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Rents & Rates

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 20th January 1956, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Now for a New ‘Backway’
As the last inches of brickwork sway and totter, the Rectory Road demolitions at Rushden work up to a climax of interest. It has been an ordinary plodding job – just a one-man job for some of the time – but to me, brought up as a lad on the “Backway” legend, nothing yet planned in the realm of local topography could have greater claim to attention.

It was said at last week’s meeting of the urban council that when the demolitions were complete the town’s general traffic arrangements would be considered. That in itself is a big reason for breathing deeply as the bottleneck disappears – though a great depth of breath will be inhaled before those arrangements work decently. There is also the effect on the landscape and the impetus that will be given to the whole idea of developing an important road parallel with High Street.

It was just after the First World War that Rushden council heard the main spate of optimistic speeches about the future of the “Backway.” In those days the clearance of a few obstacles seemed capable of solving every traffic problem. Traffic, however, was not then the main consideration; there was a wider dream of developing the shopping area and making the town more presentable.

Subsequent nibbles at the old landscape have shown how right was the policy, and the completion of a stage in that policy should but freshen the urge to achieve something new and revolutionary in the heart of Rushden,

Because of wars and the constant lag in all kinds of accommodation, the evolution of Rectory Road has been painfully slow. It may soon be possible to go forward in a big way, and even the stultifying railway need not, according to the latest theories, be looked upon as an obstacle that will be there forever.

The promise that municipal rates for the next financial year would be fixed early is being fulfilled, and at Rushden it is only a matter of weeks before the figure is worked out and presented to the happy payers on a wordy plate.

Behind the promise was the idea that a lot of commotion would be saved if the public knew as soon as possible the actual effect of the new assessments.

At Rushden and Higham Ferrers, as everywhere else, the blow-up valuations looked awful. They will, of course, be tempered by a lower rate in the £, but it still looks as if many people are going to be disconcerted.

If, as Mr. John L. Wilson has said, valuations on houses have advanced by fifty per cent on the average, a lot of people will find themselves on the wrong side of this average. The increase in some cases is 100 per cent.

Any spleen that arises will result from these inequalities, for no single ratepayer whose dues increase will be calmed by any talk about averages or overall effects.

It is the same between one category and another – between house property and small commercial property. If the scale of increase has varied to any great extent, somebody is going to suffer – and the shopkeepers are expecting to find themselves in the front row of sufferers.

We shall watch the local “budgets” with a good deal more than the usual care. Even if they are found fair and non-opportunistic I’m afraid the background of uneven treatment is going to erupt.

Council House Rents
Always useful, I have been asked to clear the air regarding Rushden’s council house rents. My task, simple though not pleasant, is to warn those good people (and those among them who may be not so good) that they have been misled.

I am told that the council, as always, is innocent. It is just that the Housing Committee’s report on “subsidies and interest rates” was misinterpreted. It was assumed that this report, coming so late in the current financial year, must be mixing its tenses when it said that no adjustment of rents would be required in the current year.

After all, in the course of two paragraphs we had references to “the financial year 1957-58,” “the current financial year” and “the next financial year.”

Anyhow, the point is that the council made no promise to keep the rents unchanged during 1956-57. When it said “current” it meant “current” which is merely a matter of weeks.

So look out tenants, and keep your powder dry. I may as well tell you the whole truth, which is that your very own committee decided “to consider the matter further in connection with the estimates for the next financial year.”

Work that one out if you can.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 9th March 1956, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Rate goes down – but total call is up by 25 per cent
Although Rushden’s rate for 1956/57, fixed at a special meeting of the council on Wednesday, showed a reduction of 10s 6d from 29s in the £ to 18s 6d, the new rate – on the old basis of £375 for a penny rate – would have been 37s 3d, Mr. F. E. Brown, Finance Committee chairman, disclosed in his budget speech.

Dealing with the current year’s figures, Mr. Brown reminded members that at the last budget meeting, in order to keep the rate at 29s in the £ it had been proposed to take £815 from the balances. In fact, savings in committee expenditure during the year amounted to about £2,250, which meant that the balance would be increased from £16,160 to £17,595.

