The Establishment of County Council Administration

Part Two

The Establishment of County Council Administration


This  part of the book is intended to give a summary of the various statutory powers which Parliament has given to the County Council. Some powers once placed on county councils have, with changes of thought as to the most suitable method of administration, been taken away. For example, the County Council was responsible from 1930 for the great Middlesex hospitals; these have, since the last war, become part of the National Health Service and a responsibility of the State. On the other hand, despite this tendency to centralize the administration of certain services, many new and important duties have been given and are still being given to the county councils.

County councils were set up in 1889 as a result of the Local Government Act, 1888. It may be helpful in understanding the changes which have taken place to give a very brief outline of the position in 1888 immediately prior to the setting up of the Middlesex County Council.

A great part of the administrative work of the County of Middlesex was then carried out by the justices of the peace and some indication of the scope of these duties at this date is given in Part One. Certain other important services were carried out in 1888, not by the justices but by other bodies. The most important of these was the service concerned with the relief of the poor or, as it was then called, the “poor law”.

Poor Law

At first the giving of assistance to the poor was regarded as a duty of the individual and early attempts of Parliament to deal with the very serious problem of unemployment and poverty were ineffective.

The first effective legislation dealing with relief measures for the poor was the Poor Relief Act of 16o1, many of the provisions of which remained in operation for as long as 300 years. As time went on, with corresponding development in the standard of civilization, the administration of the Act of 16o1 was modified and amended, but until the early part of the nineteenth century the duties of relieving the poor devolved upon “overseers” appointed for each parish. More than two hundred years later, as a result of a report of a commission appointed to investigate the working of the poor law, the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 established” Boards of Guardians “which were responsible for the care of poor persons in their groups of parishes, known as “Unions “. The Unions were not formed with strict regard to county boundaries and it was not uncommon to find a Union comprising parishes in three or more counties. For instance, the Edmonton Union included parts of Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Essex. The poor law continued to be administered by Boards of Guardians for some forty years after the establishment of county councils in 1888.


In the early years of the nineteenth century there were a number of bodies formed (mainly connected with various religions) for promoting education, one of the most important being that connected with the Church of England and commonly known as “The National Society “.

About 100 years ago Parliament was asked to set up a Board of Education, but this request was unfavourably received. Queen Victoria, however, who took a great interest in this subject, was able to secure the establishment of a committee of the Privy Council to deal with education, and this body, called “The Committee of Privy Council on Education “, was the predecessor of the Board of Education set up in 1899 and of the present Ministry of Education.

It was not until the year 1870 that a system of national education was established by Parliament. By the Education Act of that year “school boards” were established all over the country. These bodies were elected very much on the same lines as present-day councils. Their duties were to provide elementary education, irrespective of religion. The Church of England and other denominational bodies continued to carry on their own schools.

Towards the latter part of the nineteenth century various statutes were passed dealing with secondary and technical education, but only in a very modest way. In 1888, therefore, elementary education, so far as there was any municipal organization, was conducted by the school boards, which continued to exist until 1902.

Public Health

A passing reference should be made to various services in connection with public health. By the Public Health Act of 1875, which incorporated and very largely extended the provisions of earlier Acts, a number of urban sanitary authorities called “local boards ” were established in many parts of the country. These were concerned with such matters as the erection of new buildings, the laying out of new streets, the sanitary condition of property, the provision of means of drainage and other general health functions.

Where a particular district had received a charter of incorporation—that is to say, was a municipal borough—it carried out the functions of the local board within its area. It might be useful to mention that local boards other than municipal corporations became in 1894 “urban district councils”. In rural areas the functions of local boards were carried out by the guardians of the Union, but in the same year “rural district councils “were established and their members acted also as guardians. The borough councils and the urban and rural district councils have continued to act as sanitary authorities down to the present time, although the last rural district in Middlesex became an urban district in 1934.

In regard to other social services which have not been particularly mentioned and which did not form part of the duties of the justices it may be said that, generally speaking and in so far as they existed at all, they were dependent upon the efforts of private citizens.

Reform of County Government

London Government

The question of a reform of county government had been considered for many years before 1888, and particularly with regard to the metropolitan area. The local government of London was considerably different from other areas. In the first place, there was the City Corporation which then, as now, was responsible for the local government of the square mile forming the ancient City of London. There were also a number of other bodies called “vestries “.

These preceded what are now the metropolitan borough councils, and they carried out similar duties, although on a rather smaller scale. There was also another body, known as the “Metropolitan Board of Works” which, established in 1855, to some small extent corresponded with the present London County Council, at any rate as regards the area under its control. This body was not directly elected—that is to say, its members were not elected by the ratepayers but were nominated by the vestries to which we have just referred. Of course it had nothing like the wide powers possessed by the present London County Council or, indeed, any other county council. The Board after some years acquired a rather unsatisfactory reputation, which perhaps was partly due to the absence of direct representatives of the ratepayers. Consideration was given to a reconstitution of the City Corporation, to control all London. There were, however, many difficulties in the way, and nothing came of this proposal.

The Formation of County Councils

We will now consider how county councils came to be established, how they were constituted, for what parts of the County, and what duties were originally given to them by Parliament.

You are all aware of one of the great principles of the English constitution—that is, that those who pay taxes are entitled to be represented on the governing bodies. This, of course, applies to Parliament, but is capable of application to local government administration, and that is probably one of the principal reasons why about the year 1870 consideration began to be given to the establishment of a new system of county government. The justices were and still are appointed by the Crown and to all intents and purposes they hold office for life. In so far, therefore, as the justices were administrators they could not be said to be direct representatives of those who paid the rates.


In 1888 the Local Government Act provided for the establishment in the following year of county councils, with constitutions somewhat on the lines of a council of a borough. There were, however, some slight differences. Every borough has its own mayor and a council composed of aldermen and councillors. The councillors are elected by the “local government electors “, who are mainly the ratepayers, but the aldermen are elected by the councillors, and the mayor is elected by the councillors and aldermen, or certain of them. The councillors hold office for three years, but the aldermen remain for six, and both can be re-elected.

County councils were similarly constituted of aldermen and councillors, the councillors being directly elected by the local government electors (for which purpose each county was divided into electoral divisions), the aldermen being elected by the councillors, the proportion being one alderman for every three councillors. The aldermen and councillors of a county council hold office for six years and for three years respectively, just as in the case of a borough. There is, however, no mayor, the aldermen and councillors being required to elect a chairman who need not necessarily be one of themselves. The chairman holds office for one year, and can be re-elected. A vice-chairman has also to be appointed, to act during the absence or incapacity of the chairman. The vice-chairman must, however, be appointed from the members of the county council.

How the Number of County Councils was Decided

As the Act of 1888 applied to England and Wales, one would at first conclude that, as there are fifty-two counties, there must be fifty-two county councils, but this is not so. Several counties were given more than one county council. One can appreciate why Yorkshire, with its large area and its division into three Ridings, should be given three county councils, but why there should be three for Lincolnshire and two for Sussex and Suffolk is not so clear, particularly as other counties equally large, such as Lancashire, have only one.

