Mexborough and Swinton Times September 16, 1927
A Lively Meeting
Questions about Houses and Cars.
The Conisborough Urban. Council had another lively meeting on Wednesday when Mr. John Webster, jun and Mr. H. W. Gillott raised storms by a number of questions and criticisms, chiefly of the letting of houses and ‘the doings of the Council’s motor car. Mr. Webster indulged in passages of wordy arms with both the Labour Party and the Surveyor, Mr. H. Thirlwall.
An Unwanted Job
The first touch of liveliness occurred over the election of successors, to Mr. S.C. Urch who resigned various offices owing to his having undertaken work for the Council.
The Council had no difficulty in finding members to fill the vacancies on the Mexboro’ Employment Committee and the Mexboro’ Secondary School Board.. But when they, reached the vacancy on the Old Age Pensions Commute there was a deadlock. No one wanted the job.
Mr. Roberts mentioned that the meetings of the committee took place at Doncaster on Saturday afternoons.
Mr: .Gillot suggested that :it was e ‘Waste Of time to appoint a representative anyway; he had been appointed in 1926; but had never yet received notice of a meeting;’,
Mr Shelton said “Yea, he took; my place, but they still keep sending the notices to me.
The Clerk (Mr. Spencer. Baker) undertook to notify Mr. H. M. Marshall, the clerk to the Committee of the oversight. But that did’ not get the Council any further with the appointment. Several nominations were made,. but each nominee gracefully withdrew and the chairman ‘(Mr W.L. Worseley) in desperation suggested finding a nominee outside the Council. Mrs. Kaye nominated’ Mr. John Webster; ,and that provided the cue for Mr. Webster’s the first plaint.
“To the Victor The Spoils.”
Mr John Webster said that room had been left on one or two committees when the annual appointments were made, ostensibly for him, when his case should be settled. But these positions have yet very jumper you may agreement for the car again for the car wanted to know about 10,900 for the imbalance nil first of November ballot troubles/statement since been filled, and he was not “going to be shoved onto any committee like this.”
The official Labour party on the council had collared all the other places. Mr Roberts had said “To the victor the spoils.” “Well, let them have the spoils here.”
Mr Gillott said the vacancies referred to were left to see whether Mr Webster was legally a counsellor
the Chairman said they were left with a view both to Mr Webster’s case and to Mr Oxley’s resignation.
Mr Gillott: Mr Oxley had not resigned then.
The Chairman: Oh yes he had.
Mrs Kaye said there had been there an example of how easily they might be mistaken. She herself was under the impression that the vacancies were left with a view to her own appointment.
The Clerk said that when the vacancies were left the positions of both Mr Webster and Mr Oxley were uncertain. They were filled by putting Mr Gomersall (by like the Webster the other places
Mr H Gomersall in replying to a question said he was only on one committees: Fire Brigade and Allotments.
A Borrowed Broom.
Mr. A. Roberts said Mr. Webster forgot that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. The phrase To ‘the victor the spoils’ came from Sir: William Clegg in Sheffield.
The official Labour Party did not enter into the question raised by Mr Webster. The Labour Party had a policy, whether the other party had or not was a matter of indifference to him:. The Labour Party could not be condemned for doing what the other people lad done for ages. But the’ question raised by Mr Webster was a different matter. The idea was to save councillors having to, sit for hours on committee nights, and to share out the work.
It had not worked out according to plan, but that was the intention.
The Chair-Man stopped farther debate the problem still before the Council was sold by Mr Robert, who said he was a member of the AGE Pensions Committee, but as a representative of the County Council. The chairman and asked for a volunteer to act of the Council representative, and he volunteered. The vacancy on the Charity Trust was filled by Mrs Kaye
Unpaid House Rents
The collective books showed rent arrears on the Council houses during August to amount to £459. The same tenants owed about £220 in rates to the end of July. The Clerk said quite a lot of the tenant had been summoned before the Bench and a number of order for the payment of five shillings a week had be made.
When the Housing and Town Planning Committee recommendation came up for adoption a few minutes later, Mr Webster seized the opportunity to ask for a statement of the total amount so far expended on the Council’s housing schemes and the cost per house.
