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18th November 2009 NEWS FROM ROSS-ON-WYE AND AROUND THE REGION
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STROKE CLUB GET HELP FOR CHRISTMAS EXTRAS FROM ROSS LIONS

The purpose of the Stroke Club is to introduce people who have had strokes to others in a similar situation and to offer social activities and stroke related information. Because of their incapacity caused by strokes, many sufferers are not too well off financially and the aim of the club is to improve their standard of life and give them something to look forward to, at least once a month. This is where the Ross Lions Club came into the picture.

The Ross Stroke Club Organizer, Jean Harrison, wrote to the Lions outlining the situation of the 32 members of the Ross Club and asked if they could provide some funds to supplement what they could raise themselves for their social activities. Jean did not ask for much, but as it was coming up for Christmas she said that she would like to put on something special for the club members. To assist the Lions gave a donation of £121 to provide some extras at their Christmas lunch and also pay for some entertainment.

Lions Martin King and Bernard Fowkes presented Jean and Mike Harrison with the money and a wish that everyone would have a marvellous time. Lion Martin said it was a pleasure to give assistance to the Stroke Club and said that perhaps they could help out in some small way in the future. The Lions were aware that they occasionally bought equipment for their members when they could not afford it themselves.

Accepting the cheque Jean thanked the Lions for their generosity and wishes. She said how her members would appreciate what the Lions had done for them.


Lion Bernard Fowkes with Stroke Club Secretary with event organizer, Jean Harrison.

ROSS TOWN COUNCIL DREAMING OF A GREEN CHRISTMAS

Christmas will be even better in Ross-on-Wye this year, as Ross Town Council celebrates the installation of new energy efficient Christmas lighting in the town with fun-filled events that can also help householders and businesses save money.

This year's Christmas lights have been designed to be different! Ross-on-Wye will celebrate Christmas 2009 with a beautiful and innovative light display that is also highly energy efficient, reducing pollution and saving money at the same time. It is hoped that this will generate lots of positive publicity to encourage shoppers into the Town to help with the celebrations. The Council is very encouraged by the initiative taken by the Association of Ross Traders to decorate many of the shops in the Town with energy efficient lights. The celebrations start on Saturday, 28th November at the Market House.

During the afternoon the High Street will be closed to traffic so that charity and community groups can set up stalls. As well as activities for children, there will be free energy advice available from Marches Energy Agency, who will also be giving out free light bulbs to those who visit their stand. You will also have the opportunity to meet Rudolph, a reindeer with an energy efficient nose! At 5pm, the Christmas lights on the Market House will be switched on, with Christmas musical entertainment from Ross Town Band.

This year, there is a competition for the best Christmas light displays, with separate categories for householders and retailers. But, in order to encourage energy efficiency , only displays using all energy efficient LED lights will be eligible to win. There is no need to enter, Councillors will tour the Town in the first week of December to judge the event and the winners will be announced at the Town Council meeting on the 14th.

Marches Energy Agency and Rudolph will be visiting Tudorville and Three Crosses on Saturday 12th December, to admire the fine displays of household lights and to give out advice on how to get more light for less energy and less money. After last years successful children's competition, the council are again asking children in the town to write to the them with their ideas about saving energy at Christmas. The authors of the best ideas will be invited to join them for the celebrations on November 28th and receive a small prize. All entries should be addressed to the Deputy Town Clerk at the Corn Exchange.

The Ross Christmas lights project has been supported by Natural England's Sustainable Development Fund in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Ross Town Council is grateful for this support.


JESSE LAUNCHES SMALL SHOPS OF HEREFORDSHIRE DIRECTORY IN ROSS

The 'Support Our Small Shops' campaign moved up a gear last week with the launch of a second edition of its highly successful Directory of Small Shops of Herefordshire at Pots and Pieces in Ross-on-Wye. Local campaigner Jesse Norman was joined at the launch by local shopkeepers and members of the Association of Ross Traders, along with representatives of the Council and Chamber of Commerce.

The new Directory lists 200 or so small shops nominated by nearly 1,000 people in the county during the campaign, and has been kindly sponsored by local designers the Naked Creative, and by ABC Print of Moreton-on-Lugg. Each shop has its details listed, together with a citation saying why it is special, taken from among the nominations. The first edition of the Directory was snapped up by local shoppers in a matter of weeks earlier this year. Several improvements have been made for the second edition, which is now organized by category, Yellow Pages-style, in a handy A5 size.