No doubt this was due in some cases to historic boundaries and in others to the fact that the county councils were in a sense the successors to the administrative business of the justices and, as the justices of certain counties had divided themselves into regional groups for judicial and administrative purposes, the establishment of county councils followed these lines.

For that part of London administered by the Metropolitan Board of Works (which had no jurisdiction in matters concerning the administration of justice), the London County Council was set up in place of the Board, and here the County of Middlesex suffered a very hard fate, as we shall see.

How the New Administrative County of London Affected Middlesex

The administrative area of the London County Council included a large part of the geographical County of Middlesex, a large part, although not so great in proportion, of the County of Surrey, and a smaller part of Kent. These were, for administrative purposes, taken out of their geographical counties, so that the ancient geographical County of Middlesex was thereby very considerably diminished.

For the government of the remainder of the County, the Middlesex County Council was established and in the process of time the County of Middlesex has acquired a population little, if any, less than that which the larger Middlesex had in 1888.

For some limited purposes, however, the old geographical county area continued to function. The High Courts of Justice, the headquarters of which are at the Law Courts in the Strand, still regard the old area as being, for many purposes, Middlesex, and until comparatively recent years the provisions of the Middlesex Registry Acts (which required that various documents affecting land should be registered at the Middlesex Deeds Registry) applied to deeds affecting land within the old geographical limits of the County.

Functions Transferred to County Councils by the 1888 Act

The principal administrative business of the justices expressly transferred to county councils by the Act of 1888 comprised the following:

(I) Matters relating to the levying of rates for county purposes.

(2) The borrowing of money.

(3) The control of the accounts of the county and of the county treasurer.

(4) The ownership of shire halls, county halls, courts and premises used for the administration of justice and county buildings generally was transferred to the county councils, but this did not affect the control of the standing joint committees.

(5) The licensing of places intended to be used for music and dancing and the licensing of race-courses.

(6) The licensing of premises for the public performance of stage plays.

(7) The provision and maintenance of asylums for pauper lunatics. This is no longer a county council function.

(8) Establishment and maintenance of reformatory and industrial schools provided for children and young persons who had committed offences. The powers of a county council in this respect have been altered by subsequent legislation.

(9) The maintenance of county bridges and their approaches.

(10) Matters affecting the county surveyor, the county treasurer and all other county officers whose salaries were paid from the county rate (except the clerk of the peace and his deputy and the clerks to justices at petty sessions).

(11) Matters relating to coroners and their districts.

(12) The division of the county into polling districts for the purposes of Parliamentary elections, and the appointment of polling places. This did not include the division of the county into Parliamentary constituencies, which is effected only by Parliament itself.

(13) The execution of various Acts of Parliament relating to precautions against diseases of animals, protection of wild birds, supervision of weights and measures and of gas meters.

(14) Carrying out the provisions of the Acts relating to explosives.

The foregoing transferred powers were of course, extensively amended and extended in subsequent years, but it will be seen that the powers of the justices from this time onwards were, broadly speaking, confined to the administration of justice, to the exclusion of the day-to-day administration of public services.

Additional Powers of County Councils

The Act of 1888 gave the Council other duties in addition to those formerly transacted by the justices, of which the following are the most important.

County councils assumed responsibility for the maintenance of all main roads in the county, but the larger local authorities were entitled to carry out works of maintenance and repair and to execute improvements, such as road widening, county councils bearing the cost of maintenance and contributing towards the cost of improvement. These powers were considerably altered and extended some forty years later.

A main road may be described as a road which serves as a through connection between various parts of the country and is used mainly for this purpose, and not for ordinary town or village traffic; that is why the cost of maintenance was made a county charge. Local roads continued for many years after 1888 to be the responsibility of the local highway authorities and are still so outside rural districts.

County councils were also given a number of powers connected with the performance of their duties. They were empowered to buy land for these purposes, and with the consent of the Local Government Board (now the Ministry of Housing and Local Government) to sell land no longer required.

They were empowered to oppose Bills in Parliament, but, curiously enough, it was not until 1903 that a county council was authorized to promote a Bill.

County councils were empowered to make bye-laws for the good rule and government of the county. Such bye-laws now require confirmation by the Home Secretary and cannot extend to any part of a county which is comprised in a municipal borough.

County councils were also authorized to appoint medical officers of health and such other officers as were considered necessary. In later years the appointment of a county medical officer became compulsory.

Other functions which county councils were required to exercise under the 1888 Act related to the alteration of the boundaries of the smaller local government areas in the county and which were not municipal boroughs, and the division of these into wards or districts. They could also convert a rural district into an urban district, and vice versa.

A general idea has now been given of the duties with which county councils were first entrusted.



During this period many and varied duties were conferred upon the County Council. Its power to construct and improve roads and bridges was extended, and powers were given for the acquisition of land for the benefit of the “Volunteer Corps “, now the Territorial Army.

In 1892 Parliament enabled county councils to acquire land to provide small holdings, more economically, for those people who wanted to cultivate them. Small holdings can best be described as small farms and the powers given by this Act were later much extended. The County Council was given the duty of instituting proceedings against persons who sold soil fertilizers or cattle food containing worthless or harmful substances or who gave false information to the purchaser. It was also during this period that the County Council was given certain duties in connection with the provision of isolation hospitals, that is to say, hospitals for persons suffering from infectious diseases. In 1899 the first statute was passed authorizing local authorities to lend money to persons wishing to buy houses.

The Local Government Act of 1894

This important Statute, after providing for the constitution of councils of urban and rural districts, also established parish councils and parish meetings. County councils were given certain powers of supervision over parish councils, and certain duties in regard to the other authorities, notably in relation to their composition and the division of their districts into wards. In certain circumstances some of the powers of a district council could be transferred to the County Council. The Act also extended the powers of the County Council in regard to alteration of areas of district councils. These provisions were altered by the Local Government Act of 1929. There are no longer any parish councils in Middlesex.

The Music and Dancing Licences (Middlesex) Act, 1894

In 1894 what is known as a “Local Act” was passed—that is to say, one which did not affect the country as a whole, but merely the County of Middlesex. By the Act, the County Council was authorized to control places used for public dancing, music or similar public entertainment, and, with this object, to register the premises so used and to grant licences to the proprietors.

This statute superseded in Middlesex the provisions of a very much older one, the Disorderly Houses Act of 1751, which provided for the issue of licences by quarter sessions before any premises in the Cities of London or Westminster or within twenty miles thereof were kept for public dancing or other like entertainments. It will be recalled that the powers of quarter sessions to grant these licences were transferred to the County Council by the 1888 Act.

Powers to Construct Light Railways, &c.

In 1896, the Council was empowered to regulate the use of county bridges by locomotives, and in the same year it was empowered to apply to the Railway Commissioners for an Order authorizing the construction of a light railway. For practical purposes there was no distinction between a light railway and a tramway, except that at that time tramways consisted almost entirely of horse-drawn vehicles. With the introduction of electric traction this distinction very soon disappeared. The County Council obtained a number of Light Railway Orders after the passing of the Act, but it did not work the railways, leasing them to the Metropolitan Electric Tramways. This Company had constructed a tramway system with which the light railways were linked up.

With the establishment of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1930, all the Council’s light railways, as well as the Company’s tramways, were transferred to the Board. As you know, the light railways and tramways have now been replaced by trolley buses and buses operated by London Transport Executive.

