A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1963.
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THE FEDERATION OF THE SIX TOWNS
The federation (fn. 1) in 1910 of the six towns, Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, Stoke-upon-Trent, and Tunstall, is unique in English local government. The story begins with early attempts at co-operation, c. 1817–c. 1840, continues with the abortive 'county' plan of 1888 and the unsuccessful attempt of 1900–3, and ends with the negotiations during the period 1905–10 which culminated in the union of the towns as one county borough.
Early attempts at co-operation
To the modern observer, with the advantage of hindsight, it seems natural that a geographically compact area whose inhabitants are predominantly engaged in a common industry should be treated as a single unit for the purposes of local government. At the beginning of the last century such a point of view would have been to a large extent unfamiliar. As has been shown above, each of the Pottery towns, or villages, as some of them still were, made its own attempt to meet the governmental and administrative problems posed by a rapidly growing population. Local patriotism was strong and communications relatively slow, and it would not have occurred to the people of Tunstall, for example, that in the provision of those services which became ever more urgent as the century advanced, there existed any community of interest with neighbouring Burslem, still less with distant Stoke-upon-Trent. Nevertheless, the germ of co-operation can be discerned in the proceedings of a meeting at Hanley on 12 December 1817 of inhabitants of the pottery towns, when a wordy resolution was passed to the effect 'that in future all public meetings convened by and in the joint names of the majority of the head constables for the time being of Burslem, Hanley, Shelton, Stoke, Fenton, and Lane End shall be understood and considered as regularly convened, and that such head constables be recognized as the authorized agents on such occasions and the proper persons to whom requisitions may be addressed for calling certain public meetings from time to time, the same to be held at Hanley as the most central place of meeting for the Potteries at large'. (fn. 2) By this date, clearly, it was recognized that the Potteries had become something more than a geographical expression, that their natural centre was Hanley, and that there were certain matters on which joint consultation was desirable. That these matters were concerned principally with the protection of life and property is deducible from the predominance accorded to head constables and, as will be seen from references to later meetings, it was the feeling that law and order were in jeopardy, owing to the absence of a proper police force, that did more than anything else to promote united action.
The Reform Act of 1832, (fn. 3) however, had an important bearing on the idea of unity. By it, Stoke-uponTrent became a parliamentary borough, comprising the townships of Penkhull with Boothen, Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Shelton, Fenton Vivian, Lane End, Fenton Culvert, and Longton, the vill of Rushton Grange, and the hamlet of Sneyd. (fn. 4) The Potteries thus became one for the purpose of electing their two members of Parliament. Moreover, a Municipal Corporations Bill, introduced in the House of Lords in August 1833 by the Lord Chancellor, contained a proposal that the new parliamentary boroughs should be granted charters of incorporation. (fn. 5) Though the proposal came to nothing, the idea of incorporation aroused considerable interest in the Potteries, and meetings were held to discuss its advantages and disadvantages. (fn. 6) At such a meeting at Burslem in July 1836 the opinion was expressed that a charter would be expensive without conferring adequate advantage and that as the parliamentary borough comprised towns entirely independent of each other, incorporation would be productive of endless discord and jealousy, and would give to one town an undue influence over the others. (fn. 7) This argument was brought forward many times before the union of the towns was finally accomplished. At the same meeting those who spoke for Burslem claimed that it enjoyed all the advantages of municipal government except that of a resident magistracy, and so they were strongly in favour of the appointment of a stipendiary magistrate for the district. (fn. 8)
Two years later the question of incorporation was still being canvassed locally, and in August 1838 the principal inhabitants of Fenton, meeting at the Canning Inn, declared themselves unanimously in favour of incorporating the borough. (fn. 9) But meetings at Stoke and Burslem in the following month showed a shift of interest from incorporation to the need for a stipendiary magistrate. (fn. 10) About the same time an influential meeting, presided over by the Duke of Sutherland, was of the opinion that there should be a police force for the whole of the Potteries as well as a stipendiary magistrate. (fn. 11)
In the following year the public demand for the improvement in the administration of justice resulted in the passing of two Acts of Parliament, the first providing for a stipendiary magistrate for the Staffordshire Potteries (fn. 12) and the other 'for establishing an effective police in places within and adjoining to the district called the Staffordshire Potteries and for improving and cleansing the same and better lighting thereof'. (fn. 13) Thus in one sphere at least, that of law and order, the people of the Potteries demonstrated to themselves the feasibility and desirability of cooperative effort. Whether these changes commended themselves to all classes of society is doubtful; in May 1839 rioting at Lane End calling for intervention by the military was said to have been occasioned by the introduction of the new police. (fn. 14)
For nearly 50 years nothing more was heard of amalgamating the Pottery towns. Each went its own way, developing its own institutions, enlarging in some cases its boundaries, and improving its status. Hanley, with Shelton, became a borough in 1857; (fn. 15) Penkhull and Boothen were formed into the borough of Stoke-upon-Trent in 1874, (fn. 16) and Longton and Lane End into the borough of Longton in 1865; (fn. 17) Burslem became a borough in 1878; (fn. 18) while Tunstall and Fenton were administered by local boards of health from 1855 and 1873 respectively (fn. 19) and automatically became urban districts in 1894. The borough of Longton was extended by the addition of East Vale in 1883 (fn. 20) and of Florence and Dresden in 1884. (fn. 21) Thus, with the consolidation of these large urban areas, the stage was set for the first real attempt to achieve a true federation of the Pottery towns.
