A HEREFORDSHIRE campaign aimed at encouraging people to shop locally has cost the taxpayer £1.5million, the TaxPayers Alliance has said.

As the ‘Shop Local’ campaign comes to a close, a freedom of information request by the TaxPayers’ Alliance has revealed the huge total cost of the scheme.

It includes almost £125,000 to Herefordshire-based card service allpay, of which over £100,000 was spent on producing and distributing the cards.

The scheme has come under fire after it was uncovered that the cards, which allow holders to spend up to £25 in the county, could be used at national chain supermarkets, while the TPA’s findings come after the council has been under fire for a number of spending decisions, including hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on planters in Hereford.

The cards were part of a £6 million council programme, funded through the government’s Covid recovery fund to boost the local economy, including free weekend bus travel, grants for small businesses and a phone app to reward local shopping.

But, the TaxPayers' Alliance said, with Herefordians facing council tax bill hikes of three per cent from Friday, which will see the average band D property increase by almost £50, they are calling on the council to put a stop to wasteful projects, focus on cutting council tax, and prioritise spending on key services.

The freedom of information request revealed that the total budget for the campaign was £1.5million, with allpay paid a total of £122,850 for the management of the scheme.


Harry Fone, grassroots campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

"The bill for this unprecedented intervention will leave taxpayers questioning the council's spending habits.

“With the cost of living crisis causing catastrophe for households’ finances, the last thing residents need is an even bigger council tax bill.

“Herefordshire council needs to get a grip on its budget, eradicate wasteful spending and stop plundering the pockets of its already over-taxed residents.”

The scheme has, however, been praised by some Herefordshire businesses, with one saying it kickstarted its revival after it closed down during the pandemic.

The Children's Bookshelf, previously in Blue School Street, closed down as coronavirus ravaged trade, owner Duncan Cooper said.

But now it is open again, this time in Maylord Shopping Centre, after being left with just £1 in its business account.

Read more: Shop Local cards save this Hereford shop – but you must spend money this week

Councillor Liz Harvey, Cabinet member for finance, corporate services and planning, said: “Shop Local has been a significant success for Herefordshire. The project has been entirely funded from central government grants provided to all councils to use locally to support the economic recovery from Covid. This is inwards investment for Herefordshire and has no link whatsoever to council tax.  

“By putting this funding in the pockets of local people the council has supported 60,000 households giving them each £25 to spend within the local Herefordshire economy. To date over £825,000 has been spent by households with almost 1850 different Herefordshire businesses, the vast majority of which are local independent retailers. This support has been rolled out at a time when businesses, in particular retailers, have been trying to recover from the economic effects of the worst pandemic in modern history.  

“Local Government has been hugely effective throughout the pandemic in responding swiftly and inventively to local need. This ground-breaking Shop Local initiative has received broad support from businesses and has been given a broad welcome by our residents, whilst delivering many times the benefit in the local economy that would have been achieved if decision-making had been retained centrally.”