HALTWHISTLE and ALSTON NEWS and NORTH CUMBERLAND
No. 421. - VOL. IX SATURDAY MARCH 26, 1898 PRICE ONE
H A L T W H I S T L E.
THE URBAN POWERS QUESTION.
A well attended public meeting was held in the Town Hall, Haltwhistle, on
Wednesday evening, to discuss this question, in view of the poll to be taken
to-day (Saturday). MR. J. M. CLARK occupied the chair, and amongst the
company present were several members of the existing, and candidates for the
next Parish Council.
The CHAIRMAN, in his preliminary remarks, said the meeting was called by
some gentlemen who had not an opportunity at the late Parish Meeting to
discuss the question, whether it was, or was not, desirable to have an Urban
Council for Haltwhistle. Personally, he was entirely neutral on the point.
This would be an open meeting, any one would be at liberty to express his
opinion, either for or against, but only the gentleman, on which ever side
he was, who opened the discussionn should have a right to reply. Others
must only speak once, unless it was to ask a questionn, or make an
DR. SPIERS, who was received with some cheers, said it was his privilege and
duty, as the mover of the resolution under which this question was to be
submitted to the electors on Saturday, to open the discussion. He heard
that an elector had said at the Parish Meeting that he (DR. SPIERS) knew
nothing about the question. But he could say that he had not rushed into it
***********without regard to consequences. He ***********mature
consideration, and would strongly urge upon them that it was their duty to
support urban powers at the poll.
When three years ago he was returned on the first Parish Council, he was
very soon convinced that a Parish Council was not a proper governing body
for a rising town like Haltwhistle. He at once took steps to ascertain the
working of Urban Councils elsewhere, and wrote to the Clerks of several in
the northern counties similar in conditions to Haltwhistle. The replies he
received were in every way satisfactory.
He submitted the facts to a Parish Meeting early in the life of the
second Parish Council. There was, of course, an influential opposition, and
on a show of hands he was beaten, though the majority against him was not
large. But he was not inclined to give up. He was convinced that an Urban
Council was a necessity, and went on collecting information.
Last autumn they had another Parish Meeting, and a committee was
appointed to make investigations. That committee, assisted by the Clerk,
held several meetings, and received communications from several Urban
Councils in the three northern counties. As a result of these
communications and investigations, a majority of that committee decided that
an Urban Council was desirable.
On the question of the area to be included, there was difference of
opinion. The report of the committee was submitted to the Parish Meeting on
the 14th inst. It had been a meagre report, but he attempted to make
certain statements in extension or explanation.
Unfortunately he was inveigled into making a proposition that the
committee recommend that an Urban Council be applied for. It was not his
intention to make that proposition, but he was inveigled into it. Again he
was in a minority, a poll was demanded, which would be held on Saturday, and
they had called that meeting to enlighten the electors, and try to convice
them of the necessity for a different form of local government than they
Only yesterday MR. MACADAM and himself went down to Hexham, and
interviewed the Clerk to the Urban Council there, a solicitor of experience.
He received them courteously, and gave them replies to certain questions
submitted to him. They also saw another gentleman well known to many in the
meeting, who had had thirty years experience at first in the Hexham Local
Board of Health, and afterwards in the Urban Council. That gentleman was
Alderman STAINTHORPE. On stating their business to him, he said he had had
Haltwhistle in his eye for some time, and that they were not the first
deputation from it that had waited upon him on the subject they were upon.
They looked rather surprised.
He told them that a gentleman had been down to make inquiries about the
working of Urban Councils. That gentleman was in opposition, and MR.
STAINTHORPE told them he did his best to convince him of the error of his
ways, but he was afraid, without success. He himself was distinctly in
favour of Urban Councils, and said that no one could tell the incalculable
benefit that would accrue until they were tried. If that gentleman who went
down to MR. STAINTHORPE was present at the meeting he would bear him out
with regard to the Alderman's opinion.
The speaker then read an extract from the "Newcastle Chronicle"
referring to a meeting at Blyth and Cowpen in favour of incorporation, as an
advance on the present Urban Council in that place. The extract in
conclusion stated the advantages of incorporation much more than compensated
any slight increase in the expenditure, and the meeting endorsed the scheme.
He then proceeded to say that if they were to progress in Haltwhistle, they
must apply for Urban powers. They would not get them unless they did apply.
Let him refer to a few of the reasons why he thought they should have Urban
powers. The town was a populous and increasing one. The population was
largely working class, engaged in pursuits which distinguished them from a
rural or agricultural population, and as such having special requirements.
