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Plans for new festival, 'Ross Rocks' are coming together very nicely and the organizers are delighted that sponsorship for the event which, subject to licences being granted, will take place on Saturday, 25th June, has already been forthcoming.

Plans are to stage the event from 11am until 11pm with the aim of not only putting on a free event for the people of Ross but to show everybody what Ross-on-Wye has to offer and that Ross Rocks.

All local bands, traders, dance groups, theatre groups, youth groups and charities etc. are welcome to apply to take part. If you are part of a local band and you would like to perform at the Ross Rocks event, please email Steve French at to make arrangements for him to listen to your demo CD. All stall holders, dance groups etc. should apply to Mel at If you would like to sponsor Ross Rocks in any way, then please contact the treasurer, Andy, at Your help will be greatly appreciated.

The committee would like to thank Ross Old Books and Elite Catering for their generous sponsorship and Dave and Jacqui Newman for allowing their meetings to be held at the White Lion Inn.


A new scheme has been launched in Ross-on-Wye that sees West Mercia Police and the licensing trade working together to tackle alcohol related disorder in the town. The scheme, called HAND (Herefordshire Against Night Time Disorder) is a Pub Watch project that was launched on Tuesday, 1st March.

Around 12 licensed premises throughout the town have agreed to join HAND, which aims to enhance the safety of customers, staff and visitors to the area. Chair of the Ross group is Mike Pryor of The Mail Rooms and Secretary is Debbie McNally of the Hope & Anchor and they, along with all HAND members in partnership with the Ross-on-Wye Local Policing Team, Herefordshire Licensing Authority and the national Pub Watch organization, will give guidance and ownership to the licensing trade to deal with the small minority of people who drink to excess and cause disorder in and around licensed premises. The scheme allows publicans to meet on a regular basis to discuss issues with particular troublemakers and then choosing to ban them from all premises that are part of the scheme.

Jim Mooney, West Mercia Police's Licensing Officer for Herefordshire said, 'This positive and joined up approach will show that Ross-on-Wye is a safe place to visit and socialise. For too long Ross has suffered from a disproportionate amount of low level disorder. West Mercia Police has taken positive action, including imposing sanctions on a number of licensed premises.

Now is the right time for the licensed trade in the town to join forces with the local police to show they mean business in dealing with the minority who can ruin things for the majority. I would like to invite the other licensees in Ross who have yet to join the HAND project to participate and create a unified approach to alcohol related problems in the town. Herefordshire is a safe place to live, work and visit and operating HAND in the county can only enhance this reputation.'

The start of the Ross-on-Wye scheme means five towns in the county now operate HAND or similar schemes, covering in the region of 80 licensed premises. HAND is owned and run purely by the licensed trade, supported by the police and the licensing authority.

Mike Pryor of the Mail Rooms, Debbie McNally of the Hope & Anchor, Mark Willamot, Regulatory Servcies Manager and PC Paul Challenger at the HAND launch.


The first phase of Herefordshire Council's 500,000 scheme to bring Ross library and customer services together on one site in the town was completes on Monday, 28th February, with Customer Services staff moving into the Cantilupe Road building, transferring from their former base at Swan House.

Work will now begin on the second phase of the project, which involves much more structural work in the main library area. This includes installation of a ramp so the building complies with the Disability Discrimination Act, works to the front counter, creating the Dennis Potter exhibition space, staff offices, work areas and a lift.

During the second phase, which is due to be completed by early May, the opening hours will change whilst the building works are being carried out. The hours will be: Mondays, 8.45am until 17.30, Tuesdays, 8.45am until 19.30, Wednesdays, 8.45am until 17.30, Thursdays, 8.45am until 17.30, Fridays, 8.45am until 17.30, and Saturdays, 9.30am until 16.00.

Councillor Adrian Blackshaw of Herefordshire Council said, 'Ross Library is one of our most popular, with some 12,000 visitors each month and by moving customer services into the same building, we are providing a one stop service for residents. Many other local authorities are closing down facilities such as libraries but we are very much committed to keeping them open. By placing these services under one roof, they become much more affordable and sustainable into future years which will ensure front-line services in Ross are protected.'


School budgets will be under discussion this week when the Herefordshire Schools Forum meets to decide how to make savings of 1.5m to this year's education budget. Details of the government's allocation for education in Herefordshire didn't arrive until 13th December, leaving Schools Forum and the local authority very little time to come up with proposals to make the savings required.

Schools Forum has a budget working group which comprises head teachers from primary, secondary and special schools. This group developed some proposals which went out to consultation earlier this month. Since then, there have been many meetings, much discussion and lots of feedback from schools, nurseries and representatives groups. As a result, the Budget Working Group has come up with a firm set of proposals which Schools Forum will make a decision on this week, before making its recommendations to the council. A package of cuts are recommended, including proposals to reduce the amount of money allocated per pupil to each school, to reduce the amount of funding given to subsidize small schools and to make funding cuts in early years provision run by the private, voluntary and independent sector.

