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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The Grimsby Telegraph | Posted 3rd October 2014


Parish Council in turmoil? Resignations, walk-outs and accusations of digs and lying

A NEW Waltham parish councillor has resigned, accusing other members of having an “unprofessional approach”.

At the start of the monthly parish council meeting at New Waltham Village Hall, Lisa Gibson claimed: “The council continually makes decisions based on guess work and has little regard for the budget they have been entrusted to manage.

“I am not prepared to be compromised by my colleagues’ unprofessional approach, nor am I prepared to be undermined and disrespected by them any longer.

“I have a lot of knowledge and experience to offer this sector and have been keen to put this to use in New Waltham, only to meet criticism and opposition.

“I wish you luck in your pursuit of a whiter-than-white New Waltham Parish Council, however, I am sorry to say I believe this to be a long way off.”

No sooner had Councillor Gibson begun her statement of resignation than ex-chairman, Councillor Roger Breed, walked out of the meeting, announcing: “I am not listening to this.”

He returned after Mrs Gibson had left the meeting.

The drama at the parish council meeting continued when the former clerk, Kathy Peers, used the public open forum to claim a community Facebook page had been a means to “have a dig” at her.

She demanded an apology from New Waltham Parish Council and from Mrs Gibson, who had already left.

Seated close to Mrs Peers in the public gallery were the former chairman of Great Coates Village Council, Nicola Maasdam, and the present chairman of Humberston Parish Council, Councillor Harry Hall.

Mrs Peers was formerly the clerk to Great Coates and is currently the clerk to both Humberston and Stallingborough Parish Councils. She is suspended as clerk to Healing Parish Council.

Mrs Peers said the New Waltham Community Facebook page should have had a disclaimer showing it does not reflect the views of New Waltham Parish Council.

She reminded councillors they had agreed two months previously that the Facebook page should have a disclaimer.

She said: “I do not have a problem with most of the stories. About 98 per cent are about the community. There are several about me and my work with other parish councils.”

She said there was no other story about Great Coates other than a link to the Grimsby Telegraph website and a report of a damming audit report into the finances at Great Coates Village Council.

There is also a report of her suspension from Healing, but no other stories about the village, councillors were told.

Mrs Peers said: “It is my belief that Councillor Gibson was putting stuff on there to have a dig at me. I would like to know why there was no disclaimer.”

Parish council chairman Councillor Grahame Williams said the community Facebook page was nothing to do with the parish council.

He said an alternative page representing New Waltham Parish Council would soon be published.

Mrs Peers added: “Councillor Gibson has been approaching councillors from other parish councils and making accusations and inferences about me.”

She said there had been accusations that her salary payments were inaccurate, but that a thorough investigation had proved all salary payments to her were in accordance with her contract.

She said: “Since the accusations have been disproven there should be a formal apology from the council. I was going to ask for an apology from Councillor Gibson but she has resigned.”

Mrs Peers said Councillor Gibson had stated the parish council would be hearing from Humberside Police in relation to an investigation into matters involving another parish council.

Mrs Peers claimed New Waltham councillors “had been lied to in open public session” and details had been “misrepresented”.

She asked the chairman if Mrs Gibson would be reported for a breach of the code of conduct for councillors.

She claimed there had been a scheme to discredit her and members of New Waltham Parish Council, and she had been advised to seek legal advice on the grounds of defamation of character, which she has done.

Councillor Williams said a formal response would be sent to Mrs Peers.

During the public open forum, Pauline Breed, the wife of Councillor Roger Breed, asked for clarification over any involvement by Humberside Police into the audit of the parish council.

The chairman replied that the present clerk Lori Dyas had been asked to “revisit” council finances.

Councillor Williams said: “The clerk found no irregularities.”

He said salary payments to the former clerk were “as per the grades of the clerk”.

He added: “I asked the clerk to find out if there was any police investigation. Humberside Police confirmed there is no investigation into New Waltham Parish Council.”

