Sat, 14 Jan 2017
A FORMER Greenham Parish Council clerk claims she was branded a troublemaker when she warned about the council operating outside the law.
Heather Westbrook was so concerned about the breach that she gave it as the reason for standing down in her resignation letter.
She said: “Most of my two years as clerk had been spent trying to get the council to operate within the law. It worried me so much that I couldn’t sleep.
“So, I knew I had to resign.”
Mrs Westbrook served as a councillor from January 2014 to July 2016, and was acting clerk from October 2014 to July 2016.
A number of other clerks also held the post during this time, but they all resigned.
John Boston was clerk when the Greenham Common Control Tower was bought from West Berkshire Council but he resigned six months later and Mrs Westbrook stepped in as acting clerk.
Referring to persistent interference in her job, Mrs Westbrook said: “It’s the clerk’s responsibility for engaging suppliers and contractors to work for the council, including the control tower, so I needed to see individual quotes, and to ensure everything was properly signed off, but this was mainly kept away from me.
“I needed to ensure that contractors were insured, but the control tower working group refused to let me do what was required.
“So I was unaware of who was employed, what they were being paid, or whether everything had been signed off properly.
“The working group instructed me not to contact contractors, and I was even accused of deliberately delaying the project because I wanted to do everything legally and correctly.
“In one instance, around £70,000 was wasted on a planning application that an extant planning application already existed.”
Council chairman Phil Barnett said: “Mrs Westbrook was deeply concerned about a number of matters.
“She raised the issue of operating ultra vires over a long time. That’s all I’d like to say.”
Last year, auditor BDO published a damning report which heavily criticised Greenham Parish Council’s handling of the project.
However, the new-look parish council said that changes were being made to address the concerns in the report.