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which are usually called "new parishes," are of but little importance for civil purposes.
Such local matters as are under the control of the parish Vestry. are determined, except where the parish is governed by a "select vestry," by the ratepayers of the parish in vestry assembled. A vestry meeting may be called by a notice signed by a Churchwarden, Rector, Vicar, Curate, or Overseer of the parish. At vestry meetings every ratepayer, broadly speaking, is entitled to attend and vote, and the voting, if a poll is demanded, is conducted on the following system. Every ratepayer assessed to the poor rate of the parish in respect of a rateable value of
less than £50 has one vote
of £50 but less than £75 two votes
£150 and over
Some parishes are, however, by custom or statute, governed by a "select vestry," which is a body of limited number elected in accordance with the custom or statute, and transacting all business that in ordinary cases is transacted by the ratepayers in vestry assembled. The powers of a "select vestry" are however in some cases, particularly in the Metropolis, where many parishes are governed in this way, more extensive than the powers of an ordinary vestry. The most important matters with regard to which the parish has any direct power, besides the appointment of certain officers, are:
Ist. The adoption, in certain cases, of Acts of Parliament enabling the parish to undertake works of a public nature, namely:
The Baths and Wash-houses Acts.
The Burial Acts.
The Lighting and Watching Act.
The Public Libraries Acts.
The Public Improvement Act.
These Acts, when adopted by a parish, are carried out by Inspectors, Boards, or Commissioners, appointed by the parish, or, in certain cases, by the Sanitary Authority.
2nd. Control to a certain extent, in certain cases, of persons and companies proposing to undertake works of a public nature in the parish; for example, gas and water-works, and tramways.1 1 See the Gas and Waterworks Facilities Act, 1870 (33 & 34 Vict. c. 70); the Tramways Act, 1870 (33 & 34 Vict. c. 78).
For every parish Overseers of the poor are appointed by the Justices of the Peace; where the parish is an ecclesiastical parish, the Churchwardens are ex-officio Overseers in addition to those appointed by the Justices. The Overseers are not in any material matter under the control of the parish, and are unpaid. In certain cases other parish officers are appointed and parish buildings are provided, namely:
Paid Assistant Overseers.
Paid Collectors of
In parishes whose population exceeded 2,000 according to the last census, an Order may be issued by the Local Government Board enabling a paid Vestry Clerk to be appointed, and a vestry room to be provided; and in parishes the population of which, according to the last census, exceeded 4,000, a parish office may be provided.
Formerly each parish provided for its own poor, the Overseers raising the necessary funds by means of the poor rate, and out of these funds maintaining and providing work for the poor. Now, however, with the exception of certain important parishes, under local Acts, and certain parishes which have been organised like unions, the poor relief is managed by Boards of Guardians within "unions," which are groups of parishes. The Overseers, however, continue to raise money in each parish by means of the poor rate. Out of the sum thus raised they pay the establishment charges of the parish, and may distribute poor relief in cases of urgent necessity; but the bulk of the money coming to their hands they hand over to the Guardians of the union and to the various other bodies who are entitled to obtain contributions from the parish out of the poor rate. Besides the poor rate, the Overseers in certain cases raise money by other distinct rates for particular purposes. On the whole the parish is at present important rather as a sub-division of other areas for the purposes of local taxation and other matters, than as an area with any large powers of self-government of its own.
The Local Government Act, 1888, makes no important or extensive change in parishes or parish government.
As we have mentioned, parishes have, for poor law purposes, been in most cases either grouped into unions or made unions of themselves. We proceed accordingly to give an account of the constitution and government of "Unions."
The system under which each parish maintained its own poor gave rise to great abuses, and in 1832 a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the operation of the poor law. The Commissioners, whose report was issued in 1834, recommended a radical change in the principle upon which relief should be granted, and as a means to that end, the establishment of a central authority and the grouping of parishes into larger districts for the administration of the law under a better system of government. The Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834 (4 & 5 Will. IV. c. 76), was shortly afterwards passed, carrying out many of their proposals.