Referring to the estimates for the coming financial year, Mr. Brown said that increases by the Highways and Planning, Public Health, Public Library, Parks and Finance Committees amounted to £8,110 while the Housing Committee proposed a saving of £6,700 leaving a net increase on committee expenditure of £1,410.

Of these increases, £4,080 represented net increases in salaries and wages, and £845 increases in loan charges.

Like all other public undertakings the Water Board precept had been increased – by £1,210 – and their demand was for £19,050.

Grants to the council under the Local Government Act, 1948, showed an increase in requirements of £6,600 over the approved estimate for the present financial year.

£19,920 Grants
The total grants received from the equalisation funds amounted to £19,920, leaving a net figure of £69,350 as the rate demand for the coming financial year.

The committee had again considered the question of the council’s working balance and its desire (voiced on many occasions) to bring this up to a total of £20,000 a figure which was considered the minimum standard. They had hoped to be able to levy a little larger rate to raise the desired £2,500, but had decided to recommend a budget increase of £1,180, bringing it to an estimated figure of £18,775.

“I now come to the precept required by the County Council, and again, due to revaluation, it is plainer to talk in terms of £ s d rather than rate poundage.

This year the County Council called for a total contribution of £64,125, whilst the previous year the figure was £62,238. The county rate has been fixed at 10s 6d in the £ on the new valuation, and the demand for 1956-57 is estimated at £92,610, an increase of £28,486 or 44.4 per cent more than during the current year.

Local Needs
“As a comparison our own total £ s d requirements, after taking into account the income grants due to us and excluding the Water Board, are an increase of just over ten per cent over 1955-56.”

Mr. Brown said that the council’s total demand was £51,480 for its own purposes, £19,050 for the Water Board, and £92,610 for the County Council, totalling £163,140 an increase of about 25 per cent over last year.

The new valuation had brought the rateable value in the urban district up from £95,432 last year to £182,188 for next year, and the product of a penny rate had increased from £375 to £735. The rate to be levied to bring in the £163,140 required in the coming financial year was, therefore, 18s 6d in the £.

Proposal Rejected
The rate was fixed at 18s 6d in the £ as the result of a majority decision by the council, earlier in the meeting, to reject the Housing Committee’s proposal to make a rate contribution of £4,440 to the housing revenue account. Moving this, the Housing Committee chairman Mr. J. E. Wills said that after Government subsidies (£22,390) and rents on the present charges (£52,500) there would be a deficit on the year on the housing account of approximately £11,000 to be met by rate contributions or increased rents.

If the entire amount was to be met by rents, it would involve an increase of 22½ per cent or 4s 6d in the £, on net rents. Conversely if the whole amount was to be provided by a rate charge of 1s 2.9d.

The committee had eventually decided to compromise, and recommend that a rate contribution of £4,440 (a 6d rate) should be made, and that rents should be increased by 12½ per cent.

Amendment Carried
An amendment, that no rate contribution should be made, and that a maximum increase in rents should be made to meet the deficiency was put by Mr. A. Allebone and seconded by Mrs. G. Marriott.

Mr. Allebone said that council house tenants were content with the Government subsidy and did not wish or need to be a further charge on their fellow citizens. Many normal ratepayers were struggling financially at least as much as the council house tenants.

The amendment was carried by 11 votes to five.

When Mr. Brown presented the Finance Committee report, containing the committee’s original recommendation that the rate should be 19s in the £ and amendment by Mr. C. G. Faulkner that the £4,440 now saved on the Housing Committee estimates, should be devoted to balances, and that the rate should remain at 19s, was rejected, only three members voting in favour.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 22nd March 1957, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Rushden rate up 2s 6d ‘system in tangle’
Though last year’s estimates were underspent by £4,390 and the Exchequer grant has increased by £3,380, Rushden Urban Council added 2s 6d to the rates, bringing them to 21s in the £, at its “Budget” meeting on Wednesday.

The council decided to increase its own spending by £8,960; the demand from the County Council has risen by £9,630 and from the Water Board by £5,270.

