Wilfrid Richmond.

The Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 online

. (page 15 of 185)
Online LibraryWilfrid RichmondThe Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 → online text (page 15 of 185)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


elemental*)' grade, the provision for university
education and the higher technological instruc-
tion is, compared with the need, still only rudi-
mentary. For everything above the elementary
school," fees are charged. On the other hand,
London has a ^scholarship ladder* unequaled
in extent and genuine accessibility anywhere in
the world. By an unlimited provision of free



Digitized by



Google



GREAT BRITAIN— LOCAL GOVERNMENT



places coupled with maintenance allowances,
awarded on a merely qualifying examination,
the opportunity for secondary and university
education is effectively opened even to the
poorest child of more than average ability.
Other local authorities have less extensive
scholarship schemes on similar lines.

6. Miscellaneous Services. — Brevity compels
the grouping together of a large number of di-
verse public services organized and adminis-
tered by local authorities. With the exception
of a few ancient chartered rights in the hands
of private owners (of which Covent Garden in
London is by far the most important), the mar-
kets are in public ownership, involving a total
capital of some £7.000,000 sterling, and (while a
few are leased) usually under public adminis-
tration ; often including warehouse accommoda-
tion, weighing machines, sometimes cold-
storage and abattoir. The municipal provision
of workmen's blocks in towns and of cottages
in the country has been carried on to a great
extent, not only by the London County Council,
which has already (1006) over 20,000 people in
its dwellings, but also by about 50 other au-
thorities. ( ( The Housing Handbook,* by W.
Thompson, 1904.) The existence of a few
•joint-stock* cemeteries serves to remind us
that the provision and management of burial
grounds is an important function of the local
authorities, in which millions of capital is in-
vested, extending in one or two cases (as at
.Hull), to the provision of crematoria. Inter-
nment is, however, the business of the under-
taker, and remains everywhere in private
hands ; not even subjected, as is the case in
some continental cities, to public control. The
provision of parks and recreation grounds, with
bands of music, gymnasia, facilities for games,
etc., has been lavishly undertaken. Hun-
dreds of cities and towns have free public
libraries and reading rooms; others have
also public picture galleries and museums which
are uniformly free; whilst a couple of hundred
places provide for their citizens swimming and
other baths, and public laundries, at low fees.
Among the other miscellaneous public services
maintained by English local authorities are the
Bradford ^conditioning house, or wool-grading
establishment, the Burnley municipal cold stor-
age, the Doncaster race course, and the Battersea
and Saint Helen's municipal supplies of steril-
ized milk. The tendency of local authorities to
embark in these enterprises has led to a dis-
cussion of what is called "municipal trading,*
during which municipalization has proceeded at
a greater rate than ever. (For the abstract case
against this tendency, consult < Municipal
Trade,' by L. Darwin (1003) ; for an equally ab-
stract defence, ( The Commonsense of Munici-
pal Trading,* by G. Bernard Shaw (1904), and
<Mind Your Own Business. > bv R. B. Suthers
(1905) ; for statistics, ( The Municipal Year-
book > and ( Thc London Manual * (both an-
nually) ; the seven volumes of c Local Taxation
Returns 5 annually published by the Local Gov-
ernment Board; and the periodical return of
< Reproductive Undertakings carried on by
Municipal Boroughs, y also issued by that
office.) In 1006 the amount of capital under
municipal management cannot be put at less
than £500,000,000 sterling ; the aggregate munici-
pal indebtedness (all repayable within 20 to 6b



years), being over £400,000,000 sterling. Man-
chester and Birmingham have over £20 per
head of population of capital under municipal
in .nagement.