The township was at present, as regarded sanitation, buildings, new streets,
under a Council of 19 members, only two of whom resided in the town. The
others had neither the local knowledge or local interest to deal with the
town's requirements. The sanitary and other requirements of the town should
have the systematic attention which could only be given by officials of an
Urban Council. Better supervision of new buildings and streets could be
given by a Council comprised entirely of persons elected by the town's
ratepayers, and it was well known that the District Council had seriously
neglected recommendations of the Parish Council, which had resulted in
breaches of the byelaws.
They should also endeavour to attract a middle class population. This
could only be done by improving the management of local affairs., such
people would never come to a town where some streets were ankle-deep in mud
and the gable end of houses were allowed to project into the street.
Various objections had been mentioned at the parish meeting. At that
meeting, MR. Alderman HUDSPITH spoke in favour of a restricted area. The
whole township was included at Hexham, and there was no reason why it should
not at Haltwhistle. MR. HUDSPITH then went on to speak of the Agricultural
Rating Act, and the hardship of bringing in the farmers outside the town.
But if matters remained as at present, then outsiders would not only have to
continue to pay their share of the existing rate for water and sewerage, but
for any extension whether they got the beneift or not. His suggestion was
that they should continue to pay their share of the existing water and
sewerage loan until that run out, but with regard to any extension or any
improvement from which they got no benefit, they should be exempt. It would
be to their advantage to go for an Urban Council. Under a restricted area,
it must be obvious the rates would at once go up.
MR. HASTEWELL contended that the fact of wanting to exempt outsiders
from future charges of this kind, showed they had been encroaching in the
past. He agreed that they had, but as the burden had been voluntarily taken
up, he thought they should continue to bear it. MR. FORSTER considered his
suggestion impracticable, but it was carried out at Hexham. Houses there
which got no benefit from the water supply, paid none of the cost. [ Hear,
Hear, and Cheers ].
With regard to MR. GRAHAM's statement about the salaries of officials,
it was quite correct, but it did not apply here. It was a provision of the
Act of 1888, establishing County Councils, that any officials engaged wholly
and solely by any body whose functions were taken over by the County
Council, should not be dismissed without compensation. The officials at
Haltwhistle were only partially employed, and would not be entitled to
In reference to MR. GREGG's inquiry as to a loss on the rate received from
the Railway Company, so far as they had been able to compute, the loss would
be £25 or £30 a year, but he thought that would be met in other ways. The
expenses had been a great argument against them, but he put the question to
the Clerk of the Hexham Council that, supposing no new schemes were
considered necessary, would the change from Parish and District Councils to
an Urban Council be likely to lead to much increase in rates, and he replied
that it would not. He also asked if the Medical Officer, Surveyor, and
Inspector must be specially retained by the Urban Council, or could they
employ those already engaged in a similar capacity elsewhere. The reply was
that they could. The sanction of the Local Government Board would be
required to the engagement of a Medical Officer or Inspector of Nuisances
already engaged by another body, but that was always given unless for some
special reason. He was assured by MR. STAINTHORPE that the preliminary
expenses were a mere bagatelle, and would only be the expenses of two or
three County Councillors to hold the investigation.
It had further been urged that they might get on this Council, men who would
not be careful of the public money, but he had sufficient confidence in the
working men of the town, to believe that they would not return men who would
waste public money. It was difficult for him, not being a lawyer, to reply
to some of the statements made by MR. GRAHAM and MR. GREGG, but with respect
to the loss from the rates paid by the Railway Company, which he admitted,
they must remember that they would only have elections once in three years,
instead of every year as now. Then they would not have to contribute to the
salary of the Clerk to the Highway Board, or of the Rural District Council,
and they would have no Clerk to the Parish Council. Instead of three clerks
they would have one.
As to the salaries of the Clerk and Medical Officer respectively, they
were at Amble, £30 and £20; Hexham £150 and £50; Newbiggin £15 and £20;
Rothbury £10 and £20; Seghill £20 and £20; Aspatria, Clerk £30. The area
served, and the number of meetings were taken into account, and if they
engaged their officials in conjunction with the Rural District Council, the
work would be the same, and the total salaries need not be increased.
This was his case, and if anyone had any questions to ask he would answer as
far as he was able. [ Cheers ].
MR. LEAKE thought that after the clear statement they had heard, those who
were against an Urban Council must now be convinced that it was desirable.
During his twelve months experience on the Parish Council, he had felt much
as DR. SPEIRS had expressed himself with regard to the power they possessed.
