« PreviousContinue »
When the total number of electors is under one hundred, the parish meeting will be the sole governing body. When the electors are between one hundred and three hundred, they can at option elect a parish council. When there are more than three hundred they must elect such a council.
The parish meeting, where there is no parish council, takes the place of the vestry in all secular affairs, it will appoint overseers and assistant overseers charity trustees; it may act through a committee and it may, by leave of the county council, exercise all the power of a parish council.
THE PARISH COUNCIL: ITS ELECTION. The parish council consists of not fewer than five or more than fifteen elected councillors, as fixed by the county council.
Every parish council must be elected annually before April 15, and must meet within seven days after to elect a chairman.
Every parochial elector, or any person male or female twelve months resident in or within three miles of the parish, is eligible for election.
Each candidate must be nominated in writing by two parochial electors at the parish meeting, where opportunity is to be given for heckling the candidates.
If a poll is demanded, it must be taken by ballot, and no elector can give more than one vote to any candidate.
ITS MEETING PLACE.
4. Every person on the county council or parliamentary register can give one vote and no more for each guardian.
5. Any man or woman, rich or poor, married or unmarried, who has lived for twelve months preceding the election in any parish in the union, as well as any person who is an elector in any parish in the union, is eligible to serve as guardian.
6. Guardians will be elected for three years. The county council may vary the ordinary rule by which one-third retire annually by allowing the whole of them to retire every three years.
7. The elected guardians can elect outside their own number a chairman, vice-chairman, and two other members, qualified to be guardians. This year these additional members must be chosen from the old ex officios.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CHANGE. This places the democracy in control of the whole machinery for poor law relief. Hitlerto many excellent persons admirably fitted to serve on boards of guardians have been unavailable, owing to the fact that they were legally disqualified. Now every one is qualified who is capable. And the first immediate result of the change should be a great increase in the number of lady guardians. It is no longer necessary for the candidate to be a taxpayer. It is enough if she is a resident. The true proportion of men and women on boards of guardians is half and half, although it may properly be contended that as there are more female paupers than male, and as the control of the homes and children of the State is peculiarly the province of women, it would be more in accordance with the fitness of things that women should constitute two-thirds of the ideal board. We are a long way from that at present. But any Union in the land which cannot produce at least two capable women to sit on its board, is a Union which deserves to be scouted as but semi-civilised and below the standard of the century.*
The immense importance of securing the services of the best men and women in the community in the arduous and thankless task of ministering to the needs of the poor and the afflicted will, I hope, be appreciated by all ministers of religion. A Guardians' Sunday, in which a week before the nomination of candidates all pulpits might resound with discourses pointing out the obligation of the Christian state to Christ's poor, and the duty of personal service to the least of these His brethren, would signalise the new departure and help to place the first boards elected under the new system within the beneficent and humanising influence of the Christian ideal.
THE PARISH COUNCILS. The boards of guardians are, as I have said, no new thing. We know their work, their duties, their limitations, and their opportunities. The parish councils are a new thing from which much is hoped and much is feared. The following brief summary of the provisions of the Act will show exactly how things stand. I confine myself to rural districts.
THE PARISH MEETING. The Act first of all establishes in every rural parish, large or small, a legal body composed of all the electors on the county council and Parliamentary registers in that parish, which is known as the parish meeting.
This General Assembly of all the electors must be summoned after due notice at least once a year, it must meet after 6 P.M., and elect its own chairman.
The parish council is entitled to use, free of charge, rooms not otherwise in use in schools receiving parliamentary grants, or in buildings supported out of rates, such as workhouses, police stations, county offices, etc., for official inquiries, for meeting about allotments, in connection with parish and district council elections, or for the administration of the public funds.
No parish or district council shall meet on licensed premises unless no other room is legally available.
ITS FINANCIAL RESOURCES. The parish council can borrow money or incur any expense for legal objects which involves an annual rate of threepence in the pound.
With the consent of the parish meeting the total amount which may he raised in any financial year exclusive of expenses under the adoptive Acts, but inclusive of all charges in respect of loans, is limited to sixpence in the pound.
Under the adoptive Acts it may levy additional rates for Lighting and Washing, Baths and Washhouses, Burials Act, Public Improvement Act and Free Libraries Act.
The expenses of the parish council will be paid out of the
Money, with the consent of the county council and the Local Government Board, can be borrowed for purchasing land and for buildings and other permanent improvements.
