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Denise Lloyd

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Questions raised if the council achieved best value for money for taxpayers following farm sales

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Questions raised if the council achieved best value for money for taxpayers following farm sales

 

QUESTIONS have been raised about whether best value for money has been achieved for county taxpayers following the sale of Herefordshire Council's farms.

The smallholdings sale saw more than 4,000 acres presented to the land market in 59 individual lots with an accumulative guide price of about £38 million.

Overall sales averaged £6,835/acre which meant most of the sales achieved 59 per cent of vacant farm value.

George Dunn, chief executive at the Tenant Farmers Association, said: With the majority of sales achieving short of 60 per cent of vacant possession value, questions must be raised about the extent to which this political decision has achieved best value for the council taxpayers of Herefordshire.

"The poor return quoted prior to sale simply highlights the councils poor management of the estate which could have been improved. The council has also failed to honour its commitment that no one would lose their homes or livelihoods as a number of farm tenants are being evicted.

The council put its smallholdings estate on the market in April to generate capital and give the council the opportunity to reduce its historic borrowings.

Agents Fisher German handled the sales and said there were more than 200 bids from across the UK, and beyond into Europe and even the Middle East.

However more than 70 per cent of the buyers farm within 10 miles of their purchases, and less than 10 per cent came from outside the county.

Vacant and equipped farms topped £16,000/acre and sales averaged £11,420/acre across the portfolio.

Arable prices ranged upwards from £12,000 to more than £15,000/acre.

Hillside grazing in the west of the county realised in the region of £6,000/acre, while lowland leys achieved north of £8,500/acre, resulting in an average of £7,880/acre for grassland overall.

A spokesman for Fisher German said: "Where farms were let under lifetime or retirement tenancies, investors were generally seen off by sitting tenants where there was a desire to acquire.

"Farms of varying sizes let under smallholdings legislation achieved sale prices ranging from £5,500 to £8,500/acre. Overall sales averaged £6,835/acre, equating to 59 per cent of vacant farm prices, reflecting the incentive for sitting tenants to take their vacant possession windfall."

But regional farmer Graham Clay, who was NFU tenants chairman during the farm sale said: “Despite intense lobbying on the issue we were deeply saddened that Herefordshire Council pressed ahead with the sale of the estate.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the tenants who were unable to buy their farms or secure alternative tenancies and were consequently forced out of mainstream farming."

A council spokesman said: Herefordshire Council can confirm that the disposal of the smallholding estate is progressing and the exchange and completion of sales contracts has begun.

Herefordshire Council cannot confirm details of the sale at this stage in the process, but will release further details once all contracts have been completed.

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Turfing tenant farmers off the farm theyâ€ve spent their life building is just wrong. Utterly bereft of love and sense. #AVicarsLife
 
Excellent series and well worth watching
 

 

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Following article in the Hereford Times today worth reprinting this story from the TFA in view of the current trend of this council continuing in withholding information and lack of transparency from the public: Bearing in mind the date of this article was November 2015, the council have had plenty of time to deceive us and perfect their own style of governance as witnessed with the Blueschool fiasco and more to come.

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The Tenant Farmers Association has accused Herefordshire Council’s Cabinet of riding roughshod over the Council’s own governance by overturning a recommendation from the Council’s Scrutiny Committee to retain and rationalise its 4800 acre farm estate for the benefit of Council tax payers and arguing that the estate should be sold instead.

TFA Chief Executive George Dunn said “The future of the Herefordshire County farms’ estate has been carefully considered by a specially constituted task and finish group and the local authority’s General Overview and Scrutiny Committee which resulted in the clear recommendation that the County should retain its estate, rationalise it and better manage it for the benefit of Council tax payers both now and in the future. That the Cabinet can show such crass disregard for this due diligence is unbelievable. It is acting more like a despotic oligarchy than democratically elected individuals”.

The TFA has written to all County Councillors urging that the decision is taken out of the hands of its Cabinet and made instead by full Council where there can be a proper level of debate, scrutiny and accountability.
“Sadly it does appear that the principal source of the problem is Councillor Harry Bramer, the Portfolio Holder for Contracts and Assets. It is well-known that he has long held the personal view that the Council should sell its farms and he has allowed his political bias to replace sound judgement and could lead to the council making a very bad decision. It is not usually our style to personalise a campaign but in this case we believe it is justified. Councillor Bramer has failed to enter into debate or discussion despite our attempts to engage with him,” said Mr Dunn.

