News
18th Apr

2016

Speech by George Dunn, TFA Chief Executive for Landworkers Alliance Protest: Public Land for Public Good – 17 April 2016

Landworkers Alliance Protest: Public Land for Public Good

Sunday 17 April 2016

Speech by George Dunn, Chief Executive, Tenant Farmers Association

  • Many thanks to the Landworkers Alliance for inviting me to address this protest today.
  • In Luke 12 v 48 tells us “To whom much is given much is expected”.
  • Sadly many County Halls up and down the country are running on the maxim “to whom much is given much can be squandered”.
  • County Council Smallholding estates were first created to bring new entrants into the farming industry in the late 1800’s.
  • After the First World War the priority was to settle returning veterans in homes and employment.
  • Since the enactment of the Agriculture Act 1970 their focus has been to create opportunities for individuals to be smallholder farmers in their own account.
  • But over the past 30 years the number of county council farm tenants has at least halved and over one-third of the acreage of council farmland has been lost to the sector.
  • We now have just over 60,000 ha of land and 1500 tenants left and falling.
  • Does this matter?
  1. We are losing routes into agriculture – there is greater demand than supply.
  2. We are losing income earning estates for local authorities.
  3. We are not getting best value for Council Tax payers
  4. We are losing assets which belong to the communities of those who live alongside them.
  5. We are losing opportunities for connections with schools and education outside the class room.
  6. We are losing opportunities for public access
  7. We are losing our connection as a society with the land.
  • The long term decline in the number and area of county farms is a major blow to the agricultural industry and the nation’s long term interests.
  • We are told that Local Authorities need to focus on providing front line services and I get that.
  • However, we cannot get away from the fact that there is bad financial management in many County Halls.
  • This is compounded by Central Government edicts to deliver ever more with less.
  • Selling income earning assets is a short term fix to a long term problem.
  • Speak to Councils like Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire who sold their farms in the 1980’s to build hospitals, roads and schools and ask them how they will fulfil the needs of the next generation for those assets.  They can’t.
  • Bad financial management should not be allowed to destroy what remains of our County Council Farms.
  • The TFA believes that County Council smallholding estates should be viewed as national assets and as such there should be a greater degree of national coordination in their management and protection.
  • The TFA is greatly concerned about the ad hoc nature of policy towards county farms up and down the country.
  • DEFRA should use the powers it has to scrutinise local authority management plans for their county farms and the Treasury should be requiring local authorities to demonstrate best value for local people rather than fostering a “dash for cash” policy.
  • Once these farms are sold they are gone forever.
  • I will finish where I started – Luke 12 v 48: To whom much is given much is expected.
  • For our County Council Smallholding farms, we expect more from those that govern us.
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