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HOME INFORMATION PACK RULE WILL HURT HOUSING MARKET SAYS JESSE

Local campaigner Jesse Norman has criticized new rules on Home Information Packs, which come into force this week. Home Information Packs (HIPs) are compulsory documents which a house seller must now provide to a buyer free of charge. From the 6th April 2009 new rules require that homes cannot even be put on the market until the HIP has been completed, adding weeks of delay to the process for many sellers and town halls have been instructed to start fining homeowners £200 a time if they do not follow the new rules.

Jesse said, 'The Government’s own research has found that there is little public knowledge or interest in Hips The industry thinks they are a waste of time, and will increase litigation. They push up costs, and buyers are not bothering to consult them but prefer to rely on their own inquiries. We are in the midst of a serious economic slowdown, and these new regulations just make the situation worse. If Ministers really wanted to help homeowners, they would use their emergency powers under the act to suspend Hips and provide a shot in the arm to Herefordshire's housing market.'

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HEREFORDSHIRE COUNCIL IN BID FOR FAIR DEAL FOR COUNTY SCHOOLS

Herefordshire Council is lobbying for a better deal for the county's rural schools and recently took part in discussions with Secretary of State Ed Balls, as the government reviews the methods it uses to fund all schools in England. Councillor Roger Phillips, leader of the council, and Councillor Jenny Hyde, cabinet member for children's services, are working with other poorly funded local authorities, known as the F40 group, to drive for a better financial settlement.

At a meeting in Ed Ball's Wakefield constituency, they talked with the secretary of state, and with Stephen Kingdom, the head of funding at the Department of Children, Schools and Families. Under the present scheme, Herefordshire's schools lose out badly. The county is the third worst funded in the country per pupil, receiving on average £3,830 per pupil, compared with the national average of £4,218 per pupil and the highest funded authority, which is Tower Hamlets in London, which gets £6,523 per pupil.

'A large number of local authorities in the F40 group are rural counties, where the cost of education is higher, due to there being smaller schools serving sparser populations with higher transport costs,' said Councillor Phillips. 'This makes it all the more unjust when counties like ours are funded poorly compared to more urban areas. For example, over half of our schools in Herefordshire have under 109 pupils. However, there may be some grounds for hope on the horizon. The government is gathering evidence into the summer and plans to launch formal consultations with 7,000 schools, including all high schools and some primaries. New fairer arrangements could come into effect in the 2011/12 financial year.'

The government have commissioned consultants to undertake detailed research into a number of key areas. This includes taking account of the additional costs of running small schools, primary or secondary, in sparsely populated rural areas, where the schools exist out of necessity, but recruiting and retaining teachers and maintaining high overheads for small numbers is a challenge, and it is not appropriate to transport children over long distances. The funding for high cost pupils, with special educational needs who need considerable support, need to be provided centrally and outside the normal devolved budgets to local areas. Supporting schools with pupils with additional educational needs also requires a different approach to funding, with a formula worked out according to specific and various needs.

'The important point is that every child matters, and every community matters,' said Councillor Phillips, 'and we are pressing government to reflect this fairly in a new funding system. There are some signs that the government is now listening and taking action, although we must wait and see the results of the consultation and the nature of the new funding arrangements when more details are announced.'


BALD CIGARETTE SELLER ARRESTED

Detectives investigating a series of distraction burglaries in the Tupsley area of Hereford at the end of February 2009 have caught their man. Hereford Police have confirmed that a 25 year old male was recently arrested in the North East of England and was subsequently interviewed by detectives from the West Mercia, Dorset and Gloucestershire forces in connection with a string of such offences.

At the beginning of March 2009, police appealed for witnesses after a man, described as a Duncan Goodhew look-a-like, conned his way into three homes of elderly residents in the Tupsley area on the pretext of selling cigarettes at knock down prices. The arrested man has admitted all three Hereford offences and will ask for them to be taken into consideration when he is sentenced at Crown Court later in the year.

Detective Sergeant Tim Powell of Hereford CID said, 'Distraction burglaries are crimes that we are not prepared to tolerate in this county and we will do all in our power to identify and bring to justice all those that engage in such activities. We would particularly like to thank the public for being so community-spirited in keeping a watchful eye on vulnerable neighbours and in providing us with detailed witness statements which enabled us to track down the person responsible for these three crimes.'


VICTIMS OF SHOBDON MICROLIGHT CRASH NAMED

Herefordshire Police have named the two men who died when their microlight aircraft crashed as it was attempting to land at Shobdon airfield in North Herefordshire last Saturday afternoon. The men have been identified as Mark Christopher Taylor, aged 45 of Berryhill, Coleford, Gloucestershire and Rex Antony John Paddock aged 56 of East Batch, Coleford, Gloucestershire. The Coroner has been informed and an inquest is expected to be opened and adjourned this week.