It was exceedingly limited. People had called the Council a talking
machine, and there was a great deal of truth in the statement [ hear,
hear ]. But really the tongue was the only tool they had, and they had to
do their best with it [ cheers ]. They were like the importunate widow, and
their judges, if not unjust, were certainly indifferent. The best thing
they could do would be to try and paddle their own canoe. MR. J. F. GRAHAM
gave some excellent advice to the farmers at the Parish Meeting, and DR.
SPEIRS had given them the same reasons to-night, and they could not do
better than support an Urban Council. Taking all the facts they had heard
into consideration, they should go in for urban powers for the whole parish,
especially as the town was increasing so rapidly [ cheers ].
MR. W. GRAHAM (Post Office) wished to know what the District Council had
refused to do when asked by the Parish Council.
DR. SPEIRS said he could give an instance. He would rather not state it
publicly, but would tell MR. GRAHAM if he would come up to the platform.
MR. GRAHAM preferred a public statement.
DR. SPEIRS said that the Parish Council refused to pass plans for some
cottages sent in by MR. SAINT. They considered they were justified by the
bye-laws because the entrance was through an archway. The District Council
also refused to pass the plans, but the houses were built in spite of
it.They were now occupied, and the District Council had no power to
interfere [ cheers ].
MR. GRAHAM thought that was just what would occur under an Urban Council.
When gentlemen living in other parishes would not interfere, people
intimately connected with the town would be more likely to shrink from the
responsibility. If it was bad under a District Council, it would be
infinitely worse under an Urban Council [ Cheers ]. A Parish Councillor
erected houses, and they were occupied before the inspector visited them.
That was contrary to the bye-laws. No town had been more improved that
Haltwhistle the last ten years, but it was done entirely independent of both
District and Parish Councils. His opinion was that they thought a Parish
Council was not dignified enough. An Urban Council would confer more
dignity on the members. He had been told it was power they wanted, and that
an Urban Council would have made him set the front of his new premises five
feet back behind those adjoining. He would not have asked the Urban
Council's leave, but if the adjoining premises had been compelled to go five
feet back also, he would have done it at once. He knew the value of an
extended front. They had an instance of what the vaunted Urban Council at
Hexham would do, when they allowed the London and Midland Bank to erect
large premises in the middle of a street with a narrow passage on each side.
DR. SPEIRS thought a lot of MR. GRAHAM's remarks were off the mark
altogether. He said that an Urban Council would be frightened to go
forward. But it was the Parish Council that refused to pass the plans
referred to. The District Council also refused, but they did not prohibit
the man from building. The Parish Council, the local man, had not power to
do it. The District Council got counsel's opinion, and found they were
right, but they went no further.
MR. GRAHAM: If it had been a working man the bye-law would have been put
into force. [ Cheers ]
MR. BELL wished to correct MR. GRAHAM's statement as to the Bank at Hexham.
It was erected on the site of some old buildings which were pulled down, and
the passages on each side were made wider than before.
MR. J. JACKSON would like to mention two things the District Council had
declined to deal with, the Bellister footpath and the Tippald footbridge.
[ Cheers ]
MR. GREGG said he wished again to ask, as he did at the Parish Meeting, what
the township would lose under the operation of the Agricultural Rates Act.
It had been stated that Wetheral would lose £101.
DR. SPEIRS replied that he did not put the question in that form to the
Clerk to the Hexham Council, and he could not answer it. The question he
asked was whether the rates would be materially increased if any new schemes
were necessary, and he was assured they would not.
MR. J. F. GRAHAM, who rose amid cheers, said they could not have a more
lucid and forcible statment than that of DR. SPEIRS, and anyone who followed
it closely must conlcude that Urban powers were desirable. [ Cheers ]. One
great argument against the change was that the rates would be raised. He
thought they would have far more protection with an Urban Council than now.
Before it could spend any great amount of money, the ratepayers could hold a
meeting, and demand a poll. No resident could be content with the present
system. With three thousand population, they had two resident members.
They could not expect outside members to take an interest in the town like
residents. If they did not get Urban powers now, the time was not far
distant when they must.
The replies from other places were unanimous as to the advantages of the
system. That was a strong argument any sensible man must feel the force of.
The rates had not been increased in any of these places, except under some
special circumstances. If an expensive water or sewerage scheme had to be
carried out under Urban powers, of course the rates went up, but it would be
the same under any other Council.
If they got Urban powers, it must be for the whole township; that had
been the case at all other places. Under the present system, outsiders
suffered great injustices, which would not be the case with an Urban
Council, and he was surprised that any outsiders should oppose.
The only point on which he was not quite sure, was whether they could
continue the present charge on outsiders for water and sewerage under an
Urban scheme. But even if they could not, and the rates had to be slightly
increased in the town, it would only be doing justice, and let justice be
done though the heavens should fall. The town would get more than an
equivalent for the increase. No doubt if the District Council would
exercise more fully the powers they had, it would be better, but what could
be expected with two town members in nineteen. They should have eight, and
then they might get justice done.
