Land for sale sign(c) FLPA / John Eveson/REX

Local authorities in Wales have sold off almost £3.75m of farmland in the past 12 months to help meet budget targets.

New figures from the Welsh government show that nine authorities with smallholding estates sold off 185.28ha (457.82 acres) in the 12 months to the end of March 2014, raising £3,724,312.

See also: County council farm tenancies – still an option?

Flintshire disposed of the largest amount at 60ha (148 acres), Monmouthshire sold 49ha (121 acres), Wrexham 28ha (69 acres), Merthyr Tydfil 24ha (59 acres) and Carmarthenshire 13ha (32 acres).

Since they were conceived after the First World War to provide returning servicemen with work, council smallholdings have given thousands of people their first foothold on the agricultural ladder.

But over the past 35 years, councils have been steadily dispensing with their farms and the number of tenants has dropped by about two-thirds.

Local authorities in Wales now own just over 18,000ha (44,478 acres), run as smallholdings.

In all there are 924 tenants of council smallholdings, with some being tenants of multiple farms.

Powys has the biggest smallholding landbase – 4,578ha (11,312 acres). Anglesey has 2,522ha (6,231 acres), Pembrokeshire 2,065ha (5,102 acres) and Carmarthenshire 1,329ha (3,283 acres).

In total, councils were providing 1,022 smallholdings of which 629 (62%) were below 20ha (50 acres) and 248 (24%) were between 20-40ha (50-100 acres). There were 145 (14%) bigger than 40ha (100 acres).

During 2013-14, 165 new tenancies were granted. Of these, 28 were handed to new entrants and 137 to existing tenants. Twenty-nine tenancies were terminated.