Detective Inspector Martyn Barnes from Hereford CID led the early stages of the investigation, before formally handing over primacy to the Air Accident Investigation Board based at Farnborough, Hampshire on Sunday. He said, 'This is a very tragic case which is now being fully investigated by the AAIB. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the families of these two flying enthusiasts as they try to come to terms with what has happened. In support of the AAIB, West Mercia Constabulary has appointed a Family Liaison Officer to offer the families support and assistance.'

DI Barnes added, 'There were several other microlight flyers present at Shobdon airfield who we believe took off shortly afterwards. Some of these pilots may well have seen the crash. I would urge anyone who witnessed the incident and has not yet given their details to police to contact me as soon as possible.'

Anyone with information should contact DI Martyn Barnes at Hereford CID on 0300 333 3000.


POLICE ADVISE GARDNERS TO NIP GARDEN CRIME IN THE BUD

Spring has well and truly and sprung, Easter weekend is almost here and millions of people will be taking the opportunity to get to work in their gardens and allotments. With this in mind, West Mercia Constabulary is urging green-fingered residents to help it 'weed out' garden crime by reviewing and improving their shed security.

Spring often sees an increase in thefts from garden and allotment sheds and although crime is low across Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Telford & Wrekin, approximately 1,000 shed burglaries take place every year across West Mercia. It is therefore important that people take the time to ensure their valuables are stored securely. Later this month thousands of packets of seeds will distributed to the public across the force. They come packed with handy tips on how people can make their gardens and sheds more secure and prevent burglars from breaking in. Garden security is part of the force's Safe & Secure campaign, which provides people with advice about how they can make their homes, gardens and cars more secure. The force has produced a leaflet that gives further security advice, which is available to download from the force website (www.westmercia.police.uk) and from garden centres and police stations.

PC Ian White, the force's Crime Risk Manager, said, 'While many people take steps to protect their homes and the property inside them, they often leave valuable equipment such as power tools, mowers, garden tools and bikes in sheds in their gardens or allotments. Often they are unsecured or not strong or secure enough to defend against thieves. We are advising people to look at how to secure their gardens and allotments and if necessary make some adjustments. Allotments in particular are becoming more and more popular, so now is a good time to advise those who are taking them on of a few simple steps they can take to reduce the risk of being targeted by thieves.'

PC White advises gardeners of the following:

Gates, fences and walls should be kept in good repair to stop intruders getting in your garden
Grow 'defensive planting' (prickly plants, bushes and shrubs) close to vulnerable areas such as windows, fences, boundary walls and drainpipes.
Most sheds are not designed for safe storage and should not be used to store expensive equipment such as garden tools, mowers and power tools. Never leave such items in an allotment shed and put up a sign to let potential thieves know it is not worth their while attempting to break in.
If you have nowhere else to store expensive equipment at home, take measures to secure your domestic shed by using a closed shackle padlock and screws that cannot be undone from the outside. Chain together tools to heavy items so they are harder to steal.
Battery-powered shed alarms are inexpensive and can be bought from hardware shops, DIY stores or locksmiths.
Don't leave ladders and tools lying around in your garden - these could be used to break into your home.
Mark your tools and equipment using Smartwater or with your postcode using a UV pen. Make a note of the serial numbers on your equipment.

For further advice or information, contact your local policing team via 0300 333 3000.


HEREFORDSHIRE HORSEWATCH WELCOMES NEW MEMBERS

In recent times, Herefordshire Horsewatch has undergone something of a transformation and they are now hoping to open their doors to lots of new members. Herefordshire Horsewatch will be holding its AGM at 7.30pm on Friday, 17th April 2009 at the Coronation Hall, Kingsland near Leominster. Both old and new members will be made welcome. For those wishing to join Herefordshire Horsewatch, annual membership is a bargain at just £5.

Horsewatch is strongly supported by West Mercia Constabulary and will regularly keep members updated of crime and other incidents of an equine nature, to ensure that everyone knows what is going on in their area. Horsewatch also offers advice and guidance to all those involved with horses on safeguarding their animals and property, tack, equipment, trailers and lorries against theft.

PC Sharon Wilson of Kington Police Station will be present at the AGM. PC Wilson is the police liaison officer for Horsewatch in Herefordshire. Herself a keen horsewoman, she will be on hand to answer any equine crime queries you may have.

If you are unable to make the meeting but are still interested in joining Herefordshire Horsewatch, please contact Tara Heinemann on 01544 318038 or visit their web site at: www.freewebs.com/herefordshirehorsewatch/index.htm

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