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THE COUNTY RATE BASIS. FAIR PLAY FOR THE TOWNS. To the Eidtor of the Montgomeryshire Express and Radnor Times. Sir,-The attitude of the rural representatives towards the urban districts is becoming more acute day by day, two striking instances having occurred on Tuesday last, the 14th inst., one at the County Council meeting and the other at a meeting of the Rating Committee of the Council. So important are the interests involved and far reaching the consequences that I think nothing will be lost and possibly something gained by ventilating, even outside the Council, the qnestions now at issue between the town and country districts, thereby giving the ratepayers and the reading public fuller information on these subjects. The possible results may be overlooked by many at the present time, but rest assured that if allowed to pass, and when perhaps it would be too late, the towns will find themselves heavily handicapped in their powers and probably burdened with increased rates. The space in your columns is too valuable for me to give instances where public bodies and towns are suffering permanent injury through their neglect in having allowed their powers to be taken from them. PARISH COUNCILS BILL. On the 15th of September certain resolutions deal- ing with this Bill were printed in full on the agenda of the Montgomeryshire County Council. These resolu- tions were sent from the County Councils' Associa- tion for the consideration of our County Council, and the latter appointed a committee to consider them and to report to a meeting of the Council to be held within a month from that date. The Council, how- ever, did not meet until last Tuesday, the 14th inst., to receive the report. This Committee did not confine themselves to these resolutions, but made recommendations outside them which in fact comprehended the entire details of the measure. One recommendation was as follows:— Power should be given to the County Council in these cases to transfer any part of a parish which is within an urban district to the rural parish in cases where they are satisfied that such part at the passing of the Act included in an urban district is of a purely rural character. By clause 1, sub-section 3, power is given to the County Council to make separate parishes of any parishes that may be partly within aud partly w.th. out the rur-ii sanitary district. The reasonableness of the clause as it stands is clear, but to propose to make such an addition as the Council wouid wish would be to add something to the olause that has nothing whatever to do with urban districts. Tne effect of the addition, if the Bill be altered to meet the wishes of tue Moutgomeryehire County Council, will be that a portion of the rural part of tho Newtown and LlanLwchaiarn uiatrict may be di- vorced from the u. ban, at tho pleasure of the County Council, without auy appeal to tue Local Govcrment board by those who may feel themselves aggrieved. The power to make such a transfer is already given to the County Council by tltction 57 of the L. G. Acv 1888, but is wisely made subjecc to a provision giving the Local Government Board authority to interfeie if the alterations failed to meet with the approval of any of those who may be affected by it. in my humoie opinion tin Council failed to act with its accustomed discretion when it entertained any ot the recommendations which aie foreign to the resolu- Lions transmitted by the County Councils' Associa- tion, and my reasons are these :— 1. That, in the minute which appointed them the Committee were not instructed to report generally upon the merits of the Bill. 2. Because the members of the Council had not received copies of the Bill, and therefore c )al(t hardly be expected to folio w amendments whichareatti-a oirts to a Bill which covers 42 foolscap pages. It is to be regretted, I think, that representatives of constituen- cies which are distinctly urban did not take a greater amount of interest in tnis question. Possibly it jaay be attributed to the belief on their part that the Bill would not be affected by any suggested improve. ment of the Council, but may be salely left in the hands of Parliament. COUNTY RATE COMMITTBB. The County Council and its Committees having had this matter in hand for a considerable time, 1 will now ask how does it stand at present as regards the Newtown and Llanidloes Uniou ? This Union is rated to the poor at X112,953, but its ratepayers are paying ou X124,014, wnich is the same amount as that on which they were paying in the year 1883. That is to say, they now pay to the extent of £ 11,061 over and above the present rateable value of the Uuicn. The country mansions, railway, canal, water, gas and other companies are still paying on old valua- tions, whilst the Liverpool waterworks, which have now been constructed for a considerable tim*, and are valued at R8,000 per annum, contribute nothing towards our county rate. Under the Local