Speaking at the event, Jesse said, 'It's lovely to be able to launch the new Directory, and I am very grateful to David and Sara Bruce of Pots and Pieces for kindly hosting this event. We have been staggered by the public response to the Small Shops campaign. It really underlines how much local people value their shops, and the distinctive service, character and charm that our small shops bring to this county. The first edition of the Directory flew out the door, so we have taken the opportunity to reformat it for a second edition. But many wonderful local shops have not yet been nominated. We will be updating the Directory next year so that they can be included.

Anybody who would like copies of the new Directory is welcome to write to me at Small Shops Campaign, 49 Broomy Hill, Hereford HR4 0LJ. Or they can be downloaded online free of charge from my website, jesse4hereford.com.'


Jesse and some of the Ross traders with the new directory at Ross Market place.

BRIDSTOW SCHOOL CHILDREN DOING THEIR BIT FOR CHILDREN IN NEED

The children of Bridstow Primary School are very excited this week as they will be performing live on BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester as part of Benthams Buskers. It is expected the music will be broadcast after 8:30 on Friday Morning. The children will be taking part in lots of activities for Children In Need, dressing up with a Pudsey Bear theme, busking and selling cakes and biscuits.

On Thursday, 19th November, more fundraising will be taking place at the Red Lion Inn at Peterstow from 6pm. Young billy Kibble, a pupil at Bridsatow School will be playing his guitar and landlady, Leanne is organizing a raffle.


ROSS LIONS BONFIRE WAS NO DAMP SQUIB
By Lion Bernard Fowkes

The weather is no friend of the Ross Lions as, for the third year running the attendance at their Bonfire Night was affected by the rain. This event is their biggest fund raiser and an awful lot of preparation time and energy is used organizing it. However, it is that time of the year, so this type of weather is expected.

Luckily there was a break in the rain just before the start. A good sized crowd decided to brave the elements and a last minute rush saw around 2000 people pack into the Chase Hotel grounds. Takings at the gate were down by about half and yet a generous public bought more Light Sticks, burgers and hot-dogs than normal. Possibly the cold rain made them hungrier.

Just as the large bonfire was lit by the Ross Cubs, after they had paraded round the ground, the rain came down again. It continued during the firework display but it did not deter them from enjoying a wonderful display, some say it was the best yet because it ran so smoothly. The barbecue stall and the beer tent did roaring trades and even the Ice Cream van didn't do too badly. The Ross Youth Lions, for the first time, did a good job selling Light Sticks, necklaces and bracelets. Thankfully the St John's Ambulance members on duty were called upon to deal with only two incidents, when two young people were overcome by the rain or excitement. They were dealt with on site. There was a police presence but everyone was on good behaviour.

The President of the Ross Lions, Andrew Middlecote, on behalf of the club, would like to thank the Lions ladies for their help with the refreshments, the Ross Youth Lions for their sales efforts, friends of Lions who came along to assist, the Chase Hotel for the free use of their grounds and providing a beer tent and, last but not least, our supporters who turned out in such atrocious weather. We look forward to better weather next year.

The Ross Lions will be busy again this Christmas with the Santa Claus Grotto at Pengethley Garden Centre each weekend in December. A Tree of Remembrance will be placed in the Market House for the public to place their messages on for friends and relatives not present and Lions will control the crowd at the Christmas Carnival when Santa visits the town on 19th December to hand out presents. The Lions will also be paying for a Christmas Lunch for the Elderly citizens of Ross and will be present on Christmas Day at the Ryefield Centre, delaying their own festivities to look after the visitors.

The next big event is the Ross Lions 'Race Night' held at the Chase Hotel on the 14th March 2010; put this date in your diaries. More information can be obtained from the Lions website www.rossonwyelions.org.


A scene from the Lions bonfire and fireworks night.

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR TOM HOLT

The funeral of Tom Holt has been arranged to take place at 11am on Thursday, 19th November at the Forest of Dean Crematorium, Speech House Road, Cinderford, Gloucestershire. The family would welcome his friends at the ceremony and flowers for the funeral would be welcome too.

Mr Holt's body was found in the River Frome at Avenbury near Bromyard, Herefordshire on the afternoon of Wednesday, 7th October 2009. A man and a woman have since been charged with his murder and are currently on remand awaiting trial at Crown Court.


A RAY OF HOPE FOR THE YOUNG UNEMPLOYED OF HEREFORDSHIRE

Young unemployed people across the county have been given a ray of hope this week as Herefordshire Council has drawn down funding which will pay for 54 new jobs for those aged between 18 and 24 years inclusively.