Under that Act the Poor Law Commissioners were established as a central authority, and given power to group parishes into unions governed by Boards of Guardians, in whose hands the whole management of the poor relief was placed. Each parish continued, however, to bear almost the whole expense of its paupers. That Act is still in force, but has been much amended.
In the year 1847 the Poor Law Commissioners ceased to exist, and were replaced by the Poor Law Board, who in their turn were succeeded by the Local Government Board, in whose hands the superintendence of poor-law administration now is. Again it was found that great hardships arose owing to the burden of supporting its own poor being cast on so small an area as the parish, and accordingly the Union Chargeability Act, 1865 (28 & 29 Vict. c. 79), was passed, rendering the burden of poor relief a charge on the whole union.
At the present time, with the exception of a few unions Board of called when necessary, for distinction, "incorporations," which are under Local Acts, all unions are constituted and governed in the following way-The union is constituted under an Order made by the Local Government Board, or their predecessors, the Poor Law Commissioners, or the Poor Law Board, and is governed by a Board of Guardians. The ratepayers and owners of every parish in the union elect the number of Guardians allotted to their parish by the Order constituting the union or by a subsequent Order (if any) altering that number. Every occupier of property who is rated to the poor-rate of the parish, and every owner of property rated to the poor-rate in the parish, is entitled to vote in the election of Guardians, and has a number of votes according to the following scale :-1
1 Poor Law Amendment Act, 1844 (7 & 8 Vict. c. 101), sec. 14.
If the property was assessed to the last poor rate at a rate able value of—
Income of Board of Guardians.
Changes under the Local Government
£250 or over, he has six votes.
A person may vote both as owner and occupier, even in
The income of the Board of Guardians in their poor-law
The salaries of Poor Law Medical Officers and the cost
The salaries of Schoolmasters and Schoolmistresses in
The fees of Registrars of Births and Deaths.
In the organization and government of unions the Local Government Act, 1888, makes no difference except that provision is made for subdividing unions extending into more than one county for purposes of out-door relief, while leaving them entire for purposes of in-door relief. The financial position of the Guardians is, however, considerably altered.
Ist. The grants in aid will be paid by the Treasury, in respect of the financial year ending in March, 1889; but after that will cease. The Guardians will, however, receive
equivalent grants from the County Councils of counties and the Town Councils of county boroughs in which the union is situated, in respect of pauper lunatics, Teachers in poor law schools, and Registrars of Births and Deaths; and also a new grant in respect of the school fees of pauper children sent out from the workhouse to school.
2nd. The Guardians will receive annual contributions from the same Councils, equal to the sum certified by the Local Government Board to have been expended by them during the financial year ending in March, 1888, on the salaries, remuneration, and superannuation allowances of the Officers of the union, and of district schools to which the union contributes, and on drugs and medical appliances.
The effect of this arrangement will be to carry the policy of the Union Chargeability Act, 1865, still further, and throw a part of the expense of poor relief over a still larger area than the union.
The above changes will not take place until after the financial year ending in March, 1889, but the Local Government Act, 1888, provides for the grants in aid for that year being supplemented by a contribution from the probate duty, which is to be distributed by the Local Government Board to the Guardians towards the cost of union officers.
Highway Parish and Highway District.
We now proceed to give a short account of the Highway Parish and Highway District. Each parish in early times maintained its own highways, and it was held that in the absence of a custom to the contrary this duty fell upon every parish in the strict ecclesiastical sense. But by immemorial custom some townships or analogous districts were bound to maintain their highways independently.
The Highway Act, 1835 (5 & 6 Will. IV. c. 50), which was passed to regulate the repair of highways, provided that in every ecclesiastical parish or other area maintaining its own highways, a Surveyor of highways should be appointed, who should see to the repair of highways in his parish or other area. In the majority of parishes and places highways are still maintained under this Act, the expenses being met by means of a highway rate made and levied throughout the parish by the Surveyor.
Other parishes and places which formerly had to maintain their own highways are grouped, under the Highway Acts of 1862 and 1864 (25 & 26 Vict. c. 61, and 27 & 28 Vict. c. 101),