A DISPOSAL plan to assist Herefordshire Council in selling off its tenant farm stock will help ensure taxpayers receive the best value for money, a leading councillor has said.

Cabinet members will be asked to approve the plan, which includes using an agent to help value and market the land, during a meeting at Hereford Shirehall next Thursday.

The controversial tenant farm sell-off was agreed last December when Cabinet backed the move to cut costs.

"Herefordshire Council is committed to its duty of care for the local community and to tenants," said Cllr Harry Bramer, cabinet member for contracts and assets.

"As we find alternative ways to fund the statutory services we have to provide, we need to prioritise which activities the council can support. The disposal plan outlines the process for the structured sale of council smallholdings to help ensure best value for money for taxpayers and clarity for tenants."

Notices were issued to 15 farm business tenants at the beginning of February.

The period of notices varies between 12 - 22 months with lifetime and retirement tenancies unaffected.

The council says it has previously met with, and continues to support, farm business tenants on a one-to-one basis by offering advice and training.

Tenants will be provided with the opportunity to purchase their own holdings, as long as best value is achieved and "it does not negatively impact upon the remainder of the identified estate for sale or retention".

The authority also says disposal of council farms was the most supported option for savings in the latest budget consultation, with about one third of respondents favouring the option.

However, the decision has also been heavily criticised with more than 2,000 people supporting an online petition asking the council to reconsider the decision.

The Hereford Times has reported on tenant farmers Ian and Lorraine Salmon, who farm in Moreton Eye, near Leominster, and will have to leave next year.

The couple have already sold their breeding ewes and will sell their ewe lambs and possibly their cows later this year.