Conisbrough Council – The Local Distress – Reduction of Guardians Relief Condemned

October 1926

Mexborough and Swinton Times October 15, 1926

Conisbrough Council
The Local Distress
Reduction of Guardians Relief Condemned

The Conisbrough Urban Council on Wednesday discussed the problem of the relief of distress and, with only two members dissenting, sent a resolution of protest to the Doncaster Board of Guardians against reduction of emergency relief.

Boot less Bairns

Mr WL Worsley said they had formed a voluntary committee and had ordered a consignment of boots and shoes which was expected in a day or two. They could not give them away but would sell them at the price for which they were bought at the factory. That committee would continue to function as long as the stoppage lasted – and after if necessary.

Mr Roberts said it was prejudicial to the health of the community to have children going to school without boots. The law forbade the parents keep the children at home, and the Medical Officer was not empowered to order their being kept at home, though he would probably agree that their going to school bootless was dangerous in their health. He (Mr Roberts) wanted them to look at the question as a health authority.

“The Guardians have a duty but the Doncaster Board are noted for not performing that duty.” They recently reduced the scale of emergency relief. The persons who were receiving relief were being treated as machines, as stereotyped at more than once.  A policy of granting relief only in kind been challenged in the Board room but time after time the suggestion to grant relief in money was turned down. No matter how careful and industrious a woman might be she could not buy boots for children because she had not the money. Now they were at the beginning of the winter, the most serious time, and were dealing with that part of the population which needed most attention at such a time.

It was a serious position, when children were compelled by law to go to school but could not have boots to go in because there was no money to buy them. The work done by the committee mentioned by Mr Worsley was creditable, but if that committee got 2000 pairs of boots and there was no money with which the needy people might buy them, they were useless. He did not sit there as a miner’s representative, but as a representative of the ratepayers. These arguments were not biased because he happened to be one of the miners local leaders. In the capacity of ratepayers representative he was not entitled to apportion blame for the dispute. But he hoped the children now attending their elementary schools will find a different way of settling disputes to the one now being used, and that the members of the 1926 dispute would live long in the minds of the children today.

Other urban councils were given infants food free. As a family man he knew what it meant when a baby’s food at to be changed. Women with four in the family who had been receiving £1 a week would now receive only 17 shillings (85p). The money had formally been spent on the children’s food; now the baby must go without its milk. It seemed a silly position that they, a health authority, knowing suffering was going on, could do nothing to relieve it.

He wondered if the figures in the medical officer report, given to the committee, had any connection with the neglect of proper treatment of the needy. Their death rate for September was 123.9 to be compared with 58.6 in 105 county boroughs. The children were in a critical period of their lives and need caring for. They were in the council’s charge. Mr Brocklesby said elsewhere that a settlement was in the hands of two parties were not yet been able to agree. That was so.

It was a state of war and the women and children were non combatants. Surely if during the war, they could feed the wives and families of German soldiers who returned to the Fatherland to fight against us, it was their duty to feed the noncombatants in the present war.

If the guardians refused to carry out the obligation, who was to take it up? He felt rather sore on the point because relief had been reduced at the time it was most necessary. And he understood a motion was tabled to knock off relief altogether at the next meeting of the Board! He was a man of peace but was not going to be driven. If men were to be driven back to work they will not get  this kind of “peace.” Wrangling always in the minds of the men will be the feeling that they had been driven, through the suffering of their families, to accept principles which were abhorrent to them.

Could not the Council bring pressure on the Guardians to alter their policy? Such pressure was bound to have its affect. Children were not educated for their own benefit, but for the benefit of the State, and they did not want to do anything now to prejudice the welfare of the State in the days ahead of them. A healthy community was one of the greatest benefits the state might possess, and he asked the Council to pass a resolution to strengthen the hands of the minority of the Doncaster Guardians who believed that.

Mr J.T.E.Collins moved a resolution “strongly condemning the action of the Doncaster Board of Guardians in reducing relief.”

It was impossible under the new scale for the wives and children of the mine workers to get sufficient food and clothing.

Mr Worsley seconded.

After further debate 10 members voted for the resolution and only Messrs Maxfield and Brocklesby against.