Auditors’ report finds more shortcomings at Walberswick Parish Council

Walberswick on the Suffolk coast. Picture: ALISON CONNORS

Walberswick on the Suffolk coast. Picture: ALISON CONNORS - Credit:

A troubled Suffolk council has been officially warned about its failings for the third successive year – prompting calls for “someone to get a grip” and resolve the problems.

Auditors BDO issued a “public interest report” about Walberswick Parish Council (WPC) highlighting shortcomings, which the council is required to discuss at a public meeting.

It is the third successive year BDO has issued a public interest report and comes after a turbulent period for the council.

For more than five years, the council has faced accusations of wrongdoing, ongoing arguments with a group of villagers, and bouts of mass resignations.

The latest resignations saw Suffolk Coastal District Council appoint two of its members – Raymond Catchpole and Phillip Dunnett, along with Paul Widdowson, from Halesworth Town Council – to make the council quorate in January 2016.

Despite the appointment of three experienced figures – Mr Dunnett is chairman of SCDC’s scrutiny committee – the problems have continued.

BDO’s latest report found the council failed to set a budget or request a precept for the 2016/17 financial year, contravening local government regulations. It says the role of clerk and responsible financial officer were at times performed by councillors, who also took part in discussions, contrary to proper practices.

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The auditors also highlight failures to properly display the council’s accounts, provide papers in advance of meetings, or give evidence of applications it made for funding grants. It said the council failed to tell auditors of decisions it took in response to BDO’s previous report.

John MacCarthy, one of the residents who has criticised the council, said the report came as no surprise. “I suspect it’s unique in local government for a council to have these reports issues three years running,” he said. “Until someone takes a grip and says you cannot carry on like this, it’s just going to continue. It’s ridiculous – even a kids’ chess club could not get away with this.”

Walberswick Parish Council will discuss the report at a meeting on Monday. It did not respond to requests for comment.

Suffolk Coastal District Council said it had “done what it can” to help WPC and would continue to offer support but added: “It is for the people of Walberswick to come up with a resilient solution.”

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