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The theory of the London Government Act is simple. The unit of local government ceases to be the parish, although the parish is retained as the unit for rating purposes, and the administrative County of London outside the City is divided into twenty-eight areas, each of which is to be a Borough and for each of which a Borough Council is to be formed. Sixteen of these areas are single parishes. The Borough Council will be constituted of a mayor, aldermen and councillors, not to exceed seventy-one in all, the aldermen to be one-sixth of the number of councillors. Women are not eligible for any of these offices. The qualifications for these corporate offices are fully described in the notes; but it may be pointed out here that the application of two different enactments to the mayor and aldermen on the one hand and to the councillors on the other, and the application of the same provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act, in the latter case modified, in the former not, by two different enactments, may lead to some difficulties in practice. The first elections of the councillors are to be on the 1st November, 1900, and of the mayor and aldermen on the 9th November, 1900. The term of office of a mayor will be one year, of an alderman six years, and of a councillor three years. One-third of the councillors will retire annually, but an Order of the Local Government Board on the application of any Council may prescribe simultaneous triennial retirement instead. In any case one-half the number of the aldermen will retire every third year.
The Act, then, consolidates municipal government within the Borough just as the Act of 1855 partly consolidated municipal government within the parish. Where the adoptive Acts (d) have been adopted, the Council are to administer them in place of the subsidiary bodies who have heretofore done so, that is to say, where an Order of the Local Government Board under the Local Government Act, 1894, has not placed their administration in the hands of the Vestry or District Board. When any of the
(d) See p. 56.
adoptive Acts are adopted in future the Borough Council will be the administrative authority, as in the case of provincial boroughs.
Other local bodies may be abolished by scheme, and their powers transferred to the Borough Council. Certain small powers are transferred to the Councils from the London County Council; certain other powers of the London County Council may also be exercised by the Borough Councils; and provision is made for future transfers. Additional powers and duties are conferred on the Borough Council, the most important being that main roads are to vest in the Borough Councils concerned, and to be maintained at the expense of the County Council by those Borough Councils; and the Borough Councils are to have powers of promoting as well as of opposing Bills in Parliament.
The committees of Borough Councils will have wider powers than the committees of the Vestries and District Boards; and each council is to appoint a finance committee, who will have large powers of financial control. In future, only one rate will be levied in the Borough: hitherto there have been many rates in name, although all were levied upon the basis of the poor rate. This consolidated rate, to be known as the "General Rate," will be levied as if it were the poor rate. As already stated, Borough Councils are to be the Overseers, but upon the Town Clerk are imposed some of their duties, with the object, it may be presumed, of securing personal responsibility. The Town Clerk will also be clerk to the Assessment Committee, where that committee will be appointed by the Borough Council. The accounts of the Borough Councils are to be audited in the same way as the accounts of the London County Council. The incumbent and churchwardens are not to be ex officio members of the Borough Councils: these officers are ex officio members of elective vestries, and, until the Local Government Act, 1894, the incumbent was ex officio chairman of the Vestry. Churchwardens are to cease to be Overseers. Provision is made for the transfer of existing officers to the Borough Council and for their compensation in certain cases.
The provisions of the Act are to be carried into effect by Orders in Council, Schemes, Provisional Orders of the Local Government Board, and ordinary Orders of the Local Government Board. This delegation of power has some precedent in the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882, under which, on the incorporation of a new Borough, a scheme adjusts the powers and duties of existing local authorities. These provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882, are incorporated for the purposes of this Act.
The object with which the Act has been passed was expressed by the Lord President of the Council in moving the second reading in the House of Lords. The Duke of Devonshire said:-"I believe that it will be accepted by the great majority of the inhabitants of London as a step, and a very long step, in the direction of reforming their local institutions and placing them upon a level not inferior to that on which municipal institutions in the other great cities and towns in this kingdom already stand."
Pages 5 and 150-City of Westminster.
The Times of July 29th, 1899, p. 12, col. 1, announced that "The Queen has been pleased to direct that, as soon as the necessary arrangements under the London Government Act have been completed, there shall be confirmed to the Borough of Westminster, as constituted under that Act, the title of City, originally conferred upon Westminster by King Henry the Eighth."
This appears to point to a mere confirmation of the title; see article by late Prof. Freeman in Macmillan's Magazine, May, 1889, p. 29.
The letters patent cannot presumably be issued until the proposed borough has been formed.
Page 9-Wards.-For full particulars as to existing wards, see London Statistics, Vol. VIII., p. 525. The maximum number of wards
possible in a borough will be twenty.
Page 26, line 15-for "relates" read "relate."
65, line 16-for "volume" read "column."
150-for "Burnett" read "Burnet."
Page 166-Church Rate.-A return of the church rates (including rectors' rates) at present levied in London, will be found in Vol. VIII. of London Statistics, pp. 518–519.
LONDON GOVERNMENT ACT, 1899.
(62 & 63 VICT. c. 14.)
An Act to make better provision for Local Government in [13th July, 1899.]
BE it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows :—
ESTABLISHMENT OF METROPOLITAN BOROUGHS.
1. Establishment of metropolitan boroughs in London.]—The whole of the administrative county of London, exclusive of the city of London, shall be divided into metropolitan boroughs (in this Act referred to as boroughs), and for that purpose it shall be lawful for her Majesty by Order in Council, subject to and in accordance with this Act, to form each of the areas mentioned in the First Schedule to this Act into a separate borough, subject, nevertheless, to such alteration of area as may be required to give effect to the provisions of this Act, and subject also to such adjustment of boundaries as may appear to her Majesty in Council expedient for simplification or convenience of administration, and to establish and incorporate a council for each of the boroughs so formed.
Object of the Act.-This section contains a statement of the object of the Act, namely, the division of the whole of the county of London into municipal boroughs.