The Locomotives Act of 1898 gave the County Council power to control the use of locomotives and heavily laden vehicles on highways.

The close of the century had already shown that Parliament was ready and willing to give county councils still further powers and, in the twentieth century, as will be seen, these were increased beyond all anticipation.


Some of the main Acts passed during this period are dealt with below, but only brie can be made of many other powers given to the County Council. Its powers to provide and maintain open spaces, public parks and pleasure-grounds were consolidated and extended.

An Act was passed requiring notification of the birth of every child to be sent to the medical officer of health of the area concerned. This was an ” adoptive” Act, that is to say, its provisions took effect only if the local authority decided to adopt the Act, but in 1915 its provisions were applied to the whole country.

Another statute passed during this period entitled representatives of newspapers and members of the public to attend all meetings of county councils and other local authorities, including meetings of the education committees when those committees were dealing with matters which did not require to be submitted to the council for approval. The Act provided that the press and public might be excluded from meetings when the majority of the members of the council were of opinion that such exclusion was desirable in the public interest.

In 1911 the Middlesex and Surrey County Councils were empowered to take over Kingston Bridge from the Trustees of the Kingston Municipal Charities and to carry out works of widening and improvement to the bridge.

In 1912 the various Acts relating to shops and regulating the closing hours and conditions of employment and similar matters were consolidated. These provisions have since been amended and extended by other Acts and the law is now consolidated in the Shops Act, 1950. The authority responsible for the administration of the Act is the borough or urban district council, except in an urban district with a population of less than 20,000, in which case it is the county council. In Middlesex there is now only one such urban district and there the district council administers the Act as agent for the County Council.

The Education Act, 1902

We have already mentioned that under the Local Government Act of 1888 duties in regard to education were not conferred upon county councils and that at the time the local administration of elementary education was carried out by school boards which were responsible for “board schools “, later known as “council “or” provided schools “. These board schools, being maintained entirely out of public funds, were not concerned with denominational religious instruction. There were a number of other schools provided by various religious authorities in which religious instruction of their respective denominations was given. These schools, although aided to some extent by the Government, received no assistance from the local authorities.

The Act abolished in the first place all the school boards and transferred their powers and duties in regard to elementary education to the councils of counties and county boroughs. In the case, however, of county areas if any borough had a population of over 10,000 according to the census of 1901, or any urban district a population, according to the same census, of 2o,000, the council of that borough or urban district became the authority for elementary education in that particular area.

The Act of 1902, however, accomplished very much more than the abolition of school boards and the transfer of their powers. In regard to elementary education, the county council or the local council, as the case might be, became financially responsible for the administration of many schools which had been carried on by the authorities of various denominations.

The Act also contained new and very wide powers in regard to higher education. These powers were conferred upon county councils so that the County Council in this respect became the education authority for the whole of the County.

The powers in regard to higher education not only enabled the council concerned to build secondary and technical schools, but also placed it in a position to give financial assistance to other schools which provided education of this type. Higher education authorities were permitted to establish colleges for the training of teachers. Every education authority, even if it had powers relating to elementary education alone, was required to set up an education committee to which all matters relating to education had to be referred for consideration and report.

The Midwives Act of 1902 might be regarded as the first step towards the establishment of maternity and child welfare services, and gave county councils and the councils of county boroughs powers in regard to the supervision of midwives practising in their areas. It was considerably amended in 1918.

County Council of Middlesex (General Powers) Act, 1906

This Act amongst other provisions conferred extensive powers upon the Council in regard to the improvement of streams, most of which have since been transferred to the catchment boards set up for the River Thames and the River Lee under the Land Drainage Act of 1930. The Act also enabled the Council to prescribe frontage lines—that is to say, lines in advance of which buildings might not be erected on the more important roads, and empowered the County Council to acquire the land in advance of the frontage line in order to effect any future road widening. The Council was also empowered to require the proprietors of employment agencies to be registered, and was given appropriate powers of control and supervision. The local authorities in the County were authorized in the interest of public health to regulate the manufacture and sale of ice-cream. The Council was also empowered to purchase the old market site at Brentford. This was acquired shortly after the passing of the Act, and the market rights were only recently abolished.

The Childrens Act, 1908, which was then frequently referred to as the ” Children’s Charter “, covered a variety of subjects, including “infant life protection “, and provided for notice to be given to the local authority by persons who undertook the care of young children for reward.

The local authority was given the necessary powers for seeing that the premises in which such children were accommodated were kept in proper condition, and that the person in whose charge they were took proper care of them. At the time of the passing of the Act, the guardians appointed under the Poor Law Act were made the “local authority “, but when the boards of guardians were abolished in 1930, these powers were transferred to the councils which were authorities for maternity and child welfare. The Act contained new provisions for establishment of what were then called “reformatory” or “industrial schools “, to which children and young persons who had committed offences, generally of a minor nature, could be sent. These provisions were largely extended by an Act of 1933.

By the year 1909 cinematograph films were being exhibited to such a degree as to make legislation necessary for the regulation of the buildings in which these exhibitions took place. The Cinematograph Act, 1909, precluded the exhibition of cinematograph films of an inflammable nature unless a licence had first been obtained from the council of the county or county borough in which the building was situate, and the councils were empowered to attach conditions to the licences. These conditions were mainly directed to the prevention of fire. The provisions of the Cinematograph Act of 1909 were extended and amended by an Act of 1912.

Housing and Town Planning Act, 1909

In 1909, the first Town Planning Act was passed, but it was not for another twenty years that county councils (other than London) were enabled to participate in town-planning matters. Amongst its miscellaneous provisions the Act laid down that every county council should appoint a county medical officer of health, who was required to carry out such duties as might be assigned to him by the Local Government Board (later the Ministry of Health), together with such other functions as the county council might decide; and should establish a public health and housing committee, to which all matters relating to public health and housing of the working classes were referred. In regard to public health, the county councils had, even then, certain responsibilities, but in regard to housing their functions were practically limited to acting in default of certain local authorities.

It might be noted here that in consequence of the great increase in the duties of the County Council in regard both to public health and housing, it obtained special statutory power in 1930 enabling separate committees to be appointed for each of these two functions.

The Development and Road Improvements Act of 1909 contained some very useful provisions in regard to road improvements. A Road Board was established, which was empowered to construct new roads and also to make advances of money to county councils and other highway authorities for the construction of new roads and the improvement of existing roads. The powers of the Road Board were transferred to the Minister of Transport in 1919, but it was largely in consequence of this Act that the County Council was given the financial assistance necessary to enable the vast network of arterial roads to be constructed in this County.

The Mental Deficiency Act, 1913

It will be remembered that the County Council had been made responsible for the care of lunatics, and the statutory provisions were largely consolidated in an Act of 1890. The object of this Act of 1913 was to secure that persons who, at an early age, proved to be much below the ordinary mental standard but were not lunatics should be properly trained and cared for. The Act required the County Council to set up a mental deficiency committee to deal with its functions under the Act, except in relation to children who, although below normal, were nevertheless not so seriously defective as to be incapable of receiving education. These excepted children were left to the education authority to deal with until they attained the age of sixteen. The Council was empowered to provide institutions for mental defectives and to deal with mentally defective persons to whom its attention was directed by their parents or guardians, and with other necessary cases.

