The Nolan Principles

Selflessness – Integrity – Objectivity – Accountability – Openness – Honesty – Leadership

“Parish councils, we all know, are hotbeds of intrigue, corruption and passion. Those who sit on them, a colourful mixture of oddballs, bullies and idiots.”

It would be unfair to characterise all those who give up their free time to serve on a Parish or Town council as ‘corrupt, bullies or idiots’. Over the years councillors have made a significant contribution to their parish, as a result of a great deal of hard work and dedication and they deserve the thanks and admiration of their parish. Given that there over 10,000 councils and around 80,000 councillors, there will always be some who work to a different agenda than that of their colleagues. It is these councillors who have allowed the name ‘parish council’ and in particular ‘parish councillor’ to be held in such low esteem by the public. But what is important is that many councils and councillors fail to uphold the very principles they agreed to uphold – The Nolan Principles.

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IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Review of Local Government Ethical Standards: Stakeholder Consultation

The Committee on Standards in Public Life is undertaking a review of local government ethical standards. The Committee welcomes submissions from members of the public.

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There have been many instances of council meetings becoming a battle ground with councillors finding it hard to see why residents distrust them, and residents seeing councillors on nothing more than an ego trip!

Below are just a few of the troubles that come from Parish and Town Councils – not all the fault of the Council. Residents can and do get irate if they feel that a development or a ‘problem’ nearby is the fault of the council. Nimbyism is rife in all Towns and villages, but it is often antagonised by the cynicism of some of those on the council.

 

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The Hunts Post | Posted 7th March 2014

Clerk jailed for 12 months after stealing more than £50,000

Former Alconbury Parish Council clerk is jailed for 12 months after stealing more than £50,000
A former parish clerk has been jailed for 12 months after stealing more than £50,000 of council money, including funds from its youth group, and gambling it away.

Mum-of-three Joanna Sharp, of Hill Close, Brington, appeared at Peterborough Crown Court for sentencing today (Thursday).

The 28-year-old, who started working for Alconbury Parish Council in October 2009, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to committing fraud by abuse of position as parish clerk by taking money without authorisation and producing false financial documentation.

Prosecuting, Cheryl Williams said Sharp’s fraud came to light in May last year when Lloyds bank contacted parish council chairman Judith Aylott to query a cheque which appeared to have her signature on it. She was shown a further nine cheques which she had supposedly signed.

“Mrs Aylott realised immediately she had not signed the cheques and they must be fraudulent,” said Miss Williams.

When challenged by Mrs Aylott, Sharp admitted she had stolen £10,000 and asked that the matter not be reported to police because she fully intended to repay what had been taken, the court was told.

Miss Williams continued: “When examined, the paperwork appeared to show more money had been taken and financial documents had been tampered with to cover it up.”

Sharp was dismissed by the parish council which contacted police and instigated its own financial investigation.

It revealed that from July 2011 there had been 139 separate fraudulent transactions on an account, totalling £55,893.85. There were seven transactions on another account and Sharp had also made payments to her mother, Mrs Howard, to whom she owed money.

“It appears the defendant managed to manufacture apparent bank statements with the appearance of authenticity,” said Miss Williams, who described the fraud as “sophisticated, persistent, and carried out with a degree of skill and care” to deceive auditors and Mrs Aylott.

She added that the total defrauded was thought to be £65,322.43, but did not include monies repaid by Sharp or salary which she had not been taken.

The money was spent on gambling via online websites such as PokerStars and, while some was repaid, it was a fraction of the total taken.

A visit from bailiffs over mounting debts accrued by her husband had prompted the fraudulent behaviour, said Miss Williams, and matters had “spiralled out of control” when he was made redundant and then could not take up a new job after suffering a heart attack.

Commenting on the impact of Sharp’s actions on the parish council, Miss Williams added: “They gave up their own time for the good of the community so they feel all the more keenly the betrayal of trust which has taken place.

“Work that could have been done on behalf of the community will now be prejudiced because of lack of money.”

Defending Sharp, Miss Katya Saudek said she had taken the money in desperation with the intention of it being a “bridging loan”.

Her relationship with her husband, which has since ended, was described as “very difficult”. “She was subject to control,” said Miss Saudek. “She was not allowed out to see friends and family, he was extremely jealous of her and she ended up finding solace in the computer as the only social outlet she had.”

While her gambling was not an addiction, it was said to be “problematic”.

She could not explain to her husband that his redundancy money was needed to pay off the debts she had built up by stealing from the parish council, said Miss Saudek, and she had to go along with what he wanted to do.

“Miss Sharp is desperately sorry for what she has done and desperately ashamed for what she has done,” said Miss Saudek, who added that her greatest wish was to repay the money.

Sentencing Sharp to 12 months in prison, Recorder Miss Angela Rafferty told her: “Debt and personal financial insecurity is commonplace in these days of recession. That’s not a reason to turn to crime. Many people struggle on honestly and you made no attempt to.

“You have placed yourself in this avoidable position by your dishonest actions.”

Sharp was also ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge.

Commenting on the case, Mrs Aylott said it had been “really tough” not being able to say anything to Alconbury residents.

With court proceedings having concluded, a newsletter is due to be sent to every household in the parish outlining the facts, she added.

“The hardest bit is to have abuse of trust,” she continued. “We are a small village and treated her as family.

“We took years to build up the reserves and she’s taken everything.”

 

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The Leicester Mercury | Posted 13th June 2013

 
Parish councillors forced to resign

A district council has taken control of a chaotic parish council after six members were urged to resign in front of scores of villagers.

Deputy leader of Blaby District Council Tony Greenwood stood before a parish meeting in Kirby Muxloe and offered the panel of six councillors an ultimatum.
He gave them two choices: to allow the continuation of a petition calling for the district’s intervention or to resign on the spot.

Coun Greenwood warned the panel the petition would succeed – and produced six resignation forms from his bag.

The move followed years of failures at the parish council, which were recently brought to light in an Audit Commission report which criticised numerous aspects of its governance.

All six councillors signed that night, leaving only four, who had not attended the meeting.

It means the parish council does not have enough members to make official decisions, leaving the district to assume automatic control.

The next step will see Blaby District Council install a parish authority to run the parish until a by-election is held.

Blaby council leader Councillor Ernie White said: “This situation has brought parish councils into a really bad light.

“It’s almost unheard of for a parish council to act the way it has over the past few years.

“But I’d like to thank Tony (Greenwood) for the work he’s done and now we can look to the future and put Kirby Muxloe’s problems behind us.”

Initially, Blaby District Council will appoint six “non-politically-aligned people” to run the parish, while plans are put in place for a by-election, said Coun White.

“We now need people of good standing and good intent to come forward and take this council forward, and leave the bad times in the past,” he said.

In May, the Audit Commission compiled a damning report which listed a catalogue of failures at Kirby Muxloe Parish Council. Among the findings were evidence of poor record-keeping, missing information about council assets and a failure to show it had paid VAT.

The report’s author, Stephen Warren, also found the council had ignored requests under the Freedom of Information Act and failed to recognise it had any problems.
One of the councillors to resign last week was villager Andrew Bingham.

He said: “We welcome the intervention of Blaby in this matter and we hope the new council appointed by Blaby council sorts out the problems which have been rattling around for a number of years.

“The report from the Audit Commission finally nailed it. Blaby couldn’t ignore it and realised that something had to be done. I was happy to sign the resignation if it means that we will have a properly functioning parish council.”

On June 18, a meeting will be held at Blaby District Council to install six temporary councillors who will oversee matters until a by-election is organised later in the year.