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Sorry, Mr Hubbard. Herefordshire Council leader on the lesson to be learnt.

Roger_phillips_2 After Brian Hubbard was sent a threatening letter for doing some volunteer gardening, Cllr Roger Phillips Conservative leader of Herefordshire, the Council responsible, on why it must never happen again.

As Leader of Herefordshire Council I shared everyone’s dismay when I read the story of Mr Brian Hubbard who, in tending and tidying a piece of public land to the front of his home, was sent an over-zealous and unacceptable letter from the council's public rights of way department saying he was encroaching on the land. The actions of Mr Hubbard are those we all admire and would wish to see commonplace in every community. Although the council moved immediately to apologise and retract the letter, the damage was done.

It is a challenge of course for every large organisation, particularly one that provides up to a thousand different services, mostly very professionally as a matter of routine, to ensure that one individual in one department does not do something that potentially impacts the reputation of every other hard working member of staff. Yes, we do have guidelines and policies in place - but that sometimes is not enough to counter a shortage of common sense.

I have instigated a review of what happened and expect measures to be put in place to ensure that this will be the last letter of this nature and tone that is issued to a respected and law abiding member of the community.

The Conservative administration has been keen to demonstrate that we should rely on the support of local people to do the right thing. Recently we consulted on domestic waste collection and concluded that our weekly rubbish collection, which is very popular with residents, should remain. We also rejected the silly, draconian rules and regulations relating to waste collection that many other local authorities have introduced.

We know that there is a difficult line to be drawn between consistent, fair and proportionate enforcement against over enforcement or disproportionate action. In fact we often find that a conversation will very often resolve a situation more effectively than resorting to a threatening letter.

Certainly the issue has focused attention within the council and clearly we have to work harder to get the values of leadership across to every single employee and on a positive note, there is universal support within the council for the lessons to be learned thoroughly and quickly.


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