 

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The Daily Mail | Posted 7th October 2013

 
Council clerk stole £160,000

Council clerk stole £160,000 from taxpayers to fund her ‘shopping addiction’ by forging cheques with an erasable PEN

  • Patricia Bell tricked councillors into signing cheques she had filled out
  • But Bell, whose salary was £46,000, removed the name by heating the ink
  • Later she would then fill her own details into the blank space
  • She paid £110,000 worth of altered cheques into her account
  • Also paid £45,000 pounds of additional cheques, including salary payments

 

A parish clerk has been jailed for using removable ink to forge cheques worth £110,000.

Patricia Bell, 58, presented councillors with legitimate cheques filled out with the names of valid payees.

But once they were signed, she would heat up the fabric pen ink, wipe it away and write in her own name.

The married mother of two spent the proceeds on luxury handbags, holidays and beauty treatments.

The scam at Whitehill town council in Hampshire lasted for five years and pushed a number of its bank accounts into the red.

Bell made out £110,000 worth of altered cheques and stole a further £45,000 of public money, partly through bogus extra salary payments.

And she fraudulently claimed £7,000 of expenses including food bills and eBay purchases – making a total of £162,000.

Speaking at her sentencing hearing on Friday, prosecutor Tom Wright told Winchester Crown Court: ‘Mrs Bell had a position of trust in a small council who all work very hard.

‘But over the years cheques and balances were eroded by her manipulation.

‘In 2012, the council noticed that it was running a deficit in several of its accounts.’

Mrs Bell was in sole control of payments including invoicing and pay roll at the council, which had taken her on in May 2006.

The fraud started in April 2007 and continued until she was suspended from her £46,000-a-year post in December 2012.

‘Her system operated on a cash and cheque basis and she ended up exploiting this system,’ Mr Wright added.

‘She would get cheques signed by councillors.

‘Her method was to write the payee’s name on the cheque using a fabric pen – a pen that uses special ink that can be easily removed.

‘Mrs Bell would write a legitimate name on the cheque and get a councillor to sign it – they trusted her after her long time at the council.

‘She would then rub out the initial payee’s name and fill in her own details on the cheque. By doing this, she was able to take large sums of money from the council.’

Once councillors identified financial irregularities an internal investigation was launched and Bell was forced to attend a meeting with senior councillors.

She admitted the allegations were true and was suspended for potential gross misconduct.

The council commissioned an independent investigator to ascertain the facts of the financial irregularities.

On February 18 this year, it dismissed Bell on the grounds she abused procedures to pay herself by falsifying reports, accounts and expense claims.

She was arrested and charged with fraud by abuse of position.

Anthony Rimmer, defending, claimed his client had worked  hard in the public sector up until the incidents that brought her  to court.

He said: ‘Mrs Bell had spent 37 years working in the public sector, working for Action for Children and other district councils.

‘It was only when she turned 53 that she started doing this.

‘She would often throw away the fabric pens in a bid to stop what she was doing, but ended up buying more.’

Bell, who had served as chairman and treasurer of the Hampshire Society of Local Councils, admitted one count of fraud by abuse of position.

Her head bowed, she was in tears for most of the hearing which saw her jailed for 28 months.’

The married mother-of-two was wearing a black and grey striped dress and tears streamed down her face when her sentence was read out.

Judge Linda Sullivan said: ‘In May 2006, you were employed by Whitehill Town Council as the town council clerk and financial officer.

‘You had a salary of £46,000 pounds. Nevertheless, in April 2007 you started to behave in a sophisticated and fraudulent way to obtain 162,000 pounds from Whitehill Town Council.
‘Of that figure, £110,000 was obtained by altering cheques using a fabric pen. But once your cheques were signed you removed the correct name by heating the ink.

‘You were finally dismissed in December 2012 and it seems you spent the money on holidays, expensive handbags and nail manicures.

‘I have no doubt that you maximised the ease of how you were able to take this money and you did so in a sophisticated fashion.’

New council clerk Chris Young, who worked under Bell, replaced her after she was suspended and today described her as being ‘glamorous’.

The 61-year-old said: ‘She was well presented and always looked very glamorous.

‘She would often come into work with a new handbag and her nails and hair were always immaculate.’

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