Kingsclere parish council in crisis

9:00am Saturday 28th July 2012

By Helen Morton

AN EMERGENCY parish council has been parachuted into Kingsclere following the mass resignation of all the members.

The councillors resigned last Tuesday after meeting in private the previous evening.

Former council chairman Richard Smith said: “I explained to councillors that I no longer felt prepared to work with our clerk Mrs Sheila Thompson. “I confirmed that I felt I had no choice but to resign in the morning and after a brief discussion all seven of the other councillors decided that they would do the same.”

The temporary parish council consists of borough councillors from outside the village – Cllr Ranil Jayawardena , Cllr John Leek, Cllr Roger Gardiner, Cllr Paul Harvey , and Cllr Ian Tilbury .

Cllr Jayawardena said: “This is very much an interim measure. We have got to find out what, if anything, has gone wrong, decide how we can solve that problem the best we can, and then hand it back to Kingsclere parish to run their own affairs.”

Borough council officers Suzanne Smith, Shella Smith, and Debbie Dewey will also join the interim council until an election is held. Former chairman Mr Smith has asked the Audit Commission to investigate the running of parish affairs.

Queries about an account relating to the controversial Holding Field Project were raised following a Freedom of Information request to the parish council from a villager earlier in the year. A spokesman for the commission said: “The Audit Commission has received correspondence about Kingsclere Parish Council within the last week.

“The district auditor responsible for small public bodies is considering what action would be appropriate, if any. There is no investigation ongoing at present in this regard. “

The clerk is being backed by dozens of Kingsclere residents, including three former parish council chairmen who worked with her. In a letter to The Gazette on today’s page 16, they describe her as ‘arguably the best parish clerk in Hampshire’.

A notice of vacancy has been issued in the village and 10 electors can call for an election within 14 days. If this happens, then there will be a call for nominations and, if there are any, an election will be held within 60 days. The interim parish council will meet for the scheduled parish council meeting on Monday.

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