THE MUNICIPAL CORPORATION: ITS WORKING AND MACHINERY.
In the former articles of this series we have brought our description of the machinery of a Municipal Corporation and its mode of working up, or down, to the period of the first meeting of the Common Councillors — (which, no doubt, our readers will remember is to be held on Monday next) — for the purpose, first, of taking and receiving the statutory declaration from each, and each other; then for the election of Mayor; and then of Aldermen, assigning these latter to their respective wards, and also determining which of them shall retire from office on the 9th day of November, 1871; and then, if the Council thinks fit, either at its then meeting or at an adjourned sitting, any vacancies which may have been caused in Common Councilships by the election of Aldermen may have been filled up; and when, also, all the Aldermen, probably, will have taken their seats, may proceed to the appointment of Town Clerk, and Treasurer to the Council. We say, the general subject which these articles are intended to elucidate was brought up, or down, to the points just named; and, therefore, in pursuing the matter further, we have to make apparent the other portions of the Corporation machinery, which we now proceed to do.
We must premise, that the first forming of the Burgess List for the Municipal Borough of Huddersfield, the Revision thereof, the first election of Councillors under it, and the first Meeting of the Common Councillors when elected, are extraordinary proceedings;
That though in what follows, we give the dates set forth in the Municipal Corporation Acts, as the days on which certain things are to be done yearly, when the Corporation has got into full operation, yet, for the extraordinary proceedings specified in the last paragraph, it must be understood that the date for entering upon the Revision of the Burgess Lists, was August, 18th inst.; that the Burgess Roll had to be completed by the 26th August;
That the elections of Common Councillors took place yesterday, the 4th of September inst.; that instead of "the Mayor," the Returning Officer was EDGAR FENTON, Esq., Solicitor, the gentleman named in the Charter for that purpose; that instead of the Ward elections being taken before "Aldermen and Assessors," they were taken before Deputy Returning Officers, appointed by Mr. Fenton; that the first meeting of the Councillors so elected will be on Monday next, September 7th, inst., for election of Mayor and Aldermen, and the transaction of such other business as may be determined upon; that the day whereon the first election of Auditors and Assessors by the Burgesses will take place is the 16th of September inst.;
And that whenever the words "Town Clerk" are used in what follows, they must be understood to mean Mr. Joseph Batley, Clerk to the Improvement Commissioners, who is the officer named in the Charter to perform certain requisite duties until a Town Clerk can be regularly appointed by the Town Council.
We treat, then, first
OF THE ELECTION AND DUTIES OF AUDITORS.
On the 1st of March in each year the Burgesses are to elect, by a majority of votes, two persons as Auditors of the Borough, who are to continue in office for one year.
They are to be elected from the persons qualified to be Councillors.
But no Burgess is eligible as Auditor who is a member of the Council, or Town Clerk, or Treasurer.
The election is to be conducted in the same manner as that of Councillors.
But no Burgess can vote for more than one person to be auditor. 5and 6 W. 4, c. 76, s. 37. This appears to be rather a singular provision: two Auditors are to be chosen, but each elector has only one vote; if, therefore, all the electors were to vote for one person as Auditor, it seems there could be only one elected.
There is no provision as to the re-election of an Auditor.
In case of an extraordinary vacancy arising in the office of Auditor, the Mayor is to fix a day, not later than ten days after the vacancy, for proceeding to a new election, which is to be conducted in the same way as the original election.
Each Auditor is required, before he acts, to make a declaration of the acceptance of office similar to that required of a Councillor.
If a person elected Auditor does not accept the office, he is liable to a fine not exceeding £50, to be recovered as before-mentioned.
The exemptions from serving are the same as in the case of other Borough officers.
If any person acts as Auditor without making the requisite declaration, or without being duly qualified, he is liable to a penalty of £50.
