Herefordshire Council and Hereford United linked by council's "arm's length" company

Herefordshire Council and Hereford United linked by council's "arm's length" company

Hereford United supporters protest outside Herefordshire Council HQ

Hereford United held a training session at Edgar Street this afternoon.

First published in News
Last updated
Hereford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

THE now wound up Hereford Futures (HF) helped Hereford United identify potential development partners for the club’s Edgar Street ground.

An HF business plan from 2011 reveals the role of the “arm’s length” company set up by Herefordshire Council also played in advising the council over the future for the ground and to lead negotiations with development partners.

The report - confirming a direct link between the council, the club and HF - refers to the ground as “generally in a state of considerable disrepair” with the club constantly facing the challenge of maintenance to a standard required by the Football League and other statutory authorities.

Then, the new owners of the club - David Keyte and Tim Russon - were pitched to the council as “ambitious to realise the club’s fullest potential”.

That acquisition of the club in 2010 and subsequent buying of debt is said to have “cleared the way” for HF to lead negotiations with the club on the council’s behalf over redevelopment.

The report says the club had appointed “professional advisers” with HF supporting the club’s work in identifying potential development partners and “suitable uses” for the ground.

As reported by the  Hereford Times earlier this year, Herefordshire Council has paid out nearly £3 million in financial support to HF over years.

The council has denied that the sum shows HF as having been “exclusively funded” by the public sector, either directly or indirectly, throughout its existence.

However, the council has conceded the appearance of  having “wholly funded” HF since 2012.

HF was set up by the council in 2010 as an “arm’s length” company to drive redevelopment in the city.

It was a successor to Edgar Street Grid (Hereford) Ltd.

In May last year, the council confirmed HF was being wound up.

The company – with the council acting as guarantor – was not subject to audit and accountancy obligations that apply to regulated local authority companies, nor was it covered by Freedom of Information regulations.

Figures produced for a council scrutiny report show the council’s total contribution to HF from 2004-05 to 2014-15 to be £2,891,556, with a peak annual contribution of £409,405 in 2012-13.

Support over the last financial year is shown as £355,322, reducing to £130,628 in 2014-15.

The council  funded a five-figure pension contribution to the chief executive of HF.

In the year ending March 2013, HF made a contribution of £31,392 to chief executive Jonathan Bretherton, compared to £12,667 in the previous financial year.

The council has conceded that as the sole funder, to all intents, of HF since 2012 it had, in effect, funded the payment.

But the payment, the council said, was a decision for HF recommended by the remuneration committee and sanctioned by the HF board.

The council says it was for the HF board to determine how to reward its chief executive, and he had advised officers he exercised a contractual option to waive salary and to take payment as an additional pension contribution instead.

Concerns were  raised over any “residual liabilities” in relation to this pension with HF wound up.

Councillors and the council’s former chief executive attended HF board meetings, with the council saying that any councillor who attended an HF board meeting would have done so only “in their capacity as a director of the company”.

In March, the council effectively ruled out  further scrutiny investigations into issues around HF with a tacit acceptance that “things could have been done better.”

The council is now under increasing pressure to “come clean” on what it knew about Hereford United's finances ahead of the leases relating to development at Edgar Street being re-assigned five years ago.

As landlord to the ground, the council has ruled out an immediate scrutiny inquiry into the handling of the re-assignment.

 

Comments (6)

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4:37pm Fri 11 Jul 14

redyoll says...

Excellent reporting keep up the good work!
Excellent reporting keep up the good work! redyoll
  • Score: 8

4:49pm Fri 11 Jul 14

amanda_martin says...

I knew there was something not right about this. As HU's landlord, the Council would have known for some time that the club was effectively insolvent, giving it leverage to end the current lease and relocate the club, thereby leaving the way open for redevelopment of the ground and no doubt for profiteering by those within the Authority who have indirect, and no doubt well concealed, connections with development partners.

We may never get the detail of what has been going on here or find out who exactly has enriched himself by abuse of his public office, but I am convinced that this Conservative Cabinet is rotten to the core and has created a culture of deceit and self enrichment that has seen the misuse of significant amounts of public money.

There is an election next year and, with it, an opportunity for Herefordshire's voters to change this culture and re-establish some probity and transparency at County Hall.
I knew there was something not right about this. As HU's landlord, the Council would have known for some time that the club was effectively insolvent, giving it leverage to end the current lease and relocate the club, thereby leaving the way open for redevelopment of the ground and no doubt for profiteering by those within the Authority who have indirect, and no doubt well concealed, connections with development partners. We may never get the detail of what has been going on here or find out who exactly has enriched himself by abuse of his public office, but I am convinced that this Conservative Cabinet is rotten to the core and has created a culture of deceit and self enrichment that has seen the misuse of significant amounts of public money. There is an election next year and, with it, an opportunity for Herefordshire's voters to change this culture and re-establish some probity and transparency at County Hall. amanda_martin
  • Score: 18

5:43pm Fri 11 Jul 14

Holmerowan says...