In the same year the County Council was given authority to arrange for the treatment of persons suffering from tuberculosis.


The outbreak of war naturally curtailed the output of legislation affecting local authorities, but the County Council obtained powers authorizing the construction of the Great West Road, which was the first of the series of arterial roads in Middlesex. During the war years the County Council was also given duties relating to the supervision of dairies and the supply of milk suitable for human consumption, with special attention to the prevention of the sale of milk from cows suffering from tuberculosis.

In 1918 the County Council became responsible, in certain parts of the County, for the welfare of expectant mothers and of children under the age of five years.

After the end of the war there was much legislation to deal with the problem of housing accommodation and other problems arising as a result of the war.

The provision of housing was in general a matter for the county district councils, but the County Council was authorized to lend money to certain bodies formed for the purpose of providing houses, and its powers of advancing money to prospective purchasers of houses were increased to correspond with the rise in the price of property. The power to provide smallholdings was extended to help demobilized soldiers. The Public Libraries Act of 1919 enabled county councils to provide libraries in those parts of a county for which the local authority had not previously adopted the 1892 Act relating to libraries.

The Representation of the People Act, 1918, although it did not confer duties directly upon the County Council, should be mentioned. It has already been explained that county councillors as well as councillors of boroughs and of urban districts are elected periodically. The persons who have the right to vote at these elections are termed ” local government electors “.

Prior to 1918 the franchise—that is to say, the right to vote at Parliamentary and local government elections—was regulated by different statutes. The franchise was simplified by the 1918 Act, which in its turn was amended in 1928 and 1948, so that at the present time the principal qualification for the right to be registered as a local government elector is residence in the area on the “qualifying date “. A new register is prepared once a year and comes into force on 16th March. The “qualifying date” is the preceding 20th November.

In 1928 women were given full rights of voting and the law is now consolidated in the Representation of the People Act, 1949.


Many Acts were passed during this period and only brief reference can be made to some of the powers acquired by the County Council in addition to those under the Acts named below.

Early in this period the previous Acts relating to education were consolidated and power was included to provide for medical inspection of school children and for meals for children attending elementary schools. It was in this period also that the County Council was first required to promote the welfare of the blind and to make arrangements for the further care of persons who had suffered from tuberculosis. A simpler procedure was laid down for county councils to acquire land for road construction and improvement with a view to providing work for the relief of unemployment. It was under this power that the greater part of the arterial roads in Middlesex was constructed by the County Council.

The County Council also obtained by a Local Act the power to establish a superannuation scheme for the officers and other employees of the Council and the same Act extended the Council’s power to protect streams from pollution and obstruction. An Act of 1925 enabled the County Council to plant trees and to lay out grass margins on highways and to prevent the obstruction of view at street corners. Another Act in the same year permitted the County Council to prescribe “improvement lines” along main roads (so as to give scope for road widenings and other improvements) and to provide grounds for cricket, football and other games and to let them to clubs. It was also during this period that the

County Council was given the power to see that nursing-homes provided proper accommodation and were properly conducted. The County Council was not, however, the authority for the whole of the County in this respect.

The Roads Act of 1920 made the County Council responsible for the issue of licences to enable mechanically propelled vehicles to be used on the public roads and also for the collection of the necessary duties. The County Council also became responsible for the registration of motor vehicles and the allocation of index marks.

The Local Land Charges Act, 1925, required the County Council to set up a register of local land charges affecting land within the County—that is to say, particulars of restrictions and other matters enforceable by the County Council in relation to particular land, which was to be identified by reference to a map, had to be entered in the register. In the absence of such entry, the restrictions ceased to be enforceable against the purchasers of the land affected. Provision was made enabling prospective purchasers to search the register and for the issue of official search certificates.

The Rating and Valuation Act, 1925

Rates are local taxes levied upon the occupiers of property to defray the expenses incurred by county councils and other local authorities in providing services. Up to 1925 there were generally speaking two classes of rate: the general rate, which was levied by the local council and the poor rate, which was levied by the guardians appointed under the Poor Law Acts. The expenses of county councils were included in the poor rate. Each rate was levied on the occupiers of all property in the area according to the annual value of the property. This annual value was determined by a committee of the guardians called the ” assessment committee “. This system meant that the standard of valuation was not uniform throughout the county and that as a result the ratepayers might not be contributing equitably towards the cost of the services they received.

The Rating and Valuation Act entirely reformed the procedure and provided for the constitution of assessment committees in accordance with a scheme prepared by the County Council, and remodelled the procedure in regard to assessments. The County Council was required to establish a County Valuation Committee for the purpose of securing that as far as possible the standard of assessment throughout the county should be uniform. The local council was made the rating authority for its area. The Act also provided that there should be a general rate levied by each rating authority for the purpose of defraying the whole of the general expenditure within the particular area, so that the poor rate was no longer separately levied. Provision was made for an additional rate, called a ” special rate “, to be levied on parts of an area where services were established, but which did not extend to the whole district. The valuation of property for rating purposes was transferred from local authorities to the Inland Revenue Department by the Local Government Act of 1948.

The Middlesex County Council Act, 1925 enabled the Council to construct additional light railways in Acton and Finchley. It also conferred greater powers to prescribe what are known as “frontage lines” (that is to say, fence lines) and ” building lines ” (which are the lines to which the main walls of houses and other buildings may be erected) on the more important roads, with a view to facilitating future road widening. The Council was empowered, in certain circumstances, to purchase the land lying between the frontage or building line and the road, in order to carry out the road improvement.

Middlesex and Surrey (Thames Bridges, &c.) Act, 1928

The Middlesex and Surrey County Councils obtained statutory powers authorizing the two Councils to construct two new bridges over the River Thames with the necessary approach roads, and to rebuild Hampton Court Bridge. The two bridges are the Twickenham and Chiswick Bridges, which carry part of the Chertsey arterial road. The responsibility for the existing Richmond Bridge was also transferred to the two Councils.


The year 1928 brought the first signs of far-reaching changes in local government, to be brought into full effect in the following year by the Local Government Act of 1929—changes greater perhaps than those contained in any statute since the Local Government Act of 1888 established county councils. The Act dealt with a variety of matters, and a short explanation of the circumstances leading up to the more important changes may be useful.

For many years there had been a considerable increase in the population of the country and also, notably since the 1914-18 war, a certain amount of migration from one area to another. Furthermore, there had been many changes in the ordinary habits of the population. Motorcars were by then in general use. There had been a great increase in the use of motor transport for commercial purposes. The existing roads were not able to cope with this great increase in the traffic, and the increased use and the heavier weight of the vehicles naturally resulted in greater wear and tear and therefore greater expenditure on road maintenance.

It was found that the changes during the last thirty years had resulted in unduly heavy burdens on the financial resources of the local authorities in certain areas, particularly rural districts. The fact that a particular district was situate between two important centres resulted in the roads in that district bearing a very heavy volume of through traffic.

It was also found that” dormitory ” towns —that is to say, places in which a very large percentage of the population was engaged in occupations in towns some miles away—had to provide public services for a greater number of people than their more fortunate neighbours. As a result of this, it became apparent that it was desirable to spread the cost in regard to certain services over a greater area.

