THE MUNICIPAL CORPORATION: ITS WORKING AND MACHINERY.
Having, in our last number, brought this series of articles up to the period when the first and extraordinary elections of the whole number of Common Councilmen for the respective Wards under the Charter for the Incorporation of Huddersfield shall have taken place, — which first elections, it must be remembered, will be taken by Edgar Fenton, Esq., the Returning Officer (in the first instance) named in the Charter, and the Deputy Returning Officers appointed by Mr. Fenton, on the 4th day of September next — that is, on Friday in next week; and having also brought matters up to the first assembling of the Councillors so elected, on Monday, the 7th day of September next, for the purpose of administering to, and taking from, each other, the Declaration provided by the statute to be taken, we have next to see in what order the other business which according to the Act must be transacted at that first meeting, will have to be proceeded with.
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 Corporations Acts, as the days on which certain things are to be done yearly, when the Corporation has got into full operation, yet, for the present extraordinary proceedings, 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 will take place on the 4th of September next ; that instead of “the Mayor," the Returning Officer will be 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 will be taken before Deputy Returning Officers, to be appointed by Mr. Fenton, the Returning Officer; that the first meeting of the Councillors so elected will be on Monday, September 7th next, for election of Mayor and Aldermen, and the transaction of such other business as may be determined upon;
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 presume, therefore, for the proper understanding of what is to follow, that the Common Councilmen have been elected; that these have assembled on the day prescribed in the Charter, Monday, the 7th day of September next; that they have administered to each other, and each one taken, the prescribed declaration; and that they are thus in a position to proceed to their next business, which is that of the election of Mayor.
We therefore now treat
OF THE ELECTION OF MAYOR.
The election of the Mayor is to take place on the same day as that of the Aldermen, namely, on the 9th November every year; — first election September 7th next, — or if that day be a Sunday, then on the following day.
If the election has not taken place on the appointed day, it may take place on the day following.
The election of the Mayor is to be the first thing done at the meeting.
The Council, or a majority of the members present, are to elect the Mayor out of the Aldermen [if any] or Councillors of the Borough.
There is no provision as to who is to have the casting vote in the case of an equality of votes.
The Mayor is required, before he acts, to make and subscribe a similar declaration to that made by an Alderman or Councillor, and he is liable to the same penalty of £50 for acting without making the declaration, or without being qualified, or after he shall cease to be qualified.
All acts, however, of a person in possession of the office are valid, notwithstanding his disqualification.
If a Councillor is elected Mayor, and does not accept the office by making the requisite declaration within five days after the notice of his election, he is liable to a fine, not exceeding £100, to be fixed by a bye-law to be made in Council.
There are similar exceptions from the service of the office, or the payment of the fine, as in the case of a person elected to the office of Councillor.
The Mayor is to continue in office for one whole year, and until his successor shall have accepted the office and have subscribed the requisite declaration; and he may be re-elected at the expiration of his office.
If the Mayor is declared bankrupt or insolvent, or compounds with his creditors, or if he absents himself from the Borough for more than two calendar months together, unless in case of illness, he loses his office; and, in the case of absence, is also liable to the same fine as if he had refused to accept the office; but he may be re-elected.
In the case of a vacancy arising in the office of Mayor, by reason of the person elected declining to accept the office, or by his death, or his ceasing to hold the office, the Council, within ten days after such vacancy, shall elect another fit person to be Mayor for the remainder of the current year,
The statute contains no provision for calling a meeting of the Council in such emergency.
The Mayor, during his office, continues a member of the Council; and he is ex-officio a justice of the peace in the Borough, and the Returning Officer at Parliamentary elections.
If at the time of such election the Mayor is dead, absent, or incapable of acting, the Council are to elect one of the Aldermen to act as Returning Officer.
The statute, however, contains no provision for calling a meeting of the Council in this case.
The Mayor, during his year of office, is the chief officer of the Borough, and is to have precedence in all places within the Borough.
OF THE DUTIES OF THE MAYOR.
The duties of the Mayor are as follow :—
To examine into the claim of any person who claims to be admitted a Burgess.