Besides these Auditors, who, are generally termed Elective Auditors, the Mayor, on the 1st of March in any year, or in cases of any extraordinary vacancy, within ten days after such vacancy, is to name a member of the Council to act as co-Auditor with the Elective Auditors.
The duties of the Auditors are to examine and audit the accounts of receipts and disbursements which are to be laid before them twice a year, in the months of March and September, by the Treasurer of the Borough; and if the accounts are correct the Auditors are to sign the same.
And now, then,
OF THE ELECTION AND DUTIES OF ASSESSORS.
In Boroughs that are not divided into Wards, two Assessors are to be chosen at the same time, for the same period, in the same manner, and under the same conditions as to qualification, as the Auditors.
Where a Borough is divided into Wards, the Burgesses, on the Ist of March in any year, are to elect two Assessors for each Ward, under the same conditions as in the case of Assessors for the Borough.
In case of a vacancy occurring, the Mayor, or where the Borough is divided into Wards, the Alderman of the Ward where the vacancy occurs, is to fix a day for a new election, in the same manner as in the case of a Councillor or Auditor.
The provisions as to an Assessor accepting office by making a declaration or paying a fine; as to the exemptions from serving, and as to the penalty for acting without being qualified, are also the same as in the case of a Councillor or Auditor.
The question as to the re-election of an Assessor is also left undetermined as in the case of an Auditor.
Every Assessor is, as soon as convenient after his election, to appoint a deputy to act for him, in case of his illness or incapacity to act.
The duties of the Assessor are to assist the Mayor, or, in boroughs divided into Wards, the Alderman, in revising the Burgess or Ward Lists; and in presiding at the Borough or Ward Elections of Councillors.
All acts done by the Assessor acting as such will be valid, notwithstanding he may have been disqualified at the time; and no Burgess Roll is to be questioned for want of title in an Assessor.
An Assessor cannot be a member of the Council.
Another important portion of the machinery of a Corporation is the Watch Committee. We, therefore, next proceed to treat
OF THE WATCH COMMITTEE AND BOROUGH CONSTABLES.
The Council are from time to time to appoint a Watch Committee, consisting of a sufficient number of their own body, together with the Mayor for the time being.
5 and 6 W. 4, c. 76, s. 76, enacts, "That the Council to be elected for any Borough shall, immediately after their first election, and so from time to time thereafter as they shall deem expedient, appoint for such time as they may think proper, a sufficient number of their own body, who, together with the Mayor of the Borough for the time being, shall be and be called the Watch Committee for such Borough; and all the powers hereinafter given to such Committee may be executed by the majority of those who shall be present at any meeting of such Committee, the whole number present at such meeting being not less than three; and such Watch Committee shall, within three weeks after their first formation, and so from time to time thereafter, as occasion shall require, appoint a sufficient number of fit men, who shall be sworn in before some justice of the peace having jurisdiction within the Borough, to act as constables for preserving the peace by day and by night, and preventing robberies and other felonies, and apprehending offenders against the peace."
It will be seen from the foregoing, that the Watch Committee have the power of appointing constables for the Borough, who are to be sworn before a Justice of the Borough.
Upon the appointment of Borough Constables, all provisions in Local Acts as to watching, &c., are to cease, and the watch-house, accoutrements, &c., are to be given up.
Such Constables are to have the power to act as such, not only within the Borough, but also in the County in which the Borough is situated, and in any other County being within seven miles of the Borough.
The Watch Committee may make regulations for the management of the Constables; and either they, or two Justices of the Borough, may dismiss a Constable for neglect of duty.
The Constables have the power to apprehend any idle or disorderly persons, who are either disturbing the public peace, or are suspected of an intention to commit a felony.
The Constable attending at the watch-house may take bail by recognizance for persons brought before him for any petty misdemeanours; such recognizance being conditioned for the appearance of the parties before a Justice at some specified time and place within two days.
