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Council Tax Is Not Funding City Centre Improvements


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A political row has broken out after plans to improve England’s most expensive piece of tarmac with tree planters was linked to council tax increases.

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Conservative Herefordshire councillor Ann-Marie Probert has slammed the proposals to install tree planters along Hereford’s City Link Road as ‘disgusting’, arguing that the money should be used for other purposes, including lowering council tax but Independent for Herefordshire's Cllr John Harrington said: ‘The City Link Road, which Coun Probert criticises, perhaps not realising was a Conservative led scheme, was badly designed and badly thought out and has cost £30 million for less than a mile of tarmac, with no segregated cycle path and a huge ugly central reservation.’

‘We have managed to secure funding to put tree planters along the road that can be re-used when we are able to put in a proper tree planting system. This is not money raised through council tax, this is capital funding, raised and ring-fenced, that can only be used for this purpose - I know Ann-Marie is a relatively new councillor but she needs to get her basic facts right.’

The furore has been caused by calls from the Conservative councillor to ‘help residents first’. Defending the decision Coun Harrington said: ‘We have done exactly that. We have trebled the support for anyone who is struggling with council tax, but we cannot divert money from capital projects specifically for identified works, into revenue pots for running services. If Ann-Marie wants to help residents first then she should lobby her political masters in Westminster who have told councils they must ‘wash their own faces’ and ensure that services are funded by local taxes.’

‘We've lost £100 million a year in revenue coming in when you compare 2022 to 2010 and both her Conservative MPs voted for those devastating cuts - has she expressed her disgust towards them? This is not our decision; this is Conservative Party policy. We know how hard increased cost of living will be for many and therefore set aside wide-ranging support for anyone struggling.’

Coun Harrington said that deadlines for spending £6 million budget, half of which was from a grant from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, for the city centre improvement scheme were looming. ‘I took the decision not to dig up High Town, as planned by the previous Conservative administration, because I couldn’t justify two years of disruption to traders as a building site moved around High Town simply to replace a surface, that needs minimal repair, with a complete excavation and relaying with several millions pounds worth of Chinese granite.’

Coun Harrington said he had instructed that some of the funds were diverted instead to make improvements to the Widemarsh pavements which ‘have long been overdue and which the Conservatives refused to address’. The funds also ensure the Cycle Contraflow proposals for St Owens Street go ahead and improve the street scene around Hereford. Tree planters were chosen as they could be moved for the May Fair in the City and would give planners time to consider where to plant the planned increase of trees in the ground.

‘This has nothing to do with council tax’ said Coun Harrington, adding: ‘every councillor should know that. This is about spending funds ring-fenced for specific jobs that are important to Hereford, have been identified as needing attention for many years, and will start the process of improving air quality and the aesthetics of the county’s important mother city.’

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You and the rest of that committiee need to wake up and smell the coffee John.People are angry,
I get that the money was there but you quite simply fail to get that spending a near £10,000 on each planter is a disgusting waste of money.You never asked the public what they wanted doing with the money did you. You also failed to point out that these planters are actually temporary until they can be properly dug in.
Just a thoughtless rushed idea.
The way to go about improving the air quality is to sort out our road infrastructure by reducing the constant start stop build up of traffic from traffic lights that are on a generic timer and not ground/traffic monitoring sensors which they all should be on.Removing some sets of totally unnecessary traffic lights and replacing some junctions ie all along the link road with roundabouts that incorporate pedestrian priority crossings for a start.
But anyone with a brain can tell that all you are going to do is put pollution sensors in so you can justify bringing in a clean air charge in parts of the City.
Highways England also need to be told to sort the timing of the lights at Asda roundabout.Why are the lights for Belmont Road on green for 11 seconds less than Ross Road,a road that has two lanes and far less traffic in the mornings creating a mile long tail back of traffic that's there for most of the day?
Little things improve traffic flow but you have done nothing since you came into office  ...Nothing.

