Municipal borough

Last updated

Municipal borough
CategoryLocal government district
Location England and Wales, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland
Found in Administrative county
Created by Municipal Corporations Act 1835 (England and Wales)
Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840 (Ireland)
Created
  • 1835
Abolished by
Abolished
  • 1974 (England and Wales)
  • 1973 (Northern Ireland)
  • 2002 (Republic of Ireland)
Possible types
  • County borough
  • Non-county borough
Possible status
  • City
  • Royal borough
Government
  • Municipal corporation
Subdivisions

Municipal boroughs were a type of local government district which existed in England and Wales between 1835 and 1974, in Northern Ireland from 1840 to 1973 and in the Republic of Ireland from 1840 to 2002. Broadly similar structures existed in Scotland from 1833 to 1975 with the reform of royal burghs and creation of police burghs.

Contents

England and Wales

Municipal Corporations Act 1835

Boroughs had existed in England and Wales since mediæval times. By the late Middle Ages they had come under royal control, with corporations established by royal charter. These corporations were not popularly elected: characteristically they were self-selecting oligarchies, were nominated by tradesmen's guilds or were under the control of the lord of the manor. A Royal Commission was appointed in 1833 to investigate the various borough corporations in England and Wales. In all 263 towns were found to have some form of corporation created by charter or in existence by prescription. The majority had self-elected common councils, whose members served for life. Where there was an election, the incumbent members of the corporation often effectively nominated the electorate. Eleven boroughs were manorial court leets. [1] Following the report of the royal commission, legislation was introduced to reform borough corporations.

The Municipal Corporations Act 1835 provided for a reformed form of town government, designated a municipal borough. The Act introduced a uniform system of town government in municipal boroughs, with an elected town council, consisting of a mayor, aldermen and councillors to oversee many local affairs. The legislation required all municipal corporations to be elected according to a standard franchise, based on property ownership. The Act reformed 178 boroughs. At the same time, a procedure was established whereby the inhabitant householders of a town could petition the Crown via the privy council to grant a charter of incorporation, constituting the area a municipal borough. [2] The attempts to incorporate large industrial towns such as Birmingham, Bolton, Manchester and Sheffield by Whig and Radical "incorporationists" were bitterly contested by Tory "anti-incorporationists". [3] The Tory objections to the legality of the charters led to them boycotting elections to the new boroughs until the enactment of the Borough Charters Confirmation Act 1842. [4]

A number of further acts of parliament[ which? ] amended the 1835 legislation. All of these were repealed and replaced by the Municipal Corporations Act 1882. The 1882 Act and the consolidating Local Government Act 1933 provided the statutory basis for municipal boroughs up to their abolition. An important change in the 1933 legislation removed the right to petition for incorporation from inhabitant householders. In future, petitions could only be made by existing urban or rural district councils. [5]

The boroughs unreformed by the Act were not immediately abolished. Several of them subsequently sought new charters as municipal boroughs; those that did not were finally abolished in 1887 by the Municipal Corporations Act 1886. Only the City of London Corporation survived as a local authority in an unreformed state; the City undertook a major reform of its democratic structure in 2005.

In 1873 the Association of Municipal Corporations was formed to represent the interests of the boroughs collectively; its membership included both county and non-county boroughs. The AMC was later to be a strong advocate for expanding county boroughs and unitary local government, and it was at the annual conference of the AMC in 1965 that Richard Crossman called for a reform of all local government. This speech eventually led to the Redcliffe-Maud Report recommending large unitary councils for all England. [6]

Corporation and council

Each municipal borough possessed a corporation uniformly designated as the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses of the town. The only exception was where the borough enjoyed city status; in this case "burgesses" became "citizens". In a handful of cities the chief magistrate was granted the further dignity of lord mayor.

The corporation was a body corporate with perpetual succession, and included all registered electors or "burgesses" of the borough. However, the actual administration was carried out by a town council, which was in effect a committee representative of the community at large. All those eligible to vote were entered in the "burgess roll", which was compiled by the town clerk annually. [7]

Town councils

The town council of each municipal borough consisted of a mayor, aldermen, and councillors. The councillors were directly elected by the burgesses for a three-year term, with one third of their membership retiring each year. Boroughs with a population of more than 6,000 were divided into wards with separate elections held in each ward annually. [8] One quarter of the council were aldermen, who were elected by the council for a six-year term. Half of the aldermen were elected every third year at the council's annual meeting. It was originally envisaged that the council would choose persons from outside of the municipal body. In practice, however, the aldermanic benches were almost exclusively filled by the promotion of long-serving councillors. [7] The mayor of the borough was elected for a one-year term, although he was eligible for re-election indefinitely. Under the original legislation the mayor was required to be a councillor or alderman. The Municipal Corporations Act 1882 empowered the council to elect any suitably qualified inhabitant of the borough as mayor. However, the mayoralty continued to be almost universally conferred on a senior alderman or councillor. [7]

Municipal elections were originally held on 1 November, with the mayoral election and filling of aldermanic vacancies on 9 November. Elections were cancelled during the First and Second World Wars, and the November 1948 elections were postponed until May 1949. From that date, municipal elections were held on the second Thursday of May. [9] In view of the forthcoming local government reorganisation, the 1972 elections were rescheduled to 4 May, with no elections in 1973 and all sitting councillors and aldermen holding their seats until midnight on 31 March 1974. [10]

County and non-county boroughs

In 1889, the Local Government Act 1888 created county councils across England and Wales. Boroughs were divided into two sorts, with some becoming county boroughs which were entirely self-governing and independent from county council administration.

