Resign now

WE should all feel angry about the £1 million – 100% – overspend by Herefordshire Council on its Blueschool House refurbishment.

It seems no one was properly in overall charge of managing the contract and the spiralling costs. Despite the promised full investigation, demanded by the audit and governance committee following the damning report the committee had from the council’s auditors, this very expensive buck stops with the cabinet member, Cllr Harry Bramer, whatever he was aware, or unaware of, he is accountable.

The conduct of this Conservative-led council beggars belief, and in the view of many this administration is not fit for purpose.

Amidst the ongoing fire-sale of pubic assets and property – Garrick House (now demolished), Brockington, Moor House, Bath Street offices, the farm smallholdings – the scandal of Blueschool House is the last straw.

Let the investigation run its course, including a role for the police where necessary, and let senior management take a long hard look at itself. Top-level resignations may be the only way to restore some public faith in the organisation.

Meanwhile Cllr Bramer should do the decent thing and resign now.


It’s Our County

Herefordshire Council

No faith left

I HAVE never felt the need to voice my opinion via the Hereford Times until last week when I wrote about the situation regarding Blueschool House!

The council have much to answer for. Firstly, they agree overspending on Blueschool House over almost £1m and appear to take no action when a member authorises payments of almost £35,0000 without proper authorisation.

Then they agree to the closure of the main Hereford to Worcester road from 8am to 6pm each day!

The council spokesman on ITV News said: “I knew the work was going to be done but I hadn’t appreciated the road would be effectively closed” and when pressed by the reporter that surely it was the council’s responsibility to assess the impact of such a closure he replied with, “No, it is the job of the contractor to do that. We are not road builders.”.

All I can say is that the council indeed are not road builders, nor do they feel the need to be held responsible when their careless actions cost people money.

Some businesses on this main route may not survive this and should this occur it can be laid firmly at the council’s feet.

I cannot believe that anyone with an ounce of common sense would not realise that to close a main thoroughfare to our city from 8am to 6pm every day for eight weeks would mean that the road would be ‘effectively closed’.

I have to say that my confidence in Herefordshire councillors, which was poor is now non-existent.

RAY WESTON Stretton Sugwas

Too little say

THE unusual and as yet unexplained circumstances unravelling regarding the million pound overspend refurbishment of the council’s Blueschool Street offices, yet again highlights the one major issue that prevents Herefordshire Council from functioning as a modern, accountable, robust and sound local authority.

That issue is the simple problem that, in mine and the opinion of many, senior council officers and not cabinet members (let alone duly elected ward councillors, who get very little say on anything) dictate the direction – and even policy – of our authority and have done so for years.

They effectively run Herefordshire Council in every aspect.

These senior officers run the council along business lines, hiding behind data protection rules and ‘financial interest’ caveats when it suits them but without the accountability shareholders demand yearly – nor the oversight decent municipal authorities subject them to, for that matter.

This unfortunate situation has arisen from the appalling lack of ability of our current Conservative majority to get to grips with the issues facing us as an authority and their willingness to take their allowances (or double allowances as cabinet members) while letting (indeed forcing) council officers do all the work.

It is only natural in these circumstances, where officers have been in positions of importance for many years without proper scrutiny that standards slip (or worse).

For example, are readers of the HT aware that the only scrutiny senior officers face regularly is their regular review? Conducted by a autonomous professional consultant or perhaps by another authority you say? No, a peer review conducted by a fellow council officer of approximate seniority. You scratch mine, I scratch yours comes to mind.

These same officers who appear to have responsibility for the department that overspent so outrageously on the Blueschool Street Hub also advised the council to ignore their own contracted consultants (the council says the report was not complete, the consultants says it was – hence presentation and payment of their bill) when they advised the cabinet not to proceed with the sale of the entire council farm portfolio.

We are at a crucial juncture now. It is not alarmist to say that the future of Herefordshire Council is increasingly at risk due to government cuts to the Central Government Grant (voted through repeatedly by our two MPs) and atrocious financial mismanagement by our senior officers.

The overspend at Blueschool Street must be rigorously examined in great detail, not simply to prevent repeats of this nature as the chief executive says but to discipline and if necessary dismiss those responsible for undermining the authority at a time of national austerity.

It is my opinion that the leader of the council, Cllr Tony Johnson and the cabinet member responsible for the portfolio that the Blueschool refit falls under, Cllr Harry Bramer, should resign with immediate effect from the cabinet. No matter what an internal (and hopefully) independent investigation may discover in terms of apportioning blame, they took their eye of the ball and there is no way that they can ever regain credibility in the eyes of the public.

I also believe that senior council officer, Geoff Hughes, director for economy, communities and corporate department (a non statutory dept that we in Herefordshire appear to have created) should be suspended whilst investigations are carried out in the overspend.

He must play no part in the process except to answer questions from investigators. A suspension would be the norm in the business world, or a decent authority, in similar circumstances. You cannot have an investigation carried out into potential malpractice, led by the director of the directorate that was responsible for the overspend.

This is it now boys, this is time to pay the piper and finally start acting as a decent, robust 21st-century authority.


Bad decisions

THROUGH your paper could I ask who is advising and making decisions on city roads and parking in Hereford?

We all know what a mess the city is in when it comes to roads.

Who decided to approve the new inner link road project?

It will not solve any traffic problems, just move the problem from one place to another, and reduce affordable parking.

Who advised the council to flout the Highway Code by recommending that we have a second cyclist lane running the wrong way down a one-way street which will make the street more dangerous and possibly reduce parking in the road, particularly after the disaster of the cycle lane in King Street.