Another factor was the extension of the area charged with the relief of the poor.

In regard to the main highways, the Ministry of Transport had some time since instituted a system of road classification—that is to say, the roads carrying most through traffic were classified as “main traffic arteries “, and grants were made out of the Road Fund to the highways authorities responsible for their repair and improvement.

Changes in Administration of Poor Law

For several years the method of Poor Law administration had been under consideration, and it was decided that Boards of Guardians should be abolished and all their duties relating to the relief of the poor should be transferred to the councils of the counties or county boroughs, and the remaining functions of the guardians were to be similarly transferred, with one or two exceptions. The Middlesex County Council therefore succeeded to these powers and duties of the guardians. In addition the 1929 Act extended the Public Health Act of 1875 to enable the County Council to establish hospitals for the reception and treatment of sick persons and to appropriate any poor law establishments for this purpose. Similarly the Council was empowered to provide certain forms of assistance other than poor relief. In 1936 all the poor law hospitals were appropriated as public health hospitals, and assistance to blind persons and their dependants was no longer given under the poor law.

Highways and Town Planning

The Act of 1929 made the County Council financially responsible for the maintenance and repair of all the classified roads in the County. A proportion of these roads were what is called” claimed” by the local authorities—that is, certain local councils had the right to carry out maintenance and repair in place of the County Council. In such cases, the County Council was placed under an obligation to make appropriate contributions to the cost of road improvement, as well as to repay the cost of maintenance.

The County Council was also empowered to participate in town-planning schemes, and the Act enabled it to be made the authority responsible for the execution of any provisions in a scheme by agreement with the local authority.

Amalgamation of Small Areas

The County Council was required to review the position in Middlesex and to consider the combination of adjacent local authorities, as well as the alterations of local boundaries where an amalgamation was not thought desirable. Provision was made for further reviews every ten years. As a result of this review, the remaining rural districts in the County disappeared, and the number of local councils was reduced.

Miscellaneous Provisions of the 1929 Act

Amongst other miscellaneous provisions may be mentioned the powers given to county councils to secure in co-operation with the local councils the provision of adequate hospital accommodation for infectious diseases, and for securing that medical officers of health, wherever practicable, were to be debarred from private practice, in order that they might devote their whole time to public health matters.

The Act also provided that the Minister of Health could make the local authority for elementary education the authority for maternity and child-welfare services, and could also make local councils providing such services the local supervising authority of midwives, in place of the County Council.

The Act set up a new system of grants from the Government to local authorities, partly with the object of compensating for the loss in rates resulting from the provisions of the Act exempting agricultural land and buildings from rates and partially exempting industrial and certain other properties.

Amongst the functions transferred from the guardians to the county councils by this Act were the registration of births, deaths and marriages, duties under the vaccination Acts, and the control of persons receiving infants for reward, with the proviso that the latter function was transferred to the local council if that council had already set up a maternity and child welfare committee under the Act of 1918 previously mentioned.

The Bridges Act of 1929 provided for the reconstruction of what are sometimes called “weak” bridges—that is to say, bridges carrying public roads over railways, canals, rivers, etc.—for the maintenance of which bridges the owner of the railway, canal, etc., was responsible. The county councils and other highway authorities were empowered to agree with the owner of the bridge for its transfer, with a view to appropriate improvements being effected, the owners being obliged to make an appropriate payment in respect of the burdens from which they were relieved. In case of disagreement the Minister of Transport was empowered to make an Order for the reconstruction or improvement of the bridge where necessary. In this year the County Council also became responsible for the treatment of persons suffering from small-pox.


During this period much of the legislation was concerned with consolidating in one Act, often with important amendments and additions, the various statutory provisions about some matter of local government.

Thus in the opening year of the period

Parliament, by the Poor Law Act, transferred to county councils the poor law functions and re-enacted the whole of the poor law provisions in amended form. In 1932 the Children and Young Persons Act, in addition to amending the law in regard to juvenile offenders, conferred additional powers upon county councils and other authorities in regard to the employment of children, the regulation of Street trading by young persons, and infant-life protection. The Act also substituted approved and certified schools for the reformatory and industrial schools to which juveniles who had been guilty of minor offences were sent. This Act and the previous Acts relating to children and young persons were consolidated in 1933-

The Local Government Act, 1933

The Minister of Health had set up in 1930 a Committee to consider the consolidation of the various statutes relating to local government and public health. As a result of its first report a statute was passed which now governs the constitution

and general powers of all local authorities.

This Act repealed much of the Act of 1888 relating to the constitution of county councils and to their administrative procedure, and similar provisions in other statutes dealing with borough and urban and rural district councils, so that as far as possible uniformity was established. The Act did not, however, add to or reduce the functions and duties of county councils.

The Committee made a second report in regard to the consolidation of portions of the Public Health Acts, as a result of which the Public Health Act of 1936 was passed. This was almost entirely a consolidating measure, and accordingly it made no appreciable difference in the duties of the County Council.

In the same year the various Housing Acts were consolidated and amended and, as a result of a third report of the Committee, an Act was passed in 1938 consolidating and adding to the previous laws relating to the sale of food and drugs.

Apart from these consolidating Acts the powers of the County Council were extended in many ways in the period 1930-1938. In the opening year of this period the Lunacy and Mental Treatment Act enabled the County Council to treat persons suffering from mental illness without the necessity of such persons being certified as “lunatics “, and they could become voluntary patients in the mental hospitals which were then controlled by the County Council.

The Road Traffic Act of 1930 increased the County Council’s powers of control of vehicles of heavy weight and of licences to drive motor vehicles.

In the following year the financial crisis curtailed local government activities, apart from urgent works or those which coincided with the economy proposals of the Government. An Act which materially affected the County Council was the Local Government (Clerks) Act, 1931, under which county councils were empowered to appoint their own clerks (which power was, under the 1888 Act, exercisable by the Standing Joint Committee, the clerk of the peace being also clerk of the county council). The Act of 1931 made it possible for the clerkship of the council to be held by an individual who was not clerk of the peace. The right to appoint the clerk of the peace was given to the court of quarter sessions.

The Sunday Entertainments Act enabled county councils and other authorities which had previously allowed cinemas to open regularly on Sundays to continue to grant licences for that purpose. Where, however, as was the case in Middlesex, Sunday opening had not been generally permitted, the council of a borough or urban district was able to obtain an Order from the Home Secretary under which such licences could be granted. Many of the boroughs and urban districts in Middlesex having obtained such Orders, the County Council then granted the necessary licences. The Act provided for the allocation to charities of profits from Sunday opening.

Another Act dealt with betting and lotteries, a rather complicated subject, and empowered the County Council to grant licences for betting on certain “sporting” premises. The Act declared all lotteries to be illegal, except specified small or private lotteries which are part of certain entertainments or where the sale of tickets is limited.

The Unemployment Act of 1934 was also of considerable importance, although it did not come into force until some time later. Its principal effect, so far as the County Council was concerned, was to transfer the responsibility for the maintenance of able-bodied unemployed persons from the County Council to the Unemployment Assistance Board.

