Methods of social advance; short studies in social practice by various authors online

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This compounding system has been extended (1882) to
the borough rate and the water rate, and the general district
rate under the Public Health Act of 1875, which does not
apply to the metropolis. In London we have the poor rate,
the general rate (which includes the School Board rate), the
sewers rate, consolidated rate, &c. ; and to these, by arrange-
ment or by statute, the system of compounding is equally

The amount of property in the metropolis at or under
the rateable value of 20 is very large. Thus in 1895-6 it
was in Bromley 45 per cent, of the rateable value of the
parish ; in Bethnal Green, 39 ; in Mile End New Town,
38 ; in Bow, 36 ; in St. George in the East, 27 ; in
Camberwell, 27. In 36 parishes, that is about half the
parishes in the metropolis, in varying amounts, 12 to 52 per
cent, of the total rateable value consists of houses at or
under 20. Or we may measure the amount of the property
in bulk according to the rateable value. Thus at Bethnal
Green the rateable value of houses and tenements under
20 is 175,365, out of 450,625. l

Apart from these properties it must be remembered that
compounding is by arrangement now adopted also in the
case of tenements of more than 20 rateable value and of
flats inhabited by the irresponsible and, from the social point
of view may I call them ? uncivilised rich.

The object of this paper is to suggest a practicable alterna-
tive to compounding as usually enforced ; but it is necessary
to state what are the advantages and disadvantages of the
system according to the statements of skilled witnesses.

1 See statements submitted to the Eoyal Commission by Mr. G. L. Gomme,
Hon. Clerk to the London County Council. Appendix xxvii. to Vol. I. of the
Minutes of Evidence, pp. 238, 283.


In the words of witnesses the advantages may be set out
thus :

At Hull compounding is advocated, 'Because when you
have these small properties let for short periods it is very difficult
to follow the occupiers and to obtain the rates from them.' l

At St. Helens ' a* system of assessing owners in some form
or other, either with or without composition, or with or without
discount,' is ' really essential in the case of the smaller owners of
property.' 2

' In Blackburn the recognised custom, when a tenant goes into
a cottage house is that he objects strongly to have to pay any
rates himself : he wants to have one payment due for the whole
thing; so he pays the landlord the rent, and in the rent is
included the rates.' 3

At Camberwell streets are scheduled according to a scale of
abatement 10, 15, 20, 25 per cent. For the worst class of pro-
perty the abatement is 25 per cent., property 'where it would be
quite impossible for us (the Vestry) to collect the rates. I mean the
tenants are out and in every week, and we should not have any
opportunity of collecting the rates at all. In some cases owners
refuse to compound, where they have a very bad class of tenants,
and then we have to collect for ourselves ; we lose rates by that.' 4
' As far as West Derby Union is concerned, the abolition of compo-
sition would not be advisable at all, because there are thousands of
people who make it a sort of point of duty to themselves to go into
every new house they see and dirty it and leave it, and the cost of
maintaining and keeping it up, papering and repairing, is quite as
great in the new property as the old. They will flock to new
property to-day, but they will be gone next week or the week after
it, having soiled the house.' 5

At Islington ' a large number of the owners are very desirous
that they should be allowed their composition. The Vestry ask
the collector what is the nature of the collection : " Do you find
that you can get the rates with comparatively little difficulty ? "
and if the collector says " Yes," they allow no compounding at all,
but they collect direct from the tenants. If, on the other hand,
the rate collector says " This is very bad property," they would

1 B. H. Daw, Hull, Q. 11631. W. J. Jeeves, St. Helens, Q. 1687.

3 B. S. Fox, Blackburn, Q. 1630. 4 C. W. Tagg, Camberwell, Q. 18720,

5 H. P. Cleaver, West Derby, Q. 4077,


probably enter into an agreement with the landlord. The average
they allow is 15 per cent., in some cases 20.' l