ITS ADMINISTRATIVE POWERS. The powers given to the parish council are :
(a) Appointment of the overseers, and appointment of additional persons to be overseers in place of the churchwardens ;
(b) Holding of property for the benefit of the parish, and, subject to certain conditions, the sale of such property;
(c) The powers and duties of the vestry, except as regards Church affairs, and except the powers of adopting the adoptive Acts, and of consenting to an expense under those Acts, which powers are vested in the parish meeting;
(d) The civil powers and duties of the church wardens;
(e) The powers and duties of overseers, or of church wardens and overseers, as respects rating appeals by them, the provision of a vestry-room, parochial office, parish books, parish chest, fire engine, or fire escape;
(1) The power of making representations with respect to unhealthy dwellings or obstructive buildings, and with regard to allotments, and the election of allotment managers;
(9) The powers of allotment warde committee or allotments managers, the appointment of such persons ceasing;
(1) The powers of executing the following adoptive Acts when adopted by the parish meeting, namely, the Lighting and Watching Act, the Baths and Washhouses Acts, the
In this connection may I beg any of my readers who may feel disposed to move in this matter to place themselves in communication with the Secretary of the Society for Promoting the Election of Women Guardians, whose address is 4, The Sanctuary, Westminster, S.W. If they are Liberals, they may address themselves with advantage to the Secretary of the Woman's Liberal Federation,
-AND WITH CHARITIES.
Burial Acts, the Public Improvements Act, and the Public Libraries Act, and if they or any of them are already adopted, the power of carrying them out in future;
(i) To provide and acquire buildings for public offices, meetings, and other public purposes ;
(j) To provide a recreation ground or public walks, and to make bye-laws with respect to them, or with regard to any village green, or other open space under their control or to the expense of which they have contributed ;
(k) To utilise the supply of water within their parish;
(1) To deal with any pond, ditch, or drain prejudicial to health ;
(m) To acquire rights of way beneficial to the parish, whether situate within the parish, or in an adjoining parish.
The council can permit the erection on allotment land of a stable, cow-house, and barn, as well as less substantial buildings.
Trustees holding any property for the purpose of a recreation ground or allotments, or otherwise for the benefit of a rural parish, may, with the approval of the Charity Commissioners, transfer it to the parish council.
Where the overseers are trustees of any property for the benefit of the parish, a corresponding number of persons are to be appointed by the parish council to be trustees in place of the overseers, and if the charity is not an ecclesiastical charity the same enactment is made as respects church wardens.
In the case of non-ecclesiastical parochial charities administered by a body of trustees containing no representative
HOW IT CAN DEAL WITH LAND
A parish council may apply to the county council for compulsory powers to buy land for any of the above purposes, and for purposes of allotments. The county council, subject to appeal to the Local Government Board, may grant such authority if satisfied land cannot otherwise be obtained.
If the county council refuses, the parish council can appeal to the Local Government Board. In any such purchase no compensation is to be added for compulsion. Compulsory power can be obtained in the same way for the hiring of land for allotments for terms from fourteen to thirty-five years.
Land voluntarily acquired can be let in pieces exceeding the present one acre limit.
Land compulsorily hired shall not be let to any one holder in larger lots than four acres, viz., one acre arable, and three acres pasture.
element, the parish council may appoint additional trustees to the extent allowed by the Charity Commissioners. This provision and that of the preceding paragraph apply to charities which have been founded more than forty years, and in the case of charities the founders of which are still alive their application will commence at the expiration of forty years from the passing of the Act.
Where the vestry now have power to appoint trustees or beneficiaries of a charity, not an ecclesiastical charity, the parish council is to appoint.
Draft schemes affecting parish charities are to be communicated to the parish council, which will have the same rights as the inhabitants at present.
RURAL DISTRICT COUNCILS.
Rural sanitary districts are henceforth to be called rural districts, each with its own rural district council, which will
consist of councillors elected in the same way as guardians are elected for the several parishes of the district. Every rural district councillor is a guardian, but in urban districts councillors are elected who do not sit as guardians. .
The chairman of the district council, when not a woman, will ex officio be a J.P.
