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POOR RATES IN THE PARISH OF TOWYN. STRONG COMMENTS BY A DISTRICT COUNCILLOR. The following paper was read by Mr R Price Morgan before a meeting of the Towyn Debating and Literary Society. It deals with a question which is now engaging the earnest attention of the public in the parish, viz, the rating by the Machyn- lleth Board of Guardians. He said It may be asked what has the Machynlleth Board of Guardians to do with Towyn ? In reply I beg to say it has nearly everything, as the whole of our rates or very nearly the whole have to be paid over to the Board, and they have the distributing power, and if there is anything that will tickle a human frame, I think I am safe in saying that the distributing of money is the thing that will do it. The Machynlleth Union is made up of 12 parishes, the majority of which are in Montgomeryshire, but Towyn parish is by far the largest in the Union, and before pro- ceeding further I will read out a few figures, and in comparing Towyn with another town in the Union, that is Machynlleth, you will understand that I have no grudge against that town, but it is the only urban portion that I can fairly compare with Towyn, as all the other parishes are rural districts, and as such it would be unfair to compare one with another. Rateable Cost per Head Paupers. Percentage. Value. of Population. Received in Excess. Paid in Contribution. Excess. Towyn Mach. Towyn Mach. Towyn Mach. Towyn Mach. Penegoes. Mach. Towyn. Mach. I £ £ s. d. s. d. £ s. d. £ s. dJ £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. 1889 166 I 110 4 88 4 97 16,113 6,189 | 1586 9 7 769 1 8 1896 115 102 3-18 4'53 16,582 6,418 3 7 4 1|107 8 0 91 16 11173 18 111717 13 5 668 3 llf 2 4 1897 I 58 0 0103 6 8 I I 1898 108 97 2-88 5-31 18,200 7,103 3 2 4 3 79 8 0 59 1 2244 6 21385 1 9 645 16 10! i 4 i 2L 1899 113 104 2-91 j 4'48 19,144 7,096 3 O 3 11. 78 12 6 31 19 5 291 16 01676 18 6665 13 5. 323 8 6286 4 2 You will note that the percentage in paupers and the cost per head of maintaining, is based on the population as it stood in 1891 which if it was taken as the population stands now at Towyn and Aber- dovey, would bring it down to two per cent against 2 91 in the abstract of accounts of the Guardians, whereas owing to the rateable value and the popu- lation at Machynlleth being almost stagnant; or indeed is less in 1891 than it was in 1881, the per- centage in the case of Machynlleth parish would be more than shown in the abstract of accounts. My contention is, that owing to the great addition to the rateable value cf Towyn and the increase in population, it is inaccurate to base the cost of the Towyn paupers at so much per head of the popula- tion (as it stood in 1891) nor the percentage in the number of paupers, while it does not make so much difference in Machynlleth as the rateable value of the parish has not materially changed, and the population has not increased. I find that by com- puting the present population of Towyn that the cost per head of population as it now stands does not exceed 2s 9d against 38 043d as shown in the abstract for 1899, and as against 3s Ilid the cost per head for Machynlleth, or in the case of Llan. brynmair and Isygarreg 5s 10id and 5s 10id respectively. You will note from the figures I have quoted, that while the cost of maintaining our paupers is diminishing, the cost of maintaining paupers in other districts is increasing. Take for instance Llanbrynmair, in 1896 the cost per head of population amounted to 48 l1d; in 1899 they 2 1 are put down at 5s 10d, Isygarreg in 1896 was 4a 2jd, in 1899 it was 5s 10d. Again I will call 4 1 your attention to the poor rate return Lady Day, 1899. The amount of poor rate raised in Machyn- lleth was 1928 with 104 paupers, and the amount raised in Towyn 12)207 with 113 paupers. Mach- ynlleth contributes out of the sum raised C665 13s 5Jd, to 104 paupers in that parish in 1899. Towyu contributes Y,1,676 18s 6d to 113 paupers in this district. You will notice that Towyn has only nine paupers more than Machynlleth, yet it pays a lump sum nearly three times as much as Machynlleth, and this sum goes towards maintaining the paupers of other parishes. The following figures will go a long way to prove what I have just said. Llanbrynmair received in excess of what it con- tributed the sum of £ 31 lis Id in 1896, while in 1899 the sum it has received in excess of its contri- bution has increased to £ 158 13s 9d. Jowyn, on the othef hand, in 1896 paid £ 173 18s lid in excess of what it received, and in 1899 this has increased annually to the large sum of 4291 16s. Further, Llanbrynmair and Machynlleth are not exceptions, I will call your attention to another parish which is benefiting from Towyn, and that is Penegoes (a rural part which contains a large number of very well-to-do farmers). Penegoes received in excess of its con- tribution in 1895 the sum of X107 8s, in 1898 X79 8s, and in 1899 978 12s 6d. I will not say that Towyn is the only parish that pays more than it receives. There