The Chairman said it would be better to give notice of that question, and the Surveyor said it was impossible to answer it then and there. Mr Gillott then took up the charge by asking what system was now involved in the letting of houses. He knew of several applicants who entered their names three years ago and still needed houses, while more recent applications and be successful.
Mr J Maxfield, a member of the subcommittee responsible for the lettings, asked for particulars of the instances Mr Gillott had in mind. Their chief point in the selection of tenants had been to give the houses to people they thought could afford to pay the rent. They knew how heavy were their rent arrears already.
Mr Gillott: Was that the original method?
A Change of Policy
These Surveyor said the policy in the first place, endorsed by the Council, was to give preference to applicants who are living three families in a house. But it was felt as they went on that this was not satisfactory in view of the arrears which were accumulated before the dispute. It should be pointed out that the only people who were ever satisfied in a matter like that were those who got houses.
Mr Gillott: Is it true that one tenant has been allowed to go out in one house into another?
The Surveyor: Yes, but that doesn’t make the slightest difference. It is not public policy to give the reason why the change was made. It surely must be obvious to Mr Gillott or anybody else that the house made vacant by the exchange was available for another applicant.
Mr Gillott however, objected that there were tenants who were being allowed to choose their houses. It wasn’t fair.
The Surveyor replied that if Mr Gillott had been on the committee he would have had acquiesced the exchange.
An Empty House
Mr Webster then took another turn. He was given to understand, he said, that a man had been allowed to move out of a house owned by Mr Maxwell’s son into a Council house, and that the other house had now been put up for sale, thus reducing their available accommodation by one pounds.
“If that is the way we are tackling overcrowding – well, it’s a bit of a beggar!”
Mr Maxwell: The person had been trying for a long time – – – –
Mr Webster: She’s dead. She never went in.
Mr Maxfield said the application came from the woman referred to – it was a long time ago stop the committee what granted her gate and gave the first out available. So far as the house been empty was concerned, that nothing to do with him or Mr Webster or anyone else.
Mr Webster: The lady who wanted the house wanted for health reasons. She died, but since then her husband had gone into the Council house. I contend that the special needs for another house ceased with her death.
Mr Maxfield: Oh no. The house was damp – it was right over the brook.
Priority no Argument
Mr Webster senior asked for a list of the applicants now awaiting houses. The Surveyor promised to send him one.
Mr Webster was proceeding to give examples of early applicants who have been overridden, but the Surveyor said it had been impossible to give preference to priority of application, and the Council knew.
Mr John Webster said the Surveyor had displayed knowledge of the working of the letting subcommittee. Why then was he answering all those question?
The Surveyor said he did not disclaim knowledge. He said he did not dictate the policy of the committee
Force of Economics
Mr Roberts, as chairman of the Building and Highways Committee, said everybody had a good case for a house, and everybody considered theirs the best case. If that criticism was to go on, the subcommittee ought to disband and let the old Council do the work. It was not fair to place an unpleasant task like that on two or three men, and then for the members to argue that other people had better claims than those who had got the houses. The people who ought to have houses were those suffering from tuberculosis. But it was an economic question, and the people suffering from tuberculosis were the ones who were receiving relief from the Guardian, and it would not be an economic proposition for the Council to let them have houses.
“I think the fairest way would be to put the names in a bag and let them draw out, so that the onus will be on the people themselves and not on the subcommittee. Every applicant for a house looks at the question only as it affects him; the subcommittee after look at it as it affects the community.” He knew too, of scores of applicants with large families. They were the people who ought to be considered. But could not afford to build houses and let people have them rent free.
Touching on the rent arrears, Mr Roberts found comfort in the fact that proportionately they were much better place than neighbouring authorities. Goldthorpe and over 2000 arrears, while they have many more houses than, in proportion to the number of houses, Conisborough £450 rent arrears was a much less serious figure.
The Last Thought
“It is said that arrears are going up. You can expect it. People cannot live on the money they are getting; and the last thing they will do is to pay rent to the local authority. It is natural; it is the last thing you can expect them to do.”
Everyone should sympathise with the subcommittee on this difficult task. And till the supply of houses equalled the demand they would continue to have these difficulties and that dissatisfaction.