The funding comes from a new Future Jobs fund developed by the Department of Work and Pensions in a bid to help young unemployed people gain employment. Herefordshire has received £333,000 which will fund the new jobs for six months. The criteria for the funding stipulates that applicants must be 18 to 24 year olds who are approaching a year's unemployment. The council has been working with local employers in both the private, public and voluntary sector, to identify possible job opportunities. As a result, a diverse range of jobs are to be offered including work in horticulture, leisure, health, caring professions and construction. Herefordshire currently has around 200 young people who will be eligible to apply for one of these posts between now and the end of March 2010 and all posts will be advertised through Job Centre Plus.

Councillor Adrian Blackshaw said, 'We are delighted to be able to offer some of our young people hope in the current recession. We understand how difficult it can be for young people beginning their working lives. Employers want to see evidence of experience, which makes it very difficult for some to get their first break. Although the posts are temporary, the six month contracts will help many get a foot on the employment ladder by providing them with valuable experience, boosting their skills and helping them decide on future career prospects.

I hope those invited to apply will do so and make the most of this great opportunity.'


SCANIA LORRY STOLEN FROM ROSS-ON-WYE

South Herefordshire Police are appealing for information following the theft of a Scania tractor cab unit from a locked compound in the town.

The yellow three-axled vehicle, which bears the registration number W699BOA, was removed from the compound in Station Street, Ross between 10am and 10pm on Sunday, 8th November. Thieves forced the compound gate padlock, found and entered the truck, hotwired it and drove it away. The truck is valued at £10,000.

Police would like to hear from anyone who saw any suspicious activity in the Station Street area on that Sunday or who may know the current whereabouts of the vehicle, which to date has not been recovered.

Anyone with information should contact PC Chris Smith at Ross Police Station on 0300 333 3000 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.


ROSS MS SUPPORT GROUP TO HOLD CRAFT FAIR

Ross MS Support Group will be holding a 'Craft Fair' Ross Baptist Church on Saturday, 21st November. Between 10am and 2 pm, visitors will find lots of gift ideas for the whole family, including: hand crafted Christmas cards and gifts, books, jewellery, pottery, toys, knitted items, tombola, Avon cosmetics and much, much more!

Refreshments will also be available, so join the group for a cuppa and maybe find that perfect gift as well!

For further information, please telephone 01989 730254.


NEW CREMATORIUM TO HOST HEREFORD POLICE CHOIR CHARITY CONCERT

Hereford's new crematorium is to play host to a special concert by the Hereford Police Male Choir which will raise money for the mayor's charities, the Noah's Ark Trust and Little Princess Trust.

The Christmas concert is being held at the chapel in the crematorium in Westfaling Street on Tuesday, 8th December at 7.15pm. Tickets are available from the crematorium office by telephoning 01432 383200 and cost £5 for adults and £2 for children. Light refreshments will be available.

John Gibbon, Herefordshire Council's bereavement services manager said, 'We now have a fantastic chapel at this new facility and it is wonderful to be able to host a concert by such a popular choir, especially as all the proceeds will be going to such good causes.'


LORRY TRAILER HIJACKED IN ROSS-ON-WYE

Detectives in Herefordshire are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a gang hijacked a trailer containing a high-value copper load at the side of the busy A40 in Ross-on-Wye. The incident happened at 5.10pm on Friday, 13th November in the lay-by by the VOSA inspection site on the A40 at Ross.

The driver of an articulated vehicle taking a load to a premises in South Wales had stopped in the lay-by and was approached by two men from a white Transit van, also stopped in the lay-by behind him. Without warning, the two men bundled the driver into the van and drove off, taking him to a remote spot near Hambridge in Worcestershire and leaving him at the side of the road.

The man was found by a police patrol just after 7.30pm. When police then checked the VOSA lay-by in Ross, they found the cab unit still in place but the three-axled, 44' long, red curtain-sided trailer containing a very high-value copper load had been stolen. The lorry driver was unharmed in the incident and did not require hospital treatment.

Detective Chief Inspector Sean Paley from Hereford CID, who is leading the hunt for the gang said, 'We are appealing for witnesses from the many motorists who would have been passing the VOSA site at that time of day. Perhaps they may have seen the lorry driver talking with the two males in the VOSA lay-by or the trailer later being unhitched from the white cab and being re-hitched to another, before being driven away. This is a very serious offence and we are anxious to speak to anyone who saw any suspicious activity at the VOSA site that evening or who may have other information to offer about the crime.'