are others but nothing to compare with the Towyn parish. The injustice comes in that three comparatively rich parishes like Llan- brynmair, Machynlleth, and Penegoes, which to- gether during the last four years have received the large sum of £ 926 5s lid more than they contri- buted, while Towyn parish has paid during the same time X90,0 Is 5d more than it received. It may be argued that it is only right that the weak parishes should benefit from the stronger parishes, and that it would be unjust to deprive them of the benefit that this parish bestowes on them. I don't think it would be an injustice in this case, as the Union is quite large enough to be divided into two separate Unions, and we in this portion of the parish would be doing the part of the good Samaritan with another portion. I allude to Pennal, which has during the last four years received the sum of X126 19s lOd more than it has contributed, and as Pennal is adjoining the Towyn Parish I would suggest that with Towyn it should form a contributory Union. I admit that the question of forming this parish into a contributory Union presents some difficulties, and which were, at the time that this question was under considera- tion before, some years ago, rather formidable, but since then the rateable value of the Towyn and Aberdovey sub-districts have increased be- tween £2,000 and X3,000, if not more, and what seemed then unpracticable has now become prac- ticable. The matter now forms itself into a question- In what way can Towyn be better represented and have the full benefit of the rates paid by the Towyn parish ? Without being too selfish I would suggest that we should not take any of the parishes which like Towyn pay more than they receive from the Union, but we would take Pennal, which is one of the parishes of the Union, and which to a great extent is included in the circuit of the officers of the Union, and which officers would still be retained by the proposed new Union. If this were done then the question of the accommodation of indoor paupers would present some difficulty, and it may be asked with some justification, what are we going to do with them if we are separated from Machynlleth ? This may be overcome by the Towyn parish paying for their maintenance at the Machynlleth Workhouse. It is well known that this parish has a very large interest and claim in the Mach) nlleth Workhouse, as it has contributed more towards it than any other parish in the Union. To give an instance of this. The rateable value of this parish is not much less than four of the largest parishes put together, which will include Machyn- lleth, Llanbrynmair, Penegoes, and Cemmes. There- fore our interest and claim to the Machynlleth Workhouse amounts to about a third of its value, that is, when Pennal is added to Towyn as our rateable value with Pennal would amount to X22,343 whereas the rateable value of the remaining parishes put together only amounts to £ 36,152. Again it may be put forward that to form two different bodies would entail unnecessary expense, as it would require two staffs of officers. I maintain that this is entirely a different case to that of separating the sub-districts of the Urban Council. With the Towyn and Aber- dovey case two clerks, two surveyors, two sanitary inspectors, two rate collectors, and two sets of books would be necessary, and a great many other matters which would make it very undesirable. But with the question under consideration there is only one officer required which we do not already possess and whose sphere of work is entirely in our district or parish. The only extra officer which we would require would be the clerk. The present Clerk to the Guardians receives a salary of X72 per annum. This parish and Pennal contributes cl"se on X30 towards tliisE72, and I believe that if this change was brought about, that we would not be called upon to pay much more than the zC30 which we already do pay, when we take into consideration that the work would be reduced to more than half what it is at present, and much less complicated. We have our own relieving officer and medical officer, whose duties would not be altered to a great extent. If anything the former would be reduced, and it, may be that the latter would be increased, so that it, could not make any material increase or decrease in their salaries. The four parishes I have already quoted, viz., Llanbrynmair, Machynlleth, Penegoes, and Cemrnes have each a medical officer, who are paid as follows .