Nigel Griffiths, secondary head teacher representative on the budget working group said, 'The budget working group has listened to feedback from schools, nurseries and their respective groups and tried to share the cuts out in as fair a way as possible. Like other Schools Forums across the country, we are faced with having to make some very difficult decisions and in a very short time scale. Ideally we would have liked more time to consult, but the government's late budget allocation has meant we have been restrained by time. We have no choice - the budget has to be set by the end of March.'


West Mercia Police have now gone public about an ongoing major operation to tackle rural crime in Herefordshire that places it at the heart of policing in the county.

The targeted offensive, called Operation Ignite, came into force in October 2010 and is a co-ordinated response to reducing crime in rural and isolated communities, in particular by travelling criminals. The main offences of concern are thefts of plant and machinery, livestock, metal and fuel, but the operation also tackles those who target vulnerable residents or look to steal batteries, catalytic converters and other machinery parts.

Superintendent Charles Hill, Herefordshire's new policing commander is spearheading the operation. He said, 'Herefordshire has a new command team and we have identified rural crime as a priority. We have seen a recent rise in the recording of these offences, which we put down to international price increases in commodities such as fuel and metal.

Operation Ignite is central to ensuring that our rural communities feel protected and secure. It is not a one off, but an ongoing project that we hope will ensure rural crime issues get the policing response they deserve. Our officers will be proactively targeting offenders who are travelling around the county and committing offences. Because many of these criminals travel in from other areas, we are working with our colleagues from neighbouring forces in Dyfed Powys, Gwent and Gloucestershire to co-ordinate our response and share intelligence. We will also look to improve how we engage with victims, witnesses and rural businesses and provide them with reassurance. We are working with others, for example the NFU, to better understand what rural communities want from the police.

For Ignite to be a real success we need the public's help; without it we cannot do our job properly. Herefordshire is a big patch, so we need to focus our efforts on where the criminals are operating. Local people can really help out by reporting crimes and any suspicious behaviour, particularly suspicious vehicles. If they are not reported we cannot analyse where the criminal activity is happening and support those areas being targeted by criminals.

We also need to know where the stolen goods are going: while some will head elsewhere, even overseas, we need to know if anyone has offered you goods at marked down prices. Did you suspect they were stolen goods? And if so, did you call the police about it? Please get in touch with us about any suspicions or concerns you have on West Mercia Police's non-emergency number, 0300 333 3000. You can also pass on information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.'

Here are some examples of Operation Ignite successes so far:

On 22nd November, a lorry parked on the A49 was identified as having had the fuel pipes cut and a large quantity of fuel stolen. On the same night Operation Ignite police patrols came across a silver estate car which made off at speed. The vehicle was eventually stopped and three occupants were arrested. All three were from south Wales.

On 11th January 2011, officers stopped a car with a man who had been disqualified from driving. When the car was searched, a number of tractor batteries were found. Further investigation led to the recovery of some stolen power tools and the shell of a Land Rover that was stolen in 2008.

On 25th January, three men from West Bromwich were arrested in Hereford in a transit van having been seen to take a copper boiler from a garden of a house. One man was charged with this offence. Also in January, a warrant was executed at a garage in Ross-On-Wye and officers recovered a stolen mini-digger.

After West Mercia Police received some local intelligence, a lockup near Hope under Dinmore was entered on 17th February and officers discovered a number of items, including a lump of melted down lead, tractors, generators and a number of power tools that have been linked to crimes in Herefordshire. A man has subsequently been charged with handling stolen goods.


Councillor Roger Phillips, current leader of Herefordshire Council, is to announce at the next full council meeting, due to take place on Friday, 4th March, that he is stepping down. After eight years of serving the county as leader of the council, he has decided not to seek nomination for re-election as leader after the local elections. But Councillor Phillips will be standing on 5th May and hopes to continue to represent his ward of Pembridge, Shobdon & Lyonshall with Titley.

Councillor Phillips said, 'Eight years is a long time to be a leader and I feel that with the support of colleagues in the party and in the council, I have made a strong contribution to the quality of life in Herefordshire. Following recent health problems I have decided it is sensible to take a step down from the Leadership of the Council. I remain passionate about Herefordshire and I aim to continue to champion at all levels the concerns of our communities and the continued improvement and value of our public services.

It has been an enormous privilege to serve the communities of this beautiful county and I am proud that Herefordshire Council is now widely recognized as one of the most progressive and innovative in the country, having formed a unique, successful and groundbreaking partnership with NHS Herefordshire and developed a range of joined up health and social care services to help the most vulnerable members of our community. Since becoming leader following the May 2003 elections I have worked hard to champion Herefordshire's interests regionally and nationally. Over recent years Herefordshire has consistently punched above its weight for securing grant funding.'

