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Aberystwyth Ratepayers' Association.


Aberystwyth Ratepayers' Association. A FARCICAL MEETING. BEATING THE WIND. Strenuous efforts are being made by that effete body, the Aberystwyth Ratepayers' Association, to escape an ignominious death. It is reluctant to give up the spirit, and in its attempts to avoid the inevitable provides some ludicrous exhibitions. It would re- quire perceptive powers of an exceptionally penetrating nature) to discover one single beneficial reform initiated and carried out by this body, and its latest exploit will as- suredly not help it to win the commendation of the public. Handbills had been distributed in the town during the past few days announcing a pub- lic meeting for Tuesday evening at the Town Hall, under the auspices of the Ratepayers' Association, and charging the Mayor with having declined to call such public meeting, although a requisition to do so had been sent to him signed by a number of ratepayers. The idea, no doubt, was a good one, as far as the question of getting the meeting talked about was concerned, and something similar had worked well on a former occasion. This time, however, the promoters had been too precipitate, for they had announced the meeting to be held at the Town Hall, with- out first of all having secured the consent of the Mayor to the use of that building. The result was that the meeting had to be trans- ferred at the last moment to the Pavilion. The curiosity of the ratepayers had been whetted, and they turned up in good num- bers at the Pavilion, and the Association should have no cause to complain of the attendance. There werd two ladies in the audience, one of whom was Mrs. Elizabeth James, North-parade. Despite the gallant attempts of one or two of the speakers to arouse a little en- thusiasm, the meeting was a complete fiasco. Perhaps this indifference may be accounted for by the uncongenial atmosphere or the Pavilion on a cold night, and added to this there was no doubt as to the unimportance of the question at issue. Mr. J. C. Rea, the president of the Asso- ciation, occupied the chair, and he was sup- ported on the platform by Messrs. Edward Evans, J.P., Rufus Williams. W. Richards, J. O. Jones, J. Gibson, and Fred Morgan. The Chairman explained the object of the meeting, which was to consider the action of the Town Council in not carrying out their resolution of November last to appoint a chartered accountant to examine the ac- counts of the Corporation from 1892 to 1902. what the Council had done instead, said Mr. Rea, was to alter the character of the en- quiry which the ratepayers insisted upon at the public meeting held in November, and had decided that the accounts should be en- quired into for the year 1903 only, the ab- stract of which had not appeared at the time the Town Council appointed their com- mittee of enquiry. A requisition, signed by 13 0" 14 large ratepayers was then sent to the Mayor, asking him to convene a public meeting, and the following was the reply received: Rheidol View, March 24th, 1904. Dear Sir,—I yesterday received a requisi- tion signed by you and 13 other ratepayers to convene a public meeting of the ratepayers for the purpose of taking into consideration the matter in the requisition referred to, and if necessary to pass a resolution on re- solutions thereim, as I am of opinion that no useful purpose would be served by holding such a meeting ,at all events pending the receipt of the reply to the report of the Ratepayers' Association dated 12th May. 1903, upon which the Finance Committee are at present engaged. I regret to be obliged to decline to convene it for the present. At the same time, if you insist upon calling a meeting. I shall certainly do so. I enclo-e for your information a copy of the minutes of the meeting of the Town Council held on the 2nd February last, and on page 3 you will find a copy of the resolution passed with re- ference to the rescinding of the resolution of the 17th November last. I may say that I have every reason to believe that the re- ply referred to will be submitted to the Council at an early date.—I am, dear sir, yours faithfully, THAAfl TTOPKTNS. J. C. Rea. Esa. The Chairman said he did not know whether the Mayor was responsible for that letter or not. but he must say it was a most extra- ordinary communication to send in reply to a requisition, thoroughly in order, signed by 13 or 14 ratepayers. He distinctly declined to call the meeting, but said that if they in- sisted he would do so. Would it not be invidious, he asked, to insist or coerce the Mayor into doing a thing he had declined to do. The Chairman then said the Associa- tion itself decided to convene a meeting, and arranged with the caretaker to engage the Town Hall. They then distributed hand- bills convening the meeting, with the result that the following letter was received from the Town Clerk:— Town Clerk's Office, Aberystwyth. 28th March. 1904. Dear Sir, The Mayor's attention has been called to a notice convening a public meeting at the Town Hall at 8 p.m. on Tuesday even- ing, the 29th inst. As the meeting is con- vened by the Ratepayers' Association I am instructed to remind you that no application has yet been made to the Mayor for the use of the Town Hall, and that without his per- mission the meeting cannot be held there. The Mayor is of course prepared to consider any application the Association may make in the matter.—Yours faithfully, A. J. HUGHES. Town Clerk. Mr. Thomas G. Thomas, Secretary Ratepayers' Association, He had, himself, said the Chairman, engag- ed that hall, on several occasions, and nad nothing to do but arrange with the care- taker, and what he wanted to know was why should the Ratepayers' Association be treat- ed differently to anybody else? There was a fixed scale of charges for the use of that hall exhibited in a public place, and that implied that it was open to the public. That was the reason why the meeting was held in the Pavilion and not at the Town Hall. The Chairman appealed to those in the body of the hall to express themeslves freely on the matter. Mr. Rufus Williams then proposed the following resolution:- That this meeting of ratepayers insists upon the Town Council carrying out the resolutioin passed on the 17th November last granting the enquiry asked for into the Corporation finances. Mr. Williams said when the deputation waited on the Town Council they were led to believe that their request was a most reasonable one, and one of the councillors even spoke in the following terms about the Corporation finances :—" There is a rumour about that there is something amiss, and I think that the thing should be threshed out, and the ratepayers made satisfied." If that gentleman expressed his sincere convictions what was very peculiar to him (the speaker) was that something had not been done. Re- ferring to the refusal of the Mayor to grant the use of