Local Government Act 1894
The creation a system of urban and rural districts with elected councils. These, along with the town councils of municipal boroughs created earlier in the century, formed a second tier of local government below the existing county councils. The establishment of elected parish councils in rural areas. The reform of the boards of guardians of poor law unions. The entitlement of women who owned property to vote in local elections, become poor law guardians, and act on school boards.
The new district councils were based on the existing urban and rural sanitary districts. Many of the latter had lain in more than one ancient county, whereas the new rural districts were to be in a single administrative county. The act also reorganised civil parishes, so that none of them lay in more than one district and hence didn't cross administrative boundaries. Although the Act made no provision to abolish the Hundreds, which had previously been the only widely used administrative unit between the parish and the county in size, the reorganisation displaced their remaining functions. Several ancient hundred names lived on in the names of the districts that superseded them.
1 Background 2 The bill 3 Passage through parliament 4 Urban districts
4.1 Urban district councils
5 Rural districts
5.1 Rural district councils
5.1.1 Parishes administered by a rural district council in another county 5.1.2 Powers
6 Parish councils and meetings
6.1 Powers and duties 6.2 Expenditure and borrowing 6.3 Rights of way 6.4 Charitable trusts 6.5 Parish wards
7 Boundaries 8 First elections and "appointed day" 9 Amendments 1896–99 10 See also 11 References
Local Government Act 1888
"The Tories cannot conceal from themselves the fact that all over the land - in the towns, in the villages, in the country districts, in the urban districts - there is a resolute determination that Parliament shall put its hand in earnest to the great work of social regeneration ... parish councils may sound dull and mechanical, we know that they will go to the very root of national life, and that when we have achieved these reforms a freer voice will be given to the community than it has ever had before. New depths of life will have been stirred in the most neglected portions of our community, and we shall find among the labourers of the fields, as we have found among the artisans of the towns, a resolution that the condition of our people shall, so far as laws can better it, be bettered ..."
The Earl of Kimberley explained to a meeting in
".. a complete hierarchy of councils popularly elected and with full powers belonging to such bodies."
The Liberals tried to amend the Agricultural Smallholdings Act 1892 as it passed through parliament, seeking to add clauses creating parish councils which would have the power to buy and sell land in order to increase the number of smallholdings. In rejecting the amendments, Henry Chaplin, President of the Board of Agriculture, claimed the government intended:
"... on a proper and fitting occasion, when opportunity arises, to deal not only with the question of District Councils, but the question also of parochial reform. "
Parliament was dissolved in June 1892, and a general election called.
The Liberals made the introduction of district and parish councils
part of their programme. Following the election the Liberals under
William Ewart Gladstone
Any parish included in a rural sanitary district was deemed a "rural parish". Parishes that lay partly in a rural sanitary district and partly in an urban sanitary district; or in more than one administrative county, were to be divided into separate parishes. Parishes with a population of 300 or more were to have parish councils. Parishes with a lower population were to be grouped with other parishes so as to reach a population of 300 and have a joint parish council. Each parish was to have a parish meeting at which each elector had a single vote on all matters raised. Parish councillors would have a one-year term of office, with the old council retiring and the new council coming into office on 15 April. Parish councils were to consist of a chairman and councillors. There were to be between five and fifteen councillors, with the number fixed by the county council. Nominations to the council were to be made at a parish meeting previous to 15 April, and if there were more candidates than vacancies, a poll was to be held. Every parish council was to be a body corporate with perpetual succession. Where there was doubt as to the name of the parish, this was to be fixed by the county council. The parish council would be permitted to hold their meetings free of charge in a room in a state-supported public elementary school. The parish council was to assume all powers exercised by parish vestries except those dealing with the church or ecclesiastical charities. Examples included the maintenance of closed burial grounds, ownership of village greens and recreation grounds and operation of fire engines. A parish council could also take over any property of the poor law guardians within the parish with the approval of the Local Government Board. Parish councils could take on powers under various statutes relating to bath houses, street lighting, burials or libraries. Parish councils were to have power to buy or receive the gift of land or property to provide any of these services.