Traffic past the site at 5pm on a Friday evening would have been fairly heavy. Even though it was dark at the time and the weather conditions were poor, police are hopeful that some passers-by will have seen something even though they might not have registered it as unusual at the time.

Anyone with information should contact Detective Sergeant Mark Jinks from Hereford CID on 0300 333 3000 or call the free Crimestoppers line anonymously on 0800 555111.


SPECIAL ENERGY EFFICIENCY SCHEME EXTENDED

Herefordshire Council is extending its Special Energy Efficiency Scheme to contribute towards keeping the counties' households warmer this winter. Grants of up to £500 per household are available for the following energy efficiency measures: loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs), hot water cylinder thermostats, room thermostats, draught proofing, hot water tank jackets and programmers.

Private households will qualify for loft insulation if they have four inches or less of existing depth insulation and cavity wall insulation will be available to all private households regardless of income or area.

Qualifying criteria for heating controls and draught proofing measures under the scheme will remain the following: Households that heat their homes using oil, electricity, LPG or solid fuels as the main heating fuel, households with an occupant of 60 years of age or greater, households that pay for their fuel via a prepayment meter, households with an occupant receiving a qualifying income or disability benefit.

Councillor Phil Cutter, Herefordshire Council's energy champion said, 'We know some 10 per cent of households in the county are in fuel poverty and simple measures such as better insulation and heating controls can make a huge difference in reducing bills. Households can save up to £300 a year by being energy efficient and, as fuel costs continue to rise, now is a great time to act before the really cold weather sets in. "I would urge anyone who thinks they can be helped by the scheme to contact Domestic & General Insulation Ltd on 0844 543 0043 for further advice.'

Households can also get help from the government-funded Warm Front scheme that provides grants to make your home warmer, healthier and more energy efficient. They provide funding towards a number of measures including: loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, draught proofing, hot water tank insulation, energy efficient light bulbs, repairs to existing heating, gas, electric or oil central heating and glass-fronted fires.

Grants are for up to £3,500 for gas and £6,000 for oil and other off gas heated homes. If you have applied for a Warm Front grant and there is an excess to pay, contact Private Sector Housing on 01432 260398, as there may be grants available to cover this excess. Please contact Warm Front for further details on 0800 316 6011 or visit http://www.warmfront.co.uk/

SEES grants of £500 are on offer to all private homeowners in Herefordshire, regardless of income, subject to funding to help towards the cost of utilizing renewable energy in the home. Measures include, solar thermal, solar electric, biomass boilers, wind turbines, ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps. There are also grants available for these renewable measures under the central Government funded scheme the Low Carbon Buildings Programme (0800 915 0990)

Hestia are an energy consultant, who manage an interest free loan scheme on behalf of Herefordshire Council called Take the Lead. The measures included under the scheme are: solar thermal, solar electric, biomass boilers, wind turbines, ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps.

For further information call 0845 60 20 300.


POLICE SEEK TEENAGER OVER INDECENCY INCIDENT

Hereford Police have begun a hunt for a teenager who approached two young children in a city play area and made improper suggestions of a sexual nature to the girl. The incident happened at 3.30pm on Sunday, 15th November when the 10-year old boy and 9-year old girl went to the play area in Penhaligon Way. They were joined by a teenager who engaged them in conversation about computers. After a while the conversation turned to a sexual nature and the girl attempted to leave. The teenager grabbed her arm and made lewd suggestions to her which upset her. The 10-year old boy then struck the teenager to protect the girl and the pair ran off home.

The teenager is described as white, about 16 years old, with short black hair. He was of a chunky build, with spots on his face and cold sores around his mouth. He was seen to ride away from the area on a silver and red Apollo pedal cycle. Police urge anyone who may know the identity of the youth in question to contact them at the earliest opportunity.

Anybody with information should contact PC Polly Price at Hereford Police Station on 0300 333 3000 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.


WEST MERCIA POLICE OFFICERS REWARDED FOR THEIR WORK

A brave river rescue, outstanding detective work, victim care and public spiritedness were just some of the things being celebrated at last week's Police Awards Ceremony held by Herefordshire Division at the Town Hall. The event, attended by Chief Constable Paul West, the High Sheriff of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, the Honourable Gilbert Greenall and the Mayor of Hereford, Councillor Sylvia Daniels, together with members of the Police Authority, heard of outstanding work by police officers and support staff as well as members of the public.