The part played by local government au-
thorities in England in the collective regulation
of individual conduct is less conspicuous than
their organization of municipal services, but it
is too important to be ignored. It is not merely
that practically all these authorities exercise, in
their power of making by-laws, a minor legis-
lative function, on which we to a great extent
depend for the prevention and suppression of
nuisances, the regulation of ihe streets, all the
ramifications of public health, and the opera-
tions of building and various noxious trades.
If, as in England we must, we include among
local authorities the justices of the peace, the
regulation of the sale of alcoholic drink, the
places where it may be sold, and to some slight
extent the hours during which the sale may take
place, fall within the discretion of local govern-
ing bodies. Finally, in the direction and control
of all the provincial police forces, the local au-
thorities have virtually extensive and scarcely
defined opportunities of supervising and re-
straining any overt manifestations of individual
conduct which is "disorderly 5 ' in character, and
of which local public opinion disapproves.

The collective provision for special classes
of the community is one of the oldest and was,
until lately, the most costly of the functions of
local government in England Under the com-
prehensive term of the Poor Law there is now
included a whole array of specialized provi-
sions for orphan and deserted children, for the
sick, for persons of unsound mind, for physical
and mental "defectives,* for the aged and in-
firm, and for the men and women who be-
come destitute, together with their children.
The total amount spent on this service is about
£15,000,000 sterling annually. Beyond the
ancient limits of the Poor Law, and still within
the sphere of local government, we have, in ad-
dition, the provision of hospitals for lunatics,
idiots, and epileptics; the costly arrange-
ments for maintaining and medically treating
those suffering from any infectious disease ; and
the organized provision now made for the tern-
porarily unemployed — making an aggregate
annual expenditure from public funds on the
care of particularly distressed or afflicted classes
of the community, falling not far short of
£20,000,000 sterling.

The taxation by which the local authorities
maintain all these services (apart from the rev-
enue of municipal property, the receipts from
municipal services and contributions from the
national exchequer), is levied entirely by them-
selves. They cannot create a new tax, but once
the kind of impost is authorized by Parliament,
the rate at which the citizen shall be charged is,
as a rule, left to the unrestrained discretion of
the local governing body. In amount, there is
no limit to its taxing power. Of the total gross
revenues of the English local authorities, which
may (1006) be put at about £110,000.000 sterling,
about 14,000,000 is received from the national
exchequer, leaving some 96,000,000 to be raised
locally. Of this nearly 30,000,000 is derived
from the receipts from the various municipal
enterprises that we have described, 3,000,000
from other municipal property, 1.000,000 from
fines and fees, and 5,000,000 in reimbursements



Digitized by



Google



GREAT BRITAIN— LOCAL GOVERNMENT



and miscellaneous receipts, leaving about 57,-
000,000 to be raised by local taxation. Tolls
and dues (apart from those connected with mar-
kets and harbors) yield less than 500,000. The
whole of the balance is found by one tax, the
so-called "rate," a periodical levy, upon the
occupiers of the real estate within the area of
each local authority, of a specified proportionate
part of the assessed annual value of that real
estate. This universal impost, known as the
Local Rate (sometimes as the Poor Rate, the
District Rate, the Police Rate, etc.), varies
widely from place to place, but is most com-
monly between two and eight shillings in the
pound, or between 10 and 40 per cent of the
annual rental. The actual average for all pur-
poses, including both urban and rural areas, is
(1906) about three shillings and sixpence in
the pound, equivalent to an annual levy on the
capital value of the real estate of less than one
per cent, and to an annual contribution per
head of population of about 17 shillings and
sixpence. It is an interesting and little known
statistical fact that the amount of this local
taxation per head is only about the same as it
was a century ago. This local tax is legally
payable by the occupier of every house or farm,
or other separate holding of real estate, who
(if, as is commonly the case, he is not himself
the owner), is left to make his own contractual
relation with the owner or landlord ;* normally
the occupier pays the rates in addition to his
rent. But in «flats* forming part of large
blocks, and in property of small annual value,
especially that let by the week, the owner
usually "compounds* with the local authority,
in consideration of a discount to pay the rates
himself instead of throwing the burden on the
occupier (the so-called "compound house-
holder*), whose rent then includes both rent
and rates.

LOCAL GOVERNING BODIES.