Recent successes have been the new flood defences in Hereford and Ross and moves to safeguard the county's farming heritage through the building of a new 7-million livestock market, to be completed in the summer. A new 1.8-million museum resource and learning centre has been built in Hereford, a new 2.5-million swimming pool in Leominster, and several new primary and secondary schools have been opened, including Whitecross, Hereford Academy and Earl Mortimer College and Sixth Form Centre in Leominster.

Transport improvements have included the new Rotherwas Access Road, the 4.5-million Roman Road extension, the new Bridge Sollars crossing and the restored Victoria Bridge in Hereford, as well as the upgrading of Eign Gate, High Town and Widemarsh Street. A brand new crematorium has also been erected in the city.

The administration has set the scene for the regeneration of the city, with a new multiplex cinema, department store and food store scheduled to be built in 2014, and has paved the way for superfast broadband to benefit rural and remote parts of the county. The county was named Enterprise Capital of the region in 2008 and business parks like Rotherwas and Leominster have attracted new enterprises and jobs. The successful introduction of wheeled bins and the retention of the popular weekly domestic waste collection have boosted recycling rates and, working closely with the police through Safer Herefordshire, the council's community protection teams have played their part in cutting crime and antisocial behaviour.

'One of the key themes of the last few years' added Councillor Phillips, 'has been the escalating financial costs of meeting increased demand for social care, particularly from older people. But I am proud of the fact that we have been able to look after the people who needed help most and managed well our finances, keeping council tax rises to a minimum.'

Councillor Phillips is one of the longest serving Leaders in the West Midlands and is a former Chairman of the West Midlands Councils, Regional Transport Partnership and joint Strategy and Investment Board. He continues to be Vice Chairman of the National Local Government Employers and the County Council Network.

Councillor Roger Phillips, who will be stepping down as Leader of Herefordshire Council on Friday.

2nd March 2011 THE CENSUS THROUGH THE CENTURIES . . . . ....

An exhibition has just opened in Hereford, revealing that while the 2011 census is about to drop through people's letterboxes, the census is nothing new. The exhibition, at the Herefordshire Record Office in Harold Street, charts the history of the census back to the Domesday Book with examples of the first modern census records from the 19th century.

'These are fascinating and include details for Queen Victoria herself,' said Archive Assistant, Marcus Buffrey. 'Some of the examples from Herefordshire include the variety of occupations that were listed during the 19th century, such as worm destroyer, hedgehog catcher and grand cider drinker! We're trying to show how the past census returns allow the character of our ancestors to come through and give us a snapshot of their lives, showing real people who we can relate to, thus proving how useful they are to us. The same responsibility for recording our own lives now falls on us; and who knows? In centuries' time, there may be an exhibition showing some of the information we will give in March.'

Although our descendants will be able to see our census returns in 100 years, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will keep them secure until then. Personal census data is protected by law and cannot be shared with any other Government department or local council. The exhibition is in the entrance hall of the record office and is available to view during normal opening hours, which are 9.15am to 4.45pm Tuesday to Friday.

The ONS is taking the next census on 27th March this year. Questionnaires will arrive in the post during March, and can either be posted back or completed online at In the meantime, statistics from the 2011 census will be used to help plan the services that local communities need and to decide the amount of national funding that will come to Herefordshire. So make sure you take your opportunity to be counted and help tomorrow take shape.


During the last month, a number of test purchasing operations have taken place right across Herefordshire. The operations, which were lead by Herefordshire's Trading Standards team, saw a number of licensed pubs and shops being visited in order to test whether they have structures in place to ensure that they challenge young people, where there is doubt about their age, who attempt to purchase alcohol or tobacco.

The latest wave of visits was the second of its kind; the previous operations occurred in November 2010 when a total of 25 premises were visited. Ten of these premises failed to do the necessary checks and that resulted in instant fines for a number of members of staff. At least two of these cases are now being considered for prosecution. The more recent joint agency operations have seen officers visit 31 licensed pubs and shops across Herefordshire and, of these, four failed the test. Fines have again been issued in relation to these failed tests.

Speaking about the test purchasing operations, Jim Mooney, Police Licensing Officer in Herefordshire said, 'Whilst it is good news that the number of failures has gone down, it is still disappointing that many premises do not appear to provide training to staff or have the required structures in place to record challenges with regards to age verification. The licence holders have a legal responsibility to comply with the law and the conditions of their premises licence, and we will continue to do all we can to get this message across.

In partnership with both Herefordshire Trading Standards and Herefordshire Licensing Authority, West Mercia Police will continue to undertake these operations because licensed premises have a legal responsibility to undertake age challenge verification on all occasions where there is doubt. Licensees should be aware that the end result will be a fine or sanction against those who make the unlawful sale. Ultimately though, continued breach of the law may lead to a review of the premises licence which could result in the licensee having their licence suspended or revoked.'