the Town Hall, Mr. Williams said the management of the Corporation estate in that particular instance was only an indi- cation of how things were done in other and wider directions. The resolution was briefly seconded by Mr. Edward Evans, who said that if they were not satisfied with the Corporation accounts, ha thought it was only right that they should have a full enquiry into the whole matter. The Chairman then invited further dis- cussion from the body of the hall, but there was silence for some, time. llhe previous speakers had been listened to with cold in- difference, and they had failed to ignite a spark of enthusiasm in support of their cause, It seemed as if the whole thing would fizzle out miserably, when Mr. Fred Morgan stepped into the breach. The audience pull- ed themselve together in the Expectation of hearing something good from this speaker. Mr. Fred Morgan need have no mis-giving as to every syllable uttered by him having been heard in the furthest recesses of the Pavilion. He bellowed to such an extent that he drew a remonstrance from Mr. Gib- son, who entreated him to take it a little more gently. The burden of Mr. Morgan's remarks was that the ratepayers had been treated with contempt by the Town Council, but although he laboured this point, the audience would have none of it, and he was listened to in chilling silence. There was a further appeal tor speakers from the body of the hall, but without re- sponse. The Chairman remarked that the resolution must be so acceptable to them that they had nothing to say. But the audience was waiting for one other speaker, who seldom fails on occasions of this kind to instil a little life into the dry bones of prosaic debate. Mr. Gibson has earned the reputation of being a humourist, and however sincere his advocacy of any cause may be. his auditors cannot take him seriously. For this reason, he was welcomed on rising to address the meeting. He began by saying that the Mayor had acted unwise- ly under advice he thought they need not further discuss. (A Voice: The old gang have converted him.) That the Town Coun- cil itself in rescinding the resolution which it passed was unwise, he thought they need not further discuss. That the Ratepayers' Association meant business (with an em- phasis on the "business ), he thought they need not furtherd iscuss. (Hear. hear, and laughter). All that they need discuss was how they who had not taken any deep and personal interest in this matter felt towards those who had. Mr. Gibson got on to a favourite theme when he said that the re- cent annual report of the Medical Officer made it clear that in this town some sixteen persons died every year who would not die if they lived in one of the 75 large towns of the United Kingdom. That was a terrible thing to say when they knew that this town had an estate which brought in 23,000 a year, almost the whole of which was squand- I ered in hiding the ineptitude of the members of the Town Council- He asked them as ratepayers whether they did not feel that it was high time for something to be done to bring into the Town Council chamber something like ordinary businessl efficiency. He asked them whether they did not think it was time to get rid of those people who told them that they had nothing to hide and spent their whole time in trying to hide it. In his best tragic air, Mr. Gibson went on to say that he had no hesitation in saying with all the deliberation he could command that there was something to hide, and that the proceedings in reference to that meet- ing proved there was something to hide, and that they were afraid of its being revealed. Nothing could equal the balderdash with which the speaker continued to make an ineffectual appeal to the gallery. Wha became, he asked. of the ZCGO a week which the town received from its estate. They would get to know whatever it cost and how- ever long a time it took. It was not the first time he had stood before a meeting of that. kind, and it might not be the last. They would go to the Local Government Board as sure as they were on that platform, and they would bring the most influential men in the country to bear upon this question, but they would have what they asked for from the Town Council, or they would shift everyone of them out of it. (Laughter). They did not spend twelve months almost in investigating the financial affairs of this town, as well as they could be investigated against the obstinacyand reluctance of the Town Council and the ineptitude of the Local Government Board. They had not c;iii«>d that meeting in order that they might back out of this thing, and pretend that they did not mean anything. The(y didi Tnjfean something. T%ey could wait a yea*, or two. or three, or more, but as sure as there was a God in heaven they would have that report out of the Town Council. (Loud Laughter). They asked those present to say that they insisted on having a full ex- position of the financial condition of this town, no matter what it cost. If the Town Council," continued Mr Gibson, "raise the bogey that the appointment of an auditor I will cost the ratepayers some money, then, I think, we will raise the money ourselves, and pay the auditor" (Hear, hear) But," he added, if we pay the auditor somebody else will have to pay somebody else." (More laughter). The speaker went on to say that they had an absolute right as ratepayers to be thoroughly well-acquainted with the affiairs of the town, and if anybody said they were not entitled to that information they asked those people to come before the rate- payers and ask for their votes. If the rate- peyers elected those people then the Aber- ystwyth Ratepayers' Association would re- tire. (Laughter). Who were those people? They were the old gang. (Hear, hear, and renewed laughter). Who were the old gang? Why, the aldermen. There were men in the Aberystwyth Town Council who had never stood before a meeting of ratepayers to ask for their confidence for many years. It was time they did ask for it. and when they asked for it he thought they would not get it. (A Voice: He stood it at Trefeirig.) They would have to go to the Local Govern- ment Board to ask that body to help them to seo that money which was borrowed for one purpose was not used for another. In conclusion, the speaker said he asked them seriously to give them their help, or co- operation. or sanction to take whatever action they felt necessary in order to take this power out of the hands of the old gang, and place the town in such a position that it would be worthy of the reputation it ought to enjoy. The resolution was then put to the meet- ing, and the Chairman declared it unani- mously carried. A proposition was then made by Mr. J. O. Jones, seconded by Mr. Fred Morgan, and carried, that the resolution be conveyed to the Town Council by the Chairman. A vote of thanks to the Chairman, ended the meeting. ■"

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