English local government is everywhere,
and for all purposes, carried on by one particu-
lar form of political machinery, which to the
Englishman seems so inevitable that he seldom
thinks of describing it. The powers and duties
of government are vested, not in any officers
personally, but in a board or council of mem-
bers, having jurisdiction, for specific branches
of administration, over a definite area. This
governing body, which is uniformly unpaid and
composed of citizens more or less engaged in
their own avocations, appoints, supervises, and
direct j a staff of salaried, professional officers
(the "municipal civil service*), by whom the
actual functions are performed. The staff of
salaried officers is invariably appointed by the
governing body; and (though service is nom-
inally only during pleasure), the appointments
are habitually permanent, terminable only on
misconduct. There is no such thing in English
local government as removal for political rea-
sons, or in order to make a vacancy. The
board or council acts collectively, by resolu-
tions agreed to at its meetings by a majority of
the members present. Its deliberations are
presided over by one of its own number, called
chairman or mayor, whom it freely elects; and
not by a person separately elected by the people
for the presidential position, or appointed to it
by some outside authority. Perhaps for this
reason, it is a distinctive feature in English



local governing bodies that the presiding mem-
ber has but little personal power or responsi-
bility, apart from presiding. Though in prac-
tice he often exercises out of sessions, some ex-
ecutive power, by giving orders to the salaried
staff, this is always done in the name of the
board or council, and subject to its ratification.
The board or council habitually divides itself
into committees, each charged with the super-
vision of a particular branch of the government,
and required to report to the main body. The
result is an intimate combination of legislative,
executive, and occasionally even judicial oper-
ations, which the Englishman takes for granted
as "administration.* It may be added that na-
tional politics have little influence on local gov-
ernment The salaried staff is almost univers-
ally "out of politics.* In many cases, perhaps
the majority, the elections are not contested on
political grounds, or seriously fought by the
political organizations. In London and many of
the large boroughs, the elections are thus
fought, but the issues are not primarily those
of national politics, nor is the cleavage of opin-
ion exactly the same. And once elected, the
members (even where the contests have been
keen) seldom habitually allow their politics or
party divisions to affect their municipal admin-
istration.

The organization of local government in
England, once extremely complicated, has been
much simplified by recent statutes. The era of
reform began, indeed, in 1834-35, when the
ancient municipal corporations were made elect-
ive and systematized, and the Poor Law was
placed in the hands of elective Boards of Guard-
ians. Between 1848 and 1875, a system of
elective rural and urban district councils was
created principally for sanitation and roads. In
1888, the county councils were established on an
elective basis, to take over from the nonelective
justices of the peace the civil administration of
the counties. In 1894, the rural parishes were
provided with elective parish councils; and in
looo the different parts of London with metro-
politan borough councils. By these successive
statutes every part of England and Wales has
been placed under local governing bodies an-
nually or triennially elected on the widest pos-
sible residential qualification, women having a
vote whenever they are independent house-
holders, and being eligible for election to all
but town and county councils. There is, speak-
ing broadly, no property qualification for elec-
tion, and (unlike the English parliamentary
ballotings) no obligation on the candidate to
provide the election expenses. The members of
the local governing bodies receive no salary or
other remuneration for their work. Only very
exceptionally, in positions such as the mayor- 1
alty of an important city, is any allowance paid
even for expenses.

In spite of simplifying statutes, English
local government is still shared among various
strata of different authorities, constituted for
different purposes under different statutes.
London, moreover, with its 4,750,000 of in*
habitants, has a local government of its own,
and must be considered apart. We take first
the network of local authorities administering
the more obvious services of municipal govern-
ment, including sanitation and education. To
begin with the parish, we see this ancient eccle-
siastical area in the rural districts forming the