The second part of the bill dealt with poor law guardians and district councils. Among its provisions were that:
There were to be no ex officio or nominated guardians Women were to be eligible to be guardians. Guardians were to be elected by parish electors on a "one man - one vote" basis. Guardians were to have a three-year term of office, with one-third of the board retiring annually. New guardians were to come into office on 15 April. Urban sanitary authorities were to renamed "urban district councils", and urban sanitary districts as "urban districts". The titles of municipal boroughs and their town councils, although they ranked as urban districts, were not to be altered, however. Rural sanitary authorities were to renamed "rural district councils", and rural sanitary districts as "rural districts". The chairman of each district council was to be an ex officio justice of the peace.
The third part of the bill detailed the duties of the county council in dealing with divided areas and small parishes. The county council had the power to name divided parishes and to combine areas. The fourth and fifth parts of the bill dealt with the first election of councils and transitory provisions. Passage through parliament Speaking in the Commons on 21 March 1893, Fowler set out the complicated system of local government that was in need of reform. England and Wales were divided into:
62 counties, 302 Municipal Boroughs, 31 Improvement Act Districts, 688 Local Government Districts, 574 Rural Sanitary Districts, 58 Port Sanitary Districts, 2,302 School Board Districts ... 1,052 Burial Board Districts, 648 Poor Law Unions, 13,775 Ecclesiastical Parishes, and nearly 15,000 Civil Parishes. The total number of Authorities which tax the English ratepayers is between 28,000 and 29,000. Not only are we exposed to this multiplicity of authority and this confusion of rating power, but the qualification, tenure, and mode of election of members of these Authorities differ in different cases.
He explained that the government had chosen the civil parish as the basic unit of local government in rural areas. He estimated that there were approximately 13,000 rural parishes and a decision had been made that all those with a population of 300 or more were to have a parish council. This limit had been chosen as the Local Government Board already possessed powers to group parishes below this population for the election of guardians. There were approximately 6,000 small parishes in this category. Parish councils were to be limited in their expenditure, and were to be confined to charging rates of one penny in the pound unless they had the consent of both the parish meeting and the district council. Turning to the government of towns he explained:
We shall convert the Improvement Commissioners and Local Boards into Urban District Councils; we shall abolish all plural voting; we shall propose to abolish all qualifications, for we think the only qualification a man ought to possess is the confidence of his constituents; and we propose to make women capable of serving on these District Councils.
He then turned to reform of rural authorities:
Then as regards rural districts, the union is the administrative area with which we have to deal. Except in 25 cases, in which, if I may use the expression, the union consists of a single parish, the union is an aggregation of parishes. There are 648 unions altogether. There are 137 in two counties and 32 in three counties. The Guardians by whom the union is administered are elected or ex officio. The Local Government Board fixes the number of elected Guardians, but there is required to be one Guardian for every constituent parish. There is a property qualification and plural voting, and voting by proxy. We could not ask the House to continue the existing powers in, much less to confer new powers upon, an authority so constituted and so irresponsible ... We therefore propose to abolish, firstly, all ex officio or non-elective Guardians ... there shall be no plural voting, no proxy voting, and no voting papers, but voting by Ballot and One Man One Vote ... Having made the Guardians a popularly elected body, we do not propose to disturb the existing machinery. We take the Rural Sanitary Authority as it now exists, but elected and qualified under new conditions, and we continue that as the Rural District Council. Therefore, the Rural District Council will be the old Rural Sanitary Authority altered, and, I think, very much improved ... Then we propose to abolish all separate Highway Authorities in rural districts and to transfer the whole powers of the Highway Board or the highway parish to the Rural District Council.
Finally he described how the boundaries of the districts and parishes were to be arrived at:
At present we have rural sanitary districts, partly within and partly
without the county, and we have parishes partly within and partly
without rural sanitary districts. We have 174 rural sanitary districts
and some 800 parishes so situate. We propose that every parish is to
be within one county, that the district of every District Council is
to be within one county, and that the County Councils shall have the
duty of readjusting the existing overlapping areas and divisions. We
think the County Council far the best tribunal to undertake this duty.
