LibDem leader Terry James and Herefordshire Independents’ Bob Matthews make unlikely bedfellows. But it was their combined call for greater transparency from the lacklustre Hereford Futures, which caught the headlines last week. Their temerity warranted a sharp smack on the wrist by cabinet stalwart Adrian Blackshaw (aka Sir Roderick Spode – if you know your Wodehouse).
Hereford Futures, which last year managed to get through an eye-watering £146k, has yet to deliver anything tangible from its eight years in business.
So who sits on the board of this shadowy company? It is chaired by ‘Major General’ Ted Willmott (trading on a military title is almost as laughable as a bank manager in the Home Guard calling himself Captain Mainwaring). In 2009 Willmott was suddenly parachuted onto HF’s board after the unexplained departure of the millionaire businessman/philanthropist Clive Richards.
Discounting the three ‘passengers’ who occupy their board seats by dint of other well-paid sinecures (CEO Jonathan Bretherton, council leader John Jarvis and the Herefordshire Council’s CEO Chris Bull), the roll call is seven. One is a retired furniture manufacturer; one is the marketing director of an insulation company in Kington; one runs a small leisure park (posh name for a mobile homes site). Then there’s an accountant, a governor of Worcester Uni, a former director of steel company Wiggins, the treasurer of Bredwardine PCC and a man who’s restoring a farmhouse in the Black Mountains. None of them live in Hereford, none of them are either county or city councillors, and none have any experience whatsoever of the retail sector. Which is, after all, what HF’s first project – the controversial £80-million Edgar Street Grid – is supposed to be all about. When it’s managed to secure some funding, that is.