In default of appearance at the time and place appointed, or within one hour after, the recognizance is to be forfeited; but the Justice may, on the application of any person on behalf of the party charged, postpone the time of hearing and enlarge the recognizance.
The Watch Committee, subject to the approbation of the Council, are to fix the salaries of the Constables, which are to be paid by the Treasurer.
The Watch Committee have also power, subject to the approbation of the Council, to award rewards to Constables for extraordinary diligence or exertion, or as a compensation for wounds or injuries, or as a superannuation allowance; and to direct the payment of all other charges and expenses for the purpose of the constabulary force.
Thus they may, with the approbation of the Council, order the payment of the costs of defending Borough Constables on a prosecution incurred by them in the discharge of their duty; but the Council themselves cannot originate such an order, even although the payment may have been recommended to them by a report from the Watch Committee.
If any extraordinary expenses have been incurred in the apprehension of offenders or the execution of the orders of any Justice for the Borough, such expenses are to be examined and approved by him, and may then be ordered to be paid by the Council.
Special Constables are to be appointed by two Justices yearly in October; they are to act when required to do so by warrant of any Justice; they are to receive 3s. 6d. per day each, for any day they are called out to act.
The Watch Committee are to make quarterly reports to the Secretary of State of the number of Constables appointed, of the description of their arms and accoutrements, of their salaries, and of the number and situation of the station-houses in the Borough; and also a copy of all rules made for the regulation of the Constables.
The power of the Council and the Watch Committee in regard to constabulary, extends over the whole of the townships and the parts of townships incorporated; and when the appointments of constables and their officers have been made by the Watch Committee, the jurisdiction of the County Constabulary within the Corporation limits will cease, and so also will the contributions of the respective townships included within those limits to the County Constabulary Rates. To defray the expenses of the Borough Constabulary, the Council are empowered to levy, annually, a separate rate, under the name of Watch-rate, of any amount in the pound not exceeding 6d. Whatever may be the amount of the Watch-rate, it must be levied equally over all parts of the Borough.
A Corporation, with its Councillors, Aldermen, Mayor, Town Clerk, Treasurer, Auditors, Assessors, &c., cannot do without money-means: and we have next to see how these are to be provided and raised, and by whom — exclusive of the Expenses of Constabulary, which, as just stated, have to be raised by separate rates, not exceeding 6d. in the pound, levied and collected by the Council directly from the ratepayers of the entire Borough. We, therefore, now treat
OF THE BOROUGH FUND AND THE BOROUGH RATE.
All Corporate property, and all fines received, are to be carried to the account of a general fund, called "the Borough Fund;" and all lawful debts are to be paid out of that fund.
Subject to the payment of such debts, out of the Borough Fund are to be paid, in cases where such payments are applicable, the salaries of the Mayor, the Recorder, the Police Magistrates, the Town Clerk, the Treasurer, and of every other officer whom the Council may appoint; the expenses connected with the Borough Elections, such as the printing of Burgess Lists, Ward Lists, notices, and the like; the expenses of prosecuting and maintaining offenders; the expenses of maintaining the Borough Gaol, the House of Correction (if any): if there is any surplus, it is to be applied under the direction of the Council for the public benefit of the inhabitants and the improvement of the Borough.
In case the Borough Fund is not sufficient to meet the sums charged upon it, the Council may order a Borough Rate to be made in the nature of a County Rate.
Such a rate cannot now be retrospective; yet, as the Council can only be called on to act according to the exigency of the case, and to make an estimate as nearly sufficient as may be, it may happen that the rate may fall short, and in such a case by-gone expenses may be included in the rate.
The Council have the same powers in respect to making the Borough Rate as Justices in Sessions have to make a County Rate. But though the Justices in Sessions must make the County Rate in open court, yet the Town Council need not do so, as they are not a court, and do not ordinarily transact business in public.
The rate is to be assessed upon every parish or township in the Borough, according to a certain pound rate, to be paid from time to time to the Council, of the full and fair annual value of the messuages, lands, tenements, and hereditaments rateable to the relief of the poor therein.