Mr Gillott asked the Surveyor to supply him also with a list of the applicants now awaiting. “I have come to the conclusion that the only way to get a house is to be well in with those who have the letting of them”
Mr Irene Webster was inclined to favour the method suggested by Mr Roberts; drawing lots. It would be the fairest way.
Members: What about the economic question?
The Chairman: Wouldn’t someone then complain that their name had not gone in? (Laughter.)
Mr J.T.E. Colins suggested an easy way to avoid increase of rent arrears: reduction of rents. Many would disagree with the idea, but he suggested it was a matter that should be gone into seriously.
Mr Roberts regretted that the point had been raised. The matter had been considered, and was being gone into by the Building and Highways Committee.
The Car Again
Mr John Webster went off on another tack revived an old controversy. He understood the council car at twice been to the depo at Leeds, wants to know who gave authority for it to go, and who did the Surveys work while he was away. He (the speaker) had always to ask someone’s permission when he went away. The impression got abroad was that the Surveyor was Conisbrough and the Councillors merely satellite. It was time the Council took upon itself to exercise a little more authority.
The Surveyor: Am I expected to answer that?
The Chairman: Yes
Mr H Brownsword: Why should he? There is no resolution move.
Mr Thirlwall said the car did go twice to Leeds, because there was a service depot where they might expect the car to be put right most cheaply in the shortest possible time. If he was not qualified to judge of that, perhaps Mr Webster might be asked to do it for him. He saw the other remark about his being Conisbrough, should not have been introduced. He said that authority and advise them the best he knew. He thought they were satisfied, with the exception of one or two persons who, for what purpose he left the Council to judge, thought it fit to raise a matter which should have died long ago.
Mr Irad Webster: There are thousands asking questions, not one or two.
The Chairman: will you let the car do its business and – – – –
Mr JI Webster: No
Mr Roberts strongly resented the use of the word “satellites,” and asked Mr John Webster to withdraw it.
Mr John Webster: No. Since
Mr Roberts: A gentleman would not have used it.
Mr John Webster: I mean it.
Mr Roberts hoped a special note will be made of the fact that while Mr Webster was enjoying himself in Switzerland there were hundreds of men in Conisbrough up to the neck in poverty.
Mr Machell: Then why not go in for that 20% decrease in teacher salaries?
Mr Roberts: I am against reducing anyone’s salary.
Mr Collins said he was no one’s satellite. The Surveyor had answered as many as 60 or 70 questions in an evening, most of them satisfactory; when they were not answered satisfactory he was told about it.
Mr Gomersall also took strong objection to Mr Webster remarks, and demanded its withdrawal. He had never sold himself and would not, and he was not going to be charged with being a satellite by Mr Webster or anyone else. Mr Webster had been on the coward’s platform long enough, and he (the speaker) was not going to sit down any longer under those insults.
The Chairman said, on behalf of the Council, many of Mr Webster’s remarks were very much uncalled for, and he hoped that in future Mr Webster would think twice before using such expressions.
Mrs Kaye said she was a member of the Council when both cars were bought, and she considered Mr Webster’s remarks an insult to the Council. If they had treated the matter with contempt at first it would never have come up a second time. They had taken too much notice of it.
Mr John Webster said some of the members appeared to be under a misapprehension as to the meaning of “satellite.” A satellite was merely a body which revolves around a bigger body.
The Chairman abruptly declared the meeting closed. Mr Collins at once objected that if members are matters to bring up under “other business” and not had a chance. Mr Worsley said he had given them several chances, but the only thing that occurrences he called for “other business” was “this debate about the car.” He however permitted Mr Gillett to ask a further question.
Mr Gillett wanted the surveyor to tell them “the number of relatives and members and officials of the Council were employed in various capacities by the Council.”
The Surveyor said he could not say fan, but he was the wish of the Council he would give an answer. The Chairman instructed Mr Gillett to give notice to asked the question at the next committee meeting.
Mr Gillett: I don’t want to see the wages book. I want an answer to this question.
The meeting then closed.
The recoverable balance of arrears of rates is £10,000
The Council have adopted a suggestion of Mr Crowther and decided to use the school room in the Church Hall in future for the library, owing to the present room being too small to accommodate the books and the borrowers. Over 600 books are now out on loan.