Cambridge Liberals’ local council manifesto ideas – part 3: 1907


Part 3 of the Liberal council manifesto ideas includes calling for the municipalisation/nationalisation of water, simplifying the parliamentary procedure for local councils to take powers for public service delivery, and calling for a unitary council to serve Cambridge. Transcribed from this digitised copy from the British Newspaper Archive here.


SUGGESTIONS FOR A LIBERAL MUNICIPAL PROGRAMME. lll.—Extraordinary Work, Poor Law, and County Councils.

“Outside the ordinary routine work of a Council paving, drainage, public health, property, &c.—the most obvious fields of activity for municipal bodies are what may be termed municipal monopolies, such as water and tramways.

  • Water supply in Cambridge is obviously a monopoly, and the public have to pay for it at rates sufficient provide 10 per cent on the old capital and 7 per cent, on the new capital of the Waterworks Company.
  • The tramways, too, though not a monopoly, have a special privilege—that of having the road surfaces cut up by their rails, which give them mechanical advantage over all other forms of traction. For this the existing Company pay a heavy rent, and thereby make a return the ratepayers. [The tram company went’ bankrupt in 1914, six months before the outbreak of war, as it could not compete with the new motorised buses run by the Ortona company].
  • Gas and electricity are also in special position, because they have statutory right to tear up the road surfaces of the town, but water stands in class by itself.

“Water supply accordingly has been one things to be municipalised, but if it is in the hands of a private Company, it is extremely difficult to deal with in the present state of the law. The Company  need not sell unless it likes, and there are always reasons why should not like. It cannot be compelled to sell without special Act of Parliament, and a private Act is an extremely expensive luxury, and Parliament has never yet allowed Corporation to acquire the water supply merely because it thought it a good thing.

“There must be special circumstances before the Corporation has a locus standi [the right or capacity to bring an action or to appear in a court]. What is I wanted is a general Act, giving Corporations right to acquire the water supply under certain conditions. They have that right already as regards trains.

“There is more reason for their having in the case of water. There is a special reason at the present moment why Cambridge should own its a own water supply. The preservation of its purity is a matter of the most urgent public concern, and a Local Government Board inquiry has been asked for concerning it. During all the preliminary inquiries and discussions which led up to this demand, the Company sat quiet. There was no reason why, from its own point of view, it should do otherwise. But if the supply had been municipalised, the Corporation itself would have taken action, and what may be done now after interminable talk , and delay, would have been done once the by single public body concerned.

“Then, again, Cambridge urgently needs public baths and washhouses. [The first attempt at a public bath failed in the 1850s, and Cambridge did not get an indoor swimming pool until the 1960s]. But these follow naturally on a municipalised water supply.

‘Tramways are a most difficult question, because they are liable to competition. Horse tramways in Cambridge have proved. their superiority to horse omnibuses. They have won the first round in the contest with. motor buses. They are now engaged in the second round. But motor buses are still in the experimental stages. Most of the existing types seriously damage the house and shop property past which they run, by reason of the noise they make and. the smoke and smell they emit. It remains to be proved whether these difficulties can be overcome. Electric traction is admittedly the cheapest and most convenient form of traction, but there is no movement in its favour in Cambridge.

“Yet Cambridge is a place of wide distances and flat surfaces, where people want to be conveyed from outlying parts, and where they can be conveyed cheaply. A good system of communication between the centre and the outlying districts is one of the great needs of Cambridge, and the whole question, ought long ago to have been faced in thorough-going and systematic manner.

“Gas and electricity are rival systems with which a corporate body should interfere with caution. Electric Lighting Companies hold their privileges subject to the right private purchase. Gas Companies do not. There seems no reason why water, gas, electric lighting, and trams should not all be put on the same footing, and then Corporations could choose their opportunity. This should be one of the first items in the municipal reformers’ programme.


“As to the Poor Law, there is no need say much pending the issue of the Report of the Royal Commission. The Liberal policy laid down and carried out many years ago by the late Mr. W. Bond has, so far, been adhered to, in spite of the loss of the Liberal majority. The old Tory policy was by lavish doles to gain personal popularity, and so to help the return of the Tory candidates at the Parliamentary elections.

“Remembering that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, it may be wisest to assume that the liking for this policy is not altogether dead in certain quarters. From this point of view, men and women should be sent to the Board, who will see that every case thoroughly investigated, and that, while adequate help is given, there shall be no laxity and no demoralisation with ulterior objects.


“Surprisingly little interest is taken in the County Council elections in the Borough, yet the Borough has fifteen representatives out of forty-eight, a compact body which, if it acted together, could always exercise great weight, and, or. occasions, turn the scale. There are two matters under the control of the County Council in which the Borough is deeply interested. These are


There is a standing difference of opinion between the Borough and the County on the subject of main roads —as to what roads ought to be ‘mained’, and how much money ought to be paid for their maintenance. Most persons who have watched the course of events, will be inclined to admit that is a much easier process to get a piece of county road mained than a piece of borough road, considering that the first process is much more frequently gone through than the second. The Borough should not ask for more than its fair share, but it should insist having that share.

The second matter is HIGHER EDUCATION.

“Here, again, the Borough entirely dependent on the County. The County spends the whiskey money as it pleases, and it can rate any subordinate area which it thinks is specially served by particular school or other educational institution. It is not suggested that there is anything unfair in the way in which the County Council has conducted its administration, but the supreme importance of education to Cambridge is certainly a reason why the Borough should be strongly represented on the Council, and why the ratepayers should take an interest in the elections.


“A new subject of great though indirect interest to Cambridge is the Small Holdings Act. Whatever increases the prosperity of this neighbourhood, increases the prosperity of the town. Cambridge, therefore, is intimately concerned with the way in which the new Small Holdings Act is administered, and should send representatives to the Council who have progressive sympathies in this respect. The control of main roads and higher education were two of the reasons put forward why Cambridge should be county borough, but that controversy is dead for the present, and it is not proposed here to revive it. ”


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