Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council: Recent History

April 2016

It seems that the Parish Council have decided that the Sand and Gravel Charity does in fact belong to the villagers; they have appointed four trustees for the first time in decades. See Sand and Gravel Charity page for more.

March 2016

PARISH LAND

History re-written by Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council:

Were you aware that it was Queen Victoria who set up Parish Councils in 1894?

If it wasn’t for the utter absurdity of this statement written on KC&EPC website it would be laughable. However, it does emphasise the extreme lengths that the councillors will go to in order to hide their incompetence in handling village assets. The introduction of Parish Councils had been a part of the Liberal manifesto in the early 1890’s and Lord Salisbury was forced to accept it in order to keep his minority Conservative party in power.

Facts:

Sand and Gravel Charity – land given to Ellingham Parish by a benefactor around 1980. Parish Council refuse to accept ownership!

Kirby Cane Poor’s Allotment – 5 acres given in early 1800’s as part of Enclosure Awards; proof of Parish Council ownership for the electors is in the Norfolk Record Office and the Minister of State has confirmed that the 1894 Local Government Act is in force and that this land cannot have changed hands. Parish Council refuse to accept ownership!

 

Ellingham Poor’s Allotment – 20 Acres given in early 1800’s as part of Enclosure Awards; proof of Parish Council ownership for the electors is in the Norfolk Record Office and the Minister of State has confirmed that the 1894 Local Government Act is in force and that this land cannot have changed hands. Parish Council refuse to accept ownership!

The 1894 Local Government Act also transferred ownership of all the charity land to the Parish Councils of Kirby Cane and Ellingham to hold for the electors. Parish Council refuse to accept ownership!

Let’s not forget the £70,000 plus of investments that also belong to the electors. Parish Council refuse to accept ownership!

What are the councillors afraid off? Could it be that the so-called trustees of 67 acres of Parish Land have been renting this land out secretly for a pittance, whilst allowing those that rent the land to claim huge sums of EU subsidy payment?

ARE THESE COUNCILLORS REALLY SERVING OUR COMMUNITY BY ALLOWING OUR ASSETS TO BE IN THE HANDS OF SO-CALLED TRUSTEES WHO ACT IN SECRET AND HAVE BREACHED TRUST SO MANY TIMES IN THE PAST?

February 2016

Dear Clerk and Chair,

I have obtained up to date information for the transfer of ownership of land in 1894 through the good offices of the MP for South Norfolk, Mr Richard Bacon. The legislation mentioned in my researches still stands on the statute books. I quote from his letter:

Implications of the legislation

Section 6 of the 1894 Act, and section 115 of the 1929 Act, are still in force. Indeed, if property was transferred under the 1894 Act, this would remain the case even if the Act were repealed. The property would not revert to its previous owner(s).

The Local Government Act 1972 reconstituted the entire system of local government in England and Wales. Where a council’s area did not change, it would remain in existence and retain the property it owned before the passing of the Act.

That leaves the question; did either of the two Parish Councils – Kirby Cane and Ellingham – ever transfer ownership of the land and assets to Kirby Cane Charity and Ellingham United charities? I have spent a considerable amount of time researching the old minute books for both Parish Councils and have found no record for the ownership of any land and assets having been transferred. Quite the contrary in fact; both Parish Councils were, in 1894, very vociferous in claiming their rights to the lands and assets held by the previous parish authorities.

What we do find in the village archives are documents to prove that the land and assets do indeed belong to the villagers and that they were left for the use of the villagers.

The Sand and Gravel Charity is slightly different from the other charities in-as-much as it was land given in recent times; Scheme is dated 1980. It was given specifically into the hands of Ellingham Parish Council and vested (for safe keeping) with the Charity Commission. The Scheme of Governance for the charity demands that the trustees be as follows:

TRUSTEES.

  1. Trustees. – The body of Trustees shall consist when complete of four competent persons who shall be appointed by the Parish Council of Ellingham. Except at first, as hereinafter provided each appointment shall be made for a term of four years at a meeting convened and held according to the ordinary practice of the council. The chairman of the meeting shall cause the name of each person appointed to be notified forthwith to the trustees or their clerk. The person appointed may be but need not be a member of the council.

There is of course a breach of trust by Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council as they do not appoint trustees specifically to this charity. Furthermore they allow non-trustees of this charity to have a say in the management of the charity. Also, KC&EPC do not list the land concerned as an asset in the councils Register of Assets which is a breach of the council’s fiduciary duties.

The MP has also advised me of the details of where I might get help from a Pro Bono Barrister in order to pursue this matter. Can I emphasise that I have no wish to take this route but, continued intransigence by councillors to deal with the matter could leave this as my only recourse to getting it resolved.

I have shown how easy it would be to bring Parish Assets back into democratic and transparent control, and away from the secret society type management that has failed so miserably over the past many years. I and others are willing to sit down with councillors and present trustees in order to achieve a lasting solution that will leave villagers fully confident that their lands and assets are well managed and wholly within their control.

I look forward to receiving confirmation of receipt of this letter and am hopeful that KC&EPC will accept its legal responsibilities for proper oversight of Parish Land and Assets.

Yours faithfully,

Rod Cooke

January 20th 2016

Document sent to me via FoI request:

Annex A
Ownership of land: A verbal brief to the public and councillors November 2015 PC Meeting
There has been a claim that the PC owns some of Kirby Cane and Ellingham charity lands.
Reference has been made to the parish councillor’s guide, the 1894 local government act and to the 1972 local government act.
We have investigated. The current legal position has also been investigated.
The current position
Land Registry. The land is legally held by Ellingham charity and the parish council does not own it.
Charity Commission the land is legally held by Ellingham and Kirby Cane charities. The parish council does not own it and are also not Custodian Trustees. If that role existed the Charity Commissioners would have the role. Land ownership cannot change without their approval (The PC is Custodian Trustee of the Memorial Hall but that is a different issue)
Misconception about the past
The parish councillors’ guide has been quoted as if it was a statutory instrument which it is not. It is advisory. In addition its wording appears correct but to have been misunderstood. It merely says that parish property includes land allotted under enclosure awards etc… It does not say that all land allotted under enclosure awards is now the property of the parish council.
The reason the guide uses that wording is that the statutory authority the guide quotes is the 1894 act which makes it clear that the property could be transferred but only if the Charity Commission approved it and parish council wanted it. We have been unable to find any evidence that the action then required to transfer the land was taken. In 1894 they appear to have preferred to leave the lands in the hands of a charitable organisation rather than transfer them to the new Parish Councils.
The 1972 Local Government Act does not appear to alter that situation but does confirm that the Charity Commission can change any of the acts relating to charities to settle or alter schemes for the better administration of any charity. They have been doing that to our charities for the last 100 years.
Summary Our research and the evidence presented to us shows the PC does not own the land.
Proposal for Councillors: That there should be no further research at local residents’ expense into this issue without concrete, incontrovertible statutory evidence. If individual residents wish to challenge the ownership of the land at their own expense in the courts they may do so.