They understand the localities, and how the districts can best be
divided. They are to have 12 months in which to discharge their duty;
and if at the end of that period they have not made this readjustment,
it will devolve upon the
Local Government Board
The bill returned, in amended form, for a second reading in November 1893. In reintroducing the bill to the Commons, Fowler outlined the objections that had been made, and the government's response.
The population lower limit of 300 for establishing a parish council
was seen as too high. The government proposed lowering the limit to
200, which would create a further 2,000 councils,.
The grouping of small parishes was unpopular. Where parishes were
grouped, each parish was to be a separate ward for election of parish
councillors, and the separate parish meeting was to retain the power
to approve or reject expenditure in its area.
An impression had been given that the parochial organisation of the
Church of England
Walter Long, the opposition spokesman on local government attacked the
bill on a number of grounds. He defended the ex-officio guardians who
had "proved themselves the most efficient and the most useful members
of the Board ... you will find that the most regular attendants
have been the ex officios, and that they have made the best Chairmen
and the best members." He believed the reform of boards of guardians
was unwarranted as "the system under which the Poor Law is
administered is as admirable as it is possible for the ingenuity and
humanity of man to devise", and he called on the government to drop
the proposals. Sir Charles Dilke, from the government's own benches,
was unhappy that county councils would have the power to divide or
group parishes. He felt that they were susceptible to influence by
local landowners whose wishes might overcome those of the
The bill then entered the committee stage. Arguments over the
population at which parish councils should be established continued to
be made, with amendments proposing limits of 100, 200, 500, 600 and
1,000. The figure finally reverted to the government figure of
200. Major Leonard Darwin,
Appointment of overseers of the poor Maintaining and repairing closed churchyards Holding or maintaining parish property (including village greens, allotments, recreation grounds) for the benefit of the inhabitants Election of allotment managers The power to adopt, following a poll of the parish electors:
The Lighting and Watching Act 1833 and the Baths and Washhouses Acts 1846 to 1882 The Burials Act 1852 to 1885 The Public Improvements Act 1860 The Public Libraries Act 1892
Acquisition of buildings for parish purposes Acquisition of land for allotments, public walks and recreation grounds
Expenditure and borrowing
Parish councils were generally limited to a rate of three pence in the
pound, although this could be increased to sixpence in the pound with
the permission of the parish meeting. Loans could not be obtained
without the permission of both the parish meeting and the county
council. Borrowing for certain specified purposes was subject to the
approval of the Local Government Board.
Rights of way
No right of way could be extinguished or diverted without the
permission of both the parish and rural district council. Parish
councils could take over the maintenance of public footpaths within
their parish, other than those along the edge of highways.
Where a charitable trust (other than an ecclesiastical charity)
existed in a parish, the Charity Commissioners could provide for the
parish council to become the trustees. Annual accounts of the charity
were to be laid before the parish meeting.
A parish council, or one-tenth of the electors of a parish, could
apply to the county council for the division of the parish into wards.
This was to be done where "the area or population of the parish is so
large, or different parts of the population so situated, as to make a
single parish meeting for the election of councillors impracticable or
inconvenient, or that it is desirable for any reason that certain
parts of the parish should be separately represented on the council".
Separate elections of councillors for each ward would then be
The responsibility for defining the areas of the districts was given
to the county councils established in 1888.
The Local Government (Elections) Act 1896 gave county councils the power to make appointments to any district or parish council or board of guardians where elections were found to be defective, or had not been held. This power was temporary, ending on 31 December 1897. The Local Government (Elections) (No.2) Act 1896 eased the residency requirements for the parish council elections of 1896. Instead of having to live in the parish for twelve months prior to the elections, all qualified electors resident at 25 March 1895 could be candidates. The Local Government Act 1897 made the qualification date of 25 March of the previous year applicable to all future elections. It also allowed for the annual meeting of authorities to be held on any date between 1 March and 1 April inclusive. The Parish Councillors (Tenure of Office) Act 1899 changed the term of office of parish councillors from one to three years. Elections were to be held on 15 April 1901 and then every three years. The annual meeting of the parish council was to be held within seven days of 15 April.
