Why the super-rich are leaving the city

The serious money is upping sticks to move to the sticks.

Alongside supercars and mega-yachts, it seems good old British farmland is the latest must-have accessory for Britain's super-rich. The Sunday Times reports that James Dyson, inventor of the eponymous vacuum cleaner, spent £150m on thousands of acres of farmland across Lincolnshire.

In doing so, he joins the ranks of fellow super-rich farm-owners, such as Stefan Persson, the Swedish founder of the H&M fashion chain, film director Guy Ritchie and Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich.

So what's behind Dyson's move? According to his spokeswoman, "James has always had an interest in farming; he grew up in Norfolk and when he moved from London to the Cotswolds, it was to a small farm. It is an interest he maintains today."

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

That's all very heart warming. But no doubt Dyson was also attracted by the tax breaks. The British agricultural sector has a long history of receiving generous tax breaks in certain cases, for example, farmland can be gifted with 100% relief from inheritance tax. These breaks can even be partially extended to buildings making it easier to pass down a nice farmhouse to your children.

Leaving the tax benefits to one side, a decent plot of British farmland doesn't look like a bad investment in its own right. Between 2002 and 2012 the price of farmland shot up by 202%, according to estate agents Knight Frank. That fact won't have gone unnoticed by Dyson.

By comparison, that other favourite real-estate play of the super-rich London prime residential property was up just 113% over the same period, according to property agents Savills. It's not just a passing fad either.

Knight Frank says the value of an acre of land has increased from just £52 in 1952 to £6,073 by 2012. Unsurprisingly, this eye-poppingnumber hasn't gone unnoticed by investors. In the last ten years almost half the buyers of agricultural land in the east of England were investment funds or private investors.

In one sense, this new investment fad marks a return to the countryside's past. As Mark McAndrew, a partner in Strutt and Parker's estate and farm agency department, notes in The Sunday Times, "in many ways, it is like turning back the clock 200 years to when land was owned by wealthy landlords".

Which means, in the long run, this arrival of wealthy buyers may not be such great news for farmers themselves. As one potato farmer told The Sunday Times, "this just means it is not a competitive market for genuine farmers, who don't get a look in".

Having seen my daughter's unsuccessful attempts to buy a house in the neighbourhood she grew up in, I have every sympathy for him. Houses in London may not have gone up by as much as farmland, but we are all feeling the squeeze from the super-rich.

Tabloid money EU bonus curb is "staggeringly generous" to bankers

The European Union's planned curb on bankers' bonuses is still "staggeringly generous", says Paul Routledge in the Daily Mirror. It would just limit bonuses to 100% of annual salaries or even twice that if shareholders agree. Nevertheless, it's a start.

Of course, there was one government that strongly opposed the reform ours. It argued that sky-high bankers' bonuses are good for the economy. It beggars belief. It is protecting bankers when really "these rich b******* belong in jail". After all, none of them was properly punished for the bankers' recession that caused so much misery.

Few issues annoy voters more than benefit tourism, says Simon Heffer in the Daily Mail. With the country "deep in debt", people are sick of overseas visitors who come to "use the NHS, our social housing and other state services". They are also worried that from next year we'll be supporting a flood of new arrivals from Romania and Bulgaria two of the poorest parts of Europe.

Because of EU law, the government can't specifically restrict certain nations from accessing welfare. Instead, it will have to find a clever way to rewrite general welfare benefits in a way that is likely to "rule out newcomers from Bucharest or Sofia". Battling EU laws and opposition from the Lib Dems won't be easy, but Cameron should not let that stop him. "The prospect of a new drain on our welfare state is simply unaffordable."

There is "no doubt that Britain has a binge-drinking problem", says David Davis in The Sun. But the plan to introduce a minimum price for alcohol will be a big mistake. "A price rise would hit responsible drinkers on low incomes harder than higher earners who drink much more. It will punish the social drinker on lower wages but miss the upper-crust alcoholic."

And what will happen to the extra money it raises? Instead of going to the NHS or the police, it will go to large retailers. They in turn will spend it on marketing to encourage people to drink more.