Letter sent to KC&EPC in reply to theirs above:

Dear Chair, Clerk, Councillors and public,

Ref. Freedom of Information request made on 16th December 2015.

At the November 17th 2015 meeting of KC&EPC a statement was made as follows:

8b. Identifying Parish Council and charity assets – Cllr Lees described the Parish Council’s extensive examination, with others, into whether the Parish Council owns the land administered by Kirby Cane Charity and Ellingham United Charities. The examination of historic statutes and current law resolved the issue. The legal situation is that the land is vested in the Charity Commission. The Parish Council does not own it, and the Parish Council’s only responsibility is to appoint trustees to each of the charities.   Councillors resolved to write to the trustees of both charities to thank them for the assistance they have given over more than hundred years, and are still giving, to local people in financial need and to local volunteer organisations.

I am particularly concerned that the public should not be misled over matters relating to Parish Assets. It was for this reason that I issued the FoI request to ascertain what new information KC&EPC had at its disposal that would over-ride the overwhelming evidence for KC&EPC legal interest in the Parish Assets that I have listed for the council. Unfortunately, the documentation that I have now received from the Clerk to KC&EPC does nothing to alleviate my concerns. As KC&EPC have until 20th January 2016 to fully comply with my request I will await further documents. In the meantime I will list the items requested here again, with additional comments in order for the documentation requested to be identified:

  • Please provide all emails, letters, memos, records of telephone conversations and any other communications relating to the above quoted report. There are no copies of correspondence between KC&EPC and the Charity Commissioners that would confirm that land is vested in the Charity Commission. This statement seems to be without evidence. (Note: Vesting of land does not necessarily determine ownership.)
  • Please provide the minutes of meetings between councillors that carried out the “…extensive examinations…” of matters relating to Parish lands and Assets. There are no references to the examination of historic statutes and current law that resolved the issue for KC&EPC. There are no references to any other councillor being involved other than the Chairman, however Councillor Lees states that it was the Parish Council’s extensive examination. This statement seems to be without evidence.
  • Please provide all correspondence that confirms the so called “…legal situation…” relating to Parish lands and Assets. No evidence has been provided in support of this very bold statement that KC&EPC has no legal interest in the parish land and assets.
  • Please confirm the position and acreage of all of the lands and the monetary amounts of assets that KC&EPC subjected to “…extensive examination…” The first part of this request concerns land administered by the trustees of Ellingham United Charities and Kirby Cane Charities. This land falls into three quite different categories of holding; therefore are subject to three different investigations of legal interest. Tens of thousands of pounds are invested separate from the land values and these investments again fall into three quite different investigations of legal interest. The information provided so far seems to ignore the value of the investment assets altogether as well as ignoring detail relating to the lands concerned. Far from an …extensive examination…, the evidence so far provided shows little examination of the land and investments in question.
  • Please provide full details of the “…historic statutes and current law…” that were examined and whether or not a professional/legal expert in the field was consulted. Again no evidence has been provided to support the statement quoted.

There seems to be no evidence to confirm any of the statements that have been recorded in the minute 8b of KC&EPC November 2015 draft minutes. Without the evidence to support the assertions it could be argued that this minute is extremely misleading.

The narrative document which, it is stated, was read out to the meeting of KC&EPC on 17th November 2015 contains a number of what might, without supporting evidence, also be called misleading statements.

  • No documents from the Land Registry have been produced for this FoI request.
  • No correspondence from the Charity Commissioners has been produced for this FoI request.
  • No explanation or reference is given for the interpretations made of the 1894 and 1972 Local Government Acts.
  • NALC seems to have been given an entirely misleading view of what has been requested and has therefore given entirely misleading advice to KC&EPC.

There is a responsibility on KC&EPC to look after the land, buildings and other assets of the villages. I have raised a question concerning village assets amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds that evidence, confirmed by the Charity Commission, shows have been mismanaged for many years. There is also very firm evidence for there being a KC&EPC legal interest in the ownership of some or all of these lands and assets. It is, I believe, entirely reasonable that these issues be discussed and that the legal situation be ascertained, particularly in view of the fact that many villagers are keen to have new village facilities. It is my view that matters such as this can be discussed maturely without recourse to the sort of behaviour that I have been subjected to since raising the subject. I am happy to sit down with the Chair and Clerk and a friend of mine should that be seen to be helpful. Deliberately snubbing me in the village will not help at all, neither will describing me in impolite terms such as Cooke. I am sure that it is possible for us all to gain a clearer picture of these most valuable assets and the ways in which the best use can be made of them for all the villagers.

I look forward to hearing from you by 20th January 2016 as to whether or not there will be more material sent to me in support of the statements made by KC&EPC. Should you need more time please do let me know. I will not publish this letter until after the 20th January 2015. I will not contact the Office of the Information Commissioner unless I see it as necessary in this case. I will publish all of the information provided in this FoI request after 20th January 2016.

Yours sincerely,

Rod Cooke

December 30th 2015

Dear Chair, Clerk, Councillors and public,

This grotesque statement appears on a Kirby Cane and Ellingham website that purports to “…point you in the right direction…” Not only is it grotesque, but it shows a complete disregard of the historic facts and is extremely bigoted in this respect. What we have here is completely undemocratic in its nature and reminiscent of a society where we are all expected to doff our caps to the local establishment.

20th November 2015 – Parish Council thanks local charities

At its latest meeting on Tuesday, 17th November, the Parish Council decided that it would like to thank the many local residents who serve as Trustees on our local charities and thank them for their careful management of their assets in compliance with the Charity Commission requirements. We would like to thank them for the way in which they have supported our two villages for over 100 years, and still do so. We would like to thank them publicly for their help to those in difficulty in the parish like the Memorial Hall, the football club, the village school, the allotments society, the public playing fields, the Parish Council and our local churches. We would like to express our deep regret for the way they have recently as institutions and individual trustees been hounded by that have caused stress and has prevented or hampered them carrying out work for the community.

