Speaking from the chair
As I write my second foreword from the chair, I am reassured to see that at least 50% of my predictions in the first foreword have proven accurate.
I was absolutely correct when I said that “By the time we go to press, the country could be heading for a hard Brexit, soft Brexit, no Brexit, second referendum, general election or any combination of these” and I can confidently reiterate it. My other assertion that “What I can predict with confidence, is that by the time this newsletter is published, the position will have moved on considerably from where it is in early January" was perhaps less accurate, and is not one I would wish to repeat.
More seriously, looking ahead to the summer, our industry continues to face challenges on many fronts. The government is proposing tenancy reform for both the agricultural and residential sectors and there will be few of our clients who are not effected by this one way or another. We must hope that the law of unintended consequences does not come into play too dramatically on this initiative.
Finally, we have an unsettling picture coming out of DEFRA which confirms that 2018 was a difficult year. Income prior to subsidy is down by over 40% and efficiency is falling, while businesses are doing little to deal with subsidies being removed altogether over what may be quite a challenging timescale. So, it seems my term of office will be an interesting one.
On a more positive note, I am delighted to report that we have an excellent line up of speakers for our annual conference. It will be headed by Guy Smith, deputy president of the NFU, who describes himself an an “Essex peasant” and who will no doubt have views on the issues I have outlined above. The full programme is set out within the newsletter and I hope to see as many members as possible in Bristol for what should be a very worthwhile day.
In conclusion, I can only repeat my closing paragraph from the last issue:
“Whatever happens in the wider world, our clients will, at least for the next few years, continue to grow crops, raise livestock and run into problems of one sort or another with landlords, family members and HMRC. In the longer term strategic decisions will need to be made and implemented but in the meantime they will need to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”
Director, Smith & Williamson LLP