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Nhguard Hill. I

Vestry Meeting at Fishguard.


Vestry Meeting at Fishguard. THE URBAN COUNCIL SUPPORTED. Under section 33 of the Local Government Act 1894, an Urban Council must apply for the power of appointing overseers, and revok- ing such appointment. Further, application is also necessary for exercising the powers and duties vested in the defunct Parish Council and overseers. Under section 31 of the same Act, where powers under the fore- going sections are granted to urban or other local authorities the Local Government Board grant the powers of the vestry under the 3rd I and 4th section of the Poor Rate Assessment and Collection Act, 1869. The Fishguard Urban Council have already dealt with the general district rate by allow- ing landlords a deduction of 20 per cent—or four shillings in the £ --in respect to tene- ments assessed under £10. By the additional j powers, which now await the sanction of the Local Government Board, the Fishguard Urban Council are enabled to compound in respect to the poor rate they will also have the duties hitherto vested in the overseers, to appeal against the valuation list, and other duties. Having applied for these powers, the Local Government Board wrote to the over- seeers-Messrs D. Rees and D. Cornock-- requesting them to call a meeting of the vestry and supply the Local Government Board with observations and resolutions thereon to guide them in sanctioning or otherwise the application of the Urban Council. The meeting was held in the Girls' National School on Monday evening last, the vicar, Rev W. Evans, M.A., presiding. There was a numerous and representative gathering, when the Vicar read the notice convening the meet- ing, and the letters that had passed between the Urban Council's clerk, Mr A. J. Hodges, and the Local Government Board. Mr D. Rees, one of the overseers, intimated through the Vicar, supported by letters from the Local Government Board, that the latter body, since the application of the Urban Council, sanctioned the handing over of the overseers' powers.—The letters were duly read. Mr T. Lewis: I take it that the power to appoint assistant overseers is not included. Vicar Did I say overseers ? Mr Lewis: No. Mr R. Howarth, Plasyfron, then proposed that the powers held by the vestry and which were sought by the Urban Council that evening, be retained by the vestry for another year, when the question should be again brought up for consideration." In doing so he pointed out that as yet the Urban Council had not long held office and as they had already ample scope for progressive work it would be advisable to wait and see what use they made of it. So far, the results of the new and extended administration were by no means great, and no harm could come by deferring the transfer of the powers in question. Mr D P Lewis seconded the proposition and supported the remarks of the mover. Mr J R Richards, thairman of the Urban Council, who was one of the deputation appointed by the Urban Council on Friday last to attend the Vestry, in moving an amendment that die transfer be sanctioned bv. that meeting, said the Urban Council had done nothing against the working-man whose representatives they were. By passing such a resolution they would deprive the Council of their legitimate rights, and he really did not know why the meeting should have been called. Somebody had been writing to the Local Government Board evidently. Mr D Rees I must object to that remark because the overseers were requested by the Local Government Board, as the letter I have handed to the Vicar will prove. The Vicar: That is so according to the instructions in the letter. Continuing, Mr Richards said it was to their advantage as a council and community to obtain the powers. Why, he asked, should the vestry hold them. There was not the slightest reason for with-holding the powers. In everything they did economy was the basis. Mr W J Vaughan seconded the amendment. Mr D W Lewis criticised the resolutipn, which, he said, was not asked for by the Local Government Board. As the question of the Small Tenement Act had arisen he might say that for some years that had been in force. It was debated upon for sometime previous to its adoption and then made operative in regard to/small tenements in the town by the votes of a large majority. They ought to support the Urban Council and if they did not perform their duties satisfactorily they could change them. They had grumbled at the smallness of the powers vested in the Parish Council and now some of them desired to give the Urban Council less than the form- er. He urged all to support the amendment. Mr D Rees said the principle of compound- ing referred to was the real and greatest griev- ance. They were there to support the inter- ests of the poor as well as the rich. The Urban Council had allowed 20 per cent to landlords at the expense of the general ratepayer. That worked out at from £ 34 to c40 per annum. It was inadvisable to allow them to deal similarly with the poor rate which was going on towards a [1000 per annum. At present the amouut of the rebate amounted to an equivalent of 5d in the £ He supported heartily the