The Churchwardens or Overseers, if ordered by the Council, are to pay the rate out of the Poor-Rate; or, if so ordered by the Council, they are to make a separate rate for that purpose.
If they refuse to comply with any such order, the amount of the rate may be levied upon their goods, or the goods of any of them, by a distress warrant under the hand and seal of the Mayor, or of any two Borough Justices.
If any person liable to pay the Borough Rate shall neglect to do so, the amount may be levied upon his goods in like manner.
In parishes or townships lying partly within and partly without the Borough, and in extra-parochial places, either wholly or within the Borough, the Council may appoint an Overseer or Overseers for the purpose of making, levying, and collecting the rate.
In those parishes, townships, or extra-parochial places which lie partly within and partly without the Borough, the overseers appointed by the Council are empowered to levy a District Rate in the same manner as the General Rate is levied for a whole parish.
A District Rate is required to be allowed by two Borough Justices, and to be published in the same manner as a Poor-rate.
In divided parishes or places, where parts are comprised in boroughs not subject to contribute to the County Rate, or County or District Police Rate, while the parts out of the Borough are liable to contribute thereto; or where parts are comprised in Boroughs which are subject to District, Borough, and other rates, while the parts out of the Borough are not liable to contribute thereto; if any County Rate, or County or District Police Rate, or other rate in the nature of a County Rate, is assessable on the part of the parish or place comprised within the County and excluded from the Borough, the Overseers, on receipt of the proper authority from the County Justices, are to make a separate rate upon that part of the parish which is excluded from the Borough; and on receipt of a warrant from the Mayor, or a Borough Justice, or other officer having proper authority, the Overseers are to make a separate rate for that part of the parish which is within the Borough.
The Council or a Committee appointed for that purpose may, upon application, excuse persons from the payment of any District Rate on account of poverty.
District Rates may be levied by distress in the same manner as a Borough Rate.
An Overseer has no power to make a rate for a larger sum in the pound than is specified in the order of the Council; even though the amount for which it is actually made was necessary in order to raise the sum required by the order, after allowance for empty houses and insolvent occupants.
Where the Council made an order for the making of a Borough Rate on the several parishes, &c., within the Borough; that the proportion thereby assessed on that part of the parish of S. which lay within the limits of the Borough should be £365; that the Churchwardens, &c., should levy, collect, and pay the amounts assessed on their respective parishes, &c.; and that a warrant under the corporate seal should be directed to the Town Clerk, authorising him to demand, collect, and receive the amounts so rated, and for that purpose to issue his warrants to the Churchwardens, &c., requiring them to levy, collect, and pay the same amounts, &c.: and & warrant was accordingly issued to the Town Clerk, directing him to demand, collect, and receive the amounts rated, and he issued his precept to the Special Overseer who had been previously appointed under sect. 3 of the 7 Will. 4 and 1 Vict. c. 81, for that part of the parish of S. which lay within the limits of the Borough, requiring him to levy, collect, and pay, by a fair and equal rate, the sum of £365, &c. : it was held that the order of the Council authorised the overseer under their precept to make a rate for that purpose.
An appeal is given to the Borough Sessions, that is, to the Recorder, against the Borough Rate; but as such an appeal is given only “as in the case of an appeal against any County Rate," it has been held that the right of appeal is not given to individuals, except in case of the omission of parishes which ought to be included in the rate, or of the unequal apportionment of the rate among the different parishes.
Notice of appeal is necessary, and it must be given to the Town Clerk. The notice must state that the party is aggrieved, but the ground of appeal need not be specified. An appeal is also given against any District Rate; and as this right of appeal is given "as in the case of an appeal against any rate made for the relief of the poor," it appears it is not limited as in the case of an appeal against the General Borough Rate.
There are other matters yet to be expatiated upon, but they must form the subject of other articles.