Continued...


CSO Ekanite and CSTurner.

Karin-Cooke and High Sheriff.

DC Cleeton and CS Turner.

DC Pugh and CS Turner.

Jason Pardoe the County Commissioner.

P S Evans and CS Turner.

Of the many people commended at the ceremony, the following is a selection:

PC Jim Mooney (Hereford) PC Mooney was commended for his bravery, communication skills and leadership shown on 21st January 2009 when a man with mental health issues threatened to harm himself and others by igniting propane gas cylinders whilst in a distressed state in a caravan/workshop at a rural location near Wellington. By approaching and calmly talking to the man, his trust was gained and tension lowered, allowing time for an armed response team to attend, who deployed Taser equipment to arrest the man. PC Mooney's brave actions and the use of Taser prevented any injuries occurring and brought the incident to a satisfactory conclusion.

Sergeant Dave Evans (Hereford Local Policing) Sergeant Evans is the City Centre local policing sergeant and was commended for his outstanding contribution to the policing of the city centre. He has spearheaded a number of initiatives in the city including Welcome to Herefordshire (an event for migrant workers in the county), Operation Deal against graffiti and Operation Pitbull to deal with bullying and assaults amongst teenagers. He has also been responsible for planning high profile events in the city such as parades and military funerals as well as leading on policing for the Three Choirs festival and the May Fair. The Mayor of Hereford commented, 'Sergeant Evans has given unstinting service to the City Council, who wholeheartedly support this recognition.'

CSO Elena Ekanite (Hereford Local Policing) Elena is a Community Support Officer with the Three Elms and St. Nicholas Local Policing team in the city. She received a commendation from Chief Superintendent Mark Turner for outstanding and meritorious work in the identification and apprehension of an offender for a series of sexual assaults and sexual exposure during July and August 2009. As a result of exhaustive enquiries made by CSO Ekanite on her patch following the offences, particularly with local organizations, she identified potential suspects, which included one that the victim later identified. The man was subsequently arrested and assessed as a High Risk sexual offender. He would not have come to light without the tenacity and responsibility displayed by CSO Ekanite.

DC Nigel Cleeton (Hereford CID) DC Cleeton is a career detective and received two commendations at the ceremony. The first was for his input into the Hollins attempted murder case. As 'officer-in-the-case,' DC Cleeton acquainted himself with every detail of the investigation and put forward a case that was comprehensive in detail and to the highest standards. The thoroughness of the paperwork and quality of evidence presented made a most compelling case, resulting in Michael Hollins receiving an indeterminate sentence at Crown Court. DC Cleeton's second commendation was for similar detective work shown in the case of a dangerous and serial rapist. Nigel's attention to details and use of complex legislation secured the man's conviction at Worcester Court.

DC Andy Pugh (Public Protection Unit) DC Pugh works in the Domestic Abuse section of the PPU. He was commended for his detective ability, attention to detail and preparation of a file of evidence to the highest standards which led to an offender being jailed for ten years at Worcester Crown Court for a number of serious domestic assaults. DC Pugh had to overcome problems around cultural differences with family pressure on the victim not to proceed with a prosecution. He was successful in this and the victim now has been able to start a new life, free from domestic abuse.

2XL Youth Services The Hereford-based youth organization was presented with a High Sheriff's Award for their unique contribution to the communities of Herefordshire. Since its inception in 2001, 2XL have worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for children and young people in the county. Whilst they are a charity, they commission bespoke pieces of work that target youngsters in Herefordshire. Since it commenced, 2XL have completed projects such as XLR8, the Info Zone at Wyebridge Sports Academy, Elevate, The Theatre In Education initiative, Youth Action Groups, Crucial Crew and the Herefordshire Community Cadets - to name but a few. The energy, enthusiasm and commitment that 2XL brings to all its activities is excellent and they keep going and deliver…even when the money runs out!

Mr Jason Pardoe The Chief Constable, Mr Paul West, presented Jason with a Royal Humane Society Vellum Award for his bravery in saving a young woman from drowning in the River Wye at the beginning of the year. In the early hours on Friday, 16th January 2009, Jason was walking home across the Victoria footbridge when he heard a woman screaming for help. In the darkness, he eventually spotted her in the middle of the cold waters of the River Wye. He threw a life belt which failed to reach her. He then entered the water himself but, again, was unable to reach her as she had been carried downstream. He left the water and ran several hundreds of yards down the bank dripping wet and cold and entered the water again. This time he reached her in midstream and swam with her to a branch overhanging the river, holding on with all his might.

