SPECIAL MEETING OF THE HUDDERSFIELD IMPROVEMENT COMMISSIONERS.
A special meeting of the Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners was held at the Commissioners' Offices, on Wednesday afternoon, "to balance the accounts of the Commissioners, and to settle and adjust the annual abstracts of such accounts prior to the same being printed as required by the Commissioners' Clauses Act, 1847; to make arrangements for holding the annual meeting of the Commissioners on the 19th day of June next; and also to consider the question of a charter of incorporation for Huddersfield, and to adopt such proceedings in reference thereto as may be deemed advisable."
Joseph Turner, Esq., presided, and the following Commissioners were present:— Messrs. J. Crosland, W.H. Aston, T. Cresswell, R.T. Denton, R. Skilbeck, Henry Brooke, Joseph Hirst, and T.H. Battye.
ABSTRACT OF ACCOUNTS.
Mr. Batley, the clerk, distributed to each Commissioner a printed copy of the statement and account of all the monies received and expended by the Improvement Commissioners under the Huddersfield Improvement Act, 1848, and the several Acts incorporated therewith, from 1st of May, 1866, to April 30th, 1867, inclusive, and we give the following extracts from the statement:—
MODEL LODGING-HOUSE ACCOUNT.
BURIAL GROUND ACCOUNT.
Mr. T.H. Battye drew attention to an item of £1,200, called the "sinking fund," and said it had appeared on paper for two years. Under the 84th section of the Commissioners' Clauses Act it was required of the Commissioners that, when they borrowed money, if there be no other rate or sum specified, one-twentieth part of the capital borrowed should be invested by them in the consols or exchequer bills in England, and by that means they were to pay off the whole debt. In order to act legally the "sinking fund," which amounted for the two years to £2,400, ought to have been invested. Certainly no one had been injured, because, if the £1,200 had been invested, another £1,200 would have been required for the expenses of the commission; and he only referred to the matter so that it might be rectified in the future.
The Chairman said it was intended to make the correction by some means or other; but they were doubtless aware that they had been borrowing from the sinking fund to avoid having to borrow money at five per cent, and receive for it in the bank only 2½ per cent.
Mr. Battye said on one side of the balance sheet they appeared to have £2,400 laid aside to meet loans which they were called upon to pay in five and seven years; but the facts were not so.
Mr. Aston assured Mr. Battye he was entirely in error in the statement he had made. The Commissioners debited themselves with £2,400; but if they had £2,400 in exchequer bills they would take credit, and not debit themselves with the sum. They were simply borrowing the money from the sinking fund, and should have it to pay.
Mr. H. Brooke maintained that they ought, in pursuance of the Act, to lay the money aside as a sinking fund. He hoped the matter might be remedied. What Mr. Aston had said was quite true. The Commissioners owed the £2,400 to the sinking fund, but if they had nothing with which to pay the £2,400 they would have to lay a rate specially to do so, and that in three years' time. The sum of £4,000 had to be paid back in five years, and the money was borrowed in 1864; and he suggested that they should endeavour to persuade the lenders of the money to take back part of the loans when the Commissioners could get in the money.
Mr. Skilbeck said it appeared from the abstract that they had £2,400 towards the repayment of loans, yet they did not reduce the loan itself.
Mr. Batley said the sum ought not to be £1,200, but £300 — one 20th part of the original £6,000. The Commissioners could legally borrow to pay off existing debts; but the sinking fund ought not to be £1,200 a year to pay off £6,000.
Some further conversation ensued, and ultimately the Commissioners resolved themselves into committee to consider the question.
Mr. Aston moved that the annual abstract of accounts be signed and printed as required by law.
The motion, which was seconded by Mr. Cresswell, was carried.
Mr. Cresswell then moved that the annual meeting, under the Huddersfield Improvement Act, be held on the third Wednesday in the month of June.
Mr. R.T. Denton seconded the motion, and it was passed.
