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COUNTY RATE BASIS CONFERENCE. On Friday, at the Police Court, Newtown, a con- ference of the Standing Committee appointed by the County Council for preparing a basis, or standard, for county rating and assessment purposes, with the various Boards of Guardians of the oounty, was held. There were present: Mr A. C. Humphreys-Owen (chairman), Col. Harrison, Capt. rryce-Jones, Messrs. George Morgan, D. Richards, William Evans, William Jones (Berriew), Richard Lloyd, W. Scott Owen, H. Lester Smith, D. Hamer, W. Cooke, Samnel Miller, E. R. James, J. Jones (Varchoel), John Lewis, David Davies, Cornelius Morgan, and W. F. Addie; with Mr F. Winuall (acting clerk) and Mr B. Powell (assistant clerk). Mr WINNALL read the report of the sub-committee, who had considered the deductions recommended by the Newtown and Llanidloes Assessment Committee, and the following morified scales were presented: Land with buildings, 15 per cent; land without buildings, 7!- per cent; houses of £ 6 and under, 20 per cent; houses above .26, 15 per cent; mills, fac- tories, &c., 25 per cent; warehouses and workshops, 15 per cent; woodlands, 2i per cent; sporting lands, nil; tithes, 2t per cent, with rates and taxes and other Jegal redactions. The CHAIRMAN explained to the Conference that the scale of deductions was arrived at after a very long and full discussion on the subject, and was ultimately agreed upon unanimously without any deviation, and the result was there was a compro. mise, and withdrawal of several points. Mr C, MORGAN I should like to have the opinion of the chairman with respect to a matter which had a great bearing on the neighbourhood of Newtown, and also Welshpool, Llanidloes, and Machynlleth, and is of importance to small farmers. It appears to me that the land near the town is let at a greater value than any other farms in the county. It had b -ell the practice for Boards of Guardians to allow 2i per cent on accommodation lands, while on ordi. nary farms, without land, 7i per cent, and on those with land 15 per cent was allowed. I know of many instances where people were in possession of 10 to 30 acres of land receiving no more than 2i per cent. The CHAIRMAN said this was a question of defini- tion. It was agreed by everybody that land with buildings should have a larger allowance than land without buildings. Mr Morgan saw some ambiguity in the phrase, land witnont buildings." As he un- derstood, farms with a homestead and outbuildings of the usual character would be land with buildings, while it would be equally understood that in the case of a meadow close to the town, which was only used for grazing or croquet lawn or lawn tennis ground, would be defined as land without build- ings. Then, it seemed to him, that there was an intermediate class of land which was not let separately, but where the occupier had buildings which were separately rated, which were necessary and highly convenient for that particular piece of land. It was difficult to give an answer to the question, but as to the general character each case would have to stand upon its own merits. Mr C. MORGAN then said Mr Edward Jones, wool. merchant, of Newtown, had fields which were used as accommodation lands where he kept some cows and horses. He considered that land of that descrip- tion certainly ought to come under bhe head of being allowed 15 per oent. The CHAIRMAN Are the buildings mentioned in- oluded in the same rating as the fields or rated separately ? Mr MORGAN They are jointly rated. The CHAIRMAN said he thought it rather hard that he should be askad to assume the functions of the Asaes-m^nt Committee or Quarter Sessions. Mr MORGAN You are making a recommendation to the Assessment Committee. Mr E. R. JAMES pointed out that there were similar cases in the neighbourhood of Montgomery. Mr COOKE said there were cases in Newtown, where those who had taken land had erected build- ings upon it, and in looking over the rate book he found that no difference had been made in the rate- able value after the erection of the buildings by the ter-aut or occupier. He thought that was a matter for the Asses-ment Committee. Mr C. MORGAN moved that the small holdings in the neighbourhood of towns held without buildings ebou'd be included in the definition of the land with outbuildinge, and be entitled to the 15 per cent. deduction. I Colonel HARRISON asked if it were open for the Conference to discuss the point raised by Mr Moi Ran. The CHAIRMAN Certainly not, except by way of example. Mr GEORGE MORGAN asked what had been the praotice in the past of the Assessment Committe in regard to accommodation lands. It appeared to him that where buildings were not used for purposes con- nected with the land that nobody could say that was not land and out-buildings. He seconded the motion. Colonel HARRISON said he must oppose the motion for this reason. He did not think they had anything t> do with the question. The Conference was appointed simply to consider a uniform scale of deductions, and they hid not to consider what were small holdings, what were buildings, or what rates they