Some form of composition, therefore, meets the wishes
alike of rating authorities who cannot ' follow the occupiers
of small properties and obtain the rates from them,' of occu-
piers ' who want one payment due for the whole thing '
rent and rates, and of the owners of small properties, and
especially of the worst class of property, who may obtain
a larger abatement because their property is in a worse
condition and their tenants of the more shifty and irrespon-
sible class. An abatement of 25 per cent, may indeed be
some consolation to the owner, who may charge compara-
tively high rents on those who do pay, so as to cover his
losses amply. In these circumstances it may well be, as
Mr. Vulliamy (Ipswich, Q. 7181) says, that ' these composi-
tions operate as a kind of bounty for a particular class of

On the other hand, there are these opinions :

' In the Borough of Burnley, where there is no compounding,
they do quite as well if not better than in the Borough of Nelson,
where there is compounding. ... I can quite understand it may
be an advantage in the slums of London, Liverpool, or Manchester,
where the tenant perhaps does not even pay his rent, but may go off
with the doors or uses a good many of the fixtures as firewood. ... It
tends to greater economy on the part of the governing body, when
the occupier pays his own rates and knows the cost of government.' 2

Of Whitechapel, Mr. Vallance says : ' I have been exercised
also as to the fact of the poor, who are the occupiers of com-
pounded tenements, not feeling the pressure of the rates at all,
and so being led too readily to have recourse to the Poor Law.' 3

' The tenants on our estate,' Sir Eichard Farrant has stated in
regard to Noel Park, ' have hitherto paid their rent to our rent
collector, and have never seen any tax collector. The consequence
is that they have ceased to take any interest in public affairs. They
do not care who represents them, what the rates are, or anything

W. F. Dewey, Islington, Q. 13057. 2 J. S. Horn, Burnley, QQ. 6873-6878.
8 W. Vallance, Whitechapel, Q. 12848,


at all about the details of local administration. I think the result
at Noel Park of the tenants being called upon to pay their rates
will be to make them keenly alive to the necessity of economy and
of choosing the right representatives.' 1

1 It is essential/ says another speaker, referring to the Victoria
Dwellings Association, * that the people should feel the effect of
the rates. Here you have large estates, consisting of 2,000 or
3,000 tenants, who are entirely unaffected by a change in the
rates. ... A man must be led personally to feel the pinch of
increased rates. He will feel then a greater interest in municipal
work, and he will be able to look upon it, not simply as a matter
of what it is desirable to spend, but how it should be spent in the
best way.' 2

In conclusion, the Royal Commission on Local Taxation
in their final report write :

' The system of compounding has been frequently condemned
on the ground that those who have the right to vote for the
election, or become members, of local authorities entrusted with
the raising and expenditure of money derived from the rates,
should pay the rates directly themselves.

' We entirely concur in this view, and we think that it is most
desirable that all classes of the community should, as far as
possible, be made liable to personal payment of rates, in order
that they may appreciate directly the effect of economical or
extravagant administration.' ]

Clearly then we have this conclusion : * Compounding '
is socially harmful injurious to the sense of responsibility
in ratepaying and citizenship and de-civilising. On the
other hand, it is convenient to rating authorities, to landlords
of poor properties, especially if the property be bad and the
abatement large, and to tenants who are constantly on the
move or who ' want to have one payment due for the whole
thing/ Otherwise it does not appear to be an economical
system. A discount of 5 per cent, at Blackburn brings in

1 Sir Eichard Farrant, The Artisans', Labourers' and General Dwellings
Company, Limited.

2 Eev. Sidney Bott, Victoria Dwellings Association.

* Final Eeport of the Eoyal Commission on Local Taxation, p. 51.


nine-tenths of the borough rate within six months, 1 without
the formal compounding required by the Act of 1869 in the
case of the poor rate. And as Mr. Cleaver says : ' If the
rates go up, the property is in compound : if the rates go
down, in many cases the property comes out of compound,'
showing that the composition is taken as a compensation for
an increased rate. 2

And there is one other disadvantage. When rates rise,
rents are put up. The occupier is thus at the mercy of the
landlord. If rates rise 2d., the rent may be put up 3d.
Accordingly in his own interest the occupier should claim
the right of discriminating the rent from the rates.