proposition. Mr W J Vaughan stated that if they did not compound the loss would be considerably greater than under the existing arrangement. On the other hand if they viewed the question impartially from the two standpoints they would find that there was a distinct saving to the ratepayers by allowing the rebate on small tenements under Cio. To with-hold the powers would be manifestly unfair to the Urban Council and unjust to the ratepayers as a whole. Mr T Meyler (chemist) asked for proof of what had been asserted by the advocates for the particular powers. Personally he was rather concerned about the matter of rebate. Mr T Lewis (chemist) dealt exhaustively with the whole matter. He ventured to state that the omission of the necessary clause in the Local Government Act was an inadver- tence, and would be remedied by the House of Commons in future. With all due respect to the overseers, the responsibility placed upon them was too great. They could not expect to administer such powers as efficiently and satisfactorily as fifteen. Their object was to hold the properties which were for the benefit of the public, as the Penslade and Pentour commons. These were' transferred from the vestry to the Parish Council when the latter came into operation and they reverted again to the vestry automatically. They must admit that the powers in the hands of fifteen had greater chance of being dealt with fairly. The overseers appointed in future might be men of straw and more easily influenced than the fifteen representatives of th'e people. If the Urlpan Council did'nt carry out their duties properly the people could replace them. The whole brunt rested with the matter of the assessment; it was between the poor man and the rich, and in dealing with the question he claimed they had acted with the best in- tentions. They made the abatement aftei very carefully considering the number of ex- emptions, excuses, defaulters, and cost of collection, and found that the course adopted was by far the most economical inasmuch as that by conceding ^34 per annum it left them about £34- to the good. Owners who paid rates on tenements, up to £10 received 20 per cent for doing so when the houses are occupied. Mr Rees Only fifteen occupiers are in the paupers" list. Mr Lewis, proceeding, admitted that, but the overseers were bound to consider any ap- plication for exemption and there would be many applying as was proved by past exper- ience, to the magistrates who invariably ex- cused them. He then referred to the present population as a shifting one and the work of the rate-collector considerably increased. Personally, he did not own one house of the kind that came under the Small Tenement Act, so that he could speak from disinterested motives. He appealed to the meeting not to give the Urban Council a rebuff by declining to confer upon them the vestry powers. They had been faced with considerable difficulties, but by judicious manipulation they had saved a matter of from 2d to 3d in the £ on the rates. What he would suggest to the meeting was the formation of a ratepayers' association in the town to watch over and check any at- tempt to unfairness or extravagance in the rates. As to the vestry, as an ecclesiastical body, it was right and proper, but to admin- ister public affairs it was totally out of date with the progress of the age. Mr A. J. Hodges gave figures showing the losses under the old system of each tenant paying his rate. In 1894 the amount collect- ed was ,r,487 excuses, £ 32 13s iod vacan- cies, 7r30 os gd, or a distinct loss of £ 33 2S iod. In 1897, out of c394 collected the loss was £ 42. For the last half-year, out of C861 col- lected the total amounted to £43, with rebate and exemptions. Mr B. G. Llewhelin said the present coun- 11 1 1 cil was in advance ot the previous one, but during the latter's term, they must admit there were many vacant houses. Now, however, he must admit that things had changed and the need for compounding on the rates was not so necessary because there were not many vacant tenements. But there was the ques- tion of the shifting population, yet he would not favour adopting the Small Tenement Act on the same lines as they did years ago when they had to grant a certain amount to the landlord for paying the rates. In the present instance the Urban Council had the option of refusing any abatement but the 20 per cent I provided the tenements were occupied. The chief advantage was in view of the tenant clearing out just before paying the rates. Mr Howarth But the 20 per cent allowed to the landlords is paid by the whole of the ratepayers ? Mr l,ewis The rebate is made on prob- able losses. Continuing Mr Llewhelin said the rate- payers would have to pay the deficiency. With regard to the district rate and the further com- pounding to allow 50 per cent, whether occupied or not, the- District Council declined to adopt the system because they argued there were no vacancies. In this particular the landlord could not force the Council to adopt any such system. However, there were other principles involved. Personally, he was in favour of all public administration of the kind being in the hands of the people's repre- sentative body in spite