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Dragon Gets Ugly Rebuff Then Silence From Normandy Parish Chairman

Published on: 9 Feb, 2021
Updated on: 11 Feb, 2021

By Martin Giles

Lack of transparency and openness continue to shroud the operation of Normandy Parish Council (NPC). To these deficiencies, now politeness has been added. Today (February 9), chairman Alan Cheesman told Dragon NEWS reporter Hugh Coakley: “Piss off”, and hung up the phone.

This was his response before any question had even been posed, following the sudden spate of parish councillor resignations reported on Sunday (February 7).

See also: Multiple Resignation Rumours Reign at Normandy Parish Council

Rumours persist that Cllr Neil Aust has also resigned but his details remain on the NPC website and he refused to speak to The Dragon. Another of the six councillors still on the website, Peter Palmer, said he now lived in France and thought his membership had lapsed.

The six parish councillors still displayed on the Normandy Parish Council website.

Leslie Clarke, the parish clerk, said he knew of only three resignations and, “as far as I am aware”, the chairman, Mr Cheesman, his wife Val, Neil Aust and Mr Palmer were still councillors.

Told Mr Palmer thought his membership had lapsed, Mr Clarke said: “Well, he’s wrong.”

Cllrs Brian Middleton, Rachel Cunningham and Alastair Lawson, contacted The Dragon to confirm their resignations. None would expand on their reasons.

But sources close to them said they felt that while all the councillors have the community at heart some have been in place for many years and have “become set in their ways”.

David Bilbe

David Bilbe, Conservative borough councillor for Normandy, spoke as a concerned resident. “I asked questions in relation to the audit failings of NPC last year at the parish meeting on January 27 and subsequently,” he said.

“As a result, a proposed response was intended to be sent to me from the chairman which I have not received.

“I am further informed the tone of that response from the chairman was seen as personally aggressive towards me and unacceptable to some councillors as a reply to my questions.

“I conclude these shortcomings of a personal and technical nature meant those councillors who resigned were unwilling to serve in such an environment and have voted with their feet.”

Measures to tackle weaknesses identified in audits conducted last year were expected to be discussed at the January 27 virtual meeting. Asked when their plan will be published, Mr Clarke said: “I am not prepared to answer that.”

Mr Bilbe has submitted an FoI request to the council asking for a copy of the recording of the January 27 virtual meeting, correspondence relating to the audits and correspondence that mentions his name.

An internal staffing matter, understood to relate to an assistant parish clerk whose employment was terminated, was also on the council meeting agenda, to be discussed in closed session.

Normandy Parish Council, which serves a village of about 3,000 residents, received a precept of £140,000 for 2020-21. This has been approved to increase by 5% for 2021-22 to £147,000. Staff costs came to £43,000 in 2019-20. The councillors do not receive an allowance.

Salaries are paid to Mr Clarke,  a part-time website manager, and other part-time NPC employees. Mr Clarke also serves as clerk of Puttenham Parish Council,

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