“Not only has the Cabinet decided to ignore the work of the Council’s own committees but it has not followed best practice in carrying out the review. The Association of Chief Estates Surveyors and Property Managers in Local Government, with the support of a number of industry bodies, has recently produced a best practice guide for how local authorities should conduct reviews of County Farms and as far as I can see there has been no consideration of this by the Cabinet,” said Mr Dunn.

“The Cabinet is also withholding important information including a report commissioned by the local authority with Fisher German surveyors which the Council claims to be commercially sensitive. The TFA believes it contains important information that should be in the public domain before final decisions are taken,” said Mr Dunn.

“Ultimately, this is too important a decision to be made by anything less than Full Council and it should be taken off the agenda for the 03 December Cabinet meeting,” said Mr Dunn.

Edited by megilleland
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just saying...................

"TFA Gives Evidence to Cornwall Council Estate Review

The TFA’s Chief Executive, George Dunn this week gave oral evidence to a County Farms Strategy Inquiry being undertaken by Cornwall Council. For more information about the Inquiry click here.

Cornwall Council has around 100 farms covering approximately 10,000 acres two thirds of which are let under Farm Business Tenancies. George highlighted the importance of valuing the County Farms Estate as an important asset held in trust for the Council tax payers of Cornwall and that it must be managed well both to obtain best value for Council tax payers and to provide opportunities for individuals to be farmers in their own account. He said it was important for politicians to allow estate managers to run the estate without too much interference. Whilst the Council should set strategic objectives for the estate it should leave day-to-day management to the estates team. Building opportunities for progression were also highlighted as well as the need to ensure that the Council was getting the basics right in terms of repairs, making decisions and developing good working relationships with its tenants."

Edited by Denise Lloyd

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29 November 2018 04:58:54 |News,Property News,Rural Life

Farmers relieved as Powys Council rejects plans to sell Farming Estate

 

With 141 holdings and land extending to 11,300 acres, Powys County Council’s Farms Estate is the largest of its kind in Wales

Powys County Council has voted not to sell swathes of its 11,300 acre Farming Estate amid budget concerns and will instead maintain it as viable asset.During a meeting on Wednesday (28 November), Powys County Council's Cabinet discussed the future of its 141 farms amid budget worries.Earlier this year, the Learning Skills and Economy (LSE) Scrutiny Committee highlighted plans, which included selling land, in order to ease financial difficulties.Their report said: "The proposals submitted to Cabinet appear to offer little choice other than the status quo."The Strategic Asset Management Plan notes a declining contribution to central capital receipts in the immediate future and this issue needs to be given serious consideration given the financial situation the authority is facing."However, in Wednesday's meeting, the council instead voted to look into estate diversification and investment.

With 141 holdings and land extending to 11,300 acres, Powys County Council’s Farms Estate is the largest of its kind in Wales and the fifth largest in the UK.The majority of the Estate lies in Montgomeryshire, although there are several estates in Radnorshire with further Holdings in Brecknock.County Farms Estate holdings range in size from residential smallholdings to commercial farm units.In recent years, the Estate has sought to increase the size of its core holdings by amalgamating certain farms, with the largest Estate farm now covering a combined area of 227 acres.The County Farms Estate provides opportunities for young people wanting to get in to farming who perhaps don't have a family farm.Council Leader, Cllr Rosemarie Harris, told Powys County Times: "We are very proud of the fact that we can provide this opportunity."We may sell the odd house with an acre or so, but there are no plans to sell the estate, this document does not deal with that sort of thing."

taken from the Farmers Weekly

 

HC will never be forgiven for selling the Council farms and yet the Council are still pleading poverty

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HC will never be forgiven for selling the Council farms and yet the Council are still pleading poverty

Yes you only sell assets when you need the cash. The Council will tell you that they are investing it future developments, but most of that is going to disappear on consultations and feasibility schemes.

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As soon as ANYTHING comes up for purchase (that is worth buying) private enterprise will buy it. Just look at London. Who has bought large chunks of that? Yup ..... Russia .... Saudi .... or whoever! It's a not so secret invasion occurring in plain sight! No need for missiles or tanks'. Just get the cheque book out! 

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