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In all these cases the decision of the Board is final-a clear indication that it is rather an award than a judgment. Thus, in the case of a Private Improvement Rate the owner or other person who has to pay any sum fixed or apportioned" by the local authority may appeal to the Board for a reduction of the amount, and in this case, too, the decision of the Board is conclusive; but the appellant may, as a rule, if he prefers, take his case before the Justices, who are the ordinary Court of Appeal in disputes arising out of local government. The Local Government Board "is not a Court," and has "no exclusive jurisdiction" in cases of this kind.1 A more onerous and important work arises, however, out of appeals against the disallowances and surcharges of auditors. But in this respect the law of Public Health has simply adopted the provisions already laid down and previously described in connection with Poor Law administration. In these cases also an alternate mode of procedure exists; for complainants have the right of appeal to the High Court by writ of certiorari. But practically, for the reasons set out in the last chapter, the Local Government Board, being the cheaper tribunal, and having power to decide "on the merits," has absorbed almost the whole of this work. It would be quite wrong, however, to suppose that in this way the Rule of Law has been undermined or the competence of the ordinary Courts impaired. An administrative authority, however substantial its functions, is never in English law a judicial court clothed with power to decide "subjective rights." The quasi-judicial decisions of the Board must always retain the character of awards. Its jurisdiction is a subordinate jurisdiction, concerned rather with business and finance than with law; and it has won a foremost place in this restricted sphere because of the cheap, fair, and business-like settlement which it offers. Local authorities find in it a tribunal on the whole well fitted to adjust the difficulties which constantly arise between them. How large an amount of business these quasi-judicial functions entail is proved by the annual returns of the Board. Thus in the year ended 31st March 1899, 3717 objections were raised by the district auditors to the accounts of local

1 Mathew, J., in Eccles v. Wirral Rural Sanitary Authority, Law Reports, 17 Q.B.D. p. 112.

authorities.1 From 2371 of these appeal was made to the Board. In 1882 cases the appeal was allowed on its merits; in 161 cases a restitution of the money illegally expended was enforced; in 277 cases the decision of the district auditor was reversed.

The extent of

operations.

To take a bird's-eye view of the whole province occupied by the Local Government Board is now possible, for its activities have now been reviewed in all their amplitude and variety. No room is left for surprise that the increasing load of work during the last decade has proved too much for the staff, and has often resulted in delay and confusion. Local authorities often complain of the roundabout methods of the department, and its exasperating "Redthe Board's Tapism" is constantly criticised in Parliament and in the press. It may be conceded that many of these complaints are not altogether ill-founded. The slowpaced bureaucratic walk of the Local Government Board, even when it is not merely marking time, contrasts sharply with the informal way in which a local authority, often composed of business men in a hurry, likes to push through its business. Nevertheless, the quantity and quality of the work which the Board accomplishes every year are certainly enormous and worthy of high praise. The Annual Reports of the department give a good insight into its functions. A very large part of the Board's business arises in the course of its duties as the financial guardian or superintendent of local authorities. According to the Report of 1898-99, the Board in that year approved of loans to the value of £5,763,000 to about 520 about 520 borough and urban district councils under the Public Health Acts. In many cases more than one loan, often ten or twenty in the same year, were applied for by a single town and examined by the Board; for, as a rule, it is the practice to raise a separate loan for each separate undertaking. In the amount of £5,763,000 were included £1,058,164 under the Electric Lighting Acts, divided among 57 towns, £111,740 under the Housing of the Work

1 County Councils, 99; Poor Law authorities, 2033; Parish Councils, 345; School Boards, 317; Library Committees, 23; Urban District Councils, 521; Rural District Councils, 257; Highway authorities, 105; and other Local Bodies, 17. See Annual Report, 1899, p. 642.

ing Classes Acts, and so on. Further, the Local Government Board consented in the same year to borrowings amounting in all to £440,000 by 148 rural district councils, and to £23,335 by parish councils; nor do these figures include London, which is also under the same financial tutelage. Nearly all these applications involved local inquiries by engineering inspectors of the Board. Thus in the year under consideration 42 simple inquiries by inspectors were undertaken in connection with County Councils alone, and nearly 1200 in connection with other local authorities.1

Again, as an accessory to Parliament, the Local Government Board issued in the same year (1898-99) 295 Orders under the Acts of 1888 and 1894, of which number 45 were Orders confirming the Provisional Orders of County Councils, and 154 were Orders conferring the powers of a Parish Council upon Urban District Councils. In the sphere of Poor Law administration no less than 1062 Orders were issued a sufficient testimony to the intensity of the Board's control over Guardians. Finally, under the Public Health Acts and other statutes, 470 Orders were issued, dealing almost entirely with the organisation of local government. To these should be added 16 Confirmation Bills introduced by the Government and passed through Parliament for the purpose of giving statutory force to a great number of the Board's Provisional Orders. Indeed, the power and time of the department are often severely taxed by the part which it must necessarily play in local legislation, both of a public and private character. Then there are a vast number of reports and returns dealing with internal administration, some regular and periodical, others prepared in compliance with the expressed wishes of Parliament. Some of these returns are promised by the Government at the request of some private member, and occasionally entail a good deal of useless work. The statistics of Poor Law administration and local finance are in themselves monuments of accurate and elaborate industry. The Board finds plenty of scope for activity in its official correspondence with local authorities-now advising, now warning, now explaining and interpreting new statutes.

1 See Twenty-Eighth Report of Local Government Board, p. cxx.; also Report of Departmental Committee, 1898.

But on the top of all this regular work there were in the year in question large and important Orders promulgated by the Board, such as a new Order regulating the public administration of the Vaccination Laws, which provoked much opposition in certain localities. Lastly, there are the reports of the inspectors of the Board, extending over the whole province of Poor Law government, which, with the leading statistics, are for the most part incorporated in the Annual Report, and serve to illustrate the administrative work of a modern central department, which is justly recognised as a model abroad as well as at home. A study of the Annual Reports makes abundantly clear what it is that so entirely distinguishes the English type of centralisation from that of a continental ministry of the interior. It is true that in England itself complaints are sometimes heard of a growing tendency to bureaucracy; that is due to the extreme sensitiveness which every Englishman feels as to any usurpation of mandatory power by any department of Government. But, from the standpoint of continental administration, these alleged tendencies are trifling; and the central administration of England has, as its peculiar mark, a half scientific, half statistical character. The relations of local to central government resemble those of fellow-workmen engaged in a similar task. The Local Government Board is emphatically not a motor engine; it does not supply power to set in motion the machinery of local government; and in practice the Board takes the initiative even less than the letter of the law might lead one to suppose, the reason really being no doubt that the statesmen who preside over the departments of Home Government, irrespective of party, share more or less in this traditional abhorrence of the nation from any and every kind of administrative direction over public life. Nothing is so jealously guarded in England as this trait of national life and policy, and nothing would more rapidly and more surely bring a Minister and his department into unpopularity than a popular suspicion that he was trying to govern the country on bureaucratic lines. Nothing could be more disquieting to an average Englishman than the thought that he must follow the orders of a London bureau as if they were so many provisions of the law. He will not tolerate a bureaucratic State within a State,

or allow an official department to pose as an embodiment and personification of the State itself. Although at times slight encroachments may be made upon this tradition, and the nation may acquiesce without much trouble in certain changes, such as those proposed and partly carried by the champions of Poor Law and sanitary reforms, yet no one should delude himself into supposing that in these cases the Legislature was following out a principle or tendency, or, in fact, doing anything but improvise practical remedies for practical evils. The ancient rule that England is governed according to law, and not according to the instructions of officials, remains unshaken to this day.

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