of the criticisms levelled at that body at the present time and which he had heard. If the people were dis- satisfied with their representatives on the Urban Council, was it not a rellection upon the people's indifferent- choice of such (hear, hear). Respecting the power of the overseers in regard to the common land, he did not believe that the overseers had any power since the Urban Council came into force be- cause it gravitated to the Urban Council, The trusts included the Square and the town clock. Vicar The Square is a private trust. Mr Llewhelin That is so. Continuing lie thought the Urban Council might have erred in conceding 20 per cent, but they might have a future council who would with- draw that. Mr Cuthbert Thomas emphasised the neces- sity for vesting the powers in the Urban Coun- cil and calculated that if they lost £60 upon £ "400 collected before the Small Tenements Act was in operation then they would lose £180 on the amount collected at the present time, viz., £800. To withhold the powers held by the Parish Council from the Urban Council would be casting a grave reflection upon the latter body and he urged the meet- ing to support the amendment. Mr Howarth, as the mover of the resolution, said that what they had heard that evening was all very grateful and comforting, and if Jiis action had effected nothing else he had reason to feel satisfied. But there was much dissatisfaction in the town consequent upon the adoption by the Council of the com- pounding system, which as everyone present wellknew, was absolutely uncalled for and unnecessary. Houses were in demand and would continue to be during the next ten years at least, therefore, vacancies were quite unlikely and they might just as well receive the rates in full as allow the 20 per cent to the landlords, thus saddling the larger body of ratepayers with an additional burden. As to the rellection on the Urban Council's ad- ministrative capacity referred to, he failed to observe any great improvement in the Urban upon the old defunct Parish Council. But, be that as it may, there was no reason advanced, except that named, why the vestry should hand over at that juncture the powers vested in it. By postponing the matter for one year the ratepayers would be able to note whether the Council merited further public confidence —(applause)—therefore he would adhere to the resolution. The Vicar, amidst several interruptions, expressed the opinion that the matter had been thoroughly thrashed out and he admitted having heard much of which he was previous- ly unaware of. It was now time to take the expression of the vestry on the question. Re- plying to Mr D W Lewis' remarks that the Local Government Board did not require a vote 011 the subject, the letter read out re- quested the overseers to forward cbservations and any resolutions that might be passed thereon. Mr. W. C. Thomas urged upon the mover of the resolution to withdraw, because of 'the stigma it involved on the Urban District Council if carried. Mr. Howarth replied that in view of the adverse reflection the resolution would have he had no objection to withdrawing the re- solution provided the seconder, Mr. D, P. Lewis agreed, Perhaps they ought to do nothing that might cripple the young council in its troubled course. Mr. D. P. Lewis said lie would like to make his assent to the withdrawal conditional upon the Urban Council throwing open its commit- tee meetings to the public (laughter and ap- plause). It was only right that the public should be made acquainted with what was going on in committees, Mr. Hodges replied that the reports of the committees were always read out at the council meetings, which were open to the public, Mr. Lewis—Very well. The Yicar said lie was glad to see so many ratepayers present that evening to hear the discussion. Now that the question was pract- ically settled by the resolution being with-! drawn, he could express his own inclination that whenever possible, to give the whole of the iocal administration over to the council or corporation as the case might be (applause) as the elected representatives of the people. He was always in favour of placing upon that body as much responsibility as possible the more responsibility they had the better for the town. He would now put the amend- ment as a substantive resolution, 1 hat this vestry meeting urges the Local Government Board to grant the powers ot the vestry to the Fishguard Urban Council, as mentioned." He was sure they had had considerable ltght thrown on the several matters, and he thanked them for their expression of opinions. On being put to the meeting the amend- ment as a substantive resolution was carried unanimously. Mr. Llewhelin said he had great pleasure in proposing a vote of thanks to the Vicarfor the unbiassed and tactful manner he had pre- sided. He was sure they all appreciated the way the business had been conducted (ap- plause.) Mr. T. Lewis had much pleasure in second- ing the vote and endorsing the proposers' remarks. The Vicar cordially acknowledged the vote, and the meeting which, was lively and interesting, terminated.



Pembrokeshire Education Committee.



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