The non-county boroughs had more limited powers of self-government, and shared power with county councils. In 1894, towns which had not been incorporated as boroughs became urban districts with similar powers to municipal boroughs.

The title of 'borough' was considered to be more dignified than 'urban district', and so many larger urban districts petitioned to be granted the status of a municipal borough, and many were granted this right. Borough status did not substantially increase local government powers, although municipal boroughs above a certain size had the right to run primary education.

Abolition

Under the Local Government Act 1958, small municipal boroughs could be absorbed by surrounding rural districts to become rural boroughs, with the powers of a parish council. Seven small boroughs in Cornwall, Devon and Shropshire underwent this process.

The remaining municipal boroughs, of which there were over 200, were abolished on 1 April 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972. In England, they were replaced by metropolitan or non-metropolitan districts and in Wales by districts.

In most cases the civic privileges and coat of arms of the abolished boroughs were inherited by one of the new local authorities. District councils were permitted to apply for a charter to receive borough status, while small municipal boroughs became successor parishes with town councils headed by a town mayor. In a few cases charter trustees, a special committee of district councillors, were formed to perpetuate the mayoralty of a town or city.

Ireland 1840–1922

The Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840 followed the example of the legislation in England and Wales. Unlike the 1835 Act, the Irish Act abolished nearly all of the country's boroughs, reforming just 10. Inhabitants of the larger of the abolished boroughs or of any town with a population of 3,000 could petition the crown for incorporation under the Act. In the event, only one additional borough was created when Wexford received a charter of incorporation in 1846. [11] The corporation and town council was identical in constitution to the English boroughs, and each borough was divided into wards with three, six or nine councillors per ward and one alderman for every three councillors. [12]

The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 designated the six largest municipalities (Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Derry and Waterford) as county boroughs. The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1919 introduced a system of proportional representation into municipal elections. Wards were replaced by electoral areas, and the entire council was to be elected triennially. Separate elections of aldermen and councillors were ended, with all members of the council elected by popular vote. One quarter of the elected members were entitled to the title of "alderman", which was used to designate the first candidates elected in each area. The remaining successful candidates being "councillors". [13]

On partition in 1922, two boroughs were included in Northern Ireland, and nine in the Irish Free State.

Northern Ireland

On establishment, Northern Ireland contained only the county boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry. The Parliament of Northern Ireland abolished proportional representation in local government elections in 1922, and amended the 1840 Act in 1926, allowing urban districts to petition the Governor for a charter of incorporation. [14] [15] Accordingly, by 1972 the number of boroughs had increased to 12 in number.

The system of local government was reorganised in 1973, with 26 local government districts replacing all county and municipal boroughs as well as urban and rural districts. The city or borough status conferred by the municipal charters passed to the new district councils. [16]

Irish Free State and the Republic of Ireland

Nine boroughs (four county boroughs and five municipal boroughs) were included in the territory of the Irish Free State in 1922. Two new boroughs were created by statute. In 1930, the borough of Dún Laoghaire was created by the amalgamation of the four urban districts of Blackrock, Dalkey, Dún Laoghaire, and Killiney and Ballybrack in County Dublin. [17] This borough was later abolished under the Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1993. [18] In 1937 the town of Galway was reconstituted as a municipal borough. [19]

The Local Government Act 2001 abolished municipal boroughs. County boroughs were replaced by statutory "cities", while the title of "borough" was retained for the other towns holding the status. [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Municipal Corporations Act 1835 United Kingdom legislation

The Municipal Corporations Act 1835, sometimes known as the Municipal Reform Act, was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that reformed local government in the incorporated boroughs of England and Wales. The legislation was part of the reform programme of the Whigs and followed the Reform Act 1832, which had abolished most of the rotten boroughs for parliamentary purposes.

Municipal Borough of Finchley

Finchley, which is now in north London, was a local government district in Middlesex, England, from 1878 to 1965. Finchley Local Board first met in 1878. It became Finchley District Council in 1895 and the Municipal Borough of Finchley in 1933. In 1965 Middlesex was abolished and Finchley became part of the London Borough of Barnet.

A municipal corporation is the legal term for a local governing body, including cities, counties, towns, townships, charter townships, villages, and boroughs. The term can also be used to describe municipally owned corporations.

Unreformed boroughs were those corporate towns in England and Wales which had not been reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. A handful of these obtained new charters under the 1835 Act. A royal commission was established in 1876 to inquire into these boroughs, and legislation passed in 1883 finally forced the reform or dissolution of these corporations by 1886.

