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The Rushden Echo & Argus, 27th March, 1936, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Rushden Urban District Council

Sixpence Added To Rushden’s Rate
County Precept Held to Blame
“Economic” Call
Councillor On Committees Who Overspend

  The heaviest levy ever made on the ratepayers of Rushden was agreed to by the Urban District Council on Wednesday, when the rate was advanced from 12s. to 12s. 6d. in the £, which while nominally lower than the 13s. of 1930, will bring in the highest amount ever collected in the town.

  In an able survey of the position at the Council’s special “Budget” meeting Mr. Arthur Allebone, J.P., C.C., who presided, described the new rate as the first “economic” one that had been imposed for several years, but also emphasized that the advance of 6d. in the £ was equivalent to the extra precept of the County Council.

  There was little criticism of the financial arrangements, Mr. Roe alone protesting against the rate of expenditure.

Late Mr. G. W. Coles

  The meeting opened with a tribute to the late Mr. G. W. Coles.  “Before we commence the usual business,” said the Chairman, “it is my sad duty to refer to the loss this Council has sustained in the passing of Mr. Coles, who was the Chairman of the Finance Committee, and who under different circumstances would have presented the Budget report to-night.

  “The last thought of any of us when Mr. Coles was made Chairman of the Finance Committee only last April was that when the estimates were produced we should have his chair vacant.

  “We as a Council will very much miss him.  Having been a member of this Council for 14 years, his experience and sound judgment were of a real value.  I do not think anyone who has been connected with this Council has enjoyed more and taken a greater interest in public and Council work than did Mr. Coles.  His thoroughness was characteristic.  He was always sympathetic to other people’s views, and I feel sure we have lost a good Councillor and a good colleague.

  “We also have known him as a very happy family man, a good father and a kind husband, and to those of his family who are left to mourn him we offer our sincere sympathy.”

  At the Chairman’s request the members and officers paid their tribute by standing silently for a minute.

Hope Not Realised

  Proceeding to his financial report, the Chairman said: “When the estimates were submitted last year, and a rate was passed at 12/- in the £, I am sure that we all hoped that figure would not have to be exceeded, but on account of the County Council precept being 6d. more for 1936-7 than it was last year I have to ask you to confirm a rate of 12s. 6d. in the £ instead of 12/.

  “The expenditure of this Council for the year 1936-7 has been estimated within those limits that would only maintain the services of the town in what each committee agrees are sound and necessary.  The only items of increased expenditure allowed for were such which the committees considered were essential for reasonable progress, and those items I shall deal with as I submit each committee’s estimates.

  “Two years ago when I presented the financial report I made a strong point of the smallness of our carry-over balance, and I want to say that the amount which is proposed to carry forward from this year, that is £1,250, in the opinion of the committee is not enough for a town of this size, and I put this forward as a suggestion for the future that £2,000 should be aimed at, as a balance to tide over that period before we receive any income, and to meet any extraordinary expenditure which might arise, and which it is impossible to foresee, and therefore to budget for.

Care Still Needed

  “One point of importance to my mind is this, that two years ago the amount that this Council had out of the rate which was levied was 2s.  That is, out of the rate which was then 10s. 6d., 8s. 6d. went to the County Council.  Last year after meeting the County Council precept the amount in the £ left to this Council was 3s. 6d., 75 per cent. more than the previous year, and that same amount is necessary this year.  Not having any balances to draw from now, such as we had when only 2s. in the £ was levied for local expenditure, it means that with the balance of £1,250 allowed for, this 3s. 6d. in the £ is the economic rate to meet our local needs.  It is the first time an economic rate has been asked for since 1931/32, and if it is the opinion of this Council that the amount asked for this year is high enough, it is necessary for me to point out that any items of large expenditure will mean a further increase in our rates.

  “The product of a 1d. rate is this year estimated to be £290 against £280 last year, but, as you are all aware, as the town grows we have increased services to maintain, and after maintaining those extra services we have very little left.

  “I am pleased to say that the housing account, which gave me considerable anxiety two years ago, has been put on a sound and businesslike basis, and we shall not be handing on to posterity a liability, but, I believe, a good solid block of assets.

Loan Savings

  “The conversion of loans amounting to approximately £100,000 has had the effect of enabling the Housing Committee to put the rents of their houses on a more uniform basis, and to establish that basis for the whole of the period for which we have borrowed the money, much of it, of course, to the benefit of many of our tenants.  Further than that, however, we have been able to save in loan charges on other sums amounting to approximately £26,000 a sum of approximately £204 per annum, which is a direct saving to the rate.

