Council owned farms are assets for us all

The Tenant Farmers Association has defended Council ownership of farms against an attack from the Tax Payers Alliance which said that Councils had no business owning these and other assets.

TFA Chief Executive George Dunn said “I am bemused by the overly simplistic approach taken by the Tax Payers Alliance which has made errors both of fact and analysis in its report. Rather than attacking local authorities for owning these assets, it should be lobbying them to maximise returns from these assets for the benefit of all communities of interest. Farms are, after all income earning assets which if managed in accordance with a sound plan can yield significant returns which can feed directly into frontline services and reduce the burden of taxation on local communities.”

“The Tax Payers Alliance proposes an approach which would lead to the worst of all worlds – disposal of the assets. If the Alliance wants to ensure that council tax payers get the worst value then carry on. However, local authorities are required, rightly, to obtain best value. This is achieved through careful strategic and operational management, taking opportunities for disposal of individual high-value parcels of land subject to planning consent or marriage value to neighbouring land whilst at the same time earning a rental which will go directly into council coffers,” said Mr Dunn.

“Getting a bundle of cash from a capital disposal might seem like a good idea, but what about Councils’ long-term commitments for nursing care, education, children’s services and other frontline activities? If Councils rid themselves of all their income earning assets then inevitably they will have to rely more upon the Council Tax to fund these services. Surely not what the Tax Payers Alliance wants to see,” said Mr Dunn.

“Of course the TFA wants local authorities to retain these farms to provide opportunities for individuals to be farmers in their own account but what we are saying is this does not have to be at the expense of other council services. Indeed, we argue most strongly that with good management these estates can provide those vital opportunities whilst at the same time yielding financial returns and a sound balance sheet to local authorities to contribute to frontline services,” said Mr Dunn.

“It is also important that local authorities consider the wider, non-monetary benefits of owning farms including management of the green belt, planning, education outside the classroom, flood relief, renewable energy and access by the public. All these important outcomes would be jeopardised by an ill thought through fire sale of vital assets. So perhaps the Tax Payers Alliance would like to think again,” said Mr Dunn.

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