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Establishment of County Councils. Effect of Local
Government Act on existing Authorities.
In this chapter we propose first to explain briefly the nature and constitution of the County Councils that are to be established under the Local Government Act, 1888, and secondly, to give a sketch of the system of Local Government in England and Wales existing at the time that measure was passed, and to show how that system will be altered by the Act.
The system of local government in the Metropolis is very different from that obtaining elsewhere, and it is not proposed in this work to deal with it in any detail ; accordingly the account of local government in this work is not, in the absence of express statement, applicable to the Metropolis.
Under the Local Government Act, 1888, a County Council Establishment of will be established in each of the counties in England and Wales; but the three Ridings of Yorkshire, the three divisions of Lincolnshire, the two divisions of Sussex, and the two divisions of Suffolk are treated as independent counties, as are also the Isle of Ely and the rest of Cambridgeshire, and the Soke of Peterborough and the rest of Northamptonshire. The Metropolis, which is taken out of the counties of Surrey, Kent, and Middlesex, is made for most purposes into a county of itself, called the County of London.
The existing county boundaries will in most cases be slightly altered, and the County Council of each county will have authority throughout their county except in certain important boroughs, called County Boroughs, which will be independent of the County Councils. All boroughs the population of which was estimated to be County
Boroughs. on the ist June, 1888, over 50,000, or which, being counties of cities or counties of towns, had according to the census of 1881 a population cxcccding 20,000, are named in the third
Quralification of Electors.
schedule to the Act, and are to be county boroughs. The Local Government Board are empowered to create other county boroughs under certain circumstances.
The County Council is to be somewhat similarly constituted to the Town Council of a municipal borough, and will consist accordingly of County Councillors, County Aldermen and a Chairman of the Council. The number of County Councillors for each county has, under the Act, been fixed by the Local Government Board ; the number of County Aldermen is to be one-third of the number of County Councillors. For the purpose of the election of County Councillors, each county will be divided into electoral divisions, and one Councillor will be elected for each electoral division by ratepayers duly qualified by the occupation of property within that electoral division. Such ratepayers are called, where they are qualified in respect of property in a municipal borough, “ Burgesses,” or, if that borough is a city, “ Citizens,” and in other cases, “ County Electors.” County boroughs will not share in the election of County Councillors.
The qualification entitling a ratepayer to vote at an election of a County Councillor is laid down in the County Electors Act, 1888, which was passed to prepare the way for the Local Government Act, 1888. Speaking broadly, all occupiers of land or premises of a clear yearly value of £10 and upwards, and all occupiers of buildings of any value, are entitled to vote. The following table shows in a simple form the main difference between the qualification conferring the parliamentary franchise and that conferring the right to vote at the election of a County Councillor. Description of
At Parliamentary At the election of a Person
County Councillor Occupier of lands or a tenement of a clear yearly value of £10. Occupier of a building of less value
cannot vote Owner of land, &c.
cannot vote Lodger
The division of the County into electoral divisions for the Electoral purposes of the first election has been made as follows. The Local Government Board have apportioned the Councillors to be elected between the boroughs in the county of sufficient population to be separately represented, and the rest of the county. Where only one County Councillor has been assigned to a borough, that borough is an electoral division ; but where more than one County Councillor has been assigned to a borough, the Town Council have divided the borough into electoral divisions. The rest of the county has been divided into electoral divisions by the Quarter Sessions of the county.
The County Aldermen are to be chosen by the County County Councillors either from their own body or from outside. Chairman. The Chairman of the County Council is to be appointed by the whole Council, either from their own body or from outside. County Councillors are to hold office for three years, and will all retire together ; County Aldermen will hold office for six years, one-half of their number retiring triennially; the Chairman is to hold office for one year. Should, however, a casual vacancy occur in any of these offices, the person elected to fill the vacancy will go out of office at the same time as the person whose place he takes would have gone out of office. The County Council will be a corporate body, with a com- Powers of
County Council. mon seal, and perpetual succession. They will have power to hold property (including land), to enter into contracts, to borrow money, and to raise money by means of rates, and will transact the greater part of the non-judicial or administrative business at present in the hands of the Quarter Sessions, and also other county business.
Having thus indicated the nature of the County Councils that are to be established, we may go on according to our plan to give a sketch of the existing system of local government, treating in turn of the Parish, the Union, the Highway Parish and Highway District, the Municipal Borough, the Sanitary Districts, and the County, and of the changes in the Government of these areas under the Act. It has been thought convenient to deal with these areas in the above order, although the Local Government Act affects only boroughs and counties to any considerable extent.
The Parish In very early times the country was divided into townships and analogous areas, and the inhabitants of each township 1 As to future alterations of electoral divisions, see Chapter IV.
to a certain extent managed their own affairs. Later, on the establishment of a system of church government, the country was divided into parishes, called at the present day for the sake of distinction “ecclesiastical parishes,” which were usually, but not necessarily, co-extensive with townships. From the intimate connection in former times between Church and State, it naturally came about that the distinction between the township and the parish was lost sight of, and we find that, from a very early date, the parish was looked upon as the
area managing its own affairs in normal cases, although townships which were not co-extensive with parishes continued in many cases to exist independently.
By an important statute of 1601 (43 Eliz. C. 2), upon which our modern system of poor law may be said to be based, each parish was directed to maintain its own poor. This statute was somewhat loosely construed, and considered to apply in some cases to places not strictly ecclesiastical parishes, and a subsequent statute l expressly extended its operation to townships and other areas in certain cases, and the term parish in dealing with poor-law was extended to include any place separately maintaining its own poor. The term parish being far more frequently employed in this sense than in any other, it has been provided by an Act passed in 1866 2 that in all statutes unless there be something in the context inconsistent therewith, the word “parish” shall, among other meanings applicable to it, signify a place for which a separate poor rate is or can be made, or for which a separate Overseer is, or can be, appointed. Those places which were anciently waste land, or which for other reasons were not included in any township or parish, and which were known as extra-parochial places, have been dealt with by recent statutes, so that, at the present time, the whole country is completely sub-divided into parishes in the sense of the above definition. Where it is necessary expressly to point out that a parish in the above sense and not in any other is meant, the phrase “poor law parish " is used, but as a rule, and in this work, the word parish used alone is always employed to meali “poor law parish.”
It may be observed that, under the New Parishes Acts, 1843, 1844 and 1856 (6 & 7 Vict. c. 37, 7 & 8 Vict. c. 97, and 19 & 20 Vict. c. 104), new ecclesiastical parishes may be constituted for purely ecclesiastical purposes, but such parishes,
113 & 14 Car. II. c. 12.