We have traffic lights that slow up the traffic, cause jams with a stop-start policy in short distances and pollution.

We have roundabouts that were not needed. What is wrong with the original idea of a halt sign on the minor road and waiting till there is a safe space to join the traffic flow?   Why can we not swallow our pride and look at the examples of Welsh towns where they have built bypasses, have free parking to attracted shoppers, thus creating more employment and prosperity?


Lovely cafe

WHAT a pleasure it is to visit the new café at Madley Tennis Courts.

It has been refurbished to provide a pleasant space for people of all ages to enjoy.  What was once an under-used and rather depressing room now has a good ambience, good management and very good food at reasonable prices.  The young couple who run it  are eager to please and innovative.

Good luck to you.

Hope we can enjoy the café for many years to come.


Modest plan

IN response to R Demaus’s letter. I am the young farmer who made the application for the two poultry sheds.

I am the fourth generation on a traditional mixed Herefordshire family farm with every intention of keeping it that way.

Pressure and unpredictability of world markets, currency exchange rates and now Brexit are all factors we have no control over, but have a dramatic impact on the value of the crops and the livestock we currently produce.

There is a clear need to diversify the business. The decision to apply for planning was not made lightly after two years of research and consultation, including with neighbours.

It was decided that two average-size poultry sheds would bring in a regular unsubsidised income for the business, helping to secure its future.

The proposed buildings would be next to and in line with existing modern farm buildings with neighbouring farms either side.

The access would be the existing private farm drive straight out onto the A44. The application is not for an enormous chicken factory with 3,000 lorry movements. It is for two poultry sheds on an existing livestock farm.


Crazy driving

I WENT for a really long walk, even though it was drizzling.  I walked about five miles along gorgeous Herefordshire lanes.

Eventually I came to the Bromyard-Hereford main road on my way home back to Bromyard. Because of the rain the vehicles were splashing me somewhat.   I was walking towards the oncoming traffic on the right-hand side of the road.

A car came towards me so closely that I pointed to where he should be in the road.

He overtook me at speed, with a vehicle coming in the other direction.  So instead of slowing down and waiting for the van to pass before he pulled out, he squeezed between us.

I turned, shouted and raised my fist!

Guess what he did?

He stopped, did a three-point turn in the road and came back to shout at me, yelling that I had nearly caused a head-on collision!

I explained that he should have waited to go past me when the road was clear, but he shouted, “Next time I see you, I’ll run you down”!  He then drove away, turned around and drove his car straight at me. I’m not kidding! If I hadn’t jumped onto the verge I’d not be typing this now.

I have reported the incident to the police.


Banks shut

Excellent report on Barclays!

The companies are taking us for mugs.

I have tried to get our MPs involved by writing, but they seem absent.

This closure of services is happening all over. There is not one bank cash machine in Broadway, Worcestershire, now unless you can find Budgens, who have one tucked away in an alley.  What else can be done?

The banks we bailed out don’t give two hoots, only about how the top brass appear on the rich list.   B WATSON Bartestree

Lavish lay-by

PLEASE, can someone tell me who is responsible for the work that has been going on in the lay-by at the top of the Callow on the A49 south of Hereford?

It is the favourite topic of discussion in this area.

There has been work going on there for the last four weeks. It is a lay-by for goodness sake.

But now there are kerb stones along its length, a footpath, the hedge has been hacked back and now it has been tarred and it even has white lines.

I do suspect that two lorries will not be able to pass.

The cost of the work undertaken there must be astronomical. Every day for the last four weeks, what a bill!

If the body responsible is Highways England, then I do believe that they should have spent our money resurfacing or filling potholes.

If it is our own county council, then I think they have all gone mad.

D JOSEPH Hereford

Kids at risk

PARENTS of bike riding children in Leominster’s Godiva area need to exercise greater responsibility for their children’s welfare.

It is just a matter of time before a child is knocked off their bike by a car coming around one of the numerous bends!

Drivers in that area are, I observe, very responsible.

However, dozens of children are riding without a thought, crisscrossing and cycling round bends on the wrong side of the road in dare-you stunts in the area, narrowly missing being hit by cars time after time!

If a tragedy does occur, I will be the first to point an accusing finger at the victim’s parents!

RAY BORGE Leominster

Turn it down!

I AM writing to support charity Action on Hearing Loss’ (formerly RNID) Speak Easy campaign which is asking pubs, bars and restaurants to take action to reduce the background noise so that I and many others with and without hearing loss can enjoy a quieter dining experience.

I went to Wagamama in Hereford with group from work. Big, industrial style room, no soft furnishings, background music, flashing lights, couldn’t hear anything being said, felt complete confusion, people shouting to be heard, just a nightmare for me, never again!

I’m not alone – the charity’s campaign says that four in five people had difficulty holding a conversation because of the high level of background noise and eight out of 10 people have left a venue early.

I am urging the catering industry to take noise off the menu so that I can enjoy going out without having to raise my voice or guess my way through conversations.


Pay respects

I HOPE there will be something to commemorate the men of Herefordshire who died during the Battle of Passchendaele.

My great uncle, William Gladwyn, from Staunton on Wye, died on August 16 along with at least eight more men of this county serving with the Glosters at the Battle of Langemarck.

His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

MARTIN JONES Peterchurch

Greater good

The Millichap Peace Fund and the Hereford Palestine Support Group last month hosted an excellent talk by Professor Colin Green entitled Bombs and Blockades and covered the awful military, political and human rights situation in Palestine.

What was inspirational and hopeful was the cooperation of people working on the ground to improve the situation, including Israeli human rights groups, especially in the area of medicine.

Richard Priestley

Mill Street, Hereford