The members of the Parish Council had faithfully done their duty, but
their power was limited. They had to appeal to the District Council, which
was bad to move. The fire apparatus was an instance, they had had it two
years. It was useless, because the places of the hydrants were not marked.
As DR. SPEIRS had said, Haltwhistle might be a residential centre. It
had splendid water, pure air, and beautiful surroundings, and more attention
to its building and sanitary arrangements would induce people to come.
Both on that account, and in the interests of the working classes, they
should vote unanimously for Urban powers. [ Cheers ]
MR. JOSEPH BATEY thought they could not get a medical officer and sanitary
inspector without giving more pay than at present. They would have more
meetings to attend with two Councils to serve. If they got a restricted
area, the rates within it must be increased. Working men must live for
something else besides improvements, and could not spend all their money on
MR. CRAIG observed that he learned from an important periodical that Urban
Councils had more power in regard to workmen's dwellings and allotments than
both Parish and District Councils put together. Working men then should on
Saturday vote for an Urban Council. [ Cheers ]
MR. T. BELL asked how the rates in Hexham compared with Haltwhistle ?
MR. GREGG thought the rates an important point. The rents in the town were
now as high as they could be, and if the rates got back up, it might be the
last straw that broke the camel's back. [ Laughter }
DR. SPEIRS in replying said he could not answer MR. GREGG's question as to
the loss under the Agricultural Rates Act. As to MR. BATEY's statement that
the medical officer and sanitary inspector would have to be paid more, they
would only have the same ground to cover as before, and could not have any
more work. They only wanted power to compel persons to do what was right.
For instance, streets at the West End were now in the condition they
were when the houses were first put up. Some owners were willing to put
them in order, some had even done it, others would not. An Urban Council
would have compelled them all, or done the work after a certain time, and
charged the cost to them, taking the streets over afterwards. As to
comparing Hexham and Haltwhistle rates, it must be remembered that great
differences might arise from various causes. One authority might have a
very expensive water or sewerage schemes, while another might get these done
very much cheaper, and consequently have much lower rates. The district
rate at Hexham was 3s, water rate 8d; at Haltwhistle the rate was 2s 7d.
The CHAIRMAN pointed out that the Hexham rate did not include poor rate, but
the Haltwhistle rate did.
MR. W. GRAHAM believed the Hexham rate was about 5s 6d in the £.
DR. SPEIRS said the water at Haltwhistle cost £2,000, at Hexham £6,000.
MR. BIRKETT: What is the rateable value ? Hexham might be the cheaper if
you take it into account.
DR. SPEIRS: Hexham is, I think, assessed at about £25,000; Haltwhistle
MR. J. C. BELL: Will we be relieved of the Highway Rate under an Urban
DR. SPEIRS: We will maintain our own district roads, but we have nothing to
do with those outside.
MR. MACADAM explained that the railway was assessed at about £2400. At
present it paid the full highway rate of 4d in the £ or £40; under an Urban
Council it would pay 1d in the £ or £10.
MR. GREGG again pressed his question about the loss under the Agricultural
Rates Act, but no one was able to give him a definite reply. MR. MACADAM
said that for all land used for purely agricultural purposes within the
urban area, they would receive the Government grant the same as at present.
MR. W. GRAHAM said that MR. MACADAM's view was contradicted by the official
paper of Urban Councils which stated that they would lose the Government
DR. SPEIRS, replying on the whole discussion, referred to MR. HUDSPITH's
statement at the Parish Meeting, that farmers who had received relief by
having half the rate on the land paid by Government, had been rated heavier
on their buildings. As he understood, the money had been taken out of one
pocket and put into another.
He was very pleased to see that so many had taken an interest in the
movement. He had tried as far as he could to answer satisfactorily every
question. If there was to be a loss, which he did not expect, it was
evidently not of much effect, for all the districts that had adopted Urban
Coucils did not wish to go back.
What he and those with him had done, had been done conscientiously and
honestly in the best interests of the town, and if the application was not
carried on Saturday, it would be due to some of their Progressive friends
putting a spoke in the wheel, and keeping them in a rut in which they had
been living for the past 25 or 30 years. [ Cheers ]
MR. LEAKE moved and MR. J. F. GRAHAM seconded, a vote of thanks to the
The CHAIRMAN in reply, expressed his pleasure at seeing so many present,
especially so many young men, and hoped whatever conclusion they came to on
Saturday, it would be for the benefit of the town.