List of Rural Districts in England and Wales 1894 - 1930
Local Government Act 1894
^ Heater, Derek (2006). Citizenship in Britain: A History. Edinburgh University Press. p. 136. ISBN 9780748626724. ^ "British Women's History Timeline". British Women's Emancipation since the Renaissance. Retrieved 11 February 2015. ^ "Which Act Gave Women the Right to Vote in Britain?". Synonym. Retrieved 11 February 2015. ^ Mapping the Hundreds of England and Wales in GIS University of Cambridge Department of Geography, published 06-06-08, accessed 2011-10-12 ^ J P D Dunbabin, British Local Government Reform: The Nineteenth Century and after in The English Historical Review, Vol. 92, No. 365. (Oct., 1977), pp. 777-805. ^ "Mr Morley at Reading". The Times. 25 February 1892. p. 11. ^ "Lord Kimberley at Walworth". The Times. 25 February 1892. p. 10. ^ "Agricultural Holdings Bill". Hansard 1803 - 2005. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 4 April 1892. Retrieved 2009-02-17. ^ "The British General Election". The Times. 28 June 1892. p. 5. ^ "The Change of Ministry". The Times. 15 August 1892. p. 7. ^ a b "The Parish Councils Bill". The Times. 27 March 1893. p. 8. ^ a b c d e "Local Government of England and Wales Bill". Hansard 1803 - 2005. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 21 March 1893. Retrieved 2009-02-18. ^ "Second Reading". Hansard 1803 - 2005. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 2 November 1893. Retrieved 2009-02-18. ^ a b "Local Government (England and Wales) Bill". Hansard 1803 - 2005. Partliament of the United Kingdom. 20 November 1893. Retrieved 2009-02-18. ^ "Committee". Hansard 1803 - 2005. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 8 January 1894. Retrieved 2009-02-18. ^ "Message from the Lords". Hansard 1803 - 2005. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 13 February 1894. Retrieved 2009-02-18. ^ "Local Government (England and Wales) Bill". Hansard 1803 - 2005. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 1 March 1894. Retrieved 2009-02-18. ^ a b c V D Lipman, Local Government Areas 1834–1945, Oxford, 1949 ^ 1894 c.73 s.21 ^ 1894 c.73 s.23 ^ 1894 c.73 s.22 ^ a b c 1894 c.73 s.24 ^ Youngs, Frederic A Jr., Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England, 2 volumes, London, 1979 and 1991 ^ "Relationships / unit history of Pennal". Vision of Britain. University of Portsmouth. 2004–2008. Retrieved 2009-02-22. ^ 1894 c.73 s.25 ^ 1894 c.73 s.1 ^ 1894 c.73 s.3 ^ 1894 c.73 ss.5-10 ^ 1894 c.73 ss.11-12 ^ 1894 c.73 s.13 ^ 1894 c.73 s.14 ^ 1894 c.73 s.18 ^ a b Akerman, Portland B; Ford, Percy H (1894). Parish Councils: A Guide to the Local Government Act 1894. London: Routledge. ^ a b The Times. 3 December 1894. p. 9. Missing or empty title= (help) ^ Proceedings of parish Councils, Local Government Board, 12 December 1894 ^ Instructions to Boards of Guardians, Local Government Board, 20 December 1894 ^ Proceedings of Rural District Councils, Local Government Board, 24 December 1894 ^ Proceedings of Urban District Councils, Local Government Board, 12 December 1894 ^ Local Government (Elections) Act 1896, c.1 ^ Local Government (Elections) (No.2) Act 1896, c.4 ^ Local Government Act 1897, c.1 ^ Parish Councillors (Tenure of Office) Act 1899, c.10
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