Wrong figures
IN response to your article “Huge agency staff costs for council” it has become apparent that the figures supplied for your FOI were tabulated one year out. 
The actual figures for annual spend in the years were 2013/14 £5.6 million; 2014/15 £8.3 million and 2015/16 £8.1 million. 
The downward trend has accelerated this year and the year to date figure totals £2.5 million with an anticipated spend for the year of only £3.9 million, a reduction of over 50 per cent since last year. I suspect that these figures might have modified the focus of your story. 
It’s true that over half of the historical costs are attributable to children’s wellbeing and this has much to do with the national supply/demand issue caused by insufficient numbers of qualified children’s social workers in England seeking permanent positions. 
Being placed in special measures by Ofsted in 2012 had a highly detrimental impact on retaining and recruiting permanent staff. 
It has been due to a collective effort that the department moved out of special measures in 2014, reflected in additional staffing costs in that year. Building a better reputation is vital to providing increased permanent recruitment.
More than 30 monthly children’s wellbeing challenge meetings have been held, involving all political group leaders and scrutiny chairs with a common focus being the reduction of a dependence on agency staff. At no time has Cllr Bartlett asked for more information or made comments that she did not agree with the approaches being taken.
You mention in your article that significant sums for agency staff were spent on education improvement. 
This is not so, the sums that you stated were spent on fieldwork, that is qualified social workers who are in daily contact with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in our community. 
I am sure that Cllr Bartlett didn’t intend to give the impression that buses and libraries should come before our shared councillors’ legal and moral responsibility as good corporate parents. 
In fact the agency staff figures for education investment were a mere £16k, £10k and £34k for the years 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16. 
It’s worth reflecting that during this period our county’s schools performance increased significantly at Key Stage 1, 2, 3 and 4 and is now ahead of England as a whole. Schools are now above the England average on most measures whereas we were behind on most three years ago. Our early years performance has moved from four years ago from when it was one of the lowest nationally, to where it is in the top quartile. 
This great news also helps to attract potential staff with young families to make the move to Herefordshire.
I’m delighted that the Hereford Times is taking an interest in council spending, unfortunately it did not attend the public scrutiny meeting at the beginning of this week which discussed the draft budget. 
If they had they would have heard the very positive news reported by Officers reported very positive news in respect of reducing agency staff numbers in the council, especially in children’s wellbeing, where our initiative of recruiting and training our own staff is paying dividends.
It does seem a shame that we don’t get more articles reflecting the good news and achievements that council staff under this administration continue to deliver for Herefordshire.
Councillor for Bromyard/Bringsty
Bringsty Common 

Guess where
I HAVE just read your front page story (November 10) relating to an HGV lorry becoming stuck in a narrow lane somewhere in Herefordshire (I think) during a night recently (I think) probably in the Hoarwithy area as reference is made to “people living near Hoarwithy”.
The reason I say “I think” is because of the very poor quality of the printed report which is not only front page news, but runs on to a large portion of page four, too. Nowhere does it inform the reader as to when and where this incident happened.
The report suggests that people in the area are “pleading” with HGV drivers not to use the lane. If it is that bad, why not say where the lane is so that drivers of HGVs, in particular, will know where it is in order to avoid it?
I guess it must have been a slow news week the previous week, as the quality of this front page report is particularly poor. Almost any other story on a crime matter, for instance, might have been considered more newsworthy.
If this is the best you can come up with we may as well look elsewhere for our local news, particularly if we have to guess the location.

Road success
HAVING travelled home from work earlier than normal at 5.10 pm on Monday, November 21, I was pleased to see the Rotherwas access road full of traffic, nose to tail but moving freely. 
This shows the road is a huge success and has allowed many more factories to be built on the brownfield site of the old munitions factory.
Much Birch

Be transparent
WITH the publication of the sustainability and transformation plans due to be released shortly, it is extremely worrying that findings from a recent BMA survey reveal that more than two thirds of doctors say they have not been consulted on the plans despite assurances from ministers. 
With Herefordshire and Worcestershire facing a £120 million health and social care deficit by 2021 it is of course a priority to address the need for urgent reform within our current model of working.
For any change of this magnitude, however, plans must be developed in a transparent way with genuine attempts to engage both public and professional opinion – yet this has not happened with most STPs.
In theory, these plans have the potential to generate more collaboration with the possibility of longer-term planning based on local need, but these plans need to be realistic, evidence based and adequately funded.  
Most importantly, improving patient care must be the number one priority for these plans. We don’t want to see the government using these transformation plans as a cover for further starving services of resource and patients of care.
Council Chairman
British Medical Association

Cycle appeal
AN appeal for donations of good-condition unwanted cycle parts and tools for older cycles has been launched by the National Cycle Museum in the Automobile Palace, Llandrindod Wells.
The charity can sell them to help raise funds.
So if you are having a sort out of your garage/ shed, please consider donating unneeded cycle items to the museum.
You can contact them on 01597 825531 or via www.cyclemuseum.org.uk 
National Cycle Museum
Llandrindod Wells

Bull is insult
AS a farmer proud of our industry and its livestock, I am appalled each time I am in High Town to see the statue representing the world famous Hereford breed. It looks more like an Aberdeen Angus. 
The Hereford breed is known for its white face, whatever cattle breed the male is mated with. What a distinguishing feature, recognised throughout the world. What an insult this statue represents. How insulting to this famous breed the Herefordshire Council have been.