  “The estimated rateable value for 1936-37 is £74,829, an actual increase of £1,324.  A rate of 12s. 6d. in the £ is estimated to produce £43,500, and the estimated precept by the County Council of £30,972, and other precepting authorities, such as the Water Board, and the Wellingborough Area Assessment Committee of £1,003, will leave a balance to this Council of £11,525.

  “The Plans and Highways Committee, which in the year 1935-36 estimated for £6,895, actually spent £6,485, which was a saving of £410; but on account of items such as £90 which has been agreed as a contribution towards the improvement at Messrs. Claridge’s corner, and a decreasing revenue from in-town fires, and maintenance of the increased roads, it is necessary to budget for an increase of £484 over the actual expenditure of 1935-36.

Less From Grave Sites

  “On the Health and Sanitary Committee there is also an increase of £408 in the estimated expenditure, which is made up of increased refuse collection, on account of the extra number of houses, the extra remuneration to the workmen who are employed by those who contract direct to the Council, and also nearly £100 which is the decreased revenue in the purchase of sites for graves.

  “The Library Committee have asked for an increase of £27 which is to provide more and better reading for the public, and I think if they had had their way they would have made it more than that.

  “The Baths, Parks and Hall Committee in 1935-36 budgeted for £2,417, but the actual expenditure was £2,783, an increased expenditure of £366.  This was principally through the bowling greens being returfed in Spencer Park, which cost approximately £100, repairs to a house, repairs of damage to the greenhouses which was caused during the heavy hailstorm, and by the reorganisation of the loans for the baths, which brought in the current year an extra charge of about £150; but as all these items are of a non-recurring nature, as far as one can estimate, the Baths, Parks and Hall Committee have been able to decrease their estimate this year by £360, although they have allowed £100 for additional dressing accommodation, which I think you will agree will be an asset to the amount already expended on this useful service.

“Eaten The Cake”

  “The Housing Committee have estimated for practically the same as they did last year, although the rate in the £ required to maintain the services in respect to the houses has decreased by 4d.; but those who have the estimate of the Housing Committee in front of them will see that that is principally on account of the basis of rate contribution being altered under the 1935 Act from 40 to 60 years in respect to houses built under the 1924 Act.

  “The Finance and Estates Committee’s report here shows a fair increase, and although the actual expenditure for 1935-36 was down by approximately £150 to the estimated expenditure, over the actual expenditure of 1935-36, the Finance and Estates Committee are asking for an additional £551.

  “It is only fair to point out that last year the Finance Committee had the amount of 436 which was used to build stables some years ago, and was never used for that purpose, to include in their accounts for the current year; but having eaten the cake we cannot still have it.  Having the town planning scheme before us, which I think we can all hope will show some form of life during the ensuing year, we have estimated the amount towards that at £150.  There is also an item for election expenses of £140, and in view of the small balance that we have held at the bank for so long the bank interest is down by £78.

Not So Clever

  “Now a summary of all these figures means that for the financial year of 1936-37 the County Council precept is 8s. 10¾d., and the Water Board rate 3d., which gives a total of 12s. 6d.

  “I would remind you here that in 1930-31 the rate was 13s., in 1931-32 it was 12s., in 1932-33 it was 11s., and in the next two years it was 10s. 6d.  I believe we felt we were rather clever in getting down to 10s. 6d., but we were not meeting an economic rate then.  To-day we have no other choice, and as it was easy for us to reduce it from 13s. to 10s. 6d. so quickly as from 1930-34, you will appreciate to-day how easy it is to have the figure increased.

  “Although we have many assets, the total loans outstanding to-day are £378,912, and if we estimate our population at 14,500 we have a rateable value per head of the population of £3 3s. 3d., and a rate per head of £3.

  “The derating grant has shown a slightly diminishing figure since 1930-31, and I am afraid that that grant will carry on in this same way.

  “Our annual loan charges for the ensuing year are £21,800, which equals an average rate of interest which we are paying on borrowed money of 4.4 per cent.  Approximately one-third of our loans have been borrowed at an average rate of interest of just under 3¼ per cent., but there is something like £200,000 borrowed from the Public Works Loan Commissioners without any break clause, and that amount cannot be disturbed.

A Sound Position

  “Without giving you figures over the past number of years, I am satisfied that we are as a town in a sound and strong position.  Our population and our rateable value are increasing year by year, and so also are our debts.  The only decreasing figure is the derating grant, but I am optimistic enough to say that by careful handling of the Council’s finances, spending only when there is a definite need for the benefit of the public or the maintenance of real essential services, we can be satisfied that Rushden has a lot that it can pride itself upon, and – if it is any consolation – is to-day well under the average rate of Urban District Councils of the country.”

