Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire are all keeping their County Farms (Council owned farms) and regard them as valuable assets but the Tories in Herefordshire have decided we should sell ours for a quick buck. They did this a few years before when they sold half of the farms, with the promise of all the riches it was going to bring to the coffers then (Cllr Roger Philip’s boasts still ring in our ears) and how well invested that money was going to be. How it was going to grow and grow as the Conservatives wisely invested it in ill thought out projects. So now, a few years down the line we are £180 million plus in debt as a council and after selling the remaining farms, we have pretty much nothing left to sell. Brilliant economics! And in the meantime tenant farmers and their families suffer.

We should have followed the example of the vast majority of local authorities with council farms, especially the exemplary example, held up by the NFU and Tenants Farmers Association,  of Pembrokeshire across the border;

15 Herefordshire farming families were served their notices to quit this month (giving them 12 months to go). Sheep, cows and horses will have to be moved, sold or put down. Children will be uprooted from the schools and countryside they grew up in. Very sad for them and so very avoidable.

Our farming community, so important to Herefordshire, has been let down completely. Cllr Harry Bramer in particular appears to have behaved poorly in the manner in which he handled this affair. Despite being the Cabinet Member of Herefordshire Council responsible for the portfolio governing county assets, he has allegedly not spoken directly to a single tenant farmer or their representatives during almost the entire  process, leaving tenant farmers worried, anxious and unsettled for well over 2 years;

I’ll repeat. We should have followed the strategy of most county councils in the same position; kept the farms, rationalised them and borrowed against their value. This is what the Council’s own Scrutiny and Overview Committee proposed!

Instead we have this, quite frankly, a disgrace.

John Harrington (Chairman, It’s Our County)

(Video via BBC Midlands Today Feb 2016)