Car scheme ‘given cash illegally’ – claim

Lynn News Web Site Fillers
Lynn News Web Site Fillers

A parish council has been accused of illegally using public money to help fund a community car scheme for its village.

The head of the programme in Stoke Ferry has announced his intention to stand down from it, but insisted there were no irregularities in its finances.

However, the authority’s chairman has called for a swift end to the affair.

Concerns have been raised in recent months about the running of the community car scheme, which was set up four years ago.

In May, the parish council formally acknowledged that the scheme had been run as a separate organisation from the authority, rather than by it, since its inception.

Ahead of Wednesday’s council meeting, an open letter was delivered to homes in the village, alleging that the scheme’s organisers had unlawfully used taxpayers’ money by failing to run it in accordance with the council’s decision.

Resident Judith Taylor, herself a former clerk to the council, told the meeting she wanted proof the scheme had been operating legally and insisted steps should be taken to recover the funds allocated to it if that was not provided.

She admitted that she had not been aware of the issue when she was clerk and only began to think there was a problem when she became aware of requirements for justification of council funding for other community groups that were not applied to the car scheme.

She said the lack of explanation of what had happened to the money was unacceptable.

She added: “I’m not sure you grasp the strength of feeling in the village that I’m picking up that some parish councillors run this village and think they can do what they like.

“You can’t. You have to do things under the law.”

John Nicholas-Letch, the current co-ordinator of the scheme, proposed the arrangement of a public meeting to discuss its future, arguing there was still a “real need” for it.

He said he hoped that meeting would take place before the end of the month.

He pledged to provide documents detailing the running of the scheme to council officials next week, but also insisted: “There are no irregularities.”

He then added: “I’m not going to take part in the car scheme any more. I’m not going to have anything to do with it.”

However, Sue Lintern, who was elected as the council’s new chairman following the resignation of her predecessor, Carol Hardy, from the authority, conceded there were “discrepencies” in minutes relating to the scheme and said answers were needed quickly.

She said: “We have got to get all the information together and draw a line under this for the next meeting (due to take place in August).”

The meeting was also told that legal advice would be needed if appropriate information was not forthcoming.

And a letter was read to the meeting calling for Mr Nicholas-Letch to be removed from work to update the village’s website and demanding that individual councillors, rather than the village as a whole, be held liable for any damages incurred through his dealings.

However, Mrs Lintern said he was only developing a format for the site and there was no possibility of damages to the council until or unless it was approved.