The Discussion

Mr. Roe Thinks the Hall and Scavenging Cost Too Much

  Mr. Roe: You told us that the estimated income for 1936-37 was £43,500 and that the amount this Council would have to spend was £11,525, but you omitted to mention the amount we get for de-rating, which brings our figure up to over £20,000, doesn’t it?

  The Chairman: Quite.

  Mr. Capon said the Chairman could be congratulated on the able way in which the figures had been presented.  While they deplored the necessity that arose from the figures he was satisfied himself that the figures were as lean as they ought to be.  He could not see where anything could be saved – not even to the extent of a penny.

  Mr. Spencer said he agreed with Mr. Capon.  So far as the Library Committee was concerned he was sorry they could not have a larger grant.  The sum allowed was extremely small according to the needs of the library, and if during the year the finances so improved that another £50 could be granted he was sure it would be very acceptable.

  The adoption of the rate, with an instalment of 6s. 3d. in the £ for the first half-year, was the moved from the chair and seconded.

Committees Overspend

  Mr. Roe said that 12 months ago, when Mr. Capon, who was then Chairman of the Finance Committee, asked for a 1s. 6d. increase in the rate, he particularly stressed the point that he hoped the committees would not overspend their estimates, and then they would have a substantial balance at the end of the year.  What was the result?  He found that of six committees three had overspent their estimates, and that the balance they anticipated had been used up.  They had a good excuse this year owing to the increase in the County Council demands, but if the committees overspent, what was going to be the position next year?

  Since 1931-32 the rateable value of the town had gone up by about £14,000.  On a 12s. rate that meant an additional income of £2,000 odd.  They were spending all that money, and if they were going to lose some of the de-rating money it meant that they had got to increase the rates another year.

  The Baths and Parks Committee had spent £366 this year over their estimates.  He had repeatedly called attention to the overspending on the part of this committee, and he thought there was a lot of money spent on Rushden Hall.  He would be sorry to see that neglected in any way, but for the life of him he could not see that it was necessary to employ five men there throughout the winter.

£1,600 For Sweeping

  Another item on which they might cut down expenses without detriment to the services was scavenging.  They paid £1,600 for sweeping the streets of the town.  He thought that was an awful lot of money, and that if the committee went carefully into the matter it could be cut down very considerably. 

  He hoped the Finance Committee would go into these matters, otherwise he knew what would happen – it would be another sixpence next year.  Instead of having a balance of £1,250 they would be asking for an increased rate to make it up to the £2,000 which the Chairman thought they ought to have.

  The Chairman replied that he thought it was only fair to point out that this was the first time they had really asked for an economic rate which was the only thing that was going to keep them alive.  It did seem that there had been overspending by some committees, but if they took the case of the Plans and Highways Committee they would find that the Surveyor was advised to stop spending early this year in view of the possibility of the increased rate.  He had done so, but he had the leeway to make up next year, otherwise the services were going to suffer.

  He quite agreed that £1,600 was spent on scavenging, but out of that £1,600 approximately 13½ men per week did the whole of the work.  Territorially Rushden was growing fast;  houses were coming along, and when they had had only 13½ men on the average to do the street work he did not think they could cut down there.

Chairman Satisfied

  The Surveyor had cut down his expenditure very closely, and he himself was satisfied that the rate of 12s. 6d. was one that they must have if they were to maintain the social services as they were entitled to.

  Mr. Hornsby said he took it that they all regretted the need for an increase, but of course it was the County Council that was asking for the increase.  He could not for the life of him see how they could cut anything down.  Mr. Roe had called attention to increased expenditure on the part of the Parks and Baths Committee, but he felt sure they would do all they could to keep within the estimates – and other committees too.

  They all regretted the rate was going up, but the mistake was made two or three years ago when they put it down.  He had no doubt that a great many people, both tradesmen and others, did feel the strain of the increased rate, but he was sure they would view the matter as the Council had done, and say they had done all they could to keep the rate down.

  Without further comment the new rate was adopted.

  Members present were: Messrs. A. Allebone, J.P., C.C. (in the chair), J. T. Richardson (Vice-Chairman), J. Roe, T. W. Cox, F. Green, D. G. Greenfield, M.D., L. Perkins, M.B.E., J. Allen, W. E. Capon, J. S. Denton, J. Spencer, J.P., J. E. Dilks, W. J. Sawford, J. Hornsby and E. A. Sugars.  Messrs. J. White and A. Wilmott sent apologies for absence. 

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