But there is an alternative to the method of ' compound-
ing,' by which the owner is retained as the collector of rates
from the occupiers in his own tenements, but they pay rent
and rates separately.

The Croydon Kural District Council adopt this plan in
collecting their allotment rents at Mitcham. They give their
tenants a receipt distinguishing (a) arrears, (b) quarter's rent

due at , 190 , and (c) apportioned share of rates, &c., as

per certificate. The form used consists of a book with counter-
foils for the entry of these items, and receipt forms and
certificates (all three numbered alike). The certificate is
dated and signed, and certifies the amount due for rates,
taxes, and rentcharge on the Mitcham allotments, and what
part has been apportioned to the individual occupier, * which
will be added to the rent otherwise payable by you.'

The Governors of the Peabody Donation Fund have
adopted another method applicable to artisans' dwellings.
They used to pay the rates for their tenants till a few years
ago, when the direct payment of rates was adopted. Now they
have the two systems in their buildings. In some the rates
are paid direct by the tenants to the rate collector ; in others
the rates and rents are paid each separately to the Governors,
for in some buildings the tenants objected to the direct pay-
B. S. Fox, Blackburn, 1510. Q. 4022,



ment of the rates, and the system of separate payment was
then introduced.

On this plan the rate for the set of buildings is divided
by the number of rooms, the tenants being allowed the
whole benefit of the abatement. Thus at Spitalfields the
rent and the rate stand thus :


Rates per week

One room
Two rooms
Three rooms

2/1$ to 2/7$
8/- to 4/9
8/11 to 4/5



And the following table gives the buildings, the number of
tenants, the rate, the rate charged (less allowance), and the
charge for the rate per room :


City or Borough

Name of

No. of


(less al-


Westminster (15%)





4$^., 9A, 1/2, 1/6$

James St. ...

145 6/8 i 300

4d., 8d., I/-,

O. Pye St....


6/8 ! 495

4^., Sd., 1/0^,


Orchard St.


6/8 j 800

4$&,9<Z..1/1, 1/5



6/8 1 334

4|^., 8$A, 1/1, 1/5


Gt. Wild St. 344

6/8 ! 772

4$<2., 9d., 1/1^,

Stepney (20%) ...

Shadwell ... ! 196




Spitalfields j 59



4i^.,9l, 1/1,


Whitechapel 283





Laurence St. 66



5$&, 11^., 1/4,


Herbrand St. 203






* Now 7/4.

The following extract from one of the notices issued
by the Fund to the tenants shows how the method is
applied :

The yearly amount to be paid in rates by the Governors (7s. in
the less the compounding allowance), works out as closely as
possible to 4Jd., 9d., Is. 2d. and Is. \d. a week on the 1, 2, 3 and
4 room tenements respectively.


On and after April 27th, the above proportions of rates will be
added to the present weekly rents of the tenements, according to
the number of rooms contained therein, the total charge upon

your tenement being a week, namely,

for rent and for rates.

Should, however, the rates be further increased, fresh arrange-
ments would have to be made to meet this contingency.

Under the foregoing system of collection, the tenants derive
the benefit of the 15 per cent, reduction from the rates accorded
to the Governors.

On account of the present rate of 7s. in the having to be
paid as from 1st of April, the Governors will have to make four
consecutive monthly collections from the tenants in respect of the
amount of rates that will have accrued during the four weeks from
that date when the reduced rents were still being paid.

The first collection will take place on Monday, June 1st, to be
followed by collections on the first Monday in the months of July,
August and September.

On each of these dates the additional amount to be paid by
you will be

Your tenancy can only be continued after Monday, April 27th,
on condition that you agree to pay the charges required to meet
the amount of the rates in the manner above set forth ; and the
continuance of your tenancy after April 27th will be treated by
the Governors as an acceptance upon your part of this condition.