The rural district councils will have all the powers :-(a) Of the rural sanitary authority;
(6) Of highway boards and surveyors of highways within their district, together with certain powers possessed by urban sanitary authorities in relation to highways-the transfer of these powers may be postponed by order of the county council ;
(c) Such powers of urban authorities under the Public Health Acts or other Acts as the Local Government Board may assign to them;
(d) The duty of protecting all public rights of way, and of preventing their closure or obstruction, and of preventing any unlawful encroachment on any roadside waste; and if a parish council make a representation on the above matters, and the district council refuse to act, the county council may on appeal act in their place ;
(e) Power to aid in preventing the extinction of rights of common and to regulate the use of commons ;
(f) The powers of justices in relation to: (i) The licensing of gang masters; (ii) The grant of pawnbrokers' certiticates ; (iii) The licensing of dealers in game; (iv) The grant of certificates for passage brokers and emigrant runners; (v) The abolition of fairs and alteration of days for holding fairs; (vi) The execution as the local authority of the Acts relating to petroleum and infant life protection; (vii) The powers of quarter sessions as respects the licensing of knackers' yards.
material for forming a judgment as to the need for such an inquiry by his elaborate report on local taxation (printed April 10th, 1893). But something more is wanted than a report on the facts. The burdens of local taxation must be more evenly distributed
a greater number of shoulders. Mr. Fowler is inexorably opposed to any extension of the wasteful system of grants in aid from the Imperial Exchequer. He was even more impressed with the grievance of the tradesman in towns than of landlords in the country, but he despaired of correcting the evil by any locally levied income tax. The income tax, he said, was an essentially Imperial tax, the great bulk of which was collected in London. It was paid at its source before the dividends were distributed. It would be almost impossible to allocate such a tax among the various rateable areas, In Mr. Fowler's opinion the only way out was to allow the local rating authorities powers to levy a variety of taxes which would reach others than farmers and tradesmen. They could have the house tax, for instance, and the license duties, and they could levy other license duties as, for instance, on horses, vehicles, etc. It was, however, impossible to dogmatisé. What was wanted was an inquiry by a competent committee or commission into the question. Something ought to be done—that at least was clear.
WHAT WILL PARISH COUNCILS DO? Even if this obstacle in the shape of the invincible reluctance of the ratepayers to add to their taxes were successfully surmounted, it is dubious whether the parish councils will effect such a transformation as ardent Radicals imagine. Rural England is slow to move. Apathy and ignorance are the Gog and Magog of many an English parish. Those wlio are familiar with the methods and manners of local administrative elected bodies are least sanguine as to the immediate gain resulting from Mr. Fowler's law. Said a landlord to me the other day, “ There is a local board in this district whose members never meet excepting when they are marketmerry; and as the majority of the members are too drunk to attend to business, the most urgent sanitary duties are scandalously neglected. The new parish councils are not likely to be much better than the old vestries. What are they to do, and how are you to keep up the attendance? After the first novelty has worn off, the greatest difficulty of the parish council will be that of keeping a quorum.” On mentioning this to Mr. Fowler, he said that the interest manifested therein in the country was something beyond all precedent. No purely constitutional change had ever excited the interest which this Act has aroused. At the same time, he admitted that, as it was with the municipal corporations, so it would be with parish councils. It would take some time before the electors realised the full significance of the powers with which they had been armed. Districts differed. In some there was no doubt great lethargy. But in others every one was keenly alive to the alteration which the Act made in the constitution of rural England.
London vestries are transformed into urban distriet councils, and will be elected in the same way as such councils outside London. The incumbent will cease to be ex officio chairman of the vestry, but with the church wardens he will be entitled to a seat on the vestry.
Such are the salient features of this remarkable piece of constructive legislation. The total rateable value of the rural districts of England and Wales was about fifty millions in 1890-91. If all the parish couneils and parish meetings levied the maximum rate of sixpence in the pound, excluding the adoptive Acts, the total available income of these rural parliaments would be £1,250,000 per annum. Of course this is a total that will not be reached, but it represents the maximum amount available for purposes of rural administration by the parish councils.
THE INCIDENCE OF LOCAL TAXATION. The whole of this sum, be it large or small, will fall upon real property--that is to say, on houses and land. The inevitable result of this will be that the owners of real property will endeavour, very naturally, to secure the return of parish councillors who will not increase the rates. Th pressure of rates on the landowner can hardly be increased without bringing to the forefront of political questions the grievance of the incidence of local taxation. Some other resources besides rates on realty must be found for our local administrators.
I had an interesting conversation on this subject with Mr. Fowler immediately before Parliament rose. I found him fully prepared to admit that the time had come for an exhaustive examination into the whole question of local taxation. With regard to the old rates for the relief of the poor and the maintenance of highways, he held the owners of realty had no reason to complain. With the sanitary rates, the education rate, the new rates and, of course, the parish council rate it was different.
The grievance of the landed and house-owning ratepayer was undeniable. Mr. Fowler has furnished all the
WHAT MR. FOWLER HOPES.