Poor poultry
HOW sad it was to see that planning permission was given to a huge chicken farm in Mansel Lacy. These terrible factory farms are becoming all too common. 
It seems to be forgotten that these poor birds are living in unnatural conditions, robbed of freedom to walk about outside in the fresh air and sunshine. They are treated as a commodity rather than a living creature.
No wonder so many people are going Vegan these days. 
Moat Way

Help the CLT
ALLEN Russell’s letter in the Hereford Times of (November 10) suggests that it would be prudent for house builders to meet local need, or the houses would stay empty. 
Volume house builders are driven by profit. Whether in generating that they meet local need, or the desire for wealthier older people to retire to a city set in beautiful countryside, is immaterial to them. 
For the same reason they are also not interested in schemes which need much time to plan but which would meet the needs of local people, nor are they interested in the long term. 
A Community Land Trust (CLT) has local needs and the long term at its heart.
I don’t understand why Mr Russell thinks a CLT would ignore the need for housing in Hereford, when it is being established with the specific aim of providing more housing. 
There certainly is a pressing need for housing in Hereford, hence the establishment of a CLT to try to bring in additional resources to build some of those houses. 
If he or anyone else would like to help in this, please email herefordclt@gmail.com or text 07957 348885.
Hereford Community Land Trust

Sincere thanks
I WOULD like to convey my sincere gratitude to my close family and emergency services who helped me following an accident on October 5. 
I was trying to open a gate behind our farm JCB and in a total blind spot. 
My son sadly ran over my right foot / ankle which resulted in rather serious crush and dislocation injuries. 
My own family and dear wife Karen quickly arrived to help and, soon afterwards, a paramedic from Bromyard ambulance from Hereford and Air Ambulance from, I think, Strensham? 
The care I received was incredible from everyone and those involved with my pain relief and flight were so professional and sympathetic I’m humbled and shall be eternally grateful. 
My darling wife Karen spent the best part of October by my bedside and my foot, after five or so operations and grafts, is now slowly healing. 
The hospital staff, one and all, were all incredible and deserve special mention: trauma unit and wards 32-52-53 Walsgrave University Hospital Coventry. Treatment is ongoing but I’m still looking at two feet rather than one. 
Thank you all, far too many to name and God bless the NHS.

Brexit hard
IT beggars belief the inward-looking, narrow-minded, somewhat misguided “nationalistic” attitude some people have.
As if the UK has not benefited financially from being in the EU, take Wales alone, for example, which has received more than than its fair share from the EU, from 2014 to 2020 it will have received £1.8 billion for projects, £40 million for research and development alone. What’s this all about then?
Our scientific research and development are set to lose hundreds of millions for research and development as we will be locked out of the Horizon 2020 Programme (anyone heard of this – if not, I invite you to get acquainted before you go on about funding the UK not the EU) this provides funds major scientific projects across the EU and employs thousands of engineers and scientists in universities and industry across the UK. 
The end results of this work are incredible. How do you think new drugs, new products, new materials are born? Out of thin air?
I grant you, there have been serious questions on overseas aid spending but this is now better organised than ever. But seriously, anybody would think we are the only country that provides aid to developing countries. We are most certainly not, but space won’t allow me to dwell on this much further. Ask your MP, he will tell you.
No matter how hard it is for some, we just have to look outwards not inwards or we will, for sure, end up the poorer come the final Brexit and no-one can convince me that this is going to be anything but a really tough episode in our history which we might just never recover from. 
And don’t expect cousin Donald to come to our aid – and if we ever shake hands with him, count your fingers.
Much Birch

Easy target
I WOULD like to congratulate the parking warden in Ledbury on November 15 for finding an easy target in myself. 
I regularly go to Ledbury to shop and as I only needed to go to the bank I parked by the Market House as I often do. 
A car pulled out of a parking space and I reversed in without giving it another thought. 
There were three market traders there starting to pack up but unfortunately I didn’t realise about the restricted parking and saw no notice about this.
Lately, I have been going to Morrisons in Hereford or Leominster for my food shop because you can, at least, get a cup of coffee or a bite to eat while you are there – which is more than can be said for Ledbury supermarkets. 
However, I do like the individual shops in Ledbury town but have decided that I won’t be shopping there any more and will definitely be going to one of the other towns.
I feel sorry for Ledbury traders as Herefordshire Council is doing them no favours and I am sure they will lose a lot of trade if others like me decide to avoid the town.