To some in the village, he is the 'Weasenham whinger', a serial complainer whose constant criticisms eventually forced the entire parish council to resign en masse.

To others - not least the auditors who ended up investigating his gripes - David Fairchild is a community-minded campaigner who saved the tiny hamlet thousands of pounds.

The man himself accepts he is a divisive figure and shrugs at the 'whinger' moniker.

“I have been called worse,” he adds.

Eastern Daily Press: David Fairchild, from Weasenham, with Prinz, his working Cocker SpanielDavid Fairchild, from Weasenham, with Prinz, his working Cocker Spaniel (Image: Aaron McMillan)

"A lot of people within the village call me a right sod, but a lot of people agree with what I actually do.”

And what he actually does is scrutinise, investigate and complain to his parish council - much to the irritation of many who served on it.

In his own phrase, he does not "mince words" and admits he used to "love writing letters".

"Someone's only had to sneeze and if I thought it was wrong, out went the bloody letter," he says.

A former army paymaster, he has a long history with the council. He was a councillor himself until stepping down after a disagreement.

He continued his campaign of scrutiny - despite being banned from its meetings - and put in a series of complaints.

Things came to a head last year after the council's accounts were filed. Mr Fairchild put forward some 31 objections.

Eastern Daily Press: The village of Weasenham, has been the centre of this ongoing political sagaThe village of Weasenham, has been the centre of this ongoing political saga (Image: Aaron McMillan)

The councillors had had enough. All six members and the clerk resigned, forcing Breckland council - the area's district authority - to parachute in three of its member, led by Roger Atterwill, to steady the ship.

They commissioned auditors to investigate Mr Fairchild's complaints. Their recent report upheld 27 of them.

There was no great scandal unearthed but a series of issues were highlighted, including that:

  • invoices for new fencing were addressed to an individual councillor and not the council
  • decisions were apparently approved by round-robin emails rather than in formal meetings
  • some payments for things like grasscutting and mileage were made without supporting documentation.

Mr Fairchild was thanked by Mr Atterwill for his "courtesy and assistance".

Despite this vindication, however, Mr Fairchild says he is magnanimous.

Eastern Daily Press: The Norfolk village of WeasenhamThe Norfolk village of Weasenham (Image: Aaron McMillan)

“I can't say that I’m gloating, or I’m glorified, it should never have happened in the first place,” he adds.

He believes the bad blood goes back years. When he raised points, he said they were ignored.

“I started at the council donkey's years ago, just saying 'look, you can't do this, you shouldn't do that'.

"They got annoyed, got on their high horse, and said 'it's Fairchild doing this stuff'.

“If they'd gone back years and done it properly in the first place, we would have saved at least £15,000 in audit fees.

“There's no satisfaction with it.”

In the village of just 165 houses, the rancour has run deep.

Eastern Daily Press: David Fairchild, at his home in WeasenhamDavid Fairchild, at his home in Weasenham (Image: Aaron McMillan)

Members of the regime who stepped down last year said the accounts in question had been completed correctly and that their offers to help resolve outstanding issues had not been taken up.

Senior members were approached but declined to comment further.

Division is nothing new in the village, which lies between Swaffham and Fakenham.

In 1978, the parish council was split into two - Weasenham St Peter's and Weasenham All Saints.

This created tensions which Mr Fairchild - when he moved to the village 31 years ago with his wife, Christine - found himself embroiled in.

After his arrival, the accountant - who worked as a practice and finance manager for two doctors' surgeries in Norwich - quickly became involved in the local community.

“I was the clerk at St Peter's, but because I was a pain to the people over this side (All Saints), they decided that they would not take me on as the clerk of the new council when the pair merged in 2015,” he says.

However, in 2019, he returned to the unified authority, having been elected as a councillor.

He was appointed the council's internal control officer, looking after the finances alongside the clerk. But the arrangement only lasted three months.

In August, Mr Fairchild stepped down following disagreements over how the authority was being run.

He kept a close eye on the council, by attending meetings, scrutinising reports and making freedom of information requests.

He also kept producing his own newsletter - 'Parish Notes' - which reported on the council.

In February 2020, the council acted against him. It sent a letter to him, in which it said it had "declared" him a "vexatious customer".

Eastern Daily Press: David Fairchild, from Weasenham, with Prinz, his working Cocker Spaniel David Fairchild, from Weasenham, with Prinz, his working Cocker Spaniel (Image: Aaron McMillan)

Following this, for two years, the council refused to reply to any of his letters and banned him from meetings.

He still turned up, however, and was asked to leave. On one occasion, when he refused to leave, the council forced him out by excluding all members of the public.

He had a particular interest in the council's finances but in 2021, the council refused to let him see the accounts.

The following year, he was able to inspect them and submitted the complaints which led to the resignations and subsequent auditor report.

“Once a year I'm entitled to see the accounts, which I shall continue to do,” he says.

“You can't complain if there's nothing wrong. I don't care what anybody says.

“I've done finances all my life. I can't make up things on accounts or make formal objections if they're not there in the first place."

Eastern Daily Press: Weasenham park, with the community buildingWeasenham park, with the community building (Image: Aaron McMillan)

He adds: "I call a spade a spade. I don't mince words. I go for the jugular."

Indeed, despite his magnanimity, the latest edition of 'Parish Notes' is scathing in its criticism of the previous regime.

The temporary authority, run by the Breckland councillors, hopes the recent report has drawn a line under the affair and wants locals to take over the running of the council once again.

So could Mr Fairchild make a comeback as a councillor?

It seems unlikely. He says he considers himself too "divisive".

Any incoming councillors will understandably be wary, but Mr Fairchild suggests he could be mellowing.

“I’m hoping with the new council there will be no need for anything like this again,” he adds.

“At one time, I used to love writing letters. Don't get me wrong. I've got files in there, taller than you. Someone's only had to sneeze and if I thought it was wrong, out went the bloody letter.

“But, I’m 71 years old,  I don't need that going on.”