A heavy loss from an experiment of the Government

The County Council’s Finance Committee feared the purchase of land for smallholdings for demobilised soldiers would be a burden for years to come.

Finance Committee, 25 October 1919

It is known that there will be a heavy loss on the working of these schemes, which for the time being is estimated at about £800 per annum, but it is uncertain whether, as time goes on, these losses will tend to increase or diminish. The purchases are being made to carry out an experiment of the Government – intended primarily for the benefit of ex-Service men on the footing of the loss for the first seven years being borne by the State, i.e. the Taxpayers, instead of the Ratepayers, bearing the burden for this period. The question is who will bear it afterwards? The land is at present being bought at high prices, but with the prior approval and consent of the Board of Agriculture.

In 1926 there is to be a Valuation of all the lands held by the County for Small Holdings purposes, including those bought at the commencement of the movement when prices were much lower. If the balance of the loans raised to provide the total purchase price should then exceed the Valuation the Government will assume responsibility for the excess and provide the annual Sinking Fund charges in respect of it. If, however, the land should be valued at more than the outstanding loans the County would get nothing; and in either event, after 1926, the County would be left with the land on their hands and with the obligation of clearing off the remainder of the loans as well as with the prospect of bearing any annual losses on the working that there then might be….

The Council, in considering whether or not to increase their commitments in regard to Small Holdings on the above lines, may wish to bear in mind that the projects now being pushed by a Government Department are not entirely for the benefit of ex-Service men, but are open to civilians as well. The extent to which the County should embark on unprofitable schemes, which may ultimately result in a subsidy out of the rates to civilian Small Holders as well as to ex-Service men is for the Council to consider and determine.

Berkshire County Council minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

An experiment of the Government – intended primarily for the benefit of ex-Service men

The Government was strongly encouraging local authorities to provide land for ex-servicemen to take up farming. Berkshire County Council was sceptical.

25 October 1919

[Referring to the purchase of land for smallholdings] It is known that there will be a heavy loss on the working of these schemes, which for the time being is estimated at about £800 per annum, but it is uncertain whether, as time goes on, these losses will tend to increase or diminish. The purchases are being made to carry out an experiment of the Government – intended primarily for the benefit of ex-Service men on the footing of the loss for the first seven years being borne by the State, i.e. the Taxpayers, instead of the Ratepayers, bearing the burden for this period. The question is who will bear it afterwards?

The land is at present being bought at high prices, but with the prior approval and consent of the Board of Agriculture.

In 1926 there is to be a Valuation of all the lands held by the County for Small Holdings purposes, including those bought at the commencement of the movement when prices were much lower. If the balance of the loans raised to provide the total purchase price should then exceed the Valuation, the Government will assume responsibility for the excess and provide the annual Sinking Fund charges in respect of it. If, however, the land should be valued at more than the outstanding loans the County would get nothing; and in either event, after 1926, the County would be left with the land on their hands and with the obligation of clearing off the remainder of the loans as well as with the prospect of bearing any annual losses on the working that there then might be….

The Council, in considering whether or not to increase their commitments in regard to Small Holdings on the above lines, may wish to bear in mind that the projects now being pushed by a Government Department are not entirely for the benefit of ex-Service men, but are open to civilians as well. The extent to which the County should embark on unprofitable schemes, which may ultimately result in a subsidy out of the rates to civilian Small Holders as well as to ex-Service men is for the Council to consider and determine.

Berkshire County Council Finance Committee minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

Training disabled Officers in Agriculture

Officers were helped to settle down as farmers.

Agricultural Instruction Committee report
18 October 1919

OFFICERS’ AGRICULTURAL TRAINING

The Board of Agriculture have furnished their observations with regard to the future working of this Scheme, the principal of which are (a) the number of allowances to be granted have been increased from 1,000 to 2,000; (b) the more stringent selection of candidates, and (c) grants hitherto paid to be regarded in future as maximum grants.

