Victory for 'Weasenham whinger' as 27 council complaints are upheld
Victory for village ‘whinger’: Resident whose constant criticism of local council sparked mass resignation declares himself vindicated as 27 of his 31 complaints are upheld
- David Fairchild spent five years going over Weasenham Parish Council’s returns
- His investigations saw £15,000 of local taxpayers’ money being spent on audits
An accountant whose incessant criticisms about discrepancies in his parish council’s accounts and members’ conduct led to them resigning en masse declared himself vindicated today after an independent auditor upheld 27 out of 31 of his most recent complaints.
David Fairchild has spent the last five years going over Weasenham Parish Council’s annual financial returns with a fine-tooth comb.
His combative style led to him being banned from council meetings in the sleepy Norfolk village and saw all six sitting councillors plus the clerk quit last year, citing health reasons.
Locals dubbed him the ‘Weasenham whinger’ after his forensic investigations saw £15,000 of local taxpayers’ money being spent on audits.
But his officious attitude was effectively backed after the latest audit, covering the 2021-22 financial year, saw the vast majority of his complaints upheld.
David Fairchild has spent the last five years going over Weasenham Parish Council’s annual financial returns with a fine-tooth comb
Locals dubbed him the ‘Weasenham whinger’ after his forensic investigations saw £15,000 of local taxpayers’ money being spent on audits
A former councillor himself in the parish – having been appointed internal control officer but leaving after three months following ‘differences’ in 2019 – he today insisted he did not have ‘an axe to grind’ and was simply carrying out his civic duty.
‘I can’t say that I’m gloating but it should never have happened in the first place,’ he said.
‘If they’d done it properly, we would have saved at least £15,000 in auditors’ fees.’
Local homeowner Jim Harper, 54, supported him. Revealing he had suspected inconsistencies in the parish accounts for 20 years, he said: ‘He’s not a trouble maker.’
But another local, who asked not to be named, said: ‘He really needs to find something else to do with his time.’
Mr Fairchild, 71, started double checking the council’s finances in 2018, spending hours going through all declared expenditure.
Last year, he lodged 49 complaints, leading to a £9,000 bill while his concerns were checked independently.
This year, another £3,000 was spent on an auditor – which backed 27 of his complaints.
The Norfolk village of Weasenham. Following the mass resignation in May last year, outgoing chairman Anna Coke complained how ‘a wonderful village can be ruined by one complainant’
They included invoices for new fencing being addressed to an individual councillor instead of the council, decisions being made by round-robin emails rather than in public meetings, and claims for grass cutting and mileage being made without supporting documentation.
The former practice and finance manager for two GP surgeries in Norwich has also complained about the use of funds paid each year by the developer of a solar farm, the spiralling cost of a sports pavilion, a £150 bill in a four-month period for printer ink and a failure to claim back from the taxman all recoverable costs in relation to £75 worth of mugs bought for use at council meetings.
Much to his targets’ chagrin, he also voiced his concerns through his own community newsletter, Parish Notes, which was sent to every household.
In 2020, the council declared him a ‘vaxatious customer’ and banned him from meetings, as well as refusing to reply to any correspondence.
The grandfather-of-six, who has lived in the village for 31 years and is married to Christine, 73, added he wasn’t a fan of the ‘Weasenham whinger’ nickname but insisted: ‘It won’t stop me.’
He added: ‘I don’t mince words. I go for the jugular.
‘Someone only had to sneeze and, if I thought it was wrong, out went the bloody letter.’
Following the mass resignation in May last year, outgoing chairman Anna Coke complained how ‘a wonderful village can be ruined by one complainant’.
Pointing out that ‘persistent attacks’ by via the Standards Board about alleged misdemeanours and allegations of fraud had all been batted away, she added: ‘These attacks can play havoc with one’s health, as waiting around for weeks on end each time is stressful and, in the alleged case of fraud, almost a year of waiting left us unable to proceeds with expenditure until cleared.
‘The toll on my health, and that of others, is palpable.’
Ms Coke, her former colleagues and the ex-clerk could not be reached yesterday, although a spokesman for them previously complained the ‘revised [financial] return was not shared, discussed or communicated with’ them by the new regime.
The council has been run since last year by three councillors who were parachuted in temporarily from Breckland District Council.
The chairman, independent councillor Roger Atterwill, said yesterday: ‘There is a great divide in the village – people who are friends of the previous parish councillors and people who have said if things were managed more carefully from the start, there wouldn’t have been the need for those fees (for audits).
‘David is very much a Marmite character. He can be awkward and cantankerous but we’ve always treated each other with respect and I’ve found him helpful and courteous.’
He recently described how local volunteers had helped restore the village pond, adding: ‘We need to nurture this spirit to heal the wounds in this community.’
Mr Atterwill, who hopes to stand down in a few weeks’ time when the full complement of seven councillors have been installed following local elections, said no criminal investigations had been launched into his predecessors’ activities.
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