Presenting the estimates as chairman of the Finance Committee, Mr. Frank Brown said the council had increased its balance by £5,570 and now possessed an accumulated fund of £24,962.

Much of last year’s savings, he explained, resulted from work being deferred. This year the committees planned to spend £74, 590, the Water Board wanted £24,320 and the county precept was for £102,240.

The total requirements, after allowing for the Exchequer grant of £23,300, was £178,920, compared with £163,140 last year.

Park Improvements
One of the estimates was £600 for improvements at Jubilee Park. Schemes involving loan charges concern a Duck Street improvement, A6 lighting, footpaths, new public conveniences, sewers and flats and outbuildings at Rushden Hall.

Mr. Brown said that rather than increase the rents of council houses they would take £2,000 from the balance of the housing revenue account. The partial de-rating of shops and similar property would cost the general ratepayers a rate of 1s 1½d in the £.

Declaring that the ideal of rate stability had got beyond the council’s grasp, Mr. C. G. Faulkner said that had there been no revaluation this year’s expenditure would have made a rate in the neighbourhood of 37s in the £. The rate per head had increased from £7 7s 1d in 1954 to £10 15s.

“Our rating system,” he added, “is getting into such a tangle that there is a great danger of it being swept away altogether, and if that is so our prospect for local government is very bleak indeed.”

Mr. A. H. Bailey said he viewed with alarm the fact that though the council’s duties might increase its powers decreased. It was high time local government was carried on by people on the spot.

Millions of pounds added Mr. Bailey was spent on education, and still they had no grammar school in Rushden.

Less pessimistic was Mrs. A. Muxlow, who declared that all the committees had done their best.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 5th July 1957, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Rushden folk slow to lend money to Council
Rushden people’s reluctance to lend money to the Urban Council is mentioned by the treasurer and accountant, Mr. W. D. White, in a printed abstract of accounts for the financial year 1955-56.

It was in that year the report states, that the Council first tapped the local lending market by inviting ratepayers to subscribe to an issue of simple mortgages, secured on all its rates and revenues.

“The results were very disappointing. Only £3,625 was received from this source from December to the end of the year. Some improvement has occurred since and at the time of writing the total has reaches £20,575, which is still far below the sum expected.”

Mr. White thinks that the position may improve as the security becomes known.

He added: “It is thought that lenders have an objection to the deduction of income tax from their interest warrants. Efforts to overcome this objection by undertaking to carry out in the department the clerical work involved in the reclamation of tax has been successful in persuading some lenders to take up the security.”

Recalling that the rates yielded a surplus of £3,233 raising the general rate fund surplus to £19,393, Mr. White says that this figure is still considered inadequate.

Council’s Property
Improvement grants under the Housing Act, 1949, showed an increase of nearly 100 per cent over those for the previous year.

At the end of the year the town’s rateable value jumped from £95,432 to £185,061, but the next general rate was 18s 6d in the £ -- equalling that of 1950, though on a nearly double assessment.

Rates levied per head of the population in 1955-6 were £8 11s 1d.

At the time the Council owned 797 pre-war houses, 710 post-war houses, 41 garages and two shops, with a total gross rental of £90,944.

The rating list included 5,524 houses and flats, 159 shops with living accommodation, 168 other shops, 37 offices, 97 warehouses and stores, 29 commercial garages and filling stations, 218 lock-up garages and 99 factories and workshops.

Domestic premises accounted for 57.4 per cent of the rateable value, and commercial premises for 24.34 per cent.

Salaries accounted for 4.8 per cent of the Council’s expenditure, wages 7.3 per cent other revenue expenses 21.4 per cent and capital expenses 32.4 per cent.

The swimming bath cost £890 and had an income of £580, this including the two pence’s of 3,069 non-bathers.

Rushden Hall accounted for £3,699 gross and Spencer Park for £2,009 gross against an income of £462. Highways expenditure included £232 for street nameplates.

The total gross loan debt was £1,425,782 and the net loan debt per head of the population £85 18s 10d.

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