Parish council to lodge formal complaint over handling of funding bid

Long Stratton, Norfolk. South Norfolk Council Offices in Long Stratton
Long Stratton, Norfolk. South Norfolk Council Offices in Long Stratton

The chairman of Tharston and Hapton Parish Council has revealed she will be making a formal complaint against South Norfolk Council after the way their bid for funding was handled.

After being shortlisted last year for a Capital Grant application of £82,850 to replace their village hall - which is currently closed- Fiona Lambert presented the case to councillors of the growth and localism committee on Tuesday. A final decision is to be made by cabinet on February 10.

Officers had recommended to councillors not to award the grant in advance of Tuesday’s meeting.

However, Mrs Lambert received an email from South Norfolk Council on December 19 , saying she would not required to present at the meeting, with their bid not meeting certain criteria. Later that day, the parish clerk received a further email from South Norfolk Council, apologising for the error, and stating Mrs Lambert was required to present.

A spokesperson for South Norfolk Council apologised for the mistake, but stressed that no decision was made in advance of councillors hearing the case on Tuesday.

Mrs Lambert says she intends to meet Sandra Dinneen, South Norfolk Council chief executive, on Monday to discuss the complaints procedure.

“We have been kicked in the teeth, frankly,” Mrs Lambert told the Diss Express. “We are going to take it further and put in a formal complaint. We feel the democratic process has not been followed.

“We hoped we might have been able to turn the tables (at the growth and localism committee meeting) but it had turned out the decision had been made. We went in there knowing we would get nothing.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting, the growth and localism committee recommended not to award a grant for the prospective new village hall.

Tharston villagers have been trying to raise £250,000 to rebuild their hall to provide a range of community services, including a rural post office and youth club. Parishioners have raised around £1,300, while the parish council secured a £50,000 private donation. A fundraising agenda will be discussed at the parish council’s next meeting on January 20.