-Machyiilleth district C30, Mach. ynlleth outlying districts X20, Penegoes £ 21, Llan- brvnmair X31, Cemmes C43, a total of £ 145. These five districts have a rateable value of only £ 20,798, against Towyn parish with a rateable value of 119,144. Towyn is therefore only £1,654 short of being equal in rateable value to five dis- tricts in which their medical officers' salaries amount to 1145, against X36 which is paid to our medical officer. By the way, it sounds rather un- fair that our medical officer, although he practises in the most lucrative parish in the Union, should be paid at a much lower rate than other medical officers. But it is not with that question that 1 am dealing to-night, but rather with the glaring inconsistency of the various departments of the Machynlleth Board of Guardians. To return to the question of the relieving officer he would still receive a similar amount of salary as he now rece'ves, and his work would be practically the same, but with this improvement that we should be able to deal with our own poor fairer than they are at present dealt with. The figures I have quoted prove that the poor of other parishes benefit more from our parish than our own poor do, or the paupers of our parish are not so ready to run after relief as the others are. And if this is the case who but this parish should reap the benefit of this. The more deserving cases would be better known to each member of the new Union and they would take more interest in them. There is no denying the fact that the Guardians at present are mostly farmers, and as such have more sympathy with the rural districts; no better proof of this need be put, forth than their own report (or perhaps to be more correct the Assessment Committee) have during recent years added enormously to the rateable value of a large number cf houses in the two places. It would be wrong to say that they were not justified 1 in doing this in some cases, but I think I can safely say that there was no system adopted except that of trying to spy out what were the rents, and the poor householder who was already paying an un- reasonable high rent, had to pay an unreasonable amount of rates, and vice-versa if it was a low rent. While this increase has been going on in the urban districts, I find that if anything the assess- ment of the rural districts is decreasing. This is one of the natural results of rural districts being represented by gentlemen who cannot be expected to have the same sympathy for towns as they would have for the country. I am not against a fair valuation, but can we reasonably expect a body of farmers living chiefly in the remote parts of Mont- gomeryshire, and some of them it is but fair to surmise have not visited Towyn many times in their life-time, much less making an inspection, which would justify them in arriving at a fair valuation of a certain house or houses. Can we, I ask, fairly blame them if they have by instinct adopted the idea that their best policy is to cut down the rates in their own country districts and put them on small struggling towns, which in their opinion have no difficulty in meeting any financial emergency, but rather let us blame ourselves for being parties to the existence of such a state of affairs. There is another view of the question which makes it still more unresonable. The overseers are supposed to supply the Assessment Committee with a list of all new property put up in their district, and this they do, and, in passing I may say that our overseers at Towyn are all practical men, and they, it is my belief, study the welfare of the town. These gentlemen have every facility for getting at the true value of the property put up in the town, as they live close by, and apart from the structural value of any new property they have a very good idea of the value of the positions these properties occupy, and therefore I maintain that the valua- tions arrived at by the overseers should be some- where very near the mark. To give an instance of how the Towyn overseers are treated by the Assess- ment Committee of the Machynlleth Board of Guardians, I may say that their work is deemed useless by people the bulk of whom know practically nothing about the properties they have to deal with and who by all appearance have no method at all except that of piling enormously and unreason- ably on to what the overseers have submitted to them. To support my statement I will quote you a few cases submitted to one of the last meetings of the Assessment Committee, and also the increase made in those cases by the Assessment Committee No 1 house assessed by overseers at X25, raised by Assessment Commitee to X32; No 2 assessed at zCI8 raised to £ 25; No 3 assessed at.627, raised to e35. Some residential houses with fine grounds and in good positions will perhaps be assessed very moderately other houses half their value will be assessed unreasonably. I am told that property in Towyn and Aberdovey is assessed on a scale much higher than at Machynlleth. This I cannot say without having access to the valuations of proper- ties at Machynlleth. I have done all I could to get a few examples of how houses are assessed at Machynlleth and other parishes, but for obvious reasons this has not been my luck. I will ask you, is it fair that valuations arrived at after a long and careful calculation by our over- seers should be ignored by the Assessment Com- mittee ? The overseers do everything they can for the welfare of the town, and they would be quite as careful not to under-estimate, as that would be against the benefit of the town as they would be in