Taxpayer's £80k bill for clerk


Robert Doman

WHITCHURCH residents are being urged to attend an extraordinary meeting of their town council this week after it emerged the council is predicting an overspend of more than £80,000 on administration in the last two financial years.

News of the overspend comes amid fears the departure of Peter Morris may have cost the town a large amount of money. A summary of Whitchurch Town Council's Income and Expenditure sourced by the Herald from shows the council had already spent £30,000 more than its allotted £69,800 admin budget in the first six months of the current financial year until September 30

The estimated level of expenditure at the 2012/13 year end is £132,059.
Mr Morris was suspended, for reasons still to be made public, for a nine month period before he handed in his resignation after suggestions that an out of court settlement may have been reached. The council has already spent more than £10,900 on the salary of a temporary office manager to cover the clerk's duties during this financial year.
The Herald is pursuing a second Freedom of Information Act request after initial attempts to allow the council to justify its actions went without answers of sufficient detail.
The council has only eight more days to respond adequately to the Herald before it takes the issue to the Information Commissioner's Office, a public body sponsored by the Ministry of Justice reporting directly to Parliament.
However, Thursday's extraordinary meeting to discuss the appointment of a new town clerk will allow the people of Whitchurch to have their say after a public participation item appeared on the agenda in a move which will give councillors the opportunity to discuss the issue in public.
Whitchurch councillor, Alistair Young, has implored the people of Whitchurch to appear at the meeting to demand answers from the council and said: "The council seems intent on refusing to reveal information regarding this situation despite a request under the Freedom of Information Act by the Whitchurch Herald newspaper.
"I strongly recommend that residents attend Thursday's meeting where they can ask the council to look them in the eye and explain its actions.
"Transparency in local government is fundamental and without it situations such as this will continue to threaten the future of the way towns such as Whitchurch are being run." 

The meeting at Whitchurch Civic Centre begins at 7pm prompt.

See full story in the Whitchurch Herald

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