I ventured the opinion that in the majority of cases the new council would be simply the old vestry over again-that, in short, the squire and the parson would find that instead of being disestablished, their power had received consecration at the hands of the Democracy. “ Consecration perhaps," said Mr. Fowler, “but at the same time they receive inspiration and incentive. If you are right it will only be the county councils over
again. Nothing was more remarkable than the way in constitutional changes, or what Lord Beaconsfield called which the J.P.'s of quarter sessions reappeared as the dry bones of party. county councillors. But although the men remained
AN APPEAL TO THE CONSCIENCE OF THE ELECTORS. the same, a wondrous change had come and is coming
“What do you think,” I asked, “of the suggestion that over the spirit of their dream. The sense of responsi
it would be well to have a general manifesto addressed bility to their constituents is transforming the county
to the parochial electors, and especially to all those who justices. The same
are of the position of teachers and preachers, pointing out councillor acts in an altogether different spirit from that
the supreme importance of electing the best men and which he acted when he ras irresponsible to any electo
women to the new councils, regardless of party? Mr. rate. As it has been, so it will be. I bear no ill-will to
Balfour told me the other day that such was the only the squire and the parson. I should be glad enough to
counsel he would care to give to the electors, and you, it see their authority confirmed by the vote of their fellow
would seem, are entirely of his way of thinking.” villagers; but the mere fact that such confirmation is
"Such a manifesto," replied Mr. Fowler, “could not necessary will be sufficient to change their spirit, and to
fail of doing great good. But I would not have it secure that they will act in the interest and for the service of the people.”
signed by political leaders on either side. The law has
now passed out of our hands. Its application has passed HOW THE AOT SHOULD BE WORKED.
into the hands of the nation. Nothing could be better ." Then,” said I,"you have neither part nor lot with than that those whom I should call the leaders of the those fanatics of rural Jacobinism who exult in the passing moral forces of the people--the bishops, the heads of of the Parish Councils Act because they believe it will the Free Churches, the leading journalists and publicists, enable them to bring about a rural revolution everywhere, and all those whom the people at large look up to as and who resent the idea of trying to work the measure on their leaders in thought and action-should put on public non-party lines, as if the mere suggestion was treason?” record an earnest appeal to the electors to allow no
Mr. Fowler replied:--"I hope the electors will see to it sectarian or party considerations to prevent them that the efficiency and honesty of the new governing choosing the candidates of highest character and best bodies are put first, and that other considerations, capacity to serve the parish. The Archbishop of Canterwhether of sect or of party, are subordinated to the bury, I think, has expressed himself strongly in that supreme end of doing something practical to improve the
The Wesleyan Conference has passed unanicondition of the people. I have always attached greater mously a resolution to that effect. It would not be importance to social and administrative reforms and to difficult to secure such an expression of opinion, and if all questions dealing with the condition of the people you could obtain it, I think there is no doubt but that it than to purely party political issues. I look forward to would do untold good. the operation of the Parish Councils Bill with great We ought to deal with this question apart from hopes in this direction. It will lead to a betterment of party." the condition of the people, making their lives happier, Mr. Fowler, it is evident, has no intention of abandonespecially among the agriculturists. I belong to that ing that patriotic watchword with which he introduced school which attaches most importance to these questions the Bill. It remains to be seen how the nation, which is -shorter hours of work, better wages, more leisure for now tolerably wearied of the clish-clash and endless recreation, and a larger share of the enjoyments of life bickerings of impassioned partisans, will respond to generally. These things are more important than mere Mr. Fowler's appeal.
LEADING ARTICLES IN THE REVIEWS .
MR. GLADSTONE ON THE ATONEMENT. refers to the Atonement as à proposition wbich is A SERMON ON MRS. BEsant's TEXT.
assailed by the steadily advancing waves of historical
and scientific criticism. She regarded as untenableMrs. Besant's autobiography has afforded Mr. Glad
The nature of the Atonement of Christ, and the justice of stone a text for saying a few things in the Nineteenth
God in accepting a vicarious suffering from Christ, and a Century about Mrs. Besant which most people will read,
vicarious righteousness from the sinner. and for writing a sermon which many readers for the most part will skip, in which he discusses with some
Mr. Gladstone is somewhat sarcastic at the rejection of what of the prolixity and minuteness of an old divine the
this proposition by a young lady not long out of her
teens, and he imputes to her rash and blameworthy true and false conceptions of the Atonement. Mr. Gladstone, who appears to have made his first acquaintance
ignorance, for not taking pains to verify the fact that the with Mrs. Besant from her recently published book,
essential part of this proposition has been really incor
porated in the teaching of the Churches with which it says:
was resolved to deal. The implication of Mr. Gladstone's AN ESTIMATE OF MRS. BESANT.