Excellent article Hereford Times
So it seems this Conservative ruling administration has been spending OUR council tax on paying financial advisers on how the ground could be sold and developed without the Taxpayers of Herefordshire ever getting to hear about such doggy dealings.
This isn't a one off with the football ground - There are more skeletons in the cupboard surrounding the dealings of this Conservative Cabinet and its business friends.
They have tried to hoodwink us - and now they are coming unstuck.
You now know ! who NOT to vote for next year
Excellent article Hereford Times So it seems this Conservative ruling administration has been spending OUR council tax on paying financial advisers on how the ground could be sold and developed without the Taxpayers of Herefordshire ever getting to hear about such doggy dealings. This isn't a one off with the football ground - There are more skeletons in the cupboard surrounding the dealings of this Conservative Cabinet and its business friends. They have tried to hoodwink us - and now they are coming unstuck. You now know ! who NOT to vote for next year Holmerowan
  • Score: 11

8:19pm Fri 11 Jul 14

littlewhitebull says...

Well done the HT for keeping us - the council taxpayers of this county -updated on what is actually going on.
The article raises a lot more questions for the council to answer to their masters - that is, the taxpayers!
Keep up the good work and delve as deep as you are able. The public should be told the full truth about the matters raised.
Well done the HT for keeping us - the council taxpayers of this county -updated on what is actually going on. The article raises a lot more questions for the council to answer to their masters - that is, the taxpayers! Keep up the good work and delve as deep as you are able. The public should be told the full truth about the matters raised. littlewhitebull
  • Score: 11

10:56am Sat 12 Jul 14

probono says...

Well done HT and BIll Tanner for digging out more details.
But don't just blame the Tories, this situation with trying to relocate HUFC and redevelop the land started in 1999. Council matters were kept so secret then, when the LD 'Secret Seven' ran the cabinet with Mr Pringle that it is doubtful much evidence will exist, but we know who you are ! Well us Oldies at least.
Now the Leader of the Council and his predecessors need to come clean about all this, and maybe people will feel less disenfranchised, and however much dirt therre is, surely it is better out in the open than trying further cover ups. Remember the IT scandal and the Crookall Report.
Well done HT and BIll Tanner for digging out more details. But don't just blame the Tories, this situation with trying to relocate HUFC and redevelop the land started in 1999. Council matters were kept so secret then, when the LD 'Secret Seven' ran the cabinet with Mr Pringle that it is doubtful much evidence will exist, but we know who you are ! Well us Oldies at least. Now the Leader of the Council and his predecessors need to come clean about all this, and maybe people will feel less disenfranchised, and however much dirt therre is, surely it is better out in the open than trying further cover ups. Remember the IT scandal and the Crookall Report. probono
  • Score: 10

1:00pm Sat 12 Jul 14

amanda_martin says...

probono wrote:
Well done HT and BIll Tanner for digging out more details.
But don't just blame the Tories, this situation with trying to relocate HUFC and redevelop the land started in 1999. Council matters were kept so secret then, when the LD 'Secret Seven' ran the cabinet with Mr Pringle that it is doubtful much evidence will exist, but we know who you are ! Well us Oldies at least.
Now the Leader of the Council and his predecessors need to come clean about all this, and maybe people will feel less disenfranchised, and however much dirt therre is, surely it is better out in the open than trying further cover ups. Remember the IT scandal and the Crookall Report.
I agree; as we see demonstrated at Westminster every day of the week, corruption is not a party issue. Nevertheless the fact remains that this particular Cabinet is Tory led and this particular Cabinet has fostered a culture in which abuse of public office and enrichment at public expense can not only occur but can exist undetected and unchallenged.

What is needed at Herefordshire Council now is a root and branch clear out of those who sit in safe rural wards filling their pockets and destroying the city. Then what is needed is the institution of procedures, checks and balances that will change the culture, permit scrutiny and encourage those who want to go into politics to serve not to rule.
[quote][p][bold]probono[/bold] wrote: Well done HT and BIll Tanner for digging out more details. But don't just blame the Tories, this situation with trying to relocate HUFC and redevelop the land started in 1999. Council matters were kept so secret then, when the LD 'Secret Seven' ran the cabinet with Mr Pringle that it is doubtful much evidence will exist, but we know who you are ! Well us Oldies at least. Now the Leader of the Council and his predecessors need to come clean about all this, and maybe people will feel less disenfranchised, and however much dirt therre is, surely it is better out in the open than trying further cover ups. Remember the IT scandal and the Crookall Report.[/p][/quote]I agree; as we see demonstrated at Westminster every day of the week, corruption is not a party issue. Nevertheless the fact remains that this particular Cabinet is Tory led and this particular Cabinet has fostered a culture in which abuse of public office and enrichment at public expense can not only occur but can exist undetected and unchallenged. What is needed at Herefordshire Council now is a root and branch clear out of those who sit in safe rural wards filling their pockets and destroying the city. Then what is needed is the institution of procedures, checks and balances that will change the culture, permit scrutiny and encourage those who want to go into politics to serve not to rule. amanda_martin
  • Score: 11

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