Yours sincerely,
Richard Lees,
Chairman (Kirby Cane & Ellingham Parish Council)

Perhaps the Fresh Start Parish Councillors believe that if they tell their version of events long enough people might believe them. Let’s have a look at the real truth behind the statements made:

  • Careful management of assetsthe real truth is, as charity accounts show, that many thousands of pounds has been lost to the villages because the trustees have failed for decades to get market value rents for the village land that they are entrusted to manage.
  • Compliance with the Charity Commission requirements – the real truth is well documented and has been verified by the Charity Commissioners, basically, there are many examples where the trustees have failed to comply with their governance documents. Not the least of these was the failure by the Parish Council and the trustees to seek new appointments for over a decade. The real truth is that some of the village land was rented out to one of the trustees in contravention of Charity Commission requirements.
  • We would like to thank them publicly for their help to those in difficulty in the parish…. – the real truth is that it is not the trustees, as some kind of benevolent group who are helping those in difficulty; the charities belong to the villages. The assets were left throughout history by benefactors in general for the poor of the villages. Instead of holding secret meetings, why don’t the trustees deal with village assets in a truly democratic way with open meetings?
  • We would like to thank them for the thousands of pounds they have spent in supporting institutions… – the real truth is that only those in the know benefitted from the charities until matters were brought to light a few years ago. Recently £1,500 was taken, at a secret meeting, from the money for the poor of the villages and given to the church. The real truth is that charity business has all been done in secret in the past and is still done in secret The trustees don’t like villagers to know how they manage villager’s assets.
  • Obsessive and disproportionate legalistic quibbles – When confronted by the real truth this is how the village establishment reacts; they try to persecute anybody who dares to question what they have done and are doing. What is disproportionate about trying to get a more democratic system of managing village assets? How is trying to get the best value from village assets a legalistic quibble?
  • Caused stress – the real truth is that this is absolute hypocrisy. The stress, if any, has been self-inflicted by those involved in the management of the village assets by failing to admit to their mistakes.

How can we trust the Parish Council or the trustees when they resort to publicly misleading statements of the sort quoted above?

If anybody wants to see how good management of parish assets can provide sports fields, pavilions, village halls and various other village amenities I suggest they start by looking at what happened in Poringland a few years back. I believe that we should use village assets for the benefit of the villagers rather than for the private profit of others.

Yours faithfully,

Rod Cooke

PS This letter will be in the public domain.

December 2015

After the draft minutes of the November 2015 meeting of KC&EPC I have written the following:

Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council,

c/o Clavelshay,

Toad Lane

Thwaite St Mary

Bungay

NR35 2EQ

 

Dear Clerk and Chair,

At the meeting of KC&EPC on 17th November 2016 the following report was given to the public:-

8b. Identifying Parish Council and charity assets – Cllr Lees described the Parish Council’s extensive examination, with others, into whether the Parish Council owns the land administered by Kirby Cane Charity and Ellingham United Charities. The examination of historic statutes and current law resolved the issue. The legal situation is that the land is vested in the Charity Commission. The Parish Council does not own it, and the Parish Council’s only responsibility is to appoint trustees to each of the charities.   Councillors resolved to write to the trustees of both charities to thank them for the assistance they have given over more than hundred years, and are still giving, to local people in financial need and to local volunteer organisations.

Please treat the following as a formal request by way of the Freedom of Information Act 2000:

  • Please provide all emails, letters, memos, records of telephone conversations and any other communications relating to the above quoted report.
  • Please provide the minutes of meetings between councillors that carried out the “…extensive examinations…” of matters relating to Parish lands and Assets.
  • Please provide all correspondence that confirms the so called “…legal situation…” relating to Parish lands and Assets.
  • Please confirm the position and acreage of all of the lands and the monetary amounts of assets that KC&EPC subjected to “…extensive examination…”
  • Please provide full details of the historic statutes and current law that were examined and whether or not a professional/legal expert in the field was consulted.

I look forward to receiving the above requested information in full compliance with the Freedom of Information Act mention above.

 

Please be aware that this FoI request will be in the public sphere.

***********************************************************************

Further to the next Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council meeting on 17th November: I have written to them the following:

Dear Clerk and Councillors,

Re Agenda item 8 ii at the KC&EPC meeting 17.11.15.

As you are all aware, some colleagues and I have been researching for a number of years the more recent history of Kirby Cane and Ellingham using primary documents such as church records, charity accounts and parish council minute books. A good deal of evidence concerning parish land and assets and the management thereof has been uncovered and reported to Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council (KC&EPC); also recorded on the website kirbycaneandellingham.com and the Facebook page Kirby Cane and Ellingham Grapevine.

Parish Land would seem to fall into four main areas:

1. Land set aside for use of the villagers at the time of the enclosures 1806; 20 acres for Ellingham and 5 acres for Kirby Cane.
2. Land left by earlier benefactors, dating back to the fourteenth century in one case, particularly that known as Bonfellows in the records; approximately 25 acres in Ellingham and 17 acres in Kirby cane.
3. Sand and Gravel charity land which is about 1 acre, given to the parish in recent times and situated on the Geldeston road.
4. Land consisting of “40 feet of frontage” at the site of the bus shelter.

The position of these lands can be found by referring to the maps on the above mentioned website.

(The Memorial Hall is also owned by KC&EPC on behalf of the villagers.)

Assets would seem to consist mainly of the funds held in the Charity Commission official investments:

• Ellingham United Charities in total: 6389.87 holdings @ 1258.60 each.
• Kirby Cane Charities trustees offer the following information regarding investments: M&G 1 84 units, M&G 2 178 units, Charity Commission official investments 183.48 units.

That KC&EPC is the legal owner of all of these assets, regardless of how they are managed, cannot be in question for: In 1894, when the Local Government Act came into force, all non-ecclesiastical charity assets became the legal interest of the new Parish Councils. This was confirmed by the 1972 Local Government Act. (See The Parish Councillor’s Guide: Paul Claydon, Shaw and Sons 2009 pp 172-178)

Other information regarding the management of Parish Land relates to the terms by which the land is rented out. The trust documents of both Kirby Cane Charities and Ellingham United Charities forbid the use of long term tenancy agreements in accordance with charity law. However, all Parish Land seems to have become subject to such long term agreements. Annual EU subsidies, at a greater value than the annual rents achieved, have been claimed by those renting the land. All tenancies can/should be terminated at the end of each year. The interest in the EU subsidy would then revert to the landowner i.e. KC&EPC.

I do hope that councillors will look at the evidence with open minds. Further detailed information can be found on the website mentioned and I am available to meet with the Clerk and Chair at any time to discuss the research findings.

