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image credit: Westham pond: Westham Community News

A Westham Councillor and locum clerk, from the Sussex Association for Local Councils arrived at the Stone Cross clerks office this morning (Wednesday 8 May) to find the door locked and no access.

The locum clerk, we understand, eventually received a message from Alison Stevens, who has handed in her notice as the parish clerk for Westham, saying she ‘no longer works for Westham Parish Council’ – end of discussion..

The locum clerk seemed sure that ‘today should have been Mrs Stevens last day’ – although what is understood is that she was not at the clerks office yesterday either.

A parishioner explained, ‘we are waiting to see if access can be gained – without resorting to a locksmith – and what the paperwork Mrs Stevens has left behind actually consists of”.

The parishioner added, “is this the actions one would expect from a person who is still clerk., with all those responsibilities, to five other parish councils?

The work of Alison Stevens, who until recently was the clerk to Westham Parish Council, is to be the subject of public scrutiny following the discovery through a Freedom of Information request that she was contracted to work with six parish councils for a total of 66 hours a week.

The local newspaper, the Pevensey Bay Journal is to investigate the story.

Editor, Simon Montgomery said, ““We are beginning this investigation with a simple question, how much was Alison Stevens earning for her contracted 66 hours a week? This total number of weekly hours would suggest she was working seven days a week at more than nine hours a day.

“Her contracted hours were clearly well in excess of what could be undertaken by a nurse in charge of an A&E Department, a full time teacher, a full time fire fighter or other dedicated public servant.

“What could be argued is that all these professions have significant responsibility attached to their positions, beyond the question of de-silting a village pond.

“That is not to denigrate in any way the role of a parish clerk, the key figure in any community with regard to ‘first tier government’, but seen in context, the fact that Alison Stevens was responsible for six parish councils is beginning to look like a question that should be opened to public scrutiny for a number of reasons.

Simon added that he had given Alison Stevens the opportunity to see the basis of his report on what had been unearthed about her role, with an opportunity to comment, but that she had declined the opportunity to comment.

The role of Clerk is to ensure that the Council as a whole conducts its business properly and to provide independent, objective and professional advice and support. This process becomes more complex when the clerk becomes the person who is to be scrutinised.

The starting point for the investigation is to ask how one person found themselves appointed to the stewardship of six parish councils as the clerk.

MPs in this country are paid £79,468 a year. How much was Alison Stevens being paid before she handed in her notice? A Freedom of Information Request should establish the answer to this question.

Full story here: WESTHAM PARISH COUNCIL: Affairs of Alison Stevens to be opened to public scrutiny: The parish clerk who hid behind the public purse