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A much more effectual plan would have been to spend the same amount of money in paying a certain bounty per quarter on wheat grown.
No doubt many persons have a great objection to this system, but exceptional evils need exceptional remedies, and this would at least have had the advantage of distributing the money where it was most needed.
WILLIAM Eve, Fellow.
I have been asked to give some information as to the working of the above Act in this neighbourhood.
The first step to be taken in carrying out the Act was the separate assessment of farm houses and buildings. This seems to have been effected by the overseers without much difficulty ; indeed, the question was practically settled by the regulation of the Local Government Board fixing the minimum rateable value of farm buildings with a house at one-eighth of the rateable value of the “undivided hereditament," and without a house at five per cent. of the same, as there are few cases in which the annual value of the houses or buildings would exceed these proportions.
The following is an estimate of the relief afforded by the Act to the tenant of a farm rented at £200 a year:
d. Gross estimated rental.
200 0 0 Rateable value, say
185 0 0 Value of house and buildings, oneeighth, say
23 0 0
Leaves rateable value of "agricultural
“land Rates thereon, say 3s. in the pound One half
162 0 0 24 6 0 12 3 0
Being equivalent to six per cent. on the gross rent.
. In some unions in Gloucestershire complaints have been made that the Act has had the effect of “raising “the rates” to the prejudice of the occupiers of houses and hereditaments other than agricultural land. With one reservation, to which I will refer presently, it is difficult to see that these complaints can be well founded, the deficiency caused by the exemption of agricultural land from half the rates being repaid to the “spending “ authorities ” by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. It would seem that the increase of rates complained of (if not due to increased expenditure) must arise either from the “ deficiency” having been under-estimated in the first place, or from the grant in aid not having been fairly allocated between the several parishes forming the union.
The reservation above-mentioned is this: the expense of parish councils, assistant overseers, &c., not being taken into account in determining the amount of the annual grant in aid, would cause a deficiency to that extent, to be made good out of the rates; but the increase due to this cause (if any) would be but trifling.
ROBERT F. STURGE, Fellow.
(C.) This short Act, of but small benefit to individuals, however great its advantages in the aggregate, is with us for five years, to be welcomed by some, abused by others, and criticised by all.
There appears to be one omission causing great injustice. Tithe should have been included in the relief. Its value is regulated by the price of the produce of the land. A heavy land tax is levied upon it. Rates are paid upon it which, as they increase, will add to the burden of the titheowner instead of relieving him. The farm buildings, if not the farmhouse, might well have been included in the remission.
A great difficulty is placed before the rating surveyor in determining what is park and what is agricultural land. A park proper should fairly be fully assessed, but where the enclosure is occupied with an arable home farm it should have the benefit of the Act.
Greenhouses seem tacitly to be included in the provisions of the Act, although it is difficult to agree with some of the fine-drawn distinctions between a building which assists in producing food and and one which takes care of it when grown, or
one in which manure is manufactured to enable the cultivator to grow the produce.
Much trouble would have been saved and very little injury done if the area of the “arable meadow or “ pasture ground ” had been limited to two acres as in the Public Health Act, 1875. Now, if properly assessed, a plot of enclosed building land of only a few poles in grass or arable is included.
Market gardens, nursery grounds, orchards, and gardens around towns, let at £5 or £6 per acre, share in the remission to an extent not commensurate with their needs, but in proportion to the rateable value.
A still greater evil is that valuable agricultural land, still sought after at a fair rent, gets a greater allowance than the very poor lands let at a few shillings per acre, and, after deducting tithe, the gain to the occupier will in many cases be as little as 4d. to 6d. per acre-a very small boon indeed.
An allowance of so much per acre would have been more equitable, but might have savoured of a gift to landlords, and would certainly have been so described in some quarters.
There is yet another anomaly: the right of sporting, if not severed from the occupation of the land, obtains the relief of half rates, but if severed it does not.
As an expression of the feeling by those in power that land is unfairly burdened, the Act must be welcomed ; and as an indication that further measures of justice will be attempted, it is still more valuable.
J. R. Eve, Fellow.
(D.) The Act has been accepted by farmers without any enthusiasm in this district (Staffordshire), but as an earnest of something further in the way of relief to be hoped for.
I have taken the opportunity at several rent, audits to explain the working of the Act, but I doubt if at the time I did so the farmers really understood to what extent they would benefit.
Probably having now paid poor and other rates on the new basis they will appreciate the change. As pointed out in the discussion on Mr. Ryde's Paper, the amount of relief is not imposing, but I have no doubt that, small as it is, it will prove very acceptable.
The arrangements for re-valuation and apportionment on farm buildings were adjusted without friction by the assessment committee, of which I am a member, the committee being assisted by the surveyor of taxes. There has been no appeal to the committee against the re-valuation.
HENRY SANDY, Fellow.
(E.) This Act has worked fairly well in my experience, and though the gain is not great, agriculture is not in the condition to despise the day of small things. As the imperial revenue pays the deficiency, the surveyors of taxes had a keen interest in seeing that houses and ouildings were fairly assessed; and they had in this district many friendly battles with the assessment committees of the unions on this subject.
On the whole there is no great reason to be dissatisfied with the result. The values of houses and buildings are full in many cases, but could not well be upset.
Take a typical farm in my own parish, area 200 acres, rent 15s. per acre, or £150. Here the house is assessed at £12 per annum and the buildings at £10. The Act is a small but quite appreciable gain on such a farm. In the next few years a very considerable outlay will have to be made for sanitary purposes in many rural districts. In this parish £500 has recently been so expended, and although land is only rated for sanitary rates at onefourth of its annual rateable value, yet the sanitary rate is much felt, as the farmhouses being often away from the village, the occupiers get no benefit whatever from the expenditure, and yet have to pay rates for it. What they will lose by the sanitary rate, they will far more than regain by the Rates Act of 1896. I think the Act should be perpetual; the principle is sound that personal property which contributes to the imperial revenue should be drawn on for local purposes for which it is not otherwise directly taxed.
W. L. HUSKINSON, Fellow.
(F.) The effects of the Agricultural Rates Act in the undermentioned parishes are exemplified by the following tables, showing a comparison between the poor rates