should pay, unless. they went into the whole question of the county rating entirely. Mr GEORGE MORGAN said with reference to the remarks made by Colonel Harrison as to the question of oroer, he took it they were out of court. The recommendations had not a binding effect that day, any more than the recommendation which Mr Morgan had proposed, and he had a right to ask them to add that recommendation to the report. It did not become law until it had been passed by the Assessment Committee. Afjx, some remarks by Mr LEWIS, which were inaudible to the reporters, the motion was put and lost, only three voting in its favour. Mr GKORGK MORGAN said that when that ques- tion came before them first, they in the towns er-pecially thought it was a very large deduction to mftke towards lands and buildings. When they met in committee they were not provided with the nece-sary evidence to satisfy them. What he had done was to write to the different unions, asking .1.L_! J- wilt&" lDelr practice was, and from this and what gentlemen, including their Chairman, had said, it appeared that for outgoings on land and buildings 15 per cent. was a right and fair percentage to allow. But, of course, he felt at the time that there were many things under the head of outgoings, which did not come under the head of repairs as meant by the Act. Capt. PRYCE-JONES: Are we to understand that 15 per cent, has been recommended by the official committee appointed by this Conference ? The CHAIRMAN replied in the affirmative. The proposal of the Newtown and Llanialoes Union, as regarded land without buildings had been accepted, but on the other hand their proposals as regarded mills and factories had not. He believed that èe. cision had been arrived at; ma;nly by the Conference after a full discussion between the representatives of the two classes of property. Capt. PRTCE-JONES I think no deviation should be made in tbe allowance in 1883 without very serious debate. The principles upon which, us I understand it, upon which the rating is based is property rate- able to the poor on its net annual value. That must be the value as it exists according to the use made of it, and the net annual value is defined as being rent accepted or a yearly tenancy after deducting the repairs, insurance and other expenses, if anv- nAf>p, sary to maintain the property. Therefore, he took it than this 10 per cent, deducted off land without b u.ding.ntoco.-ertfcn item of repairs, insurance nnd other expenses. I cannot think that the Con- fere ice is acting wisely in increasing that amount ulll.s we are sure it requires 15 per coot, to meet those expenses. It seems to me that if the farmers were fully agreed thltt the rate* were too h'gh and dedu-.tio--g too low, it is a question of rents to come down. If we increase the land and buildings at all I am sure that we shall have complaints from sm -li householders and factory owners that their deduc- tions should be increased as well. I must lodge my protest against any interference with the deductions arrived at in 1883, when all the unions in answer to question replied that they were ia favour of the mcj- deductions. Tbe unions have adopted the principle, and I think it would be unwise for the Conference to be led away by one particular union asking for a greater deduction in one or two departments. Mr RICHARD LLOYD pointed out that the last speaker had said they ought not to deviate from the deductions of 1883, unless it had very careful con- sideration first. He pointed out that the subject had had careful consideration. He was strongly opposed at the commencement to oppose those de- ductions, but after hearing the evidence brought for- ward he had altered his opinion. Capt. PRYCE-JONES said he supposed it would not be practicable for farm buildings to be rated separately from the land. The CHAIRMAN 1 do not think so, for the reason that land without buildings was of really no value at all, and on the other hand buildings without a farm were of no value except to persons who lived in them, and had their source of living from elsewhere. Mr LESTER SMITH Quite true (laughter). Mr LEWIS said the minutes would show that the Conference had been unanimous on that question. Captain Pryoe-Jones had said that the asseessment committee of the Union had adopted the scale of 1883. He was quite aware that that was the basis of the county rate considered in 1883, but the old scheme of deduction was much older than that—almost as old as he was. He had been twitted with having brought in agricultural depression. He had never dreamt about it, except to show that the land bore t an undue proportion of its share of taxation, and the time had now arrived when land could not possibly do that any longer. That was the only reason he mentioned agricultural depression at all. He thought the scale of deductions presented by the committee was very fair. The subject then dropped. Land with out-buildings with 71 per cent deduction was agreed to without discussion. Houses of j66 and under at 20 per cent., and houses above Y,6 at 15 per cent., were also passed. On the recommendation of the committee allowing 