With the assistance of the Assessors, to revise the Burgess Lists between the 1st and 15th of October in each year; to insert the names of claimants who have proved their qualification, and to expunge those of persons who have been objected to upon sufficient grounds; to correct mistakes and supply omissions in the lists; and to sign them in open Court. He also has the power of adjourning the Court of Revision, and of administering an oath or affirmation, when requisite, at the same.
To deliver the Lists, when revised and signed, to the Town Clerk.
To provide polling booths, or to hire rooms as booths, for the election of Councillors; to fix their situations, and to appoint Poll Clerks.
With the assistance of the Assessors, to preside at such election, on the 1st of November in every year, in Boroughs which are not divided into Wards.
In the case of an equality of votes to name the person who shall be elected.
To cause the voting papers to be kept in the office of the Town Clerk for six calendar months after the election.
To publish a list of the persons elected, by two o'clock in the afternoon of the day next but one after the election.
To preside at all meetings of the Council at which he is present.
The Mayor is also to preside over the election of Auditors and Assessors, and he is, on the 1st of March in every year, to name a member of the Council to act as co-auditor with the auditors who have been elected.
If he neglects or refuses to revise the Burgess List, or to conduct or declare the election of Councillors, Assessors, or Auditors, he will be liable to a penalty of £100, to be recovered within three months after the commission of the offence, by action in one of the superior courts.
It does not appear to be necessary that the Mayor should be present at the meeting of the Council held for the election of Aldermen; but if he is present, he is to act as chairman, and in case of an equality of votes, is to have the casting vote.
It may be mentioned that an election which the Mayor presides over is not to be questioned for any defect in his title, if he was then in actual possession of the office.
If the Mayor is interested in any contract, he becomes disqualified in the same manner as Councillor.
As at the first meeting of the Councillors, and at the time when the Mayor must be chosen, no Aldermen can have been elected, it follows that the first Mayor must be selected from among the Common Councilmen. There is, therefore, all the more reason for the Burgesses being careful in their elections on Friday in next week, if they desire to give character and eclat to the “first choice” of the Council—the Mayor for inaugurating the new system. It is in the election of Councilmen only that the Burgesses can at all influence the other appointments.
And now we come to treat of the next business of the Council, at their meeting on the 7th day of September next, after choice has been made of the Mayor, and he has taken the required declaration, and assumed the Mayor's chair — namely, that
OF THE ELECTION OF ALDERMEN.
The election of Aldermen is to take place on the 9th November in every year, — (first election September 7th next,) — or if that day be a Sunday then on the following day.
If the election has not taken place on the appointed day, it may take place on the day following, in the same manner as in the case of the election of Councillors.
Immediately on the first choice of Aldermen, on the 7th of September next, the Councillors are to assign the said Aldermen to the respective Wards, and also to determine which of them shall retire from the Council on the 9th day of September, 1871.
The election of Mayor is required to precede that of Aldermen, and a prior election of Aldermen on the same day is void.
One half of the number of Aldermen are to go out of office on the day mentioned, every third year, being those who have been Aldermen for the longest time without re-election.
Any Alderman going out of office may, if qualified, be forthwith re-elected.
The Council, or the majority of the members present, are to elect the Aldermen from the Councillors, or from persons qualified to be Councillors; but any Alderman going out of office is not entitled to vote at the election.
No person can be elected an Alderman who is disqualified as Councillor; and a person to be eligible as an Alderman must be possessed of the same qualifications as a Councillor.
The method of electing Aldermen is as follows:—
At a meeting of the Council every Councillor entitled to vote may vote for any number of persons not exceeding the number of Aldermen to be chosen, by delivering to the Mayor or Chairman of the meeting a signed voting paper, containing the names of the persons for whom he votes, with their places of abode and descriptions; and the Chairman is openly to read the same, and to deliver them to the Town Clerk.
If a candidate is described in the voting paper as of his place of business instead of his place of abode, this is such a mis-description as will avoid his election.
In the case of an equality of votes the Mayor or Chairman is to have a casting vote.
