Stoke Ferry car scheme concerns ‘raised two years ago’, meeting told

Village Life - Stoke Ferry. ENGANL00120120423171410
Village Life - Stoke Ferry. ENGANL00120120423171410
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Concerns were first raised about the management of a West Norfolk village transport programme at least two years ago, community representatives have heard.

The claim was made amid continuing questions over the handling of the community car scheme in Stoke Ferry.

And officials behind the scheme now say the parish council should formally take over its affairs.

Last month, an open letter was circulated to residents, which claimed that the scheme’s organisers had not complied with the law.

It suggested that public money had been used unlawfully to run the programme as a separate organisation rather than as a parish council body, as the council agreed in 2012.

That decision was officially acknowledged by the council in May.

But, during the latest council meeting, held at the village hall on Wednesday evening, resident Judith Taylor, who was co-opted to the authority during the meeting, said: “There have been concerns about this for a very long time.”

She read from a document, which she said dated from two and a half years ago, in which the scheme’s co-ordinator, John Nicholas-Letch who was then also council chairman, was said to be “making a rod for his own back”, by not allowing its funding arrangements to be formally discussed.

Mr Nicholas-Letch did not respond to the claim, but said he had provided documents detailing the scheme’s accounts to the council.

He added: “It would be better if the parish council took over the bank account and ran the car scheme within the parish council.”

He admitted there were some “small anomalies” in the documents which he hoped to resolve soon and that no journeys had been made through the programme “for months”.

But he insisted that new drivers could be recruited to replace others who have left the area.

An open meeting was again suggested for residents to have their say on whether a car scheme was still needed or not.

But Mrs Taylor, who volunteered to prepare a briefing paper on potential solutions, said she saw no reason why the parish council could not run the project itself, as long as it was done properly.

She said: “We need to go back to first principles.

“It may be that people say it’s no use. I don’t agree with that, but the key point is we start properly, we do it properly and we do it openly and transparently.”

Mrs Taylor was one of two new members co-opted to the council during Wednesday’s meeting, though only on the casting vote of its chairman, Sue Lintern.

An initial vote was tied at two votes each with Mr Nicholas-Letch among the councillors to vote against.

The other new member to put herself forward, former chairman Trudy Mann, was co-opted unanimously.

Although they were both allowed to take part in debates, they were unable to vote during the meeting, as they had not signed the necessary acceptance of office papers.