Municipal Borough of Beddington and Wallington

Beddington and Wallington was, from 1915 to 1965, a local government district in north east Surrey, England. It formed part of the London suburbs, lying within the Metropolitan Police District and the London Passenger Transport Area. In 1965 it was abolished on the creation of Greater London.

London Government Act 1899 United Kingdom legislation

The London Government Act 1899 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that reformed the administration of the capital. The Act divided the County of London into 28 metropolitan boroughs, replacing the 41 parish vestries and District Boards of Works administering the area. The legislation also transferred a few powers from the London County Council to the boroughs, and removed a number of boundary anomalies. The first elections to the new boroughs were held on 1 November 1900.

County Borough of Salford Former district of England

Salford was, from 1844 to 1974, a local government district in the northwest of England, coterminate with Salford. It was granted city status in 1926.

County Borough of Oldham

Oldham was, from 1849 to 1974, a local government district in the northwest of England coterminous with the town of Oldham.

County Borough of Leeds Administrative division of Yorkshire, England until 1974

The County Borough of Leeds, and its predecessor, the Municipal Borough of Leeds, was a local government district in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, from 1835 to 1974. Its origin was the ancient borough of Leeds, which was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. In 1889, when West Riding County Council was formed, Leeds became a county borough outside the administrative county of the West Riding; and in 1893 the borough gained city status. The borough was extended a number of times, expanding from 21,593 acres (8,738 ha) in 1911 to 40,612 acres (16,435 ha) in 1961; adding in stages the former area of Roundhay, Seacroft, Shadwell and Middleton parishes and gaining other parts of adjacent districts. In 1971 Leeds was the fifth largest county borough by population in England. The county borough was abolished in 1974 and replaced with the larger City of Leeds, a metropolitan district of West Yorkshire.

Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 United Kingdom legislation

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Borough status is granted by royal charter to local government districts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The status is purely honorary, and does not give any additional powers to the council or inhabitants of the district. In Scotland, similarly chartered communities were known as royal burghs, although the status is no longer granted.

County Borough of Stockport Former municipal borough in present-day town of Stockport

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The Royal Commission on the Amalgamation of the City and County of London was a royal commission which considered the means for amalgamating the ancient City of London with the County of London, which had been created in 1889. The commission reported in 1894. The government headed by Lord Rosebery accepted the recommendations of the commission, but when a Conservative government under Lord Salisbury came to power in 1895 the reforms were almost entirely abandoned.

County Borough of Rochdale

Rochdale was, from 1856 to 1974, a local government district coterminate with the town of Rochdale in the northwest of England.

The Royal Commission on the Corporation of the City of London was a Royal Commission, established in 1853, which considered the local government arrangements of the City of London and the surrounding metropolitan area.

County Borough of Carlisle

Carlisle was, from 1835 to 1974, a local government district in the northwest of England, coterminate with Carlisle. In 1835, following the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, Carlisle was constituted a municipal borough of Cumberland, but was promoted to county borough status in 1914, within its boundaries taking over the functions of Cumberland County Council. The district was abolished on 31 March 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972.

Buckingham was an ancient borough in England centred on the town of Buckingham in the county of Buckinghamshire, and was first recorded in the 10th century. It was incorporated as a borough in 1553/4 and reformed under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. In 1974, it was abolished as part of local government re-organisation under the Local Government Act 1972, and absorbed by Aylesbury Vale District Council.

Liverpool Town Council existed from 1835 to 1880.

References

  1. Joseph Fletcher, Statistics of the Municipal Institutions of the English Towns in Journal of the Statistical Society of London, Vol. 5, No. 2, (Jul., 1842), pp. 97–168
  2. Municipal Corporations Act 1835 (C.76) S.141
  3. Nicholas C Edsall, Varieties of Radicalism: Attwood, Cobden and the Local Politics of Municipal Incorporation, in The Historical Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1, (March 1973), pp. 93–107
  4. 1842 C.111
  5. Local Government Act 1933 (C.51), S.129
  6. Bruce Wood, "The Process of Local Government Reform 1966-74", George Allen & Unwin, 1976, p. 19.
  7. 1 2 3 Albert Shaw, Municipal Government in Great Britain, in Political Science Quarterly, Vol4, No.2, June 1889, pp. 197–229
  8. G B A M Finlayson, The Politics of Municipal Reform, 1835, in The English Historical Review, Vol.81, No.321, (October 1966), pp.673-692
  9. The Municipal Elections, The Times, 13 May 1949 p.3
  10. The Times, 5 May 1972
  11. "History of Borough Council". Wexford Borough Council. Archived from the original on 19 November 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  12. Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840 C.108
  13. Local Government (Ireland) Act 1919 C.19
  14. Review of Legislation 1922, Journal of Comparative Legislation and International Law, Third Series, Vol. 6, No. 3 (1924)
  15. Municipal Corporations Act (Northern Ireland) 1926
  16. Local Government (Northern Ireland) Act 1972 (N.I. 1972 c.9)
  17. "Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1930". Irish Statute Book . Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  18. "Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1993". Irish Statute Book . Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  19. "Local Government (Galway) Act, 1937". Irish Statute Book. Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  20. "Local Government Act, 2001". Irish Statute Book. Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved 14 July 2008.