Yours sincerely,
Rod Cooke

KCE Asset Register last updated 15 0324 (4) (Click here)

 

July and August 2015

 

Here are some details about how nasty things can get when you publish the truth:

The first letter below, written by me, was published in the Beccles and Bungay Journal (BBJ) on 3rd October 2014. It solicited a response from a resident, Mrs Saunders, which was published the following week. My further letter to the BBJ, copied below, was not published. Some five months later, on 17th March 2015, an anonymous resident brought a complaint about the letter to Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council (KC&EPC). The Parish Council, ignoring all of their own protocols for dealing with “Complaints against a Councillor”, dealt with the matter in full council with public present. The following is sound evidence that Parish Councils are a law unto themselves and can bully with impunity:

  1. The letter that is supposed to have infringed KC&EPC Communications Protocol:

Kirby Cane,

Norfolk

27th September 2014

Beccles & Bungay Journal,

20 Blyburgate,

Beccles

NR34 9TB

Dear Sir,

I have been following with interest the ongoing saga of Beccles Common and Fen Lands.

Readers will remember the bold headline stories of the councillor from Kirby Cane and Ellingham District Council who would not resign whilst all around him did. I am that councillor and would not resign because here in Kirby Cane and Ellingham we have a very similar situation concerning Parish Assets. When the Local Government Act was passed in 1894, all parish assets that were non-ecclesiastical passed into the ownership and care of the newly formed councils. The problem is that these assets became “lost” to elected councillors over the years. So “lost”, in fact, that even today the present council is in a state of denial about ownership of these assets.

I am in full agreement with your letter writer Susan Doherty; “We, the owners, need some answers.”

I remain a councillor and continue to argue for the assets of Kirby Cane and Ellingham to be back where they rightfully belong; with the Parish Council on behalf of the people of the two villages.

The full facts can be found on the village history website; www.kirbycaneandellingham.com

Yours faithfully,

Councillor Rod Cooke

  1. My reply to a letter by the now Councillor Saunders which was not published:

Kirby Cane,

Norfolk .

18th October 2014

Beccles and Bungay Journal,

20 Blyburgate,

Beccles,

Suffolk .

NR34 9TB

Dear Sir,

With regard to the letter from Mrs D Saunders in the B&BJ 17th October 2014: “Charities protect our land.”

This was a rather unfortunate title as “protecting our land” is the one thing that the two village charities for Kirby Cane and Ellingham have not done. It should be noted perhaps that Mrs Saunders has an interest herself, her husband being a trustee of one of the charities. The facts are as follows:

The tenants of over sixty acres of parish land, managed by the two trustee bodies, have been renting this land out at well below market prices for at least the last decade. Take 2012 to 2013 for example: average rents paid for the land in question were under £60 an acre for good grazing and good arable land. Meanwhile the tenants of this land were all claiming EU subsidies of at least £85 an acre on the same parish land. At least £25 an acre for doing nothing! It doesn’t need an expert to see that the “charities” trustees were not “protecting our land”.

Both trustee bodies are what are known as “de facto”, that is, they have not been appointed correctly. This has been the case for at least ten years. One of the last decisions of the so-called “exceptionally honourable” councillors who resigned en bloc was to vote for the de facto trustees to remain in place. Councillors who were trustees failed to declare an interest and voted for themselves; a councillor already visited by the police and warned to declare a pecuniary interest still voted! Little wonder I described the council at that time as “toxic”.

The Charity Commissioners found in 2012 that many of the issues I have raised are “valid” and asked the trustees and the Parish Council to correct matters. Both failed to do so and still refuse to do so. At the moment the Charity Commissioners are being investigated by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman for failing to ensure that their demands were met by the Parish Council and trustees. It might be worth pointing out that the trustees are personally liable for many thousands of pounds of “lost” income.

With regard to the website www.kirbycaneandellingham.com ; contact can be made via the website. The information contained on the site has been researched by people at postgraduate level and fully referenced. The bulk of the information is primary research from the charity and parish records.

The problems can be solved by all parties coming together for the good of the two villages. Ownership of the land and investments cannot be disputed as the position is backed by an Act of Parliament. Management of the lands and investments can, and should, be in the hands of management trustees as registered charities. These trustees should be able to discuss all aspects of the management with the Parish Council, in closed session if necessary. The decisions still remain with the trustees, but the Parish Council retains its right to appoint the majority of the trustees and maintains ownership. An example of very good management of parish assets can be found by looking at what Poringland has been able to achieve with its new community centre and other village amenities.

Yours faithfully,

Councillor Rod Cooke

  1. Here South Norfolk District Council said it could do nothing so the following complaint forwarded to KC&EPC:

Kirby Cane,

Norfolk

April 2015

Clerk and Chair and of Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council,

c/o Clavelshay,

Toad Lane,

Thwaite St Mary,

Bungay

NR35 2EQ

Dear Clerk,

I write concerning actions taken by councillors at the meeting of Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council on Tuesday 17th March 2015. Also concerning the letter sent to me by the Clerk to the Council informing me councillors; …unanimously resolved that you had broken the Protocol on Communications. The Draft minutes of that meeting confirm these actions and subsequent decision. I believe these actions to be defamatory, unfair and against natural justice on the grounds that I was not informed of, nor allowed to answer, the allegations made against me.

It is very unfortunate that the Clerk to Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council has had her position undermined by the action of councillors who seem not to understand the policies and protocols of the Council. It is, of course, within the role of the Clerk to remind councillors of their legal duties. However, as the Clerk cannot be held responsible for the decisions of the councillor’s my only recourse to trying to gain justice in these matters is for me to bring a complaint against the Chair for failing to advise councillors of the correct procedures for bringing complaints against a fellow councillor. (I return to this point below.)

The situation is somewhat exacerbated by the facts; there were two clerks present at the meeting, also a councillor who acts as a clerk, two District councillors and, above all, the Chair of South Norfolk District Council Standards Committee. It is reasonable to expect that at least one of these people would be aware of the correct procedures for bringing a complaint against a councillor.

I state here and now that I wholly reject the allegations and do not consider that my letter published in the Beccles and Bungay Journal was in contravention of any Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council protocols, policies, or Code of Conduct.

The procedures for bringing a complaint against a councillor are made quite clear in legislation. However, I quote here from the Complaints Procedure adopted by Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council September 2013:

  1. This procedure does not cover complaints about the conduct of a member of the Parish Council. Any complaint that a councillor may have breached the Council’s adopted code of conduct should be referred to South Norfolk Council.

6(a) On receipt of a written complaint, the Clerk to the Council……will seek to settle the complaint directly with the complainant. This will not be done without first notifying any person complained about and giving him or her an opportunity to comment. Efforts should be made to resolve the complaint at this stage.

Even allowing for the Clerk/councillors to have not understood the actions required by legislation and the councils own procedures at 2 above, 6(a) makes it perfectly clear that the person complained about should be informed and given the opportunity to comment. This was not done.

The first time that I was made aware of the complaint against me was on receipt of the letter from the Clerk dated 27th March 2015. Agenda item 16; To consider a complaint raised by a resident was insufficiently worded in relation to the serious nature of the matter to be discussed and no background papers were sent to councillors beforehand.