The county plan of 1888
The Local Government Bill proposing the creation of County Councils was introduced on 19 March 1888 (fn. 22) and received the royal assent on 13 August of that year. (fn. 23) During the intervening period of five months much debate and negotiation took place in the Pottery towns regarding their position in the new local government pattern. With a general consensus of opinion against control of the area by the Staffordshire County Council the idea developed of creating an administrative 'County of the Potteries'. (fn. 24) It quickly gained favour and on 2 July a deputation from the six towns submitted the proposal for a separate county to the President of the Local Government Board. (fn. 25) On 9 July, however, the House of Commons accepted an amendment conferring county borough status on any town with a population of 50,000, whereas the limit for this purpose had earlier been fixed at 100,000 (fn. 26) The change meant that Hanley on the passing of the Act would become a county borough and the remaining towns would pass under the control of the Staffordshire County Council. On 13 July the member for North-West Staffordshire attempted to include in the Bill the provision of county status for the district of the Staffordshire Potteries, comprising the four boroughs and the urban sanitary districts of Fenton and Tunstall Boards of Health. He expressed the view that, though Hanley would be entitled to be a county borough, it had given up any idea of self-glorification by agreeing to form a county in conjunction with the adjoining district. (fn. 27) Subsequent events proved this view to have been premature. The President of the Local Government Board thought that, in view of the difficulties involved, the proper course was to deal with the matter by Provisional Order, which he undertook to introduce at the beginning of the following session. W. Woodall, M.P. for Hanley, in accepting the assurance, insisted that it would be possible for the towns to preserve their own municipal life while combining for all purposes which had to be provided for in the Bill. At the same time he felt he was bound to protect Hanley by claiming its insertion in the Fourth Schedule (the list of county boroughs). (fn. 28) At a conference at Stoke the following day he explained that the county plan was running into difficulty but hoped that the promised Provisional Order would provide a solution; as to the possibility that the whole district might be made into a county borough, he thought it 'a dream which none would ever see accomplished'. (fn. 29)
When the Act received the royal assent in August 1888, Hanley was duly scheduled as a county borough. What would Hanley do? It took the corporation some time to make up their minds, and it was not until February 1889 that they finally decided to adopt the status of a county borough, thus effectively killing the county plan and delaying any further move towards amalgamation for several years. (fn. 30) The reasons for the decision are not known, but according to a town clerk of Hanley the scheme fell through because of the insistence of Stoke that the headquarters of the proposed new county council should be in that town. (fn. 31) Local jealousies were strong in the Potteries at that time—they have not altogether disappeared even now—and it is quite understandable that some such apparent triviality was enough to swing the balance against federation.
Apart from a nugatory effort in April of the same year by Longton to promote a scheme for making Stoke, Fenton, and Longton a county borough, (fn. 32) no further attempt to secure the whole or partial union of the Pottery towns was made during the succeeding decade, though the matter was the subject of discussion from time to time. (fn. 33)
The unsuccessful attempt of 1900–3
On 20 December 1900, on the initiative of the Stoke Town Council, it was decided to invite the various local authorities to attend a conference 'with a view to federal action'. The invitation was sent to the boroughs of Hanley, Stoke, Newcastle-underLyme, Longton, and Burslem, the urban districts of Fenton, Tunstall, Audley, Kidsgrove, and Smallthorne, the rural districts of Stoke and Wolstanton, and the parishes of Milton, Chell, Goldenhill, Chesterton, and Silverdale. (fn. 34) The wide area over which the invitation was spread indicates that the county plan was still uppermost in the minds of its promoters and the conference which met on 5 February 1901, by resolving that it was desirable in the interests of North Staffordshire to form a federation of local authorities, (fn. 35) was obviously thinking on the same lines. However, legal opinion was adverse to the formation of a new county and propounded the extension of the existing county borough of Hanley to include the remaining Pottery towns. (fn. 36) On 21 March 1902 a meeting of representatives of the six towns was held at Burslem, when it was agreed unanimously that the principle of federation of the Pottery towns by the constitution of a county borough should be adopted, 'subject to the resolutions passed by each authority for the preservation of their respective interests'. (fn. 37) The towns were determined to have their cake and eat it.