The Sub-committee submit the following information:

Applications received
Withdrawn 3
Transferred to other counties 2
In abeyance 1
Returned to Board of Agriculture 2
Refused 23
To be interviewed 5
Interviewed 43
Total 79

Applicants interviewed
Transferred 3
Refused 5
Withdrawn 5
Recommended for grant 30
Total 43

Applicants recommended
Placed 26
To be placed 1
Withdrawn 3
Total 30

Applicants at present in training 23
Applicants relinquished training 1
Applicants not commenced training 3
Total 27

Number of farmers selected as suitable to give training 32

TRAINING OF DISABLED OFFCIERS

The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries have taken over the responsibility of training disabled Officers in Agriculture, who are eligible for training under the Royal Pensions Warrant, and the Committee are asked to cooperate in the administration of the Scheme. The functions which the Committee would be called on to perform are (a) to act as advisors to the Board and to candidates; (b) to assist candidates to get into touch with suitable farmers; and (c) to supervise the training. All allowances and fees will be paid direct by the Board.
Acting upon the Board’s suggestion, the Committee have delegated the local administration of the Scheme to the Officers’ Agricultural Training Sub-committee.

Smallholdings and Allotments Committee report, 18 October 1919

COOMBE ESTATE

Mr A C Cole offered his Coombe Estate (about 2,300 acres) for a colony for the settlement of ex-Service men, and the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries requested that the property should be inspected…

The Committee have received a full report by the Land Steward, but cannot recommend it for either Small Holdings or Land Settlement….

While recommending schemes for Small Holdings which show a heavy annual deficit, the Committee have requested that the attention of the Council should be drawn to the fact that such schemes are not only approved by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, but are undertaken primarily to provide for the settlement of ex-Service men, to whom preference is recommended under the Land Settlement (Facilities) Act.

Berkshire County Council minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

Obtaining land for settlement of ex-service men

It was hoped that many ex-servicemen could settle down to farming in a small way.

LAND SETTLEMENT

An important letter from the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries dated 18 December, 1918, inviting the immediate attention of the Small Holdings and Allotments Committee to the question of obtaining land for settlement of ex-service men, has been received.

The following points were suggested by the Board as matters for the Committee’s action:

1. In selecting land for settlement the co-operation and assistance of the Agricultural Executive Committee should be invited.

2. Landowners should be invited to inform the Council of any farms which will shortly become vacant so that, as far as possible, disturbance of tenants who are farming well should be avoided.

3. Councils should not wait until offers of land are received. They should themselves select land in those districts which are most suitable for the establishment of successful small holdings.

4. The Small Holdings Committee should be adequately staffed and it is necessary that the Staff should be reconstituted at once.

5. The assistance of men who are specially interested in the question of land settlement should be secured on the Committee.

6. It is desirable that every Small Holdings Committee should include at least one representative of labour.

A letter will be addressed to all landowners in the county to ascertain whether they can offer suitable land for the purpose.

Berkshire County Council Small Holdings and Allotments Committee minutes, 18 January 1919 (C/CL/C1/1/22)

Land for ex-service men

Berkshire County Council’s Smallholdings and Allotments Committee investigated whether ex-soldiers might take up farming in the area.

12 October 1918

Provision of land for ex-service men
A circular letter, dated the 16 September 1918, has been received from the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, calling attention to the provisions of the Small Holdings Colonies (Amendment) Act, 1918, the object of which is to provide land for ex-service men. The Board suggest – among other things – that a preliminary inquiry be made amongst the soldiers working on farms in the county as to whether they are desirous of adopting agriculture in the County of Berks or elsewhere as a means of livelihood after the war.

This suggestion has been adopted in order that the Committee may ascertain the demand for land in the County.

Report of BCC Smallholdings and Allotments Committee, 12 October 1918 (C/CL1/21)

Meeting the needs of sailors and soldiers on demobilisation

The County Council – like many others across the country – was giving some thought to what the country could offer the men who had served the country once they had returned home for good. Offering land to set up as small farmers was one proposal.

LOANS

A letter has been received from the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries stating that the President has been in communication with the Treasury with a view to securing some relaxation of the existing restrictions on the issue of loans from the Local Loans Fund to County Councils … in view of a strong desire on the part of many County Councils to prepare schemes for providing holdings for meeting the needs of sailors and soldiers on demobilisation…

CONVERSION OF PASTURE

Applications have been received from the Berks War Agricultural Committee for the Council’s consent as owners to certain pasture land being converted to arable.

Berkshire County Council: Smallholdings and Allotments Committee report, 3 October 1917 (C/CL/C1/1/20)