Although, as has just been stated, an Alderman going out of office cannot vote at the election; yet if he has been elected Mayor, and in that capacity presides at an election of Aldermen, he is entitled to give a casting vote, though he cannot give an original one.
An Alderman is required, before he acts, to make and subscribe a similar declaration to that made by a Councillor; and he is liable to the same penalty of £50 for acting without making the declaration, or without being qualified, or after he shall cease to be qualified.
All acts, however, of a person in possession of the office are valid, notwithstanding his disqualification.
If a Councillor is elected Alderman, and does not accept the office, by making the requisite declaration, within five days after notice of his election, he is liable to a fine not exceeding £50, to be fixed by a, bye-law to be made in Council.
An Alderman, if required to do so in writing by any two members of the Council, must, once in every three years, make and subscribe a declaration that he is qualified to the same amount as that mentioned in his original declaration.
If an Alderman is declared bankrupt or insolvent, or compounds with his creditors, or if he absents himself from the Borough for more than six calendar months together, unless in case of illness, he loses his office; and in the case of absence is also liable to the same fine as if he had refused to accept the office; but he may be re-elected.
If an extraordinary vacancy takes place in the office of Alderman, it is to be filled up in the same way by the Council, within ten days after it shall occur; and if a Councillor is elected to fill the vacant office of Alderman, the vacant office of Councillor is to be filled up in the manner before mentioned; and the person elected to the vacant office of Alderman is to hold the office until the person in whose room he has been chosen would regularly have gone out of office.
There does not appear to be any provision for calling a meeting in such a case.
An Alderman, during his office, continues a member of the Council.
As has been already seen, in the event of the death of the Mayor, or his incapacity to act, an Alderman is to be chosen to preside at elections; and an Alderman is also to be chosen to preside at the ward elections, where the Borough is divided into wards; and if an Alderman so elected neglects to comply with the provisions of the Act in such respects, he is liable to a penalty of £100, to be recovered by action in one of the superior courts, which action must be brought within three months after the offence; one half of the penalty to be paid to the person suing, and the other to the Treasurer of the Borough.
The Mayor and Aldermen appointed, and these having, so far as is practicable, taken the requisite declaration and their seats, the Council is then "full" — ready for the transaction of general business,. Amongst the first business to be transacted is usually that of appointing Town Clerk and Treasurer; and, therefore, we treat next of those offices and officers.
OF THE OFFICE AND DUTIES OF TOWN CLERK.
The Council have the power to appoint a Town Clerk, who may be an attorney; but he must not be a member of the Council, nor can he be Treasurer at the same time,
He is to hold his office during pleasure.
The Council are empowered to take such security for the due discharge of his official duties as they shall think proper.
They may fix such salary to be paid to him as they may think reasonable, which is to be paid out of the Borough Fund.
Such salary is the only compensation to which he is entitled for the discharge of duties cast upon him either by the Municipal Corporation Act, or the Parliamentary Reform Act.
The duties of the Town Clerk under the Municipal Corporation Act are as follow:—
To keep the Burgess Roll.
To admit and enroll thereon every person whose claim thereto shall have been established before the Mayor.
To keep a true copy of such roll to be perused by any person, without fee, at all reasonable times.
To deliver a copy thereof to any person requiring the same, on payment of a reasonable price.
To have, on the 5th of September, copies printed of all the Burgess Lists delivered to him.
To deliver a copy of any such list to any person requiring the same, on payment of a reasonable price.
To cause a copy of all such lists to be fixed on the Town Hall, or in some public place in the Borough, every day during the week preceding the 15th of September.
To cause lists of claimants and persons objected to, to be fixed in like manner during the eight days next preceding the 8th of October. If he neglects to print and publish the lists as required, he is liable to a penalty of £50, to be recovered by action.
To keep a copy of such last mentioned lists to be perused by any person without fee, at all reasonable hours during those eight days.
To deliver a copy of each of such lists to any person requiring the same, on payment of not more than 1s. for each copy.
To produce the Burgess Lists and the lists of claimants and persons objected to at the Revision Court.