On 29 November 1902 Hanley asked the Local Government Board for an extension of the county borough to include Burslem, Longton, Stoke, Fenton, Tunstall, Smallthorne, Milton, Wolstanton, part of the parish of Goldenhill, Chell, Trentham, Stoke Rural, Caverswall, and the rural district of Stone, but only Longton joined in the representation. (fn. 38) Meanwhile in October 1902 Sir Hugh Owen, a former Secretary of the Local Government Board, presented a scheme of financial adjustment—'the bone of contention all through' (fn. 39)—to the Federation Committee. Under it the net assets of each town were to be ascertained by deducting outstanding debts and liabilities from the value of its various properties. The net assets which each town should contribute according to its proportion of the rateable value of the new borough were to be calculated; those towns whose net assets showed a deficiency would compensate, by differential rating, those towns contributing net assets in excess of their proper proportion. (fn. 40) Fenton considered that the scheme would inflict financial hardship on them and withdrew forthwith from the committee. The other towns decided to await a report from Alderman F. Geen of Stoke on the detailed financial implications of the Owen proposals, and when this was presented in July 1903, the opposition to federation gathered strength, culminating in September in a poll of the ratepayers of Burslem which showed a large majority against federation (2,670 to 457). (fn. 41) Burslem consequently withdrew, to be followed on 24 September by Stoke, (fn. 42) with the result that Hanley renounced the representation that it, with Longton, had made to the Local Government Board in November 1902. (fn. 43) For the time being the movement towards federation was at a standstill.
The final stage, 1905–10
Nevertheless the idea of federation was not dead, though some time elapsed before it recovered from the set-back it had received in 1903. Its re-emergence into the realm of practical politics was due to the initiative of the Longton town council, which in August 1905, at a conference of the various local authorities, expressed the view that the time was ripe for a reconsideration of the question. Their response was not enthusiastic. (fn. 44) Longton then changed its ground and resolved that 'on grounds of sanitation, education, and other matters of common interest it is desirable that the parliamentary borough of Stokeupon-Trent should be formed into one municipal borough on some equitable basis, and that the other authorities concerned be invited to take the subject into their consideration'. (fn. 45) This meant the amalgamation of Longton, Fenton, and Stoke (fn. 46) into one county borough, and the scheme was launched in November 1906. (fn. 47) The Fenton Urban District Council, however, was not prepared to acquiesce in the plan of its larger neighbours without the backing of its ratepayers. (fn. 48) A poll was accordingly taken on 14 January 1907 which showed a decisive vote against the scheme (2,608 to 106). (fn. 49) Nevertheless, in the following month Longton and Stoke forwarded their joint representation to the Local Government Board and in accordance with the usual procedure a local inquiry was held the same month at Stoke. (fn. 50) Instead of giving a decision on the representation, however, the board on 23 April informed Longton and Stoke of its view that in the interests of economy and efficiency a more comprehensive scheme of federation was desirable and that yet another conference of the six towns should be held without delay. (fn. 51) What prompted the board to take this step was the evidence of many people at the inquiry indicating a wish for a larger amount of amalgamation (fn. 52) and probably, though this was not stated, the opposition of Fenton to the Longton-Stoke proposal. All the councils were prepared to accede to the board's suggestion and a conference called by the board and presided over by its president, John Burns, was held at Stoke on 12 July. (fn. 53) He made a strong plea that conferences should take place between the six towns with a view to putting forward an agreed scheme for comprehensive federation. The conferences were duly held in the autumn of 1907 and were presided over by Major Norton, an officer of the board, Tunstall alone, the 'versatile and whirligig Tunstall', refusing to participate. (fn. 54) The path of negotiation proved to be by no means a smooth one. On 11 November Fenton Council made it clear that it would not commit itself to any scheme unless it commanded the approval of a majority of its ratepayers. (fn. 55) In the same month