South Norfolk District Council complaints procedures support 6(a) as follows; In the interests of fairness and natural justice, we believe members who are complained about have a right to know who has made the complaint. We also believe they have a right to be provided with a summary of the complaint.

The Model Standing Orders published by the NALC, to which the Council subscribes, is quite clear about breaches of the Code of Conduct and the need for confidentiality during the investigation of complaints. (“Standing Orders for Local Councils” 31 pp112 &113)

I also quote advice just received from the offices of the Secretary of State: Democracy Division, Department for Communities and Local Government;

The new arrangements must include the involvement of a person who is truly independent of the members and officers of the council in the arrangements for dealing with an allegation.  The council must seek the views of this independent person after any investigation and before coming to a decision, and any member who has had an allegation made against them may seek the view of the independent person.  The involvement of an independent person in the arrangements for taking decisions on allegations will ensure that there is a check on vexatious or politically motivated complaints. (Letter dated 2nd April 2015 from Stuart Young Democracy Division Department for Communities and Local Government2nd Floor North East Quadrant Fry Building 2 Marsham Street London SW1P 4DF)

In summary Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council have:

  • Failed to follow the Complaints Procedure of the Council.
  • Failed to notify me of the allegation made against me.
  • Failed to provide me with details of the allegations made against me.
  • Failed to provide me with any opportunity to have the matter handled confidentially.
  • Failed to give me the chance to comment, other than at a public meeting.
  • Failed to give me access to the Independent Person.
  • By making public allegations against me at the last Parish Council meeting before the election, my election chances to the next council have been jeopardised.

These failures by Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Councillors have denied me the natural justice as is my right according to the procedures of South Norfolk District Council; the body that oversees complaints against councillors.

Furthermore as the draft minutes indicate, there was no formal motion, no mover or seconder, bringing into question whether or not this action of the councillors; …unanimously resolved that you had broken the Protocol on Communications… is reliable.

This is the second time in recent months that the Chair of Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council has engaged, with other councillors, in a personal attack, in an attempt to demonise me. These actions are quite clearly further bullying and contribute to my feeling of being unable to attend council meetings. I believe that my whistle blowing about malpractice within the parish council and the two village charities is the reason for these actions by other councillors.

The Code of Conduct has been breached as follows in the hi-lighted sections:

Member obligations

When a member of the Council acts, claims to act or gives the impression of acting as a representative of the Council, he/she has the following obligations.

  1. He/she shall behave in such a way that a reasonable person would regard as respectful.
  1. He/she shall not act in a way which a reasonable person would regard as bullying or intimidatory.
  1. He/she shall not seek to improperly confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person.
  1. He/she shall use the resources of the Council in accordance with its requirements.
  1. He/she shall not disclose information which is confidential or where disclosure is prohibited by law.

I am now asking that I receive a full and unreserved apology for the latest malpractice of the Council, as outlined above. I am sending this to the Clerk to the Council so that both she and the Chair are aware of my actions. I am also sending a formal complaint to the Monitoring Officer of South Norfolk District Council, as is required when a complaint is made about a councillor.

Yours faithfully,

Councillor Rod Cooke

  1. The Clerk wrote to say that the complaint would be dealt with at two subsequent council meetings; it was not, so I wrote the following:

Kirby Cane,

Norfolk

29.4.15.

Clerk and Chair and of Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council,

c/o Clavelshay,

Toad Lane,

Thwaite St Mary,

Bungay

NR35 2EQ

Dear Chair and Clerk,

I note with some concern that no action has been taken with regard to my letter of 7th April 2015.

As is my right, I contacted the Independent Person, Alex Oram, about the actions of KC&EPC. I quote below from his reply:

Subsequently reading your letter dated 7 April it has become apparent that the Parish Council dealt with concerns about your conduct themselves by deciding you had breached their protocol on communications; by doing so they avoided the involvement of the District Council, the ‘standards framework’ and any Code of Conduct considerations. While I can understand your concern at the way this matter was dealt with by the Parish Council (which from your description appears unfair, particular given that there is a clear framework in place for dealing with complaints about councillors) there is little that the District Council can do about decisions made by a Parish Council.

As you see, Mr Oram is of the opinion that KC&EPC have acted unfairly. He also makes me aware that the District Council can do little about these unfair actions of KC&EPC. This leaves me with little option other than taking legal action against the council in the event that an apology, as outlined in my letter of 7th April 2015, is not received.

I do hope that, given the opinion of the Independent Person, KC&EPC will acknowledge the failure by councillors to follow the; clear framework in place for dealing with complaints about councillors at the meeting held on 17th March 2015.

I look forward to hearing from you in due course, but note that delays by the Clerk and officers of KC&EPC in handling the matters raised by me on 7th April 2015 allow for little confidence that this will be the case.

Yours faithfully,

Councillor Rod Cooke

  1. If you think by this time that Parish Councils are a law unto themselves, then you are correct. The following letter from the Minister of State confirms this:

Department for Communities and Local

Government

2nd Floor SE Fry Building

2 Marsham Street

London

SW1P 4DF

fax: 020 7035 0018

E-Mail:chloe.kenny@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Kirby Cane,

Norfolk

Our Ref:1113990

Date: 28 July 2015

Dear Mr Cooke,

Thank you for your web enquiry of 9 June 2015 addressed to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt. Hon. Greg Clark MP. I have been asked to reply to this as I work in the team which has policy responsibility for local democracy issues. I am sorry that you have not received an earlier response.

I am sorry that you feel that you did not receive a satisfactory response to your previous correspondence. However, as my colleague explained, parish councils are independent bodies and ministers have no remit to intervene in their day to day affairs, except where a specific provision has been made in an Act of Parliament.

It is for each local council to determine how the minutes of their meetings are constructed. Minutes are intended to be formal records of official acts and decisions, not reports or verbatim accounts, and the arguments used in discussion need only be recorded if a decision cannot clearly be expressed in any other way. It is my understanding that legal responsibility for ensuring parish meeting minutes are correct rests with the parish councillors present at the meeting concerned and the person/persons who sign the document as accurate.

A parish council may make standing orders to regulate its business and proceedings, and may vary or revoke them. The contents of standing orders are for the council to determine, although they should not conflict with any statutory requirements. The model standing orders provided by NALC are illustrative examples. Councils can, if they choose, use them as a basis for their standing orders, but there is no statutory obligation for them to do so.

All parish councils are advised for good local administration to adopt a standard procedure for considering complaints. However, the specific procedures are not prescribed in statute and therefore it is for the council to decide on their individual policy and procedure. If a parish council does have a complaints procedure it would be expected to follow this when considering complaints.

