Serial moaner who bombarded council with 366 complaints triggers external audit – which will cost every house in the village £500
- Gerry Woodhouse flooded Potto Parish council with 1,500 pages of complaints
- He left the council in 2014 after concerns were raised over his attendance
- Village residents now have to pay a £37,000 bill after an audit was triggered
A serial complainer who attempted to ‘bring a parish council to its knees’ and landed every household in a tiny village with a £500 bill has been identified as a former councillor.
Gerry Woodhouse, 64, bombarded Potto Parish Council, in North Yorkshire, with 366 pedantic complaints and freedom of information requests, which included describing members as ‘hapless’, ‘inept’ and ‘corrupt’.
The sheer volume of complaints, which amounted to 1,500 pages, was so unusual it triggered an external audit costing £37,000 which the council must pay for.
Mr Woodhouse accused the council of being run by a ‘private members’ club for the select few, but funded by compulsory taxation from every household’
Without the means to pay for it the council fears it must pass on the cost to residents of the village, which has a population of 324 and 120 households.
Mr Woodhouse left the council in 2014 after concerns were raised over his attendance, which was when the complaints first started.
Potto Parish Council have hit back at Mr Woodhouse, saying they had to commission an independent audit two years ago due to his behaviour whilst he was a councillor.
In a letter to villagers, the council said: ‘Are you aware that one person in the village has raised 366 complaints and objections about the parish council’s activities?
‘None of them refer to any financial impropriety and virtually all of them are concerning minor procedural matters, but because of this the National Audit Office has appointed an international firm of accountants, PKF, to carry out an audit of the council’s conduct.
‘None of the objections nor recommendations are of any real significance, yet we are faced with a huge bill, all because of one person in the village who seems determined to bring the parish council to its knees.’
After one or more of his freedom of information requests were denied, Mr Woodhouse appealed to the information commissioner, who ruled the requests as vexatious.
The tribunal which investigated his appeal ruled: ‘In our view, Mr Woodhouse’s case is almost a paradigm illustration of the abuse of the important constitutional right to freedom of information.
‘The duration over which the requests have been made and their regularity, the pattern of behaviour adopted in their pursuit, the colossal volumes of material sent, the triviality (at times) and the abusive language employed are all characteristics which point firmly to an obsessive and vexatious mindset on Mr Woodhouse’s part.’
However, in their report, the auditors said: ‘We have identified weaknesses in the governance and accountability of the council.
‘In our view those matters, taken together, are significant.’
The audit report states there are only 14 recommendations for Potto Parish Council to work on.
Without the means to pay for the audit cost, the council fears it must pass on the cost to residents of the village, which has a population of 324 and 120 households. Pictured: Black Horse Lane, Thornhill, near Potto
More than 80 residents packed Potto village hall on Wednesday night, furious that they now have to pay the costs of this audit.
Parish Council chairman Andy Wilde said: ‘People in the village are understandably very upset indeed with this individual and the huge burden he has placed on the council.
‘We have a precept of £7,000 each year for the upkeep of what is a very nice parish.
‘So to be landed with a bill of £37,000 is outrageous, especially when it has been caused by a serial complainer who just seems intent on causing as much disruption as possible.
‘If this decision is not reversed the only thing we can do is to raise the money through extra taxes on the village, which is a terrible situation for people to find themselves in when we are in the middle of a cost of living crisis.’
Mr Woodhouse accused the council of being run by a ‘private members’ club for the select few, but funded by compulsory taxation from every household’.
Potto is a small village nestled in between Stokesley and Northallerton. They are under the Hambleton District Council but are also ran by Potto Parish Council, which is made up by a number of volunteers.
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