The County Council was also given power to control “ribbon development “, that is, building along or adjacent to the county roads, and new means of access to such roads. This control could, under certain conditions, be extended to other roads, and might be applied to lands forming the site of new roads.

The responsibility for the most important traffic arteries, known as “trunk roads” was transferred from the County Council to the Ministry of Transport. The County Council, however, still acts as agent of the Minister in regard to the maintenance of the roads.

The Midwives Act of 1936 created a municipal midwifery service, the County Council being required to arrange for salaried midwives to be available in certain parts of the County for which it was the authority.

It might also be mentioned that the Middlesex Deeds Registry, which had been established for over 200 years, was closed as a result of an Act of Parliament passed in 1936, and what is known as “registration of title” in connection with sales of land became compulsory in the County of Middlesex as from the 1st January, 1937-

The London and Middlesex (Improvements, &c.) Act, 1936, authorized the construction of an extension of the Great West Road from Chiswick into London to link up with Cromwell Road in Kensington. The Act also gave to the Standing Joint Committee the power to appoint and control the clerks to the justices and their staff, a power which was subsequently amended by the Justices of the Peace Act, 1949.

In 1937 the Physical Training and Recreation Act conferred much greater powers on the County Council in regard to the provision of facilities for sports, recreation and physical training, and also in connection with the provision of and assistance towards, community centres.

In the same year the Local Government Superannuation Act made it compulsory for local authorities to provide for the superannuation of all administrative, professional or clerical employees and another Act enabled the County Council and other local authorities to prohibit traffic on certain classes of roads which could, with advantage, be used as playgrounds for children. One other Act of the same year must be noted—the Air Raid Precautions Act, 1937, required the County Council, in consultation with the local councils, to prepare and submit to the Home Secretary a scheme indicating the distribution of the necessary duties for guarding against loss of life and damage by air-raids in the event of war.

In 1938 the Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act was passed to preserve from industrial or building development areas of land in and around the administrative county of London, in the interest of the health and amenity of persons living in this area.

So far reference has been made to the many powers given to the County Council by general Acts. During the period 1930-1938, however, the County Council obtained the passage through Parliament of no less than five local Acts.

The Middlesex County Council Act, 1930

This provided, amongst other things, for the transfer to the Council of the Duke of Northumberland’s River which traverses the west and south-west parts of the County, and it also enabled the Council to construct a bridge carrying the Grand Union Canal over the North Circular Road, as illustrated on page 140. It also conferred powers upon the local authorities in the County to regulate street trading, gave the Council extended powers in regard to employment agencies, and made certain amendments in the Council’s Superannuation Act.

The Middlesex County Council Act, 1931

Under this important Local Act the County Council was constituted the authority for the main drainage of the western portion of the County, and proceeded with the construction of 70 miles of sewers and of the sewage disposal works at Mogden.

This was one of the last schemes which ranked for special Government grant from the Unemployment Grants Committee, and the County Council secured a Government grant of 50 per cent, of the cost of construction of the works on condition that 75 per cent, of the labour employed was recruited from the unemployed through the local labour exchanges.

The Middlesex County Council Act, 1934

This Local Act, in addition to extending the powers of the County Council in regard to highways and open spaces and consolidating the Middlesex superannuation Acts, contained provisions enabling the local authorities to control the use of movable dwellings and camping-grounds and to license massage establishments. The County Council was empowered to control boxing entertainments much in the same way as music and dancing.

The Middlesex County Council Acts of 1938

In this year the Council obtained two Local Acts. The Middlesex County Council (General Powers) Act, 1938, gave the Council further powers in regard to the control of highways and of the development of lands adjoining important roads. The powers of the Council for acquiring land to be reserved as open spaces or playing fields were extended, and further control was given over the development of land suitable for this purpose; open spaces, towards the cost of which the Council contributed, were protected from use for other purposes.

As there were some important differences between the Council’s superannuation provisions of 1934 and those applied by the Local Government Superannuation Act of 1937, the General Powers Act of 1938 modified these differences as far as possible.

The powers of the Council to control boxing entertainments were extended to wrestling entertainments, and another provision made it illegal for persons to sell articles to children entering or leaving a school or a playground or to offer such articles by way of exchange.

The Middlesex County Council (Sewerage) Act of 1938 made the Council responsible for the main drainage of the eastern portion of the County in addition to the western area dealt with in its sewerage Act of 1931. Some parts of the County, notably Acton and Willesden, still continue to have their sewage treated by other authorities, but on the other hand the new scheme for East Middlesex included the treatment of sewage for certain districts in Essex and Hertfordshire. These immense works will, of course, take several years to complete, but the work has been in progress for some time.


Generally speaking, legislation affecting the County Council in the years 1939-43 was confined to temporary war-time enactments such as the Civil Defence Act of 1939, which enlarged the Council’s powers in relation to civil defence matters, and made it the principal authority for most civil defence purposes, with provision for the delegation of some functions to the local authorities.

The provisions of the Adoption of Children (Regulations) Act of 1939 were re-enacted in the Act of 1950 and are referred to later.

The Education Act,

In 1944, as it became apparent that the war in Europe was gradually drawing to a close, a new Education Act repealed, for practical purposes, all earlier Education Acts and provided for an almost entirely new system of administration. The Board of Education was replaced by the Ministry of Education and the Minister was given the duty of promoting the education of the people of England and Wales and of directing the national policy of providing a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area. The County Council, on 1st April, 1945, became the sole local education authority for Middlesex and therefore responsible for all the schools and with certain small provisos for all forms of education—primary, secondary and further education—so far as policy and finance were concerned. As the education authority, the County Council was made responsible for submitting to the Minister of Education an educational development plan, showing the action proposed to be taken to secure the provision of sufficient primary and secondary schools in the County.

Sixteen of the largest Middlesex borough and urban districts are known as “Excepted Districts” and the council of each of these areas prepared its own scheme for submission to the Minister. In two other districts, a local sub-committee of the County Education Committee functions in this respect, and in the remaining cases the schemes are made by the County Council. The schemes provide for certain functions of the County Council, as local education authority, to be exercised on its behalf by bodies known as “divisional executives” which, in “excepted districts” are the local borough or urban district councils. The County Council retains responsibility for finance and policy.

The County Council was made responsible, amongst other matters, for boarding-school accommodation, residential special schools, training of teachers, major County awards and the further educational powers which had not been delegated.

The Act strengthened the position regarding compulsory school attendance between the ages of five and fifteen years and provided for an extension to sixteen years at such date as the Minister should consider appropriate. There were many other important provisions in the Act which have not been mentioned. The extent of the powers and duties placed upon the County Council can best be seen, however, from the description of the education service contained in a later chapter. The Act was amended and supplemented by later Acts passed in 1946, 1948 and 1953-

The Middlesex County Council Act, 1944, consolidated with some slight amendments the provisions of all the County Council’s previous Local Acts from 1894 to 1938.



The National Health Service Act, which received the Royal Assent in 1946, did not come into operation until the 5th July, 1948, as the tremendous changes which it involved required much preparation before they could be put into effect. Its provisions are perhaps better known to the general public than those of any other enactment of recent years, since they had a direct and immediate effect upon matters affecting the health of every man, woman and child. The Act was slightly amended by subsequent statutes.