It is for each individual local authority to determine the contents of their code of conduct, although any code must conform to the seven ‘Nolan’ principles of standards in public life; selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. It is my understanding that complaints regarding councillor misconduct can be furthered to the Monitoring Officer at the principal council, but there is no obligation to further it unless the complainant believes this necessary. If the complainant does further the complaint, it is for the Monitoring Officer to decide whether an inspection of the matter would be within their remit.

In addition to local government law, it is for the parish council to ensure it is acting within the bounds of all relevant legislation, including laws surrounding openness and transparency, data protection, defamation and public order offences. The code of conduct is not intended to replace remedies available through other means.

In line with the principles of localism, it is for local electors to hold their councils to account and seek redress using the mechanisms outlined in the department’s letter to you dated 2 April 2015. Complaints or concerns can be raised by: utilising the parish council’s complaints procedure; raising the matter at a parish meeting; pointing out concerns during the public inspection period of accounts for the audit; or by joining with a group of local electors to call for a parish poll on the issue.

The Government believes the current system of redress at parish level is proportionate to the sector and is consistent with their principles on localism.

Yours sincerely, Chloe Kenny

6. My letter to KC&EPC; fairly self explanatory:

Kirby Cane,

Norfolk

11.8.15.

Clerk and Chair and of Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council,

c/o Clavelshay,

Toad Lane,

Thwaite St Mary,

Bungay

NR35 2EQ

Dear Clerk and Chair to Kirby Cane and Ellingham parish Council,

I am in receipt of your letter of 30th July and of a letter from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt. Hon. Greg Clark MP, to whom I had written about the matters in hand. I have taken some time to discuss these matters with my legal representative and a Monitoring Officer from a neighbouring authority.

In the light of these discussions conclusions were drawn as follows:

  • The present councillors have decided to amend the Complaints Procedure of KC&EPC and to apply these changes retrospectively to my complaint made in April 2015. This is a highly unusual practice and seems to stem from an idea that I crave confidentiality; I do not. Councillors might like to note that full details of my complaints against KC&EPC are on the www.kirbycaneandellingham.com website. It is the policy of KC&EPC that demands confidentiality when dealing with complaints against a councillor. It was the breaking of this clause that caused me to complain. I have never been anything other than transparent at all times, despite various lies written about my research by some present councillors, who seem determined to remain ignorant of the facts.
  • It is noted that Councillors Lees, Wickenden and Wright have been appointed to; “…look at any outstanding complaints before the council.” Assuming that the Clerk and councillors are aware of the duty of councillors to declare an interest when they are “pre-determined” about an issue, it would be difficult to see how any of these three councillors could fairly consider my complaint. All three have written vitriolic attacks against me personally, rather than to deal with council matters in a business-like and democratic way. I have been subjected to a verbal attack by a councillor, whilst visiting a friend, including being threatened with a bullet between my eyes. That would seem to rule out four councillors from giving my complaint a fair hearing.
  • It has been noted that the non-transparent policy of past and present councillors of KC&EPC with regard to the two village charities that allowed for their past miss-management. It has been noted too that councillors again failed to make any changes to the process for the handing over of complete control of village assets worth in the region of £750,000 to these secretive bodies. Only one change to the trustees has been made and a councillor seems to have failed to declare an interest when trustee appointments were made.

I have no wish for any involvement with councillors that seek to demonise individuals rather than to discuss sensibly matters of great importance for the villages. The letter that I received from the Minister ( view on www.kirbycaneandellingham.com ) confirmed, for those of us who discussed its contents, that Parish Councils are a law unto themselves; they are not constrained in any way from the sort of bullying behaviour that has been dealt out to me. No doubt a number of the sitting councillors will be pleased that their behaviour has achieved this result. I shall continue my research, with others, and continue to be transparent in all that I find.

I shall, of course, publish this letter on the website mentioned and will also copy to my MP Mr Richard Bacon, who has been very helpful and kind throughout the past few years.

Yours faithfully,

Rod Cooke

 

June 2015

For some years past I have provided the Parish Council and trustees of both Kirby Cane Charities and Ellingham United Charities with “facts”. Unfortunately, the only thing that they did about the “facts” was to demonise me for daring to raise such issues.
Here is a new example: in a recent post by me, on Kirby Cane and Ellingham Grapevine (Facebook), I have provided a link to the Parish Council website where the new Chairman has made mention of a grant made by Kirby Cane Charity to Ellingham Primary School. Now the facts are that Kirby Cane Charity trustees have no right to give money to the school. The Objects of Kirby Cane Charity are quite clear; donations from the charity are for the; “benefit of those persons who are in need, hardship or distress”. You can check this at http://kcc.btck.co.uk/ where you will find the extreme vitriolic attacks on me for presenting “facts” to the establishment.
I’m afraid that, if it doesn’t relate to dog bins or the Playing Field, the establishment are not really that interested. They like to keep all the really important stuff quiet.

I would hope that all the new Parish Councillors will keep an eye on all of the websites relating to the two villages. What we do know is that the current Chairman has taken to posting items on the Kirby Cane and Ellingham PC website. Transparency of this type is, I feel, a good thing. However, as somebody who has been sent to Coventry by past and present Parish Councillors because I blew the whistle on some rather non-transparent practices, I wonder if the new Chairman will at last read the information that I have provided, open his mind and do something about it? As I have mentioned before, being a Parish Councillor should be more than dog bins and the Playing Field. What about the PARISH ASSETS that are worth around £750,000 these are managed in SECRET by a CLIQUE appointed by the Parish Council. Isn’t this just as important as dog bins?

May 2015

We have a new Parish Council for Kirby Cane and Ellingham. Here are the voting figures and a short commentary (as you might expect from me!)

Kirby Cane – 292 Electors – 75% turnout

Cook          171 votes   58%

Saunders    135 votes   46%

Wickenden 120 votes   41%

Wright        154 votes   53%

Ellingham – 473 electors – 69% turnout

Lees           229 votes   48%

Cannard     181 votes   38%

Game         156 votes   33%

Lodge        174 votes   37%

Pickering   233 votes   49%

Whilst it is good to have seen an election for Parish Councillors at last, the voting figures are hardly an endorsement of the candidates. However, whilst seven of the nine councillors have called themselves “Freshstart” candidates, no manifesto was issued.

In truth a fresh start is exactly what the villages of Kirby Cane and Ellingham needs from their parish councillors. Will these “Freshstart” councillors actually tackle the problem of Parish Land and Assets that have fallen into the hands of non-elected/secretive groups of people? We know that five of the “Freshstart” councillors have resisted regaining parish assets for the people of the villages in the past. Will they stand by their slogan and appoint totally new trustee bodies for the two village charities? Will they take back the land that has somehow been allowed to fall out of the control of the Parish Council?