 

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Couldn't agree more. The recent Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) report in the HT highlights the City Centre as having air quality as bad as in London in many places. This isn't new, but this administration were elected on the promise that they would sort out the traffic in the City and sort out BBLP. They haven't done either, nor have they delivered a single piece of cycling infrastructure, all of which would have contributed to cleaner air and better health. Instead we have profligate spending on endless consultations, planters and vanity projects and, with the elections barely a year away, the spectre of a return to tory rule. The City roads are crumbling whilst unclassified lanes in the middle of nowhere continue to get complete resurfacing. The Great Western Way desperately needs improvement - proposals were tabled in 2019 as part of the Hereford Transport Package - a relatively cheap investment into green transport, but again, nothing has happened. £770k + 10% management fee for St Owen's Street cyclepath - the road is already there, this is lunacy, a year ago this scheme was costed at £300k. This administration are keen to blame the last administration for overspends, but they've very rapidly gone the same route.

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We needed money to improve the area around the duck pond. New fencing,better planting of flower beds, areation pump etc but end up with sweek FA.
I mwan the cost of two of them £10,000 planters would of done it.
 

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4 hours ago, twowheelsgood said:

Couldn't agree more. The recent Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) report in the HT highlights the City Centre as having air quality as bad as in London in many places. This isn't new, but this administration were elected on the promise that they would sort out the traffic in the City and sort out BBLP. They haven't done either, nor have they delivered a single piece of cycling infrastructure, all of which would have contributed to cleaner air and better health. Instead we have profligate spending on endless consultations, planters and vanity projects and, with the elections barely a year away, the spectre of a return to tory rule. The City roads are crumbling whilst unclassified lanes in the middle of nowhere continue to get complete resurfacing. The Great Western Way desperately needs improvement - proposals were tabled in 2019 as part of the Hereford Transport Package - a relatively cheap investment into green transport, but again, nothing has happened. £770k + 10% management fee for St Owen's Street cyclepath - the road is already there, this is lunacy, a year ago this scheme was costed at £300k. This administration are keen to blame the last administration for overspends, but they've very rapidly gone the same route.

WTF are the actually spending over 700 grand on in St Owen st ???? All it needs is a few signs and lines painted on the roads.

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Precisely, the road is already there, £850k with the so called management plan fee - it's just under 0.25 mile, so that’s £3.4m a mile. That's without officer time, and the last 20 years of reports, consultations, designs, four separate measured surveys and so on.

Seriously, no one has a clue in Plough Lane. I thought they were bringing in a new project manager to get a grip on these things (away from BBLP). The fact that it is ring fenced money is immaterial - all of these projects and costs have come from the council to go in the application. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Auditor's Annual Report on Herefordshire Concil 2020-21

Final - 7 April 2022

(extract)

Contract management

Balfour Beatty feature strongly in this report with the Council's inability to effectively manage its public realm and facilities management contract.

The auditor considered the Council's contract appointment and management arrangements to be a significant weakness in arrangements. It did not ensure that the Council's public realm contract was awarded to an appropriate and legitimate company and as a result the Council has engaged and continues to engage with a dormant company - Balfour Beatty Living Places (BBLP).

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Both links have bene taken down ... read into that what you will. I did manage to read the auditors report before it disappeared - good grief! For 14 months, officers and staff concealed the facts from councillors that BBLP is a non-trading company with £100 in the bank! What on earth were they on (apart from huge salaries)? What an unholy mess - we've been paying £20m+ a year to a company that doesn't exist! Were these the same officers and staff that concealed the facts and lied to councillors about the massive overspend (and protracted legal wrangles over compulsory purchase) for the link road? What will ti take for this administration (or the next one) to sort out the pervading culture in Plough Lane? 

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Worth looking at the detail, particularly on page 15 of the report in the link Martin has provided. On two counts: "The company was dormant at the time the contract was awarded in 2013". And "In January 2021 .... senior officers became aware that the council was contracting with a dormant company, BBLP. However the findings of this report were not reported to members until July 2021 and omitted to report that BBLP was a dormant company."

Who knew what, exactly?

 

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After the trees were put in without any stakes we had some morons pulling down a few trees on the Link Rd over the weekend. Along come Balfour Beatty hammering in bamboo sticks & tying a bit of rope to them.
Completely incorrect way of staking a tree.

 

 

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