THE CHARTER OF INCORPORATION QUESTION.
Mr. Batley read the minutes of the last meeting relating to the charter of incorporation movement, after which the Chairman said he believed it rested with the Commissioners to communicate their decision in the matter to the various Local Boards. The question had been pretty well ventilated; and there had been as much said about it as could be advanced. The grand secret was water.
Mr. Aston said he should like to know whether they had any fund from which they could pay the expenses of making the application. He should not like Huddersfield to apply for the charter, and be saddled with the expense in case of failure. He did not think they would fail; but supposing they were not successful? He thought the out-townships that had signified their intention of joining Huddersfield ought to agree, providing they did not get a charter of incorporation, to bear a portion of the expense pro rata. If they had no other fund the expenses would have to be paid by private subscription, and a certain amount ought to be guaranteed by each locality. If they were to have a charter of incorporation for Huddersfield, now was the time; and there was no doubt about it, water was the great lever that was moving the question. Huddersfield, he thought, ought to stand in the same position as neighbouring towns. The trade and commerce of the town — in fact, in every respect, the town was second to none; and he was sure the population, merchants, and manufacturers, in enterprise, skill, and in everything else, stood equal to those of any other town in the kingdom. A new era was about to dawn upon them through the liberality of their landlord, who was obtaining powers to grant long leases; and they had to all appearances an unparalleled prosperity before them — a prosperity such as Huddersfield had not experienced for some length of time; and the time was coming when, instead of having two or three "heads," they would have a mayor and corporation. The additional expense would be trifling, and that was a secondary consideration with him. He should be glad if the Law Clerk would state whether the expenses attendant upon applying for the Act could be taken out of the funds; but, whether that could be done or not, the out-districts ought to be pledged to contribute something as their quota.
Mr. Batley said he believed it was quite correct in strictness that the Commissioners had no power to apply monies in their hands towards the expenses of going for a charter of incorporation; but the Municipal Corporation Act provided that in case the charter be granted all the expenses that could now be incurred would be properly payable out of the borough rate. There was the risk of failure, and that made it a serious question for the Commissioners. He was not aware of an instance in which a refusal had been given to the application for a charter of incorporation for a town of the magnitude of Huddersfield, so that he thought the risk was exceedingly small; but still the risk existed, and all the concurring parties ought to contribute something, say according to the rateable value of the places. The rateable value of Huddersfield was £100,000, Lockwood £20,000, Moldgreen £17,000, and Lindley £11,000, so that Huddersfield would, according to its rateable value, have to pay two thirds, and the out-townships one third of the expense involved.
Mr. Battye suggested that certain gentlemen should be requested to put down their names for a specified amount; for, if they could not come to some arrangement in regard to the payment of the expenses, it was a question whether Huddersfield should go alone.
Mr. Cresswell — What would be the proportion of each commissioner in case of failure?
Mr. Batley — If you get a guarantee for £500 you would be very safe.
Mr. H. Brooke asked what districts they intended to include in the charter?
Mr. Batley said the Commissioners would have to associate with committees from the places which were favourable, and they would have a voice in the boundary question. It was the duty of the Commissioners, in the first place, to affirm whether a charter of incorporation was desirable or not.
Mr. Brooke said that was the point to which he was coming; and suggested the calling of a public meeting of ratepayers.
Mr. J. Hirst moved the following resolution:—
Mr. Aston seconded the resolution; and it was carried unanimously.
It was then resolved, on the motion of Mr. Brooke, and seconded by Mr. T.H. Battye:—
It was then moved by Mr. J. Crosland, seconded by Mr. J. Hirst:—
The resolution was carried unanimously.
After some discussion respecting the course which would be hereafter pursued, the Chairman suggested that the co-operation of Sir John Ramsden should, if possible, be obtained.
Mr. Cresswell then moved:—
The resolution was seconded by Mr. J. Crosland, and passed unanimously.
The meeting then separated, having occupied two hours.