No Block,

Peabody Buildings,

Increases of rates are notified in similar fashion. Thus
at Shadwell there has been an increase of IQd. in the
in the rate equivalent to Is. Sd. in the in the year.
Accordingly it is intimated 'that the addition of %d. per


week per room must be made to the present weekly charge
of each tenement.'

In some of these buildings, e.g. at Westminster, the
direct collection of rates was a simple matter, and the City
or Borough Council preferred to collect them direct. The
change to separate and weekly payments collected by the
Peabody Donation Fund was made to meet the wishes of
the occupiers.

To give effect to the system of the separate payment of
rates generally, wherever ' compounding ' is adopted, it would
be necessary to amend the Act of 1869. This might be done
by requiring the Borough Council to certify a rate in regard
to each tenement, as has been done at Croydon in the case
of the Mitcham allotments, and to enter such certified rate
against the name of the occupier in the overseer's list ;
and the owner, if he compounds, might be required to use
a receipt similar to the Croydon receipt. Or, as an alterna-
tive, the system adopted by the Peabody Trustees might be
enforced as suitable for Artisans' Dwellings and such large
buildings occupied in tenements.

There may be other methods of separate payment of
rates under < compounding ' ; but I understand that the two
I have described have proved successful. Their utility
in cases in which the direct payment of rates might not
be feasible, is, I think, obvious. The landlord cannot take
advantage of the tenant and raise the rent upon him under
the guise of increased rates. The tenant pays separately
and with full knowledge his share of the rate a consider-
able sum, equivalent sometimes to a large friendly society
premium. Knowing what he pays, he may, as a responsible
citizen, protest and oppose what he deems to be unnecessary
or ill-applied expenditure at the next election and at other
times, or yield. He need no longer be 'like dumb-driven
cattle.' He may be, if not ' a hero,' at least a Hampden ' in
the strife.'

C. S. L.



POPULAR Government does not necessarily require a large
number of local bodies for different purposes within the same
area, each elected ad hoc, and it is now admitted that the
present multiplicity of public bodies is an evil. The reasons
for this are, first, that after all there is only a limited number
of persons of suitable position and character willing to come
forward as candidates ; and, secondly, the citizen is apt to
grow apathetic in respect of the election of the minor local
authorities. The precedent of the recent Education Act may
be cited as evidence of the fact that inconvenience admittedly
exists. It is therein assumed that the principle of popular
election is adequately recognised and represented by the
authority vested by that Act in County Councils.

Popular government, moreover, should not be debarred
from the advantage of obtaining expert and highly qualified
assistance in regard to the more difficult branches of local
administration. On the details of such subjects the direct
popular vote is not always the most competent to decide. In
national matters the majority in Parliament indicates the
persons who are called by the Crown to be the executive of
the nation, but the popular vote does not directly elect the
executive. There are, moreover, large branches of public
business over which the direct popular vote exercises very
little influence. The selection of judges, the administration
of justice generally, foreign affairs, the army and the navy,
the currency, are subjects which very wisely are left by the
democracy to specially qualified experts.


This state of things has now its analogy in local ad-
ministration also, and the principle is recognised for the
first time in the Education Act, 1902. The question then
arises, how far is the analogy applicable to our Poor Law
administration ? The proposition involved might be stated as
follows : It is desirable both that the electorate and also the
popularly elected council of first instance, i.e., the County
Council if the expression may be allowed should recognise
that there are complicated branches of public business which
require a selected rather than an elected body of admini-
strators. An enlightened democracy should have no difficulty
in recognising that the principle of selection has its use in
local as well as national administration.

The first question then is : Is the administration of the
Poor Law one in which the principle of selection might be
usefully adopted ? Obviously, the first consideration is : Is
the principle of election working satisfactorily ? The answer
is clearly in the negative. Admittedly the best men are not
always obtained for this service. The County Councils and
the Borough Councils obtain the first choice, and the Poor
Law executive, whether guardians in the Town or District
Councils in the country, obtain a class of men who are less
competent to conduct public business than those who serve
on bodies which are deemed more important. Indeed, in
urban districts it is often difficult to get the full complement
of candidates for this, which is generally regarded as the
humblest of the local public authorities.