He had already phoned the emergency services before entering the water. Both fire and police officers located them shortly afterwards but were unable to haul them from the water due to the steep bank. A fire service launch put onto the river upstream arrived and recovered the pair into the boat. They were then treated at Hereford County Hospital for the early effects of hypothermia.

Jason's bravery is best summed up by comments received from Neil Piggott, Station Manager at Hereford Fire Station, who said, 'It is clear that Jason acted calmly and intelligently in calling the police and then attempting to throw a rescue float. As I understand it, it was only after these actions that he realized that, if this woman was to have any chance of survival, it would be necessary for him to enter the water. It makes his actions all the more remarkable that they were not impulsive or instinctive but deliberate and thoughtful. To enter freezing, fast-flowing river water in the dark, having exhausted all other options first, was extraordinarily courageous.'


TWO MEN JAILED FOR HEREFORDSHIRE TARMAC FRAUDS

Two defendants, James and Shaun Ball from Over near Gloucester, today appeared at Plymouth Crown Court, having previously pleaded guilty to a total of 16 offences under the Theft and Fraud Acts. They have admitted deception and fraud offences committed across the central and southern half of England from June 2005 to the end of 2007. They were sentenced to 3 years and 20 months respectively by His Honour Judge Darlow, who directed that costs and substantial compensation and forfeiture issues should be resolved in 4 weeks time.

The investigation was started by Scambusters, a team set up by the Government to target rogue traders. Scambusters developed intelligence and information received from disgruntled customers complaining about what initially appeared to be trading standards type offences. The initial investigations revealed criminal offences of deception. As a result of six arrests on a driveway in Buckfastleigh on 8th March 2007, a dedicated team of investigators was set up, based at Honiton in Devon, under the command of DCI Ken Lamont. This included officers from D&C, West Mercia and Scambusters.

Financial enquiries identified bank accounts and a considerable number of transactions. These enquiries enabled us to identify further victims spread across ten counties including Herefordshire, Worcestershire and others across central & southern England. Various deceptions were then investigated: agreeing to lay tarmac but then putting tar and chippings down; agreeing a price per linear foot and then charging per square foot; falsely telling customers they had been working on the roads on behalf of the local council; failing to provide notice of 'cooling off' periods when cold calling; having vans liveried up showing a map of the UK falsely claiming to have depots nation-wide and having business invoices that also contained false representations about guarantees. Subsequently, West Mercia planned and led a series of warrants which were executed in Gloucester in October 2007 with partner agencies (Scambusters, HMRC, environmental health, vehicle examiner & plant experts, Gloucestershire and D&C Constabularies). This secured further evidence relating to the frauds, led to the seizure of vehicles and tarmaccing lorries used to commit the offences and also led to the seizure of many assets which the Court further restrained.

During the investigation 1023 witness statements were obtained; 1723 exhibits were seized; 1211 documents were produced and 19 suspect interviews carried out. One hundred and eighteen officers from 9 forces contributed at some stage to the investigation, in addition to the Scambusters team. This enquiry has shown a new way of investigation and co-operation between the Police, Trading Standards and Scambusters. Through this joint approach to the sharing of intelligence, staff and enquiries it has evidenced what can be achieved. Thankfully, this criminal gang did not spend long in Herefordshire, though some ten offences were identified.

West Mercia Police will continue to work together with other agencies and police forces to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice. They will use the Proceeds of Crime legislation to confiscate the assets of criminals so they do not profit from their actions. They will seek to ensure that victims are compensated and that those seized assets are redirected to support other criminal investigations.

John Peerless, Project Manager, Trading Standards Regional Fraud Unit said, 'This highly organized criminal group operated across the whole of central & southern England. This was the first major investigation conducted by the then DTI-funded Trading Standards Scambusters Team covering London, the East and South East England and by working together with partners in Devon & Cornwall and West Mercia Police we have been able to successfully dismantle their criminal activity.

