led to mass resignations in 2012, when all but one of the councillors departed, requiring Suffolk Coastal District Council to step in and make the necessary temporary appointments,

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The most recent departures last May left the council with just two members and no clerk meaning it was again unable to take decisions, set a budget or consult on planning matters. With no offers made to join the council and restore the quorum of three, Suffolk Coastal was legally required to intervene once more.

Leader Ray Herring, speaking at Thursday’s full meeting of the district council, said he hoped the appointment of three new members would now bring a lasting solution to the parish’s problems.

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“We’ve allowed breathing space for the past six to nine months for relationships hopefully to improve,” he said.

“But we do now need to move the situation on and we want to assist Walberswick, hopefully for the final time, to find that solution.”

The new appointments are: Raymond Catchpole, the village’s district councillor; Philip Dunnett, an experienced parish and district councillor, and Paul Widdowson, who is a parish clerk. It is hoped they will fulfil the roles on a temporary basis until more local representatives can be found.

Mr Catchpole said he was looking forward to the challenge and he “hopes this will be a good opportunity to move forward.”

However, John MacCarthy, one of four villagers embroiled in the dispute with the council, has raised doubts their appointment will solve anything.

Speaking after the meeting he said that complaints about the way the parish council conducted its business, which he and other villagers had raised previously, should have been addressed by Suffolk Coastal but had not. He also said there was too little time for the new councillors to agree a budget or set a precept in time for this year’s financial deadline.

“If they think this is the solution, it is not – all it does is compound the problem,” he said. “The only reason they are taking action now is because they face the prospect of not being able to raise a precept from Walberswick. It’s a total shambles.”

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