Digitized by



Google



GREAT BRITAIN— LOCAL GOVERNMENT



lowest unit of government; administered, if
small, by the parish meeting open to all adults ;
if large, by a parish council triennially elected
by the householders. The parish meeting or
parish council may light the village, protect the
footpaths and village green, establish libraries
and reading rooms, baths and public laundries;
but its power to tax is limited. Next to it
stands the rural district council, dealing with
roads and sanitation, triennially elected by and
acting for the householders of a group of par-
ishes. Places in which the population has be-
come aggregated together, needing greater and
more varied local government services, are (by
Local Government Board order) given the
status of urban districts. The householders of
these urban areas elect an urban district coun-
cil, which combines the functions of the parish
council and the rural district council, with
greatly extended powers. A steadily increas-
ing number of urban districts (now over 300 in
number) have, sometimes because of past his-
torical importance, sometimes because of present
populousness, been given by the Crown (now-
adays the Privy Council) the status of char-
tered municipal corporations; these elect their
councils annually' by thirds instead of trien-
nially, and women are not eligible as members.
Moreover their councils elect to preside over
them, not a chairman but a mayor; and they
coopt into their own bodies additional members
styled aldermen. Such of them as have any
considerable population (127 in number), have
their own police forces, under the control of
their own town councils. Apart from minor
technicalities there is practically no other dif-
ference between an urban district which is, and
one which is not, a municipal corporation. The
words tt town» and ^borough,* it may be men-
tioned, are used in England, for any urban
place, irrespective of size. The word "city* is
of equally lax usage, but it ought to be re-
stricted to those towns, large or small, which
have been specifically termed or created cities
by statute or royal enactment. Above all these
bodies stands the county council; elected trien-
nially by the occupiers of houses or lands within
the county, whether residing in rural parishes,
urban districts or municipal corporations. The
county council is the authority for education;
it provides the public lunatic asylums; it either
pays for or itself maintains the main roads; it
administers various minor services for the
county as a whole; and it exercises a certain
amount of supervision and criticism and some
slight control over the minor local authorities.
It contributes half the members (the justices
of the peace nominating the other half) to the
standing joint committee, which controls the
county police force.

Most of the boroughs over 50,000 inhabitants
(and some ancient towns below that popula-
tion) stand outside the area of the adminis-
trative county, and are neither represented in
nor controlled by the county council. These,
the so-called county boroughs (now over 60 in
number) are entirely autonomous municipal
corporations, which have, in addition, the
powers of county councils. The town council,
elected in the same manner as that of other
municipal corporations, and presided over by
a mayor (or in six cases a lord mayor) is
(apart from the administration of justice and of



the Poor Law) the sole local governing authority
of the city, with practically unlimited autonomy
within the scope of the statutory authority en-
trusted by Parliament to local authorities gen-
erally; and not even subject, as regards its
expenditure on all but one or two subjects, to
the general Local Government Board audit. It
is an important feature of these county
boroughs that they (like the other municipal
corporations of any size) have their own police
forces, exclusively under the control of their
own town councils (by the a watch committee**).

The 4,750,000 who inhabit the metropolis
have a more complex local government than the
citizens of Liverpool or Manchester. London
is divided into 29 metropolitan boroughs, one of
them being the ancient city preserving still
its Corporation, its lord mayor, and other
dignitaries and various other peculiarities.
These metropolitan boroughs have each a
council, elected triennially by the householders,
which administers the paving, cleansing, and
lighting of the streets, the minor house drain-
age, the. removal of refuse, the suppression of
nuisances and the collection of all the munici-
pal taxes. The City Corporation, in addition,
manages, with its own considerable estates, the
central markets, some of the bridges, the spe-
cial city police force and (in part) the port of
London. Above these local bodies stands the
London County Council, with annual receipts
and expenditures exceeding £9,000,000 sterling,
with 118 members elected triennially by the
householders of the whole administrative
county of London, together with 19 coopted
aldermen; and responsible for education, main
drainage, parks, and recreation grounds, the
lunatic asylums, the tramway service, the river
steamboats, the great street improvements, the
demolition of a slum » areas and the erection of
new dwellings, the administration of the
stringent Building Act and a host of miscel-
laneous county services, together with the man-
agement of the debt of London, not only for
its own needs, but also for those of the other
local bodies (except the City Corporation). The
water supply of the whole metropolitan dis-
trict, extending to much more than the county
•area, is in the hands of the Metropolitan Water
Board, a body made up of representatives of all
the local authorities concerned. The Thames
is administered by the Thames Conservancy
Board, a body constituted on a similar plan.