This criminal group changed their trading name several times and used a number of accommodation addresses to try and avoid detection. They operated by giving their victims low initial verbal quotes that were then grossly inflated after they had completed work that, in most cases, was carried out to appalling standards. Many victims were intimidated and paid up and those who challenged their illegal activities were sometimes threatened. This case sends a clear and unequivocal message to rogue traders that such behaviour will not be tolerated. Cold calling and similar misleading and fraudulent activities are widespread and are often targeted at the most vulnerable in society, the housebound and older residents. The Trading Standards Regional Fraud Unit and the Police are working together to ensure that elderly and vulnerable members of the community can feel safer in their homes. I would reiterate our advice to householders that they should never deal with home maintenance traders who arrive uninvited on the doorstep.'

Detective Sergeant Mark Chappell from West Mercia Police, who lead the Herefordshire investigation from the start said, 'This is a good result and shows some excellent partnership working, not just between police forces but with partner agencies too. I am delighted that West Mercia Police was able to play a significant part in the investigation of these career criminals and gain some justice for those affected by their fraudulent activities.'

Anybody who wishes to report rogue trading activity should call Trading Standards via Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.


WEST MERCIA POLICE THROW LIFELINE FOR TEME VALLEY YOUTH PROJECT

A cash-strapped but much needed youth project in the north of the county has been given a vital financial lifeline by West Mercia Police which will see the project continue for the foreseeable future. Herefordshire Division's Community Police Fund, sourced by the West Mercia Police Authority, has the aim of assisting local community projects, which in turn will improve the quality of life for those in that area. The fund has given the project a £5,000 lifeline to enable them to continue their good work.

The Teme Valley Youth Project (TVYP) is based in Wigmore and provides youth activities for youngsters in the 11 to 18 year old age bracket in an area covering 24 parishes in North Herefordshire and South Shropshire. The Teme Valley Youth group was set up in 1994 in Leintwardine and TVYP achieved charity status in 1997. The project centre in Wigmore was opened in 2001 and provides youth and community facilities for the area. The youth project caters for some 100 youngsters per year and allows them to enjoy a variety of activities including pool, darts, arts and crafts, IT facilities, music and games or just chill out with their mates in a safe and secure environment at the centre in Wigmore.

Mary Simpson, who manages the project said, 'Funding has become a serious issue for this and many similar projects recently. Herefordshire Council Youth Service helped us to bridge a gap by loaning a lead youth worker to restart sessions. The money from West Mercia Police allows us to pay for a lead youth worker for the next twelve months. We have also been fortunate enough to recruit six further community volunteers, trained by HCYVS (Herefordshire Council for Voluntary Youth Services), and co-ordinated by the youth worker, so our work looks set to continue on a firm footing for the foreseeable future. We are very grateful to West Mercia for helping us out financially. The donation will have undoubted benefits for the local youngsters and their communities.'

Sergeant Mike Doolan, local policing sergeant for the Leominster area said, 'We are pleased to give the Teme Valley Youth Project this funding. The facilities that the centre provides for the local youngsters ensure they are not kicking their heels on the streets and will give them a sense of belonging. This has obvious knock-on benefits for policing in the area.'

Many of the facilities at the centre, such as offices and meetings rooms, can be hired out to outside bodies, to provide income and allow their good work to continue and grow. For more information on the project and available facilities, please contact Maureen Robinson in the project office on 01568 770110 or email tvyp1@yahoo.co.uk.


Sergeant Mike Doolan, left, with PC Andy Varden of Leominster Policing Team and Mary Simpson, Project Director.

DON'T MAKE YOUR PURSE A GIFT FOR DIPPERS

Police have issued tips to help avoid people's purses and valuables becoming a gift to criminals this Christmas. The simple measures to deter and prevent thieves taking advantage of shoppers have been issued as part of West Mercia Police's 'Safe & Secure' Christmas Crime 2009 campaign.

Chief Inspector Jim Baker, responsible for Community Safety and Partnerships across West Mercia said, 'Although crime is low in West Mercia, busy Christmas shoppers can become a target for opportunistic thieves and unsecured bags, wallets and purses can be easy pickings. By following the simple advice people can ensure their valuables do not become a Christmas gift to criminals and make sure their festive season is a happy one.'

Simple tips to follow during the busy Christmas shopping period:

*While out and about, be vigilant and stay aware of who is around you.
*Securely fasten handbags, purses and wallets.
*Keep you purse or wallet in an inside coat or jacket pocket.
*Never leave your bags unattended.
*Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
*Never keep pin numbers with your bank cards.
*People are advised to purchase one of the various purse dipping deterrents including bells, coil key rings, chains and lanyards. Local Policing Teams across the force will be handing out some of these also.