Properly managed, the Parish Land and Assets could provide some huge improvements for the villages. Will these “Freshstart” councillors tackle these issues or will it be the same old, same old: dog bins and grass cutting on the playing field?

PS The South Norfolk District Councillor Billig was re-elected with 34% and will no doubt claim a mandate and the expenses!

May 2015 Councillor (until 6th May) Rod Cooke

Why I did not stand for Parish Council at this election:

Our council is an example of how Parish Councils get round the Code of Conduct, Protocols and anything else you care to throw into the mix. Basically, they just ignore everything and do as they please.

I upset fellow councillors by relaying information to the press that was openly available in the minutes of meetings. They decided to bring a complaint against me; through a proxy “member of the public”. They hid their intentions in an item on the agenda!

In summary, the Parish Council:

  • Failed to follow the Complaints Procedure of the Council.
  • Failed to notify me of the allegation made against me.
  • Failed to provide me with details of the allegations made against me.
  • Failed to provide me with any opportunity to have the matter handled confidentially.
  • Failed to give me the chance to comment, other than at a public meeting.
  • Failed to give me access to the Independent Person.
  • By making public allegations against me at the last Parish Council meeting before the election, my election chances to the next council have been jeopardised.

The District Council refused to get involved and threatened to ignore all future correspondence on the subject but has as a part of its complaints procedure the following:

In the interests of fairness and natural justice, we believe members who are complained about have a right to know who has made the complaint. We also believe they have a right to be provided with a summary of the complaint.

The department of the Minister of State wrote to me on the matter of complaints against a councillor:

The new arrangements must include the involvement of a person who is truly independent of the members and officers of the council in the arrangements for dealing with an allegation.  The council must seek the views of this independent person after any investigation and before coming to a decision, and any member who has had an allegation made against them may seek the view of the independent person.  The involvement of an independent person in the arrangements for taking decisions on allegations will ensure that there is a check on vexatious or politically motivated complaints. (Letter, Stuart Young Democracy Division Department for Communities and Local Government2nd Floor North East Quadrant Fry Building 2 Marsham Street London SW1P 4DF)

So I contacted the Independent Person who wrote:

Subsequently reading your letter dated 7 April it has become apparent that the Parish Council dealt with concerns about your conduct themselves by deciding you had breached their protocol on communications; by doing so they avoided the involvement of the District Council, the ‘standards framework’ and any Code of Conduct considerations. While I can understand your concern at the way this matter was dealt with by the Parish Council (which from your description appears unfair, particular given that there is a clear framework in place for dealing with complaints about councillors) there is little that the District Council can do about decisions made by a Parish Council.

 

Now what?

Bearing in mind that serious mismanagement of village assets and charities has been involved, it seems inconceivable that nothing can be done. However, I can assure readers that I have gone to extreme lengths to gain back for the people of the village that which is rightfully theirs. In the main however, things remain exactly the same. The same old clique and their friends will be back in control after the election.

Basically, the local electors have been robbed blind, again, and on having the situation shown to them have still proved as apathetic as ever. Perhaps we should do away with Parish Councils and leave all decision making to Parish Meetings which will only be allowed to make decisions if more than 50% of the electors attend.

March 2015

New figures in support of the February update:

Once again, rather than facing the facts that Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council has failed to look after the best interests of the villages, the councillors have chosen to attack those who challenged it.

Having failed to appoint charity trustees for over a decade and allowing parish land to become lost, the council was reported to the External Auditor. They had many chances to look into matters well before being reported, but ignored the facts. Now they blame the electors for daring to challenge them; how conceited can you get?

If you really want to see how much some of these councillors have cost the local taxpayer just look at the following claims by just four district councillors for the year 2013 to 2014:

Cllr. Allen £5,528; Cllr. Billig, £6,314; Cllr. Gould, £10,817; Cllr. Kemp, £5,250.

A grand total of £27,909 for just the four and remember that none of them gained much more than a third of the electorate to vote for them. (Figures from SNDC website)

These councillors appointed a new Clerk to Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council in October 2013. In the meantime they have continued to employ an “advisory clerk” as well as the new clerk. From November 2013 to November 2014 this has cost the villages around £1,650. (Figures from the minutes of Kirby Cane and Ellingham parish Council)

However, if you dare to challenge these councillors in the interests of openness and democracy and claiming back parish assets from the private individuals who have taken them over, they will attack you en bloc.

February 2015

Parish Council Update:

 

Rather than looking after the best interests of the two villages, Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council continue to conduct thinly disguised personal attacks on he who challenges their conduct of parish affairs.

Some facts:

  • The previous councillors, who all resigned, had spent around £600 of the council precept on a private investigator in an attempt to bully a fellow councillor into resignation. However, at no cost to the council, the Norfolk County Council specialist in local government law, called in by the Monitoring Officer, declared of the resigning councillors; “ …more likely, in my view, a serious structural weakness [was demonstrated] in the parish council’s governance.”

 

  • For much of the last two years Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council has been in the control of South Norfolk District Council (SNDC) appointed councillors. Instead of attempting to malign an elector bringing a democratic action against the council, it might be worth these councillors reflecting on their own costs. For the year 2013 to 2014 four SNDC councillors claimed nearly £27,000 between them from council tax. This is not to say that it is not their democratic right to make these claims; BUT, equally it is a democratic right of electors to be able to challenge councillors without fear of being bullied.
  • Electors might reasonably ask the question of Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council; Why have they been employing an advisory Clerk for well beyond a reasonable handover period? What is the cost of this? It would seem that the cost runs into thousands of pounds.
  • Most important of all perhaps is the significant loss of revenue to the council for decades as a result of its failure to manage village assets. (These assets can be seen on the website www.kirbycaneandellingham.com ) Twenty-five acres of land was given into the hands of the Parish Councils of Kirby Cane and Ellingham in 1894; this was confirmed in 1972 by Local Government Acts of Parliament. Why have successive parish councils allowed these assets to fall into the hands of the non-appointed people who have control of two local charities? It should be remembered here that there has been a failure by the parish council for at least a decade to properly appoint trustees to these charities. Believe it or not; the present councillors have co-opted back on to the council a councillor who voted for himself to be a trustee!

Rather than conducting personal attacks on electors who are trying to work for the villagers of Kirby Cane and Ellingham, should not the Parish Council be investigating the concerns raised?

February 2015:  The investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is taking a long time but is underway. It will be interesting to find out if there is any way that the self-appointed de facto trustees can be held to account for usurping the village charities and parish land and assets. It’s shameful that these people can act as they have; unelected and unappointed, private individuals who meet in secret and have acted with impunity – SO FAR.

