« ElőzőTovább »
chapter on Urban District Councils.1 Our purpose here is to emphasise the theoretical and practical importance of a change which subjects the budgets of county government to the revision and adjudication of a central authority. The control of expenditure and the control of loans enable the Local Government Board to play an active and decisive, though indirect, part in many questions of county government. But practically, although in counties the powers of the Board are so much greater than in boroughs, the same passive policy of non-intervention is pursued. The audit, no doubt, is a real check upon loose expenditure, but it has scarcely ever been used as a lever for interfering in local administration. That the Board should take a direct part in county government is inconceivable. It was not contemplated by the Legislature, and even those powers which might be stretched to cover direct central administration do not really endanger local autonomy, so strongly adverse is popular sentiment to anything that bears a semblance of bureaucracy, and so susceptible are ministerial departments to public opinion. The reason for having local accounts audited by the Local Government Board was, that the need for a supervision independent of all local influences was strongly felt, and it happened that an independent supervision could be best and most economically secured through the Local Government Board. Both the audit and the "consent " clauses were framed, not to extend departmental rule, but to give financial safeguards to the ratepayers of the county that their representatives will spend their money according to law and with a due regard to the interests of their constituents. Central control over county and district councils does not mean that the central board is empowered to introduce new ideas of its own into local administration. The operations of the Local Government Board are strictly limited, and are only an indirect and secondary element in the work of local government. The English principle that certain laws should be administered by representatives of the people in each locality, acting independently of any central control other than that of Parliament, has been recognised for centuries and still bears
1 P. 139 sqq. and p. 267 sqq. on the history of the Local Government Board's Audit.
sway. Only there has been a change of form necessitated by the great increase in the powers and duties of all local authorities. To the direct Parliamentary control there has been added a supplementary or alternative control of ministerial departments responsible to Parliament. When the municipalities were reformed departmental control was still in its infancy. Fifty years later it had been so improved and developed that it naturally impressed itself more firmly upon the reformation of county government. But the government of counties by County Councils, in spite of its financial subordination to a central board, is nevertheless a genuine form of self-government in the true sense of the word.
THE RELATIONS OF COUNTY BOROUGHS AND OTHER MUNICIPALITIES TO THE ADMINISTRATIVE COUNTY 1
No description of County Councils would be complete which left out the administrative connection between counties and boroughs. That connection, always important, was brought into marked relief by the legislation of 1888 which created "county boroughs." (After the reform of municipal government in 1835 many administrative functions were from time to time assigned by Parliament to local authorities. Those authorities were various. But, generally speaking, the new work was performed in towns by the Borough Council, and in counties, for want of any satisfactory organ of administration, by the Justices. While, however, in some respects their administrative separation was being emphasised, the county benches and the councils of boroughs, more especially of small boroughs, were being drawn together by financial ties. It was not deemed wise to entrust the very small municipalities with the management of their own police, and that function was therefore, as we have previously explained, assigned to the county Justices, the small boroughs being treated for police purposes as part of the county. For other undertakings, such as the erection of hospitals and asylums, co-operation between County and Borough Councils was obviously in many cases desirable, and they were therefore empowered to combine freely in contributions to, and joint management of, certain common undertakings. For other purposes, such as the regu
1 Cf. Local Government Act 1888, secs. 5, 31-39; Wright and Hobhouse, p. 24; Blake Odgers, pp. 95-102. Cf. vol. i. pp. 372-417, on the organisation of finance and justice in municipal boroughs.
The Bill of 1888.
lation and sanitary supervision of rivers and streams, county and municipal authorities were compelled, and not merely permitted, by law to act together. Thus, while on the one hand the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 had sensibly relaxed the traditional ties between counties and boroughs, subsequent legislation established new connections and gradually created a new problem requiring statutory solution. That problem finally confronted the reformers of county government in 1888. They had to decide how far, if at all, the new county authority should be made the superior of other local bodies, and in particular of Borough Councils. In the debates of 1888 two points of view were represented-first, that of the corporations, jealous of any interference and eager to resent any encroachment upon their municipal autonomy; second, that of the counties, whose champions were anxious that the richest portions of the county area should not be exempted from contributing to the new county authority. The original plan of the ministry inclined to the second view, and would have given the County Council a superior administrative jurisdiction over the whole county. On the whole, however, as we shall see, the victory lay with the advocates of municipal autonomy.
Let us now look at the problem as it presented itself to the framers of the Act of 1888. Two broad methods of reform seemed practicable. To take the first would have been to please the county party by subordinating all boroughs within the administrative county, except the very large ones, to the County Council. The second was to yield to municipal opinion and exclude all boroughs of moderate size from the administrative county. At the outset the Government adopted the first plan, and proposed to include all boroughs of less than 100,000 inhabitants in the new administrative county. Parliament, however, preferred the second, and reduced the population limit to 50,000. Consequently, all boroughs of more than 50,000 inhabitants, and one or two of historical pretensions with an even smaller population, were recognised as county boroughs, and exempted from the administration of the County Council. But while excluding all boroughs of a large or moderate size from the authority of the county, Parliament at the same time placed the smaller boroughs,
whose autonomy had been recognised in 1835 rather on historical than on administrative grounds, more definitely within the sphere of county government. Thus a double step was taken in the process of reorganising and unifying the local administration of municipal and county areas a step the importance of which will be plainer when its consequences have been developed by future legislation to their logical conclusions.
The Act of 1888 has left three main classes of municipal organisation
Three classes of boroughs.
1. Municipalities of more than 50,000 inhabitants, denominated "county boroughs." 1
2. Municipalities of from 50,000 to 10,000 inhabitants. 3. Municipalities of less than 10,000 inhabitants.
With certain small exceptions, to be noticed later, the Municipal Code of 1882, and therefore the inner organisation of all these towns, was left untouched by the Act of 1888. Every municipality-small and great-is still governed by mayor, aldermen, and councillors in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Code, and scarcely any change made in the powers of borough magistrates. What the Act did was to alter in a variety of particulars the functions or province of the Borough Council in each of the three classes. Let us deal with each class separately
1. The county boroughs.-Since the Act of 1888 the councils of county boroughs have had the rights and duties of County Councils. In the language of the Act each county borough is, "for the purposes of this Act, an administrative county of itself."
1. County boroughs.
new county functions are added to the old municipal functions. The new province of a county authority has been joined to the
1 A town does not become a county borough automatically on attaining a population of 50,000, but may be constituted a county borough by order of the Local Government Board; see Local Government Act 1888, sec. 52. At the census of 1901 there were sixty-seven county boroughs, ten of which had then a population of less than 50,000-Bath, Bournemouth, Canterbury, Chester, Dudley, Exeter, Gloucester, Lincoln, Oxford, and Worcester. All had separate commissions of the peace, and forty-eight had their own Courts of Quarter Sessions, cf. vol. i. p. 407 sqq.
2 Local Government Act 1888, sec. 3. But for all other purposes "a county borough shall continue part of the county (if any) in which it is situate at the passing of these Acts."