To keep the Revised Burgess Lists.
To make up the Burgess Roll from the same, on or before the 22nd of October.
To have copies of the Burgess Roll printed for sale at a reasonable price.
To pay over the monies arising from the sales of the Burgess Roll and of all lists to the Treasurer.
To keep the voting papers at the election of Councillors six months after the election.
To allow any Burgess to inspect the same on payment of One Shilling.
To keep the voting papers at the election of Aldermen among the records of the Borough.
Where a Borough is divided into wards, to keep a copy of the particulars of the division among the public documents of the Borough.
And generally to have the charge and custody of all charters, deeds, muniments, and records of the Borough.
The Town Clerk has no lien on the Corporation muniments, which he holds merely in that capacity; though he has on papers, with respect to which he has done work as an attorney or solicitor,
If, within three days after receiving a notice under the hands of three or more of the Council, he neglects to deliver up all books, papers, and writings in his custody relating to the execution of the Municipal Corporation Act, or to give satisfaction to the Council respecting the same, he may be proceeded against summarily before a Justice of the Peace, who is empowered to commit him to the House of Correction, until he shall have delivered them up, or have given such satisfaction respecting there.
The Corporation are not precluded by the Act from any remedy they may have by action; but they cannot proceed both by action and in a summary way, for the same cause.
The Town Clerk is also to deliver to the Council, at such times during the continuance of his office as they shall direct, or within three months after the expiration thereof, a true account in writing of all matters committed to his charge, and of all monies received by him for the purposes of the Municipal Corporation Act; and upon his neglect to do so he may be proceeded against either in a summary way, as in the case of non-delivery of papers, and may be committed to gaol till he shall have delivered such account. If any money is found to be due from him, it may be levied by distress, and in default thereof he may be committed to gaol for three calendar months, or till he shall have paid what was due from him, or a composition agreed to by the Council
The Town Clerk cannot be elected Assessor or Auditor, and he is exempt from serving on juries.
OF THE OFFICE AND DUTIES OF TREASURER.
The Council are empowered also to appoint a Treasurer. He must not be a member of the Council, nor can he be Town Clerk at the same time.
He is to hold office during pleasure, in the same manner as the Town Clerk.
In the case of a vacancy in the office, the Council are to appoint a successor within twenty-one days from the happening of the vacancy.
The Council may take a security for the discharge of his duties, and have the power to fix his salary in the same manner as in the case of the Town Clerk.
The duties of the Treasurer, under the Municipal Corporation Act, are as follows:—
To receive all penalties and forfeitures, recovered in a summary way before the justices of the Borough, to the credit of the Borough Fund, whether the same are made payable to the Crown or to the Corporation; except penalties to informers or parties aggrieved, or to the revenue.
To receive all monies due from other officers under the Act, and all payments directed to be made to the Borough Fund.
To pay no money on account of the Corporation, except in cases provided for by the Act, unless upon an order in writing of the Council, signed by at least three members thereof, and countersigned by the Town Clerk; or by the order of the Sessions, or of a Justice, in cases provided for by the Act.
Under the Municipal Corporation Act an order of the Town Council for the payment of money out of the Borough Fund would not have been removable by certiorari; but as it has been considered expedient to give all persons interested in such fund a direct and easy remedy for the misapplication thereof, it has been enacted, that such orders may be so removed into the Court of Queen's Bench, where they may be disallowed or confirmed. 7 Wm. 4 and 1 Vict. c. 78, s. 4.
The costs of opposing a certiorari are not payable out of the Borough Fund.
The Treasurer is also to keep accounts of all monies received and paid by him; and to submit the same to the Auditors on the 1st of March and the 1st of September in each year; and after such accounts have been audited in September, to cause an abstract thereof to be printed, which is to be open to the inspection of the ratepayers, and a copy of which is to be delivered to any ratepayer applying for the same on payment of a reasonable price.
There are yet other Officers to be elected, such as Auditors and Assessors; and there is also an important portion of the machinery of a Corporation to be provided, viz., the Watch Committee; but these, with some other collateral particulars, will form the subject of our next article.