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land and also of land within Borough boundaries led to much discussion, and the Government seemed for a time to waver on this point, but finally it was resolved to negative both proposals, presumably because it is almost impossible to draw the line. It was also pointed out that with regard to boroughs and county boroughs the boundaries of some of them embraced large tracts of purely agricultural land, often of inferior quality, which it would be manifestly unfair to exclude from the Bill.
The appointment of official valuers by the Local Government Board was objected to as an unnecessary interference with the functions of assessment committees who would be perfectly capable of securing the services of local valuers should they be required. The same objection held good to the appointment of official assessors. That professional assistance will be necessary in nearly every union in the preparation of these new valuation lists goes without saying. But at the same time most persons conversant with country business will agree that the selection of valuers will be best left with the local authorities.
The last amendment mentioned would if carried have done more to frustrate the objects of the Bill than any other. It would at one sweep have deprived of any benefit under the Bill all the tenants in the occupation of those model buildings which are the pride of so many large estates. It would almost have cancelled the relief in every case where the homestead is substantially built and suitable to the holding, and by offering a sort of premium to the occupiers of the worst buildings, it would have been a direct discouragement to any outlay by landlords in that direction in future. Five
per cent. on the first cost of many farm houses and buildings would be far more than the present rent, and there are few homesteads on well equipped estates which if let at five per cent. on the total original cost would leave much margin of rent to put upon the land with which they are occupied.
How are these costly buildings to be valued? One thing must be obvious, they are only an accessory or convenience to the farming of the land, and as such must be considered as bearing a fair proportion of the rent. One Hon. Member, in the heat of debate, asserted that farm buildings had no value when separated from the land. But surely their substantialness has nothing to do with their rateable value. The accommodation is what the tenant pays for, and there is no reason why wood and iron buildings costing £500 should be rated at less than brick or stone buildings costing £1,500, provided the accommodation is the same. The landlord puts up substantial buildings in order to last, and to avoid repairs. It is the same with labourers' cottages which are constantly most unfairly assessed at a rateable value far above the rent. One good result, it is evident, will be the outcome of this Bill, namely the more careful valuation of all kinds of country property. No very reliable information is forthcoming as to what the relief under the Bill may amount to. But it was stated during the debate in the House of Commons, by one of the members for Lincolnshire, that the relief in that large and very agricultural county would probably be over £80,000 per annum. My impression is that in Warwickshire it will be about half that amount. Should these surmises (for they cannot be more) prove to be somewhere near correct, the benefit will be great, especially when it is remembered that these vast sums mean extra spending power to the farmers, who for several years have had little money to lay out on anything beyond the bare
necessaries of existence. Indeed, it is almost certain that this money will be spent, and by its circulation through many other hands, whether those of farm labourers or tradesmen, cannot fail to do much good, first to agriculture, and secondly to local trade. How this relief will affect individuals will of course entirely depend on the assessment of their land, which it was shewn in some cases did not follow the rent. But in most cases the total rates will be between 28. and 3s. in the £1. To take a hypothetical case: suppose a farmer renting 300 acres, pays £330 rent for his house, farm, and four good cottages, and is rated as follows :—House and buildings £64, cottages £16, land £220, or £300 in all, his rates at 2s. 6d. in the £l now amount to £37 10s. Od. and the relief he will gain under the Bill will be ls. 3d. in the £1 on the £220 at which his land is assessed, which amounts to the nice little sum of £13 15s. Od.. or rather over four per cent. on his rent. This percentage will probably rise to ten per cent. in the most distressed districts, where rents are very low, and rates very high, and on the other hand in those counties where rents are still high and rates very low it will fall to two per cent. or even less. From a land agent's point of view, one of the chief failures of the Bill was the omission of woodlands from its benefit. As the Bill now stands, any poor land occupied for agricultural purposes will only be liable to half rates on a very low assessment, but if planted with forest trees, (may be at great cost,) and with no expectation of any return for many years, it immediately becomes liable to full rates on an increased assessment, thus creating a fresh deterrent from future planting
While admitting that the Bill has the great advantage of quickly and fairly distributing the small funds that are available where they are most needed, I cannot help feeling some disappointment with the measure, and notwithstanding all that has been said and written on this subject, I firmly adhere to my own opinion that all land should be free from rates, and that the total cost of local taxation should be defrayed, partly by allocating imperial funds to county authorities, and partly by rates on houses and buildings, or, better still, on houses only, as the only fair principle of taxing individuals. That personal property escapes its fair share of local taxation is the one thing on which both great political parties are agreed. But the question is
of such stupendous magnitude that successive governments have by various grants in aid endeavoured to tinker up the old pot in preference to facing the difficulty of making a bran new one.
G. W. RAIKES, Fellow.
COMMUNICATIONS REFERRING TO PAPERS IN
THE “ TRANSACTIONS,” &c.
On Mr. a. C. Pain's Paper on “Light Railways."
(" Transactions," Vol. IXVIII., pp. 295-310.)
It is somewhat difficult to define what are light railways, and the doubt seems to have been acting prejudicially to the progress of legislation for their promotion.
The form of light railway with which I am best acquainted, and in which I have the greatest belief, is the steam tramway. In England, this form of locomotion has made little progress, but, where tried, it has been found beneficial, though it has not in every case been remunerative to the proprietor or shareholders, chiefly, I believe, from the fact that the lines are too short, and do not touch the points from which traffic of importance might be secured.
On the Continent of Europe, and in North and South America, steam tramways seem to be essential, and on the whole profitable to the shareholders. I have travelled on many of these lines and have found them