The foregoing survey of English local
government omits two branches, which, from
historical causes, still retain their separate or-
ganizations. Nearly the whole of the collec-
tive provision for special classes (hut not that
for lunatics, nor that for persons suffering
from infectious diseases) is in the hands
of what are called the Poor Law authori-
ties. The country is for this purpose divided
into 656 unions of parishes, often not cor-
responding with the boundaries of urban dis-
tricts, municipal corporations, county boroughs
or counties. The householders of each of these
unions elect either annually or triennially, a
board of guardians, which administers the pub-
lic provision for the aged and infirm, the
orphan and deserted children, the indigent sick
the tramps or vagrants, and the destitute of
every kind. These boards of guardians levy,
for the cost of their schools, infirmaries, work-



Digitized by



Google



GREAT BRITAIN— LOCAL GOVERNMENT



houses and a outdoor relief, 39 an unlimited tax
on householders, the celebrated poor rate.
They have complete discretion as to the amount
of money that they will spend, and as to the
amount of the relief that they will afford (above
the legal "national minimum of preventing
death by starvation) ; but their discretion as to
the mode of relief, as to the erection of build-
ings, as to the appointment of officers, and as
to the raising of loans is guided, and, in the
last resort, controlled, by the Local Govern-
ment Board, which has (in this branch of
local government more than in any other) the
power of issuing peremptory orders having the
force of law. In London, where there are 31
boards of guardians, these have also a joint
body, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, made
up chiefly of their nominees, which manages
the infectious disease hospitals and the asylums
for idiots. Jt should be said that there is a
great tendency to make, by rearrangement of
the unions, the areas of these Poor Law units
coincide with those of rural and urban districts
the county boroughs. The persons who arc
elected as members of rural district councils
already serve also, without other election, as
Poor Law guardians. It is not unlikely that a
few years will see the boards of guardians
abolished and their duties transferred in
county boroughs to the town council; in coun-
ties, partly to the county council and partly to
the urban or rural district council, and in Lon-
don, partly to the London County Council, and
partly to the metropolitan borough councils.
The other important branch of local govern-
ment with an organization of its own, and the
only one not upon an elective basis, is that of
the Justices of the Peace. These arc gentlemen
of position who are individually appointed by
the Crown (the Lord Chancellor), by being
included in what is termed the Commission of
the Peace. In practice, however, they are al-
most always chosen by the Lord Lieutenant of
the county, who, in most counties, defers in-
formally to the wishes of the existing justices.
Thus, the "County Benches" are, in effect, re-
cruited to a great extent by an informal system
of coaptation. The principal function of the
justices is that of acting as magistrates. Any.
one justice can issue summonses to appear and
warrants to the police for the apprehension of
offenders ; any two within each county can
hold a petty criminal court ("Petty Sessions"),
with power to indict sentences of fine and short
terms of imprisonment (subject to appeal to
Quarter Sessions), or to commit to prison
pending trial at a higher court; and once a
quarter, the meeting of justices in "Quarter
Sessions" forms a criminal court trying, with
a jury, all but the most serious crimes, such as
murder and grave felonies. At Divisional Ses-
sions, the justices license retailers of alcoholic
drink, nominally at their discretion, but really
without effective powers of refusing the renewal
of existing: licenses, except for grave misconduct.
A recent statute enables them to award com-
pensation, charged by a special rate on the dis-
trict concerned, to the holders of licenses which
they withdraw merely on the ground that they
are unnecessary. Finally, the Justices in
Quarter Sessions, by nominating half the mem-
bers of the standing joint committee (the
County Council sending the other half) go far



to control the county police force. It should
be said that a slight elective element is infused
into the County Benches by the fact that the
chairmen of the urban district councils are
ex officio justices. The county boroughs, and
also most of the smaller municipalities, have



Online LibraryWilfrid RichmondThe Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 → online text (page 15 of 185)