over-estimating, as this would tend to dishearten any person to improve the town. It is no wonder that Towyn parish figures so conspicuously in the column where parishes are shewn to be paying more than they receive when this sort of thing has been going on for years. It is only fair that I should point out that the Assessment Committee was made up of twelve gentlemen. We have only four out of these twelve gentlemen that we can fairly expect to be repre- sented by, and three out of these four are farmers, and without casting the least reflection on these gentlemen, for there is nothing further from my mind, can we reasonably expect that they are the proper persons to sit on a committee to assess pro- perty situated chiefly in an urban district, and are we as Urban ratepayers who are in the large majority doing our duty in returning these gentlemen from the rural district ? I think not. My contention is that the first and most important step to be taken for the improvement of Towyn is to re-organise that department which has the control of the finances of the parish, and by doing this I think I have made it sufficiently clear that such large sums as Y,291 16s Od in 1899, C244 6s 2d in 1898, £ 190 in 1897, &c, as representing what we have paid over to other uarishes outside our own county and for which we have had no return, would very soon if they were applied to the improvement of the town, bring Towyn and Aberdovey to the front rank of the North Wales seaside towns. Other towns are taxed considerably more tnan we are, and even then they have to go in for enormous loans to enable them to carry out improvements which are essential for health resorts. There would be no question as to the future of Towyn, if with a total rate of less than 7s in the £ as we now stand we could with the re-organisation of our finances go on im- proving the town to the extent of our share of the X300 paid over to other parishes, and with what is already done every year from the general dis- trict rate, so that if we had the full benefit of the rates we pay, we could have the whole of. the town provided with new footpaths in a very short time equal to those found in the most fashionable health resorts, and with what we would also receive from the County Council, and this all bear in mind with- out contracting any responsibilities in the way of loans which would always be drawing annual pay. ments from us in interest and repayment. I am certain that those persons who are always asking what is being done with the large sums raised annually in our district, and they have every right to inquire, should turn attention to this direction and join hands in making one great effort to put ourselves in a working order to utilise every farthing of the rates to a purpose which we can account for as being benefiting and comforting the poor and also improving and raising the value of our town. Guardians used to be elected by rate- payers and owners of property only, but under the Parish Council Act, 1894, they are to be elected by parochial electors, therefore if the suggestion of forming this parish into a contributory Union finds no support, I would point out that the next oppor- tunity of electing guardians for this parish should not be neglected and that this parish should make its utmost by electing urban members who are capable of defending our rights, and will not be afraid to make themselves heard. Therefore the privilege of improving matters belongs to every elector and we can hardly expect the Local Government Board or the County Coun- cil to bring about this radical change unless they see that there is a, disposition and a strong disposi- tion in the district for a change. If I should be allowed to make a suggestion that would set matters moving, I would suggest that if the members of our society who have taken any interest in the figures I have quoted to-night think that such movement should be made, it would perhaps be advisable to form a committee of some of our leading townsmen to go into this matter thoroughly and bring it before the annual vestry in March, or if deemed sufficiently interesting to call a public meeting to discuss the question.— In conclusion Mr Morgan referred to the progress of Towyn and said that it was the person who speculated here that did the town good. We have some gentlemen, and one in particular, I allude toour great and much respected benefactor, Mr John Corbett, who has not left a stone unturned to bring Towyn to the front, but have we as ratepayers and electors appreciated his great efforts as we should have done ? It is true we cannot all present the town with a promen- ade, or be the chief means of bringing the Towyn County School to the front rank of County Schools in Wales, but were we inspired with the same con- fidence in the future of Towyn and with such admiration of its natural and unequalled beauties we would do what we could, but we don't and con- sequently we are not doing our duty in supporting those that have risked both time, money, and thoughts on the development of Towyn.