Hundreds of pregnant women and more than 4,000 Herefordshire children are missing out on a scheme that could improve the health of women and young families across the county.

Healthy Start is a national scheme that can make a real difference to the health of pregnant women, new mothers and very young children in low income households. Those eligible can claim free vitamin supplements from local pharmacies for themselves and their children. The vitamin supplements have been specifically designed for those important early years helping to make sure children get the very best start in life. There is also help with the weekly shop. Those who qualify for the vitamins can also receive vouchers which can be used towards the cost of healthy basic foods (fruit, vegetables and milk) to value of up to 3.10 per child per week.

Caroline Forster, healthy lifestyle co-ordinator of NHS Herefordshire said, 'You can get many vitamins from a healthy balanced diet but if you're pregnant, breast feeding or you're very young, you may need a boost to make sure you are getting everything you need. The scheme has been around for a while, but there hasn't been much take up, so we're increasing awareness by working with midwives, health visitors and children's centres across the county.

These professionals are best placed to know who is likely to be eligible for the supplements and are able to advise and support them in applying for them. The application is assessed by the national Healthy Start programme and takes about three weeks to process. Eligible families will receive a letter with their vouchers for fruit, vegetables and milk and coupons which can be exchanged at some pharmacies for free vitamins.

The pharmacies taking part in the scheme are, Benjamins in Ross-on-Wye, Asda Stores Ltd in Hereford, Dudley Taylor Pharmacies Ltd, Hereford, Colwall Pharmacy, L Rowland & Co in Kington and Bromyard, Day Lewis in Ledbury and WS & B Rees Chemist in Leominster.

All pregnant women and existing mums aged 18 or under are eligible for the scheme and are advised to liaise with their midwife, health visitor or GP who will provide them with an application form. Mums-to-be and existing mums can check out whether they are entitled to the vitamins and vouchers at the Healthy Start web site (, or by talking to their midwife or health visitor.

Staff at ASDA pharmacy stock up on the vitamins.

2nd March 2011 ARTS WEBSITE CELEBRATES 1,000 CONTRIBUTIONS . . . . ....

Artery Online is an arts news web site which was set up in 2006 by Herefordshire Council's arts team to give opportunities to the local creative world and last week, their 1,000th appeal for support was received.

'We usually feature jobs, contracts and commissions but for this one, it's a chance to help artists develop their skills,' said co-ordinator Andy Dawson. 'A life drawing group, based at The Courtyard is calling out for new models for their Thursday morning life drawing classes.'

For further information about becoming a model and to fix a start date, call Kate Dawson on 07956 857394 or email

The council run website has 600 subscribers and is specifically designed to boost the local creative economy. Log onto to find out more.


The future of Herefordshire Council's Music Service comes under the spotlight this week as Schools Forum meets to discuss education budgets. Herefordshire Music Service is currently consulting on options to change the way the service operates so that it can meet the needs of the county's children and young people now and in future years.

The current service has been operating within a deficit budget for the past ten years and since 2008, steps have been taken to address the growing funding gap. Actions taken include a redesign of the service, a reduction in management and administration costs, more efficient purchasing and the selling of surplus instruments. Further nationalizing of accommodation requirements and the outcome of the current consultation will add to this positive shift.

Key issues and challenges within this are the current contracts of service staff and the low rate of charges for instrumental lessons. Over 3000 pupils access the service each week which, when operating at a loss, contributes to the financial challenge. The service currently charges 29 per hour whereas the average and regional rates range between 38-40. Since 2008 the yearly overspend has reduced from 123,000 to 30,000 so the actions taken are having a positive effect, but the cumulative deficit of 190,000 still needs to be addressed and Schools Forum has been asked to help. Options for the future design of the music service are laid out in a consultation document which has been presented to staff. These consist of a range of proposals based on alternative music service models which are successful in other areas of the country.

Kathy Roberts, assistant director for children's services said, 'Herefordshire Council and Schools Forum have many difficult decisions to make at the moment. We are trying to protect services like the music service where we can and make the necessary savings by doing things differently. Schools Forum, which is made up of representatives from local schools, makes recommendations and decisions about how education budgets are spent. As schools are the major beneficiaries of the music service, the Forum has been approached for financial assistance, and a view on the options available.

The recent Henley Review of Music Services has identified the positive benefits gained by children and young people engaging in music activities and has gained government commitment to provide grant funding for the next financial year, although this will be reduced by 10 percent from April 2011. However, this will not be enough to support the music service. Like any business, the service has to change the way it operates to meet the finances available to run it.'

Schools Forum will meet today, Wednesday, 2nd March to consider the request for financial assistance. At the same time, feedback from the consultation is due to be collated and considered so that the future of the service can be considered further.

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