25 per cent. off mills and factories, Mr G. MORGAN moved that they be allowed 33 per cent. He was not prepared, on the last occasion, with sufficient evidence to lay before them on the subject. He pointed out to the committee in connection with mills and workshops there was a very large expendi- ture going on in consequence of the various Acts of Parliament dealing with buildings where young people and women were employed. He thought many present would bear him out when he said that in consequence of this, one item-white.washing a buildiug-came to a very large sum annually, and almost covered the 20 per cent. itself, and he thought 33 per cent. was a reasonable allowance. In York- shire, which was a district in which there was a large number of machines and mills, the percentage was higher than that suggested by the committee. He had also received letters from Mr Edward Powell and Mr R- Jones with respect to the subject, in which they agreed that 25 per eent. certainly did not cover the cost of repairs, and considering 35 per cent. a fair allowance. Mr Hamer said it would not be difficult for Mr Morgan to show that 20 per cent. per year was spent on his own mills, but he had not attempted to do so. There were mills and mills, and Mr Morgan's was an old handloom factory, with steam power put into it, and he believed that the friction of the steam machinery in a building built for hand-work must be greater than mills specially adapted for machinery. Mr MORGAN said Mr Hamer was making a state- ment whieh was not true. It was a very small sec- tion of the mill which was a handloom factory. Three parts of it was always built for power, and one-half of the front part was new. Mr HAMER said he did not wish to make a mis- statement, and apologised. Mr LEWIS said that Mr Morgan had only brought forward evidence which came from Yorkshire (laughter). He never knew yet that Newtown could compete with Leeds. However, he said there was an expenditure of 33 per cent. on repairs to the build- ing, but on the land question the cost of repairs was 20 per cent., yet tha farmers agreed to take 15 per oent. He thought the proposal very unfair, and there was not a tittle of evidence to show the Con- ference that they should allow 33 per cent. Captain PRYCE-JONES: I am Borry, in discussing this matter, that personalities should have been brought in— The CHAIRMAN: I don't think personalities have been used, but personal cases. Captain PRYCE-JONES said that he was very sorry, in discussing this matter, that personal cases had been brought in, and especially from Newtown. He thought the question of rating should be argued on broad principles, and he supported Mr Morgan's amendment for an increase in the deductions of the machinery, simply on that ground. He was of opinion that machinery—three-quarters of it-was fixed to the freehold, and rated. That was called perishable property, because it required a larger outlay every year to keep up to date. The depreci- ation that took place in new machinery was such that an allowance of 25 per cent. had been adopted pretty generally throughout the country. He thought Mr Morgan had very properly suggested that they should allow 33 per cent. There was not the depreciation taking place in farm buiidiugst as there was in machinery. He had heard some members of the Conference say that the assessments of the Unions were not altogether equitable, and he should like a recommendation to be made to the County Council that they should sit until the matter was properly con-idered. He hoped the advice the Chairman had given to the Council would yet be taken advantage of, and any discrepancy which had accrued in the Conference with regard to the basis of railway property in these Unions would yet be taken into consideration by the Conference, and Lot deferred. Colonel HARBISON thought the gentleman con- nected with the manufacturing industries should have given the conference details as to the expense of repairs. The gentleman interested in land pro- duced figures showing the cost of repairs to land, and he thought evidence was conclusive on the point. It was with no feeling of opposition to the factories that he caid this, but he thought there was wanting a definite statement to clear the matter up, because they had to consider the rating of all classes of pro- perty in the county, and not one class alone. Mr DAVID DAVIES argued that if factories were to have au increased deduction because the machinery got of date, the farmers might equally well claim a similar favour on the ground that their harrows, ploughs, fences and gates got out of repair. Captain PRYCE-JONES retorted that the farmer did not pay rent upon the harrow or plough, and therefore no deduction should be allowed whereas a manufacturer had to pay rent on the greater part of his machinery (hear, hear). Mr GEORGE MORGAN thought from the manner in which the question was beiug argued their farmer friends were in entire ignorance of the subject. The fact of their comparing machinery for the manufac- ture of goods to the harrow and plough proved con- clusively that they did not understand the subject. Mr