Somerset County Council rejects tenant farmers’ pleas

The Tenant Farmers Association has lambasted Somerset County Council for rejecting pleas to reconsider the sale of its county farms.

The council voted to review the future of each of its 60 farms at a meeting on 21 June, despite strong opposition from tenants and interested parties.

At a scrutiny committee meeting last Thursday (8 July), tenants, the public, and representatives from parish councils, churches and other organisations, all called for the council to reconsider.

“Apart from those County Councillors from the controlling, Conservative Party, no-one spoke in favour of the decision to sell the farms,” said George Dunn, chief executive of the TFA. “However, it was clear that members of the ruling party were never going to take into consideration the reasoned arguments that have been made.”

Mr Dunn said by retaining and managing valuable farm assets the council would return better value for money to its taxpayers. “Other local authorities have recently carried out reviews but all have concluded that best value is provided to council taxpayers by retaining their estates.

“It is a major worry that individual local authorities can squander these precious assets in the way that Somerset is doing. These are local assets with national importance and perhaps it is time for central Government to play a role in ensuring that the national interest is protected.”

The proposal will be debated at a full council meeting on 21 July.