The Opposition to the Public Health Act at Moldgreen.
To the Editor of the Huddersfield Chronicle.
The crowded state and occasional confusion of the meeting at Moldgreen, on Thursday last, prevented a great portion of what transpired from being heard in the back part of the room, and deprived many interested from being able to represent their views to the inspector. From your report of the meeting, and information obtained from persons in the front part of the room, it appears that the scheme was opposed by ratepayers in Dalton and Almondbury, both within and without the district proposed; but that the promoters did not consider it necessary to support the case originally made out by them, showing the necessity for the application of the act, further than by giving evidence in opposition to the statements of the opponents on the point of the district comprising a certain measurement of road in proportion to rateable property; the promoters holding that they, at the first meeting, had proved before the inspector sufficient to justify the application of the act to both townships, as evidenced by his report. Ail therefore they had now to do, was to reply to the opposition that the proposed district would not, as alleged, throw upon the remaining portions of the two townships an unfair proportion of the roads. But as the great number of those present on Thursday did not attend the first enquiry, and hear the case laid before the inspector, I think the promoters ought to have repeated their proofs on these points for the benefit of those then assembled. As they did not do this, I wish to draw the attention of my fellow-ratepayers to the matter,
A good deal has been said regarding "surprise;" but it seems to have been overlooked, that in consequence of a technical error arising with the General Board of Health itself, the first proceedings had to be abandoned, and the memorial re-signed, so that there was ample opportunity for enquiry. It seems also to be forgotten that the proceedings themselves resulted from the unanimous resolution of a public meeting, convened with different objects in view, and so far also from Almondbury being represented in those proceedings, not only are a large portion of the committee of promoters ratepayers in Almondbury, but other ratepayers from the town of Almondbury itself were invited to attend the preliminary meetings; which, however, only one gentleman attended, stating he had in vain endeavoured to get other ratepayers there to take interest in the scheme.
The opponents from Almondbury township appear to have considered that it was not necessary for the promoters originally to prove a case for including the portion of that township as proposed ; but they seem to have forgotten that the report itself, on which they grounded their opposition, contained sufficient evidence as laid before the inspector at the first meeting, to necessitate the extension of the scheme to that township. Indeed they do not seem to be aware that the scheme of the promoters originally embraced the greater part of the township, as now included, and that its extension to Almondbury was no after thought. So far from the promoters having included too much, the inspector himself extended the limits, both in that township and that of Dalton.
1 pass by the undignified attempt of the township of Almondbury to make Mr. Dean the scape-goat for having furnished the inspector with the tables required, instead of opposing the scheme, because it is a matter with which those interested in the scheme had nothing to do. The inspector himself required those tables, and Mr. Dean was legally compelled to furnish them. I simply draw attention to Mr. Dean's clear refutation of the charge brought against him of having unauthorisedly acted. We can have nothing to do with those quarrels between the township and its officers, which appear to prevent attention to its fancied interests when required.
Nor is it necessary to combat the statements of the opposition, that all the advantages sought by the scheme can be obtained under acts already existing, whilst the adoption of this act could but increase the rates. The inspector himself pointed out the fallacy of these views; and opposition grounded on arguments of this nature must, by their exposure, soon lose vitality. Nay, were it the fact that rates would be increased. it is quite clear the adoption of the act would not necessarily lead to this; inasmuch as the ratepayers would have the undisputed power of electing representatives pledged not to economy alone, but to refuse any expenditure at all. if the rates were increased would a compensating medium be wanting — it being well known that in proportion to the increase of rates, owing to sanitary regulations, the poor-rates diminish.
The bugbear of expense was also attempted to be used in another shape, viz., the cost of the act itself; but the promoters took care to ascertain how moderate this was, before they adopted the scheme; and how little the opponents really understand of the business they have in band, and of the difference between a public and private bill in parliament, is seen, when they talked of an opposition in parliament at a fabulous cost. Nor should it be forgotten in an estimate of patriotism, that every service of the promoters has been rendered gratuitously, even to the payment by each of his expenses at the numerous committee and other meetings.
Much was said on both sides in reference to the mis-statements which had been used as a lever to obtain signatures, as well to the original petition for application, as to the petitions of the opposition. Inasmuch as the scheme was the result of an unanimous resolution of a public meeting, and the signatures had to be obtained twice over, for the reason before mentioned; and inasmuch as more than double the signatures required by the act were easily obtained, it must be quite obvious there was no necessity for, and therefore could not have been any mis-statements on, the part of the promoters. But on the part of the opposition the case seems obviously different; for the surveyor of Almondbury admitted, that the public meeting at Almondbury, at which the opposition originated, was grounded on a placard — one of which was identified by him — wherein the ratepayers were summoned to opposition on the statement that the promoters took one-third of the rates, and only one-fourteenth of the roads; whilst the most the opposition attempted to prove before the inspector was, that only one-eighth of the rates and one-tenth of the roads were taken It will be obvious therefore to what pretexts the opposition were driven, in order to obtain signatures to their petition. Nor is the case of Dalton without similar indications.
I cannot but think that the promoters have much to thank the opposition for, in strengthening the promoters case, by putting forward a point which strangely enough the opposition appear to have considered aided their cause. I allude to the proposed incorporation of Huddersfield, and with extended limits, including Moldgreen. Verily the case of the opposition must be indeed weak when they are driven to rely upon a circumstance as justifying delay, which must more than ever convince Moldgreen of the necessity of the Public Health Act, if only to save itself from the evils which incorporation with Huddersfield would necessarily involve. It has certainly opened my eyes to dangers ahead, and makes me only the more urgent for separate government under the Public Health Act.
As before stated, the promoters successfully refuted the only real defence the opposition had, viz., the alleged inequality of rates and roads.
When we look, therefore, to the facts as they stand, viz., that Huddersfield has already forced on Moldgreen — because unprotected by that self government which alone this act can give — one crying nuisance; that others driven out of Huddersfield are continually being planted in Moldgreen; that such evils cannot be stopped until the Public Health Act is applied; that the inspector's report shows a painful necessity for the application of the act in the interests of our poorer neighbours; that for want of the countenance of a public body, private efforts to relieve the daggers arising from the Longbridge and other localities, and to effect other improvements urgently required — nay, even to the security of life, are unavailing; that no real injustice will be committed upon the outlying portions of the two townships ; that the alleged cost of the act and increase of rates in the district itself is a bugbear; that in any case the ratepayers will always have in their own hands the prevention of expenditure; that the step is necessary to prevent the evils attendant on incorporation with Huddersfield; that the statement that the highway and other acts provide all the advantages is equally a bugbear; and that, finally, "the act, the whole act, and nothing but the act," is the only remedy for all this; I say, when we look at all these facts, I cannot believe that my fellow-ratepayers will allow themselves to be made the tools of a section striving for a selfish interest, under a fancied injustice on a trivial point; or that they will voluntarily lose the advantages within their reach. I appeal to the opposition themselves, in the interests of humanity, whether they will so far neglect the great principle of sacrificing private interests to public good, as to strive to prevent those who wish it from setting their house in order; and, especially, when no real injustice will be thereby committed upon any class or interest.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,