Police investigate ex parish council clerk over alleged financial misconduct
PUBLISHED: 16:01 28 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:02 28 August 2019
A former West Norfolk parish council clerk who resigned two years ago is being by investigated by police over alleged 'financial misconduct' going back several years.
Pat Copeman had been clerk to Welney Parish Council for 21 years when she resigned in the summer of 2017, serving out three months notice.
In July of that year the then chairman Councillor Graham Rainbird thanked her on behalf of the council "for all her work as clerk over the last years" as he wished her a happy retirement.
However at a recent parish council meeting, the current chairman John Loveday read out a prepared statement from Norfolk Police.
It said: "Norfolk Constabulary can confirm that detectives from King's Lynn CID are investigating an allegation of historical financial misconduct within Welney Parish Council.
"Enquiries continue. However financial irregularities within the accounts dating back several years have been discovered."
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The statement added: "One female suspect has been questioned".
Parish councillors confirmed that the 'female suspect' is their former clerk and today a spokesman for Norfolk Police confirmed that "the inquiry is ongoing".
After Ms Copeman left, the parish council had difficulty in finding a new clerk and one man appointed in 2018 quickly left, with the November meeting being told that annual accounts for 2017/18 were still with external auditors.
At the beginning of this year the council decided to invite Littleport Parish Council clerk Su Field and her deputy Vikki Austin to oversee the affairs at Welney, too.
In a statement given to councillors earlier this year they said they were there to assist the parish council going forward "to ensure legality, transparency and effectiveness. "The past is past and we must now look to the future."
Both clerks say their role at Welney is to assist the parish council in its day to day administration "which includes handling face to face, telephone and email queries about the council, updating and managing the website and follow up actions from meetings".
Cllr Loveday, who became chairman after the May local elections, is reported in recent minutes as stating that "we now have a new council and it is time to move forward and to work with the residents / electors of Welney".