LESTBR SMITH pointed out that the fencing of rivers in connection with the land fell upon the landlords, and he knew from bitter experieccs that it. cost many hundreds of pounds to fence the Dovey every year. Mr LEWIS said he thought the farmers were not in such ignorance upon the point as Mr G. Morgan had endeavoured to make out. The farmers knew what they were doing when they made the suggestion. Mr WILLIAM JONES said they were arguing from one point to another, and keeping the controversial ball rolling round and round. One gentleman had said that there should be harmony. So there ought. There hid been some talk about the cost of white- washing the factories, but he thought the gentlemen representing that industry would like to whitewash the farmers (loud laughter). Mr GEORGE MORGAN regretted that so many per- sonaily offensive things had been brought into the debate, aud he was sorry that an attitude of host,il. t f had been tiken up one to the other. There had been notliigbdt an attempt to despise any arguments and all that had been said in favour of the motion of 33 per cent. They seemed to have arrived at the conclusion that the farming assessments should be reduced, und nothing else should be touched. He bad attempted to make oat a caso, but he knew the difficulties to make it perfectly plain were greater than with regard to land. What he had stated was true, and he should have liked for the Conference to have acceptad it with the came amount of readiness as they did the evidence relating to the land. Important as the difficulty with land was it was not everything, and they must remember that if farmers had had difficulties so other people had their difficulties (hear, hear). The proposal to reduce the assessment on factories seemed to have been met with a spirit of actual hostility, The CHAIRMAN I do not think that has been the temper of the meeting. Mr MORGAN said that a good many things had been stated that ou^hv not to have beensaid, and came from gentleman who were unacquainted with the subject, and before a man was able to express a competent opinion on the suoject he must be acquainted with the technical knowledge of the business (hear, hear). The proposal to raise the deduction on fac ories to 33 per CO;it. was then put, but only received the votes of Mr Geo -go Morg-tn and Capt. Pryce-Jones. Mr LLOYD then moved tht the deduction be rai-ed to 30 p»r cent. Mr GEORGE MORGAN It is scarcely worth split- ting hairs over. Let thp public judge." C Lpt. PRYCE-JONES If we can get it, half a leaf is better than none, and I wul second Mr Lloyd's amendment. Mr SCOTT OWEN suggested that the Conference should be furnished with more evidence on the ques- tion, for until they know more about the question they could apt deal with it, Mr MILLBK asked the Chairman ii he tbo^bt: evidence which had been given on behalf of njwehinery was as satisfactory as that tendered on behalf of the land. Was it sufficient ? He could assure the COD- ference that he did not look upon the proposal with any spirit of hostility, but he thought they should more evidence, to which he would listen with M mocb favour as that upon land. The CHAIRMAN replied that he was bound to my that the evidence on the part of the machinery, while establishing a prima Jacie case, Was not 80 strong as that brought forward by the farmers in respect to the land. Col. HAREISON moved that the Conference and that the manufacturers meet in the interim, and prepare evidence to be given before them at tbejr next meeting. Mr H. LESTER SMITH seconded. Mr LLOYD argued that the evidence for ifce-'lsuft did not go into detail. They appeared to ba" written to several people who had said that such-SIP& such-a-thing costs 15 per cent., but they did not show how they made it out. The CHAIRMAN said he must correct that etate. ment. The figures were arrived at from the account* kept on different properties. Mr LLOYD still maintained the Conference had not> the details placed before them. Mr MILLER: We do not object to the qiifllitiy of your evidence it is the quantity. Mr MORGAN pointed out that it would be difficult for the manufacturers to come together (hear, hea Col. Harrison's amendment for adjournment WS* then put and lost, the Chairman giving bis easting' vote against it; and a similar fate befel Mr amendment, the original recommendation of the Committee standing. The other items were adopted without alteration or discussion. INEQUALITIES. Mr CORNELIUS MORGAN mentioned that therp- were several inequalities in respect to the rates. For instance, Llanllwchaiarn was rated at 4d. Unr the half-year, and Newtown for The" WeM like discrepancies all over the county. RE-VALUATION. Mr LLOYD brought up the subject of the "aJ. tion of the railways running through the cooiitj*- They were valued a very long time ago, and bo thought it was time the question was looked into. The CHAIRMAN said it was a matter of great ink portance, and if the Conference pulsed a resolntiott to that effect it would be useful to the At*. saxwxlb Committees, and would enable the memisece of the different Boards to go back better able todieenae the matter.