contention is that if Mrs. Besant has taken pains to verify This volume presents to us an object of considerable interest. her belief that the belief in a vicarious suffering from It inspires sympathy with the writer, not only as a person highly gifted, but as a seeker after truth. The book is a
Christ, and a vicarious righteousness from the sinners is
part and parcel of the doctrine of the Churches, she spiritual itinerary, and shows with how much at least of intellectual ease, and what unquestioning assumptions of being
would have discovered that it was no such thing. He right, vast spaces of mental travelling may be performed.
does not say so bluntly, but he deplores the stateThe stages are, indeed, glaringly in contrast with one another;
ment made by unwise or uninstructed persons, some yet their violent contrarieties do not seem at any period to
of which indeed he has heard from the pulpit, which gave, suggest to the writer so much as a doubt whether the mind, or appeared to give, countenance to the suggestion that which so continually changes in attitude and colour, can after God expects from Christ suffering, which but for Christ all be very trustworthy in each and all its movements. This would have been justly due to the sinner and justly inuncomfortable suggestion is never permitted to intrude; and flicted upon him, and that Christ being absolutely innocent, the absolute self-complacency of the authoress bears her on injustice towards him is here involved, for injustice is not through tracts of air buoyant and copious enough to carry the
the less injustice because there may be a willing submission. Dircæan swan. Mrs. Besant passes from her earliest to her latest stage of thought as lightly as the swallow skims the surface
FORENSIC, BUT NOT ETHICAL. of the lawn, and with just as little effort to ascertain what He mentions one incautious preacher according to whose lies beneath it. An ordinary mind would suppose that modesty exposition was the one lesson which she could not have failed to learn
the Almighty, who was the creditor, had no more to do with from her extraordinary permutations; but the chemist, who
the affair; while the character of the required penalty, which shall analyse by percentages the contents of these pages, will
fell upon the Saviour, is so stated as if good had been undenot, I apprehend, be in a condition to report that of such an
servedly obtained for the sinner, by the infliction of evil element he can find even the infinitesimal quantity usually
undeservedly upon the righteous. and conveniently denominated a “trace.” Her several schemes of belief, or non-belief, appear to have been entertained one
This preacher agrees with Mrs. Besant in looking on after another, with the same undoubting confidence, until the
the forensic or reputed aspect of the case, instead of lookjunctures successively arrived for their not regretful, but
ing to the ethical, which is of necessity its essential rather contemptuous, rejection. They are nowhere based upon element. He grants to both, however, the following four reasoning, but they rest upon one and the same authority—the propositions, which he describes as propositions which authority of Mrs. Besant.
may be described as forensic, or referring to proceedings
of condemnation or acquittal such as take place in earthly WITHOUT ANY SENSE OF SIN.
courts of justice, expressing no certain truth but only our Commenting upon her frequent changes of theological imperfect effort to arrive at it. They are, however, position, he says:
necessarily disjoined from ethical conditions in so far as In all her different phases of thought, that place in the mind they have no fixed relation to them. where the sense of sin should be, appears to have remained, all through the shifting scenes of her mental history, an
MR. GLADSTONE'S DEFINITIONS. absolute blank. Without this sense, it is obvious that her “1. That the • sinner,' that is to say, man, taken generally, Evangelicalism and her High Churchism were alike built upon is liable to penalty, for sin ingrained and sin committed. the sand, and that in strictness she never quitted what she had “ 2. That the Son of God, liable to no penalty, submits never in its integrity possessed. Speaking generally, it may Himself to a destiny of suffering and shame. be held that she has followed at all times her own impulsions
“3. That by His life and death of suffering and shame men with an entire sincerity; but that those impulsions have been
are relievable, and have, upon acceptance of the Gospel and wofully dislocated in origin, spirit, and direction, by an amount continuance therein, been actually relieved from the penalties of egregious self-confidence which is in itself a guarantee of
to which they were liable. failure in mental investigations.
“4. That as sin entails suïering, and as Another has enabled That is almost all that he says about Mrs. Besant; he
the sinner to put all penal suffering away, and, in efficting then turns his attention to considering her objections to
this, and for the purpose of effecting it, has Himself suttered,
this surely is in the full sense of the term a vicarious suffering, the theory of the Atonement as popularly stated.
an atonement, at-one-ment, vicariously brought about by the MRS. BESANT'S IDEA OF THE ATONEMENT.
intervention of an innocent person.” The passage in Mrs. Besant's book to which Mr.
MR. GLADSTONE'S CREED. Gladstone specially draws attention, is that in which she Mr. Gladstone then proceeds to propound twelve pro