To the County Council the immediate and most outstanding effect of the Act was the transfer to the control of the Minister of Health, through the medium of the regional hospital boards, of the hospital service, which had been built up over the past eighteen years or so to one of the most outstanding in the country, a service of which the County Council had every reason to be proud. The Middlesex county hospitals included seven general hospitals, three mental hospitals, two tuberculosis sanatoria and a number of convalescence and maternity hospitals and homes, etc.

From 5th July, 1948, every person became entitled to free hospital treatment and to free medical treatment from any doctor who elected to take patients under the provisions of the Act. Similar provision, broadly speaking, was made for dental and ophthalmic treatment, etc., including the provision of glasses, hearing-aids and certain other medical aids. Whilst an amending Act in 1952 modified these arrangements by providing for a small charge to be made towards the cost of prescriptions and certain appliances, the over-all principle remained unaltered. It was, however, made possible for those who wished to do so to make their own private arrangements for medical and other treatment upon payment, so as to preserve freedom of choice for the individual.

The chapter dealing with the Health Service describes all the present health functions of the County Council and, since many health duties remained with the Council and many new responsibilities were added, the County Health Service is still a far-reaching and important service.

Whilst the County Council remained responsible for the ambulance service, this was, for practical reasons, linked with the fire service.

The Trunk Roads Act of 1946 increased the number of trunk roads for which the Minister of Transport had been made responsible under the 1936 Act, and the Acquisition of Land (Authorization of Procedure) Act of the same year laid down a uniform procedure for the compulsory purchase of land by county councils, local authorities and most Government departments.


The Fire Service Act of 1947 created a new County Service by making county councils (and county borough councils, of which there are none in Middlesex) the local fire authorities from 1st April, 1948. Experience with a National Fire Service during the recent war had proved the advantages of a service co-ordinated over a large area. As previously mentioned, it was decided that the ambulance service should be linked with the fire service and the duties of the new Fire and Ambulance Service are dealt with fully in a later chapter.

Town and country planning had previously, for practical purposes, been carried out by the councils of county boroughs and county districts (except in the County of London). The Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 provided not only for the exercise of a greater control over land and buildings than had hitherto been known, but also for the councils of counties and county boroughs to be the only town planning authorities.

The principal features of the Act may be summarized as follows:

the owners of land lost their development rights;

a sum of £300,000,000 was allocated to provide payments to landowners for depreciation in land values due to the loss of these rights;

the value of land was accordingly limited to its ” existing use” value;

a right to carry out specific development might be acquired, by obtaining planning permission and paying a development charge;

the Central Land Board was established, to deal with claims for depreciation in land values and to determine development charges;

the law relating to development control and planning the development and use of land was revised;

the local planning authority (in Middlesex, the County Council) was required, in five years, to produce a Development Plan indicating the manner in which it proposed that the land in its area should be used.

In 1953 an amending Act abolished the development charge and repealed the provisions relating to the distribution of the 300 million fund, deferring for subsequent legislation the many questions regarding the extent to which claims on the fund were to be satisfied.

The County Council organized its work under the Act of 1947 by setting up a Planning Committee, with four area committees, to deal with permissions for development and to prepare the development plan for the County in consultation with the local councils. A scheme of delegation to the local councils was agreed, which provided for a considerable part of the work of planning permissions to be dealt with locally.

The first plan for Middlesex was submitted to the Ministry of Local Government and Planning in 1952.

The Agriculture Act of 1947 repealed to a great extent the Small Holdings and Allotments Acts of 1908 to 1931 and substituted a change in policy in the general approach to the provision of small holdings. It is now the duty of every county council except London to provide small holdings at a fair rent, in so far as there is a demand for them in the county and subject to suitable land being obtainable without detriment to agricultural policy generally.

The Act conferred various powers and duties upon the County Council, in particular the obligation to retain its Small Holdings Committee for the management of small holding estates and to co-opt to that committee persons with farming experience and representatives of the agricultural workers. The constitution of this committee and the general scheme of management require the approval of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.


Two more very important Acts came into operation on 5th July, 1948, the National Assistance Act, 1948, and the Children Act, 1948. Between them, the National Health, National Assistance and Children Acts achieved an almost complete break-away from the poor law and public assistance administrations of earlier years, since the National Health Act transferred the care of necessitous persons suffering from illness to the regional hospital boards, the Children Act made “deprived” children the responsibility of the Home Secretary and the County Council and, finally, the National Assistance Act transferred the responsibility for financial assistance to necessitous persons to a National Assistance Board, and prescribed certain remaining and additional functions, for the assistance of persons in need, to be carried out by county councils and county borough councils.

These last-named duties, which are dealt with by the County Council through its welfare service and in respect of which schemes must be submitted to the Minister of Health for approval, are firstly, the provision of residential accommodation for persons who, by reason of age, infirmity or other like circumstances, are in need of care and attention which are not available to them and, secondly, the provision of temporary accommodation for those in urgent need, subject to the proviso, generally speaking, that the need has arisen through circumstances which could not have been foreseen. The County Council has, however, certain powers to deal with particular cases on their merits. The County Council is also empowered to promote the welfare of the blind, deaf or dumb and others suffering from permanent physical handicaps.

A full account of the County Council’s welfare service is given in a later chapter, but mention should be made of two other duties for the protection of necessitous persons. The first is that of registering all homes for disabled persons and for old persons provided, generally speaking, otherwise than by a Government Department or a local authority and, in so doing, satisfying itself that the homes are suitably maintained. The second is the duty of protecting, where necessary, the property of necessitous persons admitted to a hospital or provided with accommodation under the provisions of the National Assistance Act.

The Children Act, 1948, the third Act which materially affected the original poor-law system, was the result to a large extent of the Report submitted by the Curtis” Committee, which was set up in 1945 to inquire into the methods of providing care for children deprived of a normal home life.

The Act created yet another new County service and replaced, on much more generous lines, the previous provisions in regard to “deprived ” children. It laid down the administrative duties to be undertaken by county councils and it gave the Home Secretary the central responsibility for- the maintenance and care of these children. The description of the County service dealing with the care of children refers to the work which the County is carrying out and steadily developing in this respect.

The Local Government Act of 1948 abolished the Central Valuation Committee, county valuation committees and assessment committees, and transferred most of the functions of rating authorities, in regard to the preparation and amendment of valuation lists, to the Inland Revenue. It is now the duty of the Valuation Officer of the Inland Revenue to prepare the new list, which, when approved, lasts for five years and, in the meantime, to deal with the various cases which arise. Appeals against the draft valuation list will be heard in the first place by a local valuation court, and there is a right of further appeal to the Lands Tribunal. The Act also introduced a new system of Government grants payable to local authorities to supplement their income from rates and other sources; the system is intended to make equal, as far as possible, the financial resources of local authorities.

Provision was also made for the payment of allowances to members of local authorities and certain other bodies in respect of travelling and subsistence expenses and loss of earnings incurred by reason of their duties as members. The rates of allowances had to be within limits prescribed by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Power was also given to effect insurance against accidents to members of local authorities, incurred by reason of their duties and, furthermore, to provide instructional lectures, information centres, etc., in connection with questions relating to local government. There were also extended powers for the provision of entertainment, etc.