Secondly. If we turn to the requirements which ought to
be exacted from those who come forward to administer the
Poor Law, we must admit that a higher intelligence and
deeper sense of public duty are required of a Poor Law
guardian than from those engaged in any other branch of
local business. A Poor Law guardian is not dealing merely
with roads and sewers and bricks and mortar, nor is he
administering an Education Act on lines strictly laid down by
law and supervised by the experts of the Education Board ;


he is dealing with the lives and fortunes of the poorest, most
ignorant, and most helpless class of the community. He is
bound, if he would do justice to his assumed responsibilities,
to make himself conversant with the history and theory of
the subject. It is a monstrous injustice to the poor that men
without any training or qualification should be let loose on
them with practically unlimited funds to make experiments
at their own caprice. No one would have reason to complain
if the authorities elected to administer the Poor Law were
composed of persons who had considered the history of the
Poor Law, and who, after having weighed the teaching of
theory and recorded experiment, conscientiously declined to
accept the conclusions which to educated men seem neces-
sarily to follow. That of which we do complain is that the
paramount majority do not know that there is any history or
any record of theory and experience. This important branch
of social therapeutics is in fact committed to an entirely
unqualified body of practitioners.

Thirdly. If we regard the law which has to be admini-
stered by these Poor Law authorities, we find that it is most
indefinite and most elastic. Within the law and the Orders of
the Local Government Board the widest divergences of practice
are permissible. (The point need not be laboured here, as the
fact is presumably within the knowledge of anyone likely to
read this article.) Contradictory extremes cannot all be
right, and it is the grossest injustice to the poor that repre-
hensible methods of alleviating their distress should be allowed
to continue with the extraordinary license which at present
prevails. This extraordinary divergence of practice is due to
the fact that the bodies elected for performing this important
public service are as a rule entirely incompetent to select
from many alternatives the line of policy most conducive to
a satisfactory discharge of their duties. The normal policy
of administration is not a policy deliberately chosen, but in
ninety-nine out of a hundred cases merely proceeds on the
line of least resistance.


Fourthly. The old adage, beyond controversy a sound
one, that representation and taxation should go together,
certainly presupposes that the voter shall be aware that he is
taxed. As the matter stands, however, the 'compound
householder ' pays no rates direct, and is quite ignorant of
their amount and fluctuations, and yet in many districts his
is the determining vote, if he chooses to exercise it. Again,
one quarter of the sum spent on the poor is derived from
taxes, and in respect of this there is no representation. A
very large proportion (something like one-thirteenth of the
whole) of the local taxation of the country is paid by the
railway companies alone. These, as well as other cor-
porations and companies, have no representation whatso-

To sum up. For the service of the administration of the
Poor Law we do not get the best men. Yet more than for
any other public service we want the best men, both because
of the inherent difficulty of the situation and also because of
the very wide license which the law allows to the admini-
strator. Moreover, the administrators, as at present elected,
are not the representatives of the persons who pay.

The situation seems to demand some different principle of
electing the administration. It was originally proposed by
Sir E. Chadwick to make the administration of the Poor Law a
national service, and to get rid of locally elected administrators,
except for purposes of inspection. The charge of maintaining
the poor is an ' onerous ' one, and therefore, according to
current theory, primd facie a national charge ; but a national
Poor Law has always been resisted on the ground that the
administration is, and must be, local admittedly the notion of
a local administration spending national taxes is a preposterous
one. We have, however, unconsciously travelled a long way
in the direction of a national charge, and a still further distance
away from a simple local responsibility.

The time seems opportune, therefore, to discuss the
possibility of some new principle of selection. Beyond the



mere question of restoring the just relation between repre-
sentation and taxation, there are others which require careful
consideration in any adjustment of our methods of public
relief. The following is an endeavour to note down
some of the principal points which must engage the atten-
tion of any one attempting to legislate on this difficult
subject :

(1) Public relief includes not only legal relief but voluntary

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