Government Act of 1888, section 3, sub-section 1, power is given to the County Couucil for the preparation and revision of the bads or standard of the county rate," but the Council has not yet availed themselves of this power, preferring for the present to accept the different Union assess- ments, and to make recommendations to the c.aS:5 of property to which reference has just been made. Proceeding, I may say that the Rating Committee are serionsly considering the propriety of increasing by 5 per cent. the deductions allowed off the gross esti- mated rentals of farm houses and land. I shall endea- vour to prove by figures that the result of this will be that it will relieve one class of the community at the expense of the whole, and particularly affect ad- versely the householders and working ciasses of the towns and villages. I will take as an example a fairly large area of farms and land, and that chosen is the only one in which, so far as I am aware, houses are rated separately from land. I have the figures before me of that district of Newtown and Llanllwch- aiarn, which it was proposed should be taken out of the Newtown district. The rateable value is £ 7,481. It is divided as follows:— £ Representing houses and buildings. 898 Do. land 6,583 J67,481 To make the case clear, I give the deductions as worked out on the proposed new basis :— x 15 per [cent. off t7,481 land and buildings 1,122 7i.. J36,583 land separately 493 .£629 a i neretore tne difference of X629 remains for repairs on the houses, which is 70 per cent.; or, if 2i per cent. be considered sufficient off the land, 107 per cent., whereas the allowance to householders in the towns and villages is only 15 per cent. if the rent is over £ 6, and if below 20 per cent. Why our agricultural friends should be dissatisfied with their present liberal deductions is a point into which I will not enter. In these figures I have taken the net rateable value for the sake of convenience, and, whilst touching on this portion of the Newtown district, I may point out that although the part referred to is rated at > £ < ,481, for Local Board pur- poses it is only assessed at about £ 2,550. I am fully aware that the rural portion of the Newtown distriot is scarcely a fair comparison for the whole county, but even by assuming that the rent of houses as compared with land to be as one in four instead of nearly one in eight, as in the case given, the allowance for repairs of buildings is alto- gether out of proportion to the actual cost. Let me, however, take the county as a whole. Upon a eareful estimate I reckon in round figures that the portion of the county, which would be re- lieved to the extent of 5 per cent, is rated at J6300,000, i.e. the county will be minus X15,000 upon which to levy rates, consequently the rates must be increased to meet this deficiency, and the house- holders of towns and villages, while reaping them- selves no advantage, will have an extra burden placed upon them. Further than this, all the local rates will be levied upon this now basis, i.e., the rural part will be relieved and the towns and villages must submit to a further burden. I suggested to the Rating Committee that farm houses should be rated separately from the land with which they are occupied, but this was deemed im- practicable, although it is done for the purposes of Local Boards, and why it should be inapplicable in other cases, I am at a loss to conoeive. I hope the Rating Committee will recommend the Council to postpone, until after the Parish Councils Bill shall have become law, the consideration of the question of the deductions to be made from the gross rateable) value, except only in those cases in which there may be entire unanimity amongst the members of the committee. This would mean nothing more than the delay of a few months, with the compen- sating gain that thereby more information may be obtained and opportunity afforded for the further discussion of this important matter, and perhaps in the meantime those descriptions of property which are now assessed on too low a basis will have been re-valued. With respect to repairs, is not the question mis- understood ? If the deduction made 10 years ago to cover landlords' repairs were considered reasonable, what has happened in the meantime to justify an in- creased allowance ? The depression under which the agricultural interest is labouring, and which we all greatly deplore, furnishes no reason for interference. If it did, our manufacturing concerns would have a claim to be dealt with in a similar fashion. Finally, I may express the hope that County Conn- cils will carry out their powers and obligations in a just and broad-minded spirit, not overlooking the in- terests of less important bodies, otherwise I fear the effect will be that Parliament will be reluctant to en- trust the Councils with extended powers, which would be a subject of universal regret.—I am, your obedient servant, EDWARD PBYCE JONES. Ktwfcown Hall, ftmafav lmliam