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(B.) Having been asked to give practical details of the actual methods of applying the principle of co-operative tenure and perpetual leasing as suggested by me at the discussion on this subject, I gladly avail myself of the Professional Notes for this purpose.
The system of renting by a Voluntary Allotment Association of an area of land to be divided among the individual allotment holders has lately become general. Several persons wanting small areas combine together and, as an association, hire an entire farm at the usual farm rent, the area so obtained being divided into separate holdings as required by each applicant. By a valuer, or by a committee, a rental is assessed upon the respective portions in such a way that the total sum will exceed the rent payable, the rates, and the cost of management, &c. The only difficulty attendant upon putting this plan in operation is in getting these individual rents arranged; but in all cases of which I have heard this has been satisfactorily settled by the committee putting a low value upon such portions as were least desirable. The greatest variation was in one case where certain portions were placed at only 16s. an acre, with an average of over 30s. and a maximum of 458.,
. the tenants at the lowest rents seeming still satisfied. The advantages of this system to the landlord are obvious, for not only is he saved the trouble of management, but it prevents any possibility of small portions coming in hand, and meets generally the other difficulties urged by the various speakers in the discussion. The two oldest examples of co-operative tenancy which have come under my notice have been in Sussex, where, in 1891, a farm of 83 acres was hired at a rental of £115, and divided among 45 tenants at a rental of £148 ; and in
Yorkshire where, in the same year, a farm of 90 acres was so divided and let. In neither of these cases was a single individual in arrear with his rent last Michaelmas nor was any portion not tenanted.
The system is especially useful in assisting cultivators to buy their respective holdings, which can usually be done only by the occupier buying subject to a mortgage. As pointed out by Mr. Willis Bund, it is difficult for such purchasers to get assistance for the erection of buildings, &c., while in any case it is inconvenient for a landowner to receive the purchase-money in small amounts and at uncertain times, even if we agree to sell. In cases where land has been taken by an association and the landowner wishes to assist the occupiers to purchase, either (1) the rent agreed to be paid is fixed for a term and consists of such an annual sum as will at the end of the term named provide the purchasemoney with interest thereon, so that on the completion of the term each individual can have a free conveyance; or (2) the individual occupiers, in addition to paying the sum reserved as rent, can further pay into a corporate fund a further annual sum, the purchase being completed when that fund has reached such an amount as would justify that step. The largest example of the former with which I am acquainted is a farm of 340 acres in Dorsetshire. The total cost, including roadmaking, division of the land, &c., was just over £6,000, and this was taken up by about 30 purchasers nearly seven years ago at a price ranging from £7 to £25 per
The total amount now remaining unpaid is less than £400.
The system of perpetual leasing can only be successfully and beneficially applied in the case of persons whom the Small Holdings Act was designed to benefit, viz.,
those who have other substantial means of livelihood and some funds towards the cost of the erection of buildings. An association must be first formed, but in order to take a lease it is necessary that it should be formed into a legally constituted corporate body. This can be done either by, (a) registration under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act, or, (b) the formation of a company limited by guarantee, or, (c) the formation of a company with a nominal share capital. The first of these methods would usually be the best and cheapest to adopt, as draft rules, specially drawn up for this form of association, were approved by the Registrar under the Act and were issued last year. I have, however, a Memorandum and Articles of Association settled under the second method as long ago as 1891, while a corporate body was constituted by the third method with a nominal capital of 58. per share, and took 112 acres in Wiltshire which have been held under this system since 1892 by about 40 individual occupiers. The lease might be from the owner to the corporate body making the individual occupiers third parties, or the latter could hold by sublease. In either case the title held by the occupiers should be subject to restrictive covenants as to the rights of others holding similiar title, and the rental should generally be fixed at 4 per cent. upon the actual cost of the particular holding. In two cases, however, of such tenure now in operation, the rental instead of being perpetual is only payable for the first 18 years' of the term, the sum in addition to the rent payable during that period being sufficient to provide the purchase-money of the property. When, however, the occupiers are in a position to pay so substantial an annual sum, I think they would generally prefer to obtain a conveyance of the freehold rather than a leasehold title. To the occupier who cannot make this largely increased payment, the lease gives advantages that cannot be obtained in other ways. He has the land without providing any capital for its purchase and at an annual cost of not more than if he had done so, is free from the risks and liabilities of a mortgagor, can immediately erect buildings or make such improvements as he wishes, has a permanent title which is cheap and simple to transfer, and, through combination with others holding similar title, he can get various advantages. The landowner in letting a farm on this basis, while not creating so valuable an interest as a well secured city ground rent, is at least securing a more certain rent than from a usual farm tenant, and which would far more readily sell at any time.
I would suggest, therefore, that County or Parish Councils might have the power, under suitable restrictions, of letting land on such a system. Councils would be able to raise the purchase-money of such properties at 2 or 3 per cent. interest, while they would obtain 4 per cent. from the corporate body constituted to take the lease. The difference would form an annual profit which would enable them eventually to discharge the loan, and have a substantial revenue towards their general purposes. Even, however, if this power cannot be given, it would seem that Councils should use their influence in promoting such private associations, rather than to directly attempt to supply a demand for land under the disadvantages and legal difficulties which now limit their powers.
Lincolnshire is the county in which the greatest succes has attended the operations of the County Councils' Small Holdings Committee; and this has been effected by the private influence of its Members being used to promote some such co-operative efforts as those I have named, rather than by involving county funds in a heavy responsibility.
HAROLD E. MOORE, Fellow.
On the Right Hon. Horace Plunkett's Paper on
(A.) The very able and interesting Paper dealing with Agricultural Co-operation in Ireland, which was read at the Institution on March the 8th by Mr. Plunkett, disclosed facts and statistics which I venture to say were hitherto little known to the bulk of his large and representative audience. That Mr. Plunkett has been personally instrumental in organising and building up a colossal industry goes without question, and if his statement be accepted that the miserable price of 3.76d. returned to the farmers by the co-operative creameries as the average price per imperial gallon for their milk, was an improvement on what they were making by the manufacture of butter at home under their individual systems, he must be considered as a public benefactor of no ordinary kind to his country. The mere fact that the business of these co-operative creameries in Ireland has been regularly and rapidly increasing is sufficient proof, if proof were needed, that Mr. Plunkett's aims have turned out successful, and that his statements were without exaggeration. It is true that the separated milk was returned free of charge to the farmers, but, if they had to deliver the whole milk and take back the skim, the actual value to them of the latter would no more than compensate them for the wear and tear, to say nothing of loss of time inseparable from