Sale of Herefordshire Council Smallholdings: Government Ombudsman to investigate maladministration and injustice claims.
At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting Cllr Anthony Powers, group leader of It’s Our County, challenged the Cabinet of Conservative-run Herefordshire to halt its decision to progress with the disposal of the county’s smallholdings estate. He told Cabinet and officers – who appeared to be unaware of it – of information from the national Tenant Farmers Association that the Local Government Ombudsman will investigate the council following claims of potential maladministration and injustice in its notices to quit that were served on Farm Business Tenancies in January.
When the Cabinet decision to sell was made in December 2015, tenants had been assured that a Disposal Plan would be drawn up before any notices to quit were served. The Leader of the Council stated then that “there has been much rumour that this was going to turn people out of their homes, and that is extremely wide of the mark. We are talking about a change of ownership if the decision is taken to dispose. The tenants are protected by the terms of their tenancy and that protection will continue.” But by January this promise had been broken, with notices to quit served on all Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs).
“It’s Our County has fought all along for Herefordshire Council to retain its farms estate, called for proper dialogue with the tenants and for this decision to be debated by all elected members at Full Council. These notices to quit should be withdrawn and the FBTs be allowed to continue so the tenants can negotiate terms with any new owner. I’m glad to see the case is recognised by the Local Government Ombudsman and fully support this investigation into possible maladministration”, said Cllr Powers.
Contact: Cllr Anthony Powers 07710 943313
Notes for Editors
Others who lined up with It’s Our County to keep the smallholdings in public ownership included the Tenant Farmers Association, the National Farmers Union, the Bishop of Hereford, Hereford & Ludlow College (Holme Lacy) and over 2000 signatories of a petition. Local authorities in Wales have been urged by the Welsh Assembly Government’s rural affairs spokesman William Powell not to follow Herefordshire’s example