For further information on Safe & Secure Christmas Crime 2009 and crime reduction advice, visit our website www.westmercia.police.uk/advicecentre.


ACCOLADE FOR CONTRIBUTION TO PARTNERSHIP WORKING IN COUNTY

The partnership approach to working among organizations within Herefordshire sets the county apart from others and benefits many local communities. Now, the hard work and determination of the woman who has been instrumental in bringing together the various public bodies, voluntary organizations and private sector companies has been officially recognized.

Chris Bucknell has been acting manager of the Herefordshire Partnership for an extended period and has overseen substantial changes. She has been awarded the performance group certificate of achievement, signed by the Divisional Commander and Chief Constable of West Mercia Police, Mark Turner, at the force's recent performance meeting. Among the crucial changes Chris has seen the Partnership through are the development and growth of Area Based Grants (funding which goes direct to local authorities who are free to use this non-ring fenced funding as they see fit to support the delivery of local, regional and national priorities) and the establishment of our Local Area Agreement, a set of performance measures with targets for improvement, which outlines the challenges for the County and what we are going to do to make life better for those who live and work here. Chris's time at the helm has coincided with the merging of the council with the Primary Care Trust and the complete reorganization of the Herefordshire Partnership structure to allow real partnership working in a number of Policy and Delivery groups.

'While much remains to be done, Chris has been absolutely fundamental to all the successes achieved to date, working many hours over an extended period, not least of all in negotiations between many stakeholders towards effective LAA targets,' said Chief Superintendent Mark Turner, who nominated Chris for her 'outstanding personal contributions to partnership working in Herefordshire.' He continued, 'In all of her work, she has combined excellent strategic and political insights and communications to key partnership leads with a sustained sense of good humour, even in the most difficult of circumstances. The positive effect that her realistic and personable approach has had cannot be overestimated and this award is offered in both recognition and sincere thanks.'


NEW GRITTER TO KEEP HEREFORDSHIRE ROADS CLEAR THIS WINTER

Herefordshire Council has just taken delivery of a new gritter to help ensure that the county's roads can be kept open during the winter months. The new £80,000 vehicle, which was paid for by a detrunking grant from the Department of Transport, brings the council's total fleet of gritters to seventeen.

Councillor Brian Wilcox said, 'Last year, we took over responsibility for maintaining two new roads, the A40 and A465, which were previously managed by the Highways Agency. As part of this agreement, we were given a grant towards maintaining these stretches of roads and have spent some of this money on buying this new gritter. Obviously, we now have extra lengths of road to keep clear during the winter vehicle and this new gritter will ensure we can keep to our targets of getting all priority routes treated within a two-hour period.

The new gritter conforms to the highest environmental standards and has other features such as GPS technology, which will show us which roads have been treated and when. There is also a camera inside the vehicle which allows the driver to see what is happening inside the hopper at the back from the safety of the cab rather than having to get outside the vehicle.

This year, the council will again be using Safecote to treat the county's roads and this will also mean the new vehicle will have a life span of at least 10 years, rather than the eight with the existing vehicles. Herefordshire Council has a dedicated maintenance cycle for its gritting vehicles and aims to replace each one after it has reached its life span and also keeps a spare gritter as part of the fleet in case it is needed for extremely severe weather.'


Highway Network Manager, Clive Hall and Councillor Brian Wilcox with the new gritter.

SARAH CARR CALLS FOR EXTENSION OF EMPTY RATE RELIEF SCHEME

Local campaigner Sarah Carr, the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Hereford and South Herefordshire, is calling on the Government to retain a temporary rate relief on empty commercial properties, in an effort to aid the recovery of the County’s economy.

The Chancellor, Alistair Darling MP, announced a temporary one year increase in the threshold exempting empty commercial properties from £2,200 up to £15,000 rental value as a response to the credit crunch. Now nearly one year on, Sarah wants to keep the rate relief to stimulate the local economy. She said, 'Empty property rates tax individuals and companies on assets that generate no income whatsoever. With so many empty business premises available in Hereford and similarly in other towns across the UK, the Government must not make things even worse for businesses.

It's vital that local entrepreneurs can set up businesses on flexible terms in a professional environment, yet landlords are in danger of being taxed for providing this service. The ill effects of this tax can lead to early demolition of buildings, shelved regeneration projects and the loss of jobs and pensions. The entire business community has shown their opposition to this tax, with fairly reasoned arguments, backed up by hundreds of cases studies. I hope the Chancellor will give our local businesses support in what are still difficult times.'

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