Under the provisions of the Civil Defence Act, 1948, the County Council was charged with the duty of organizing and training the Middlesex Division of the Civil Defence Corps and also of preparing plans for the operation of certain war-time services, many of which are closely allied to services already provided in peacetime by the County Counil.

The Nurseries and Child Minders Regulation Act of 1948 required the County Council and other local health authorities to register all premises, other than those mainly kept as private dwellings, where children are looked after for periods not exceeding six days, and to register all persons who, for reward, receive children under five to be so cared for.


The Special Roads Act was clearly framed with a view to meeting the ever-increasing problem of traffic congestion and road accidents, as it provided for the construction by local authorities, including county councils, of roads reserved for special types of traffic. Schemes for the construction of such roads are subject to the approval of the Minister of Transport.

The Housing Act of 1949 extended the County Council’s powers relating to advances to persons desirous of buying houses to properties of a value not exceeding £5,000. The powers extend also to the construction, adaptation or repair of houses and the premises need not be within the area of the authority making the advance. The County Council’s powers under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts were similarly extended, but only in areas where the local council had not adopted the provisions of the Acts.

The Justices of the Peace Act, 1949, amended the law relating to Justices of the Peace and the administrative and financial arrangements for magistrates’ courts. It has already been mentioned in Part One. The County Council has, however, certain duties under the Act; it has to provide the petty sessional court houses and other accommodation and the necessary furniture and books, and it has to pay the expenses of the Magistrates’ Courts Committee, including the salaries of the justices’ clerks and the staff employed by the Committee to assist them. But the question of what court houses and other things are to be provided and the nature and amount of the expenses it incurs are matters for decision by the Magistrates’ Courts Committee, and the County Council is therefore given a right of appeal to the Home Secretary against any such decision. The County Council must also be consulted about, and can object to, any proposal or report made to the Home Secretary by the Magistrates’ Courts Committee about the division of the County into petty sessional divisions.

The Act also permits a legally qualified person to be appointed by the Crown as a paid stipendiary magistrate for the whole or part of any county, and in this case the appointment can only be made on a petition presented by the County Council.

Under the provisions of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, the County Council undertakes certain duties on behalf of the Minister of Health in respect of health control services at London and Northolt airports, including first-aid treatment of casualties from crashed aircraft and taking the necessary steps to prevent infection being brought into the country from abroad.

A joint consultative committee has also been set up in respect of each airport, to act as a medium for consultation between the Minister, the Middlesex County Council, the London County Council and the appropriate local authorities.

The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 5949 was mainly concerned with the provision of national parks and nature reserves and also dealt with the preservation of rights of way. The County Council is empowered to establish nature reserves, to make surveys of public paths and has the duty of taking appropriate steps to secure access for the public to open-air recreation in open country—it may also acquire land for these purposes and has the right of planting trees and of dealing with derelict land.


The Middlesex County Council Act, 5950, extended the time for the completion of the East Middlesex sewerage undertaking, the construction of which had been delayed during the war years. It also enabled the County Council, as highways authority, to impose conditions upon owners or occupiers of premises who wished to use any verge or kerbed or paved footway as a crossing for horse-drawn or mechanically-propelled vehicles (other than motor-cycles), and to arrange for trees or shrubs to be planted in streets and similarly to ensure the amenities of the roads for which it was responsible. The Council’s powers of controlling the tipping of refuse were also extended by this Act.

The Adoption of Children Act, whilst partly concerned with consolidating the provisions of previous Acts, provided that no body of persons other than a local authority or an adoption society registered by the local authority in whose area it is situated, might make arrangements for the adoption of an infant. It also provided that the County Council, as welfare authority, must be notified of any arrangement to take into care a child below the upper limit of compulsory school age and that notification must be made within seven days of the arrangement. This did not apply to registered adoption societies or certain schools, hospitals, etc., nor to persons who undertake the nursing and maintenance of children boarded out by a local authority under the provisions of the Children Act—and there were other exceptions.

The Council’s work in this connection is described more fully in the chapter dealing with care of children.

The Highways (Provision of Cattle Grids) Act empowered the County Council and other highway authorities in appropriate cases to maintain cattle grids to prevent the passage of cattle along maintained roads.

The Diseases of Animals Act, 5950, consolidated the statutory code previously contained in a series of Acts dating from 1894. The general object of the legislation is to prevent the spreading of diseases of animals and to prevent unnecessary suffering by animals during transit, and county councils and certain borough councils have duties which include those of appointing inspectors and of enforcing in their areas the various Orders made by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Another Act in the same year consolidated various statutory provisions designed to ensure the purity of milk, and to regulate the use of special designations of milk and the sale of artificial cream.


Much of the legislation during these two years was passed for the purpose of adding to or amending the important Acts which had come into force since the last war. Thus Acts were passed making amendments or additions to the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, the Fire Services Act, 1947, the National Health Service Act, 1946, and the National Assistance Act, 1948. An Act amending the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, also made it a duty of the County Council to investigate any information received that a child or young person was in need of care and protection, and extended the circumstances in which a child could be so regarded as in need.

In addition to these amending Acts, the Midwives Act, 1951, consolidated most of the previous legislation relating to midwives. The County Council has to exercise general supervision over all certified midwives practising within its area, in accordance with rules made by the Central Midwives Board. When the Minister of Health is satisfied that the County Council has secured an adequate service of midwives for the County or any district in the County, he may by order prohibit unqualified persons from acting for gain as maternity nurses within that area. The County Council can also aid the training of midwives and provide residential accommodation for women training to become certified midwives.

In 1952 legislation on an entirely new subject was passed. The Hypnotism Act of that year permitted the County Council to regulate or prohibit demonstrations of hypnotism at places licensed for public entertainment. Elsewhere, only authorized demonstrations of hypnotism at public entertainments are permitted and the use of a person under twenty-one for purposes of demonstration is absolutely prohibited.

Also in this year the Town Development Act, 1952, was passed. The Act was intended to encourage town development in country districts for the relief of overpopulation elsewhere and is therefore primarily of concern to the councils of these districts. Provision is made, however, whereby county councils can, by agreement with a district council and with the authority of the Minister of Housing and Local Government, share in the responsibility for carrying out the scheme of development.

One other Actpassed in 1952 should be mentioned, namely the Cinematograph Act, which generally extends and amends the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1909, and will come into operation on a date to be decided by the Home Secretary. Under the Act of 1909 a licence from the County Council was required for the exhibition, in premises, of inflammable films. The 1952 Act extends this requirement to cinematograph exhibitions given by means of non-inflammable films or by means not involving the use of films, for example, by television. The Act also gives the Home Secretary power to-make regulations dealing with safety precautions and the health and welfare of children attending cinemas and the County Council, in granting licences, can impose conditions regulating the admission of children to cinemas.

This account of legislation affecting the County Council is, of necessity, only a brief summary of the main provisions of the many Acts mentioned, but it does show the very great increase in the powers and duties of the County Council since it was first established, the remarkable diversity of these powers and duties and the fact that the work of the County Council closely affects in very many ways the daily life of the inhabitants of Middlesex.