Number of farms owned by English councils ‘continuing to decline’

29 Jan 15

There has been a decline in the number of council-held farms in England, according to CIPFA’s annual survey.

The total number of council-held farms fell from 2,532 in 2012/13 to 2,504 in 2013/14, continuing a declining trend. Council farm numbers have dropped by more than 8% since 2009/10.

The survey, which received an 85% response rate from English local authorities, also revealed a similar decline in staff numbers, with just 84 people now employed on responding farms in both professional and clerical roles.

Meanwhile, average maintenance costs had increased by around 10% over the year. Rents for equipped farms were also up by around 10%, to £275 per hectare, although rents for bare-land farms were down for the first time in five years from £212 per hectare in 2012/13 to £200 per hectare in 2013/14.

However, data on income and expenditure showed that English councils made a net surplus of £7.1m in 2013/14, including capital charges.

‘It is likely that increases in rent, maintenance costs and a fall in the numbers of farms and staff, are why local authorities have just been able to make this marginal surplus from their farm holdings,’ said CIPFA’s director of public affairs Drew Cullen.

The survey also sought data from council-held farms in Wales, but only 3 out of the 14 Welsh farms responded.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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