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Eastern Daily Press | Posted 31st October 2016

Walcott Parish Council chairman accused of ‘putting lives at risk’ during devastating flood

Accusations that a community chief’s actions during a devastating flood put lives at risk were aired at an extraordinary parish council meeting tonight.

Walcott Parish Council met to consider whether the conduct of chairman Pauline Porter and her husband Keith, also a councillor, had brought the council into disrepute.

John East, one of two councillors who had called for the meeting, said he had a sheaf of letters from parishioners condemning Mr and Mrs Porter’s behaviour. He also had a 140-signature petition against them.

During the meeting he read out one letter, from WEVA – Walcott Emergency Volunteer Association.
It claimed that during the storm surge of December 5 2013, which saw many Walcott homes flooded, Mrs Porter had “taken it upon herself to pose as a flood warden”, visiting residents and telling them to evacuate their homes, causing anxiety and putting lives at risk by disrupting WEVA’s well-established tracking process.

WEVA might not be able to continue its work, the letter continued, if “constant interference and meddling” by Mrs Porter continued.

Mrs Porter did not attend the meeting but part of a statement written by her was read out.

It said that WEVA was an asset to the village and she did not want the group to disappear.

But they would not speak to North Norfolk District Council’s civil contingency manager and so he could not pass on information to them from the Environment Agency.

She had relayed the information for a time, but WEVA no longer talked to her or HM Coastguard.
WEVA had not taken up offers of training or suggestions that they should apply to the parish council for a donation.

Council clerk Martin Campbell repeatedly told the meeting that dealing with accusations against councillors was not part of a parish council’s powers and the matter should be referred to North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) monitoring officer Emma Duncan.

Members of the public, about 20 of whom were present, were invited to air their views for a short time.

Several expressed frustration that their voices were being ignored by the parish council.
One woman said the Porters had “done nothing” for the village and she was “fed up with their attitude.”

But councillor Caroline King said the couple did a lot behind the scenes.

And she claimed the village was divided. North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb had drawn attention to the problem during his recent village tour when he found himself talking to two groups in Walcott, each with the same aim.

“He wanted to know why they didn’t join together and work together,” said Mrs King.
Council vice chairman Thomas Love, who chaired the meeting, said the Porters had been voted back on to the council after the 2013 floods.

Parishioners who didn’t like the situation would have a chance to change it at the next election.
The council voted to refer the letters and petition to NNDC’s monitoring officer.