Norfolk council smear campaign slammed

Stephanie BrooksA Norfolk parish council chairman has rallied to the defence of his clerk after a smear campaign sprung up publicly criticising his wages.Stephanie Brooks

A parish council chairman has rallied to the defence of his clerk after a smear campaign sprung up publicly criticising his wages.

Fred Watkins, chairman of Hethersett Parish Council, branded the campaign as a 'scurrilous attack' and said its claims were unfounded.

Handwritten posters, headed 'Hethersett is Outraged', have been pinned up on noticeboards, bus shelters and delivered to some homes in the village, claiming clerk Ian Weetman only works six hours a week but is paid �25,500 a year.

As yet no-one knows who the culprit is.

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Mr Watkins, said: 'The poster has been widely displayed throughout the village. Whoever wrote these ridiculous words has no concept of the huge amount of work the parish clerk does.'

It appears that the six-hour per week figure, which is referred to in the posters, relates to the amount of time Mr Weetman spends in the council office when it is open to the public in Hethersett Village Hall.

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'The poster fails to take account of the fact that Ian does the majority of his council work from home or from the office when it isn't open to the public and regularly works more than 40 hours a week,' said Mr Watkins

'We have no idea who initiated this smear campaign but would suggest that the person makes sure of his or her facts before launching such an unfounded attack.'

Mr Weetman said whoever was responsible for the posters was wrong and they should come to him if they have concerns over the parish council's costs.

'Clearly the individual responsible is misinformed. Information regarding the income and expenditure of the parish is, following the audit, in the public domain and available to all parishioners,' he said.

'The employment conditions for the parish clerk are agreed by the parish council and in line with nationally agreed contract conditions and salary rates.

'Should the individual concerned with posters wish to come forward then I will gladly go through any part of parish council expenditure they wish to see.'

Mr Weetman added that details concerning employed staff, including salaries and expenses had been published in the village newsletter.

An annual parish meeting will take place in Hethersett Village Hall on May 5, where a report will be circulated explaining the roles of the parish council and its staff.

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