A PROSPECTIVE parliamentary candidate is calling on Herefordshire Council to allow residents to have a say on how the proceeds from the sale of the county’s smallholdings are spent.

County councillor Ellie Chowns, who is the Green Party candidate for the North Herefordshire constituency, doubled down on her calls for a public consultation on the council’s capital budget spending.

The council announced at a meeting in May a projected total income of £46m from the sales of the publicly-owned farms.

The Bishop’s Frome & Cradley councillor, who also raised concerns over the lack of a public say on capital spending at a full council meeting during the summer, called on last week’s general scrutiny committee to consider her suggestions.

“There needs to be more public discussion on how we spend that money, particularly the family silver of the farms which were sold off,” coun Chowns said.

“It would be helpful to have more clarity and more consultation on the items in the capital budget. Capital is where we have wriggle room.

“Could you tell me where in the papers can we find how exactly much has been generated from farm sales.
“What has already been allocated?

“Whether anything has been earmarked for these new capital projects and what will be the process for deciding future allocations of capital funding?”

Council chief finance officer Andrew Lovegrove said a summary detailing the proceeds of the sale of smallholdings would be produced once the final farm sale is completed.

He said there was still one farm sale outstanding due to a number of legal issues.

“We do need to learn from our experience and we do need to learn to revisit how we do the consultations around the budget,” he said.

“There are number of court cases ongoing around the country about consultations on budgets and we are waiting to see the outcomes of those cases and we will learn from those as well.

“I will expect next year, when the budget proposals are coming to cabinet, we would look at the possibility of comments on capital proposals.

“In terms of the capital program proposal, the council at some point will be looking at those. The budget put in front of you will not.

“So that money is sitting there.”

A total of 59 individual lots were marketed with a total guide price of £37m.

The council says they were offered to the open market to achieve best value for money and generate other funding for the services it must provide.

As of May this year, the total sale costs which includes agent fees, legal fees and tenants’ statutory payments are £2,346,000.

The council paid out £1.8m in tenants’ compensation, £388,000 in agent fees, £150,000 in legal fees and £8,000 in tenants’ support grant.