February 2015: That the establishment does not like to be challenged is well and truly borne out by the External Auditors Report!  Despite all of the evidence provided for the External Auditor regarding the dereliction of duties by Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council; the External Auditor failed to issue a report in the public interest. This does not change anything with regard to the ownership of the parish assets, just that the External Auditor skipped the important questions; How is it that ALL parish assets are now in the hands of non-elected and non-appointed people?

May 2014 Parish Land in Kirby Cane and Ellingham

Where are we now?

We know that Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council and the trustees ofEllingham United Charities (EUC) and Kirby Cane Charity (KCC) have been made aware of the following problems relating to Parish Assets. We also know that no action has been taken to resolve these problems:

  • There are around 67 acres of land belonging to the parishes of Kirby Cane and Ellingham; this is Parish Land.
  • This land is managed by the trustees of two charities; Ellingham United Charities (EUC) and Kirby Cane Charity (KCC).
  • The land described on the Enclosure Award map – a legal document – as Poor’s Allotment, is not charity land.
  • In 1894, when the Local Government Act came into force, all non-ecclesiastical charity assets became the legal interest of the new Parish Councils. Therefore the Parish Council, on behalf of the villagers, is the legal guardian of all the aforementioned lands and investments pertaining thereto.
  • All of the land belonging to the parishes, except the Playing Field and the Allotments down Newgate Lane, has been rented out to local tenants.
  • These tenants have been claiming EU Single Farm Payment subsidies on this Parish Land. This subsidy for 2012-13 was £85 an acre and is normally paid to the landowner. If paid to the tenant, independent research shows that rents would increase accordingly.
  • These tenants were paying rents in 2012-13 that average out, for KCC and EUC managed land, at around £58 per acre compared with £85 per acre subsidy being claimed!
  • This sees the tenants getting to farm the land for free as well as taking an immediate profit of, on average, £27 per acre. Details are here in the following tables:

Parish Land managed by Ellingham United Charities:

Acres Rent from tenant Subsidy claimed by tenant (Minimum) Profit to tenant – Loss to parish*
4.9 £272 £416 £144
14.5 £732 £1,232 £500
10 £560 £850 £290
1 £50 £85 £35
14.9 £852 £1,266 £414
Total profit to tenants/loss to villagers £1,383*

Parish Land managed by Kirby Cane Charity:

Acres Rent from tenant Subsidy claimed by tenant (Minimum) Profit to tenant – Loss to parish*
5 £250 £425 £175
6.7 £405 £569 £164
6.67 £734 £567 £167 (Gain to parish)
Total profit to tenants/loss to villagers £172*
  • Only on one piece of land is any rent paid above the level of subsidy.

We should remember that this is just for one year. This practice has been going on since 2005; ten years; tens of thousands of pounds!

Who should be claiming this subsidy?

  • When the new system of farm subsidies was introduced in 2005, it was a subsidy given to look after the land rather than, as previously, to support livestock or particular crops. Research shows that it is more normal for the land owner to claim the subsidy as it is an environmental payment to look after the land. In other words, it should be the Parish Council, as holders of the legal interest in the land, which should be claiming the subsidy on behalf of the villagers on the Poor’s Allotments. Whilst the trustees of EUC and KCC should be claiming the subsidy on behalf of the villagers, as trustees of Parish Land given as charity.

What these figures (above) show is a rather huge loss of revenue to villagers. It also shows a rather strange arrangement whereby, as a tenant of Parish Land, I can make a profit on land I rent without doing a single stroke of work on that land. Evidence from land agents shows quite clearly that the introduction of the EU subsidies on land has reflected correspondingly in higher rents for that land where the tenant farmer claims the subsidy. In other words, rents are always higher than the subsidy. Compare this with what has been happening with Parish Land in Kirby Cane and Ellingham:

  • In 2004-5 EUC were receiving a total income of £1,744 from tenants on the Parish Land. In 2012-13 the income was £2,416, about the rate of inflation and around £53 per acre. A very cheap rent and absolutely no reflection of EU subsidy at £85 an acre.
  • In EU Single Farm Payment subsidies alone this EUC trustee’s managed Parish Land attracted £3,850 as a minimum in 2012-13. Would any sensible landowner give up their right to claim this subsidy whilst charging a rent significantly lower than the subsidy?

So over the ten years of this type of EU subsidy huge sums of money have been involved; at 2012-13 prices around £38,500 on Parish Land in Ellingham alone. That is without taking fair land rents into account and a similar situation that exists with KCC trustee’s managed lands.

What is to be done?

Certainly the Charity Commissioners cannot be relied upon to gain the necessary changes. They have been aware of the mismanagement for years and have failed miserably to do anything. Note: Whilst the Charity Commissioners have written to the MP Mr Richard Bacon, and others, to say that they are “satisfied” that they need not be involved with EUC procedures; within days they were writing to the trustees of EUC warning them that they had “breached” the charity trust document for years and could face regulatory action and be held “personally” responsible for any losses that occurred! A formal complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is being lodged against the Charity Commissioners for their handling of these two charities.

Kirby Cane and Ellingham Parish Council (KC&EPC) seem to want to bury their heads in the sand and to pretend that this situation does not exist. However, as KC&EPC has over the past few years been made fully aware of what has been going on with regard to Parish Land, this stance could be seen as an act of wilful blindness. Furthermore, KC&EPC have failed for many years past to keep the External Auditor fully informed about the assets of the parishes. An investigation by the External Auditor has been experienced by an employee of the council and fees of around £9,000 were charged. This is an enormous cost to the ratepayers just because KC&EPC and trustees of EUC and KCC will not apply due diligence to their duties, comply with the law and protect the village assets.

The Rural Payments Agency who give out the EU subsidy says; “The Rural Payments Agency is reluctant to get drawn into disputes between landlord and tenant or competing occupiers of land. Its normal response to disputes about whether land is at a claimant’s disposal is to delay payments until such time as the parties have resolved the dispute amongst themselves.” However, it can be reported here that the Rural Payments Fraud Team are now looking into these matters. We might ask therefore; why doesn’t KC&EPC try to resolve matters too?

The villagers have lost tens of thousands of pounds over past decades because nobody has taken control of the situation; a charity became lost; trustees have appointed themselves time after time; trustees have rented out land to a fellow trustee at very favourable rents; monies have been taken from the Poor’s Land rents and placed into church accounts; monies have been misappropriated, monies badly needed by local deserving organisations have been left sitting in accounts, investments and accounts have been allowed to become so muddled that it is now difficult to know which investment belongs to which branch of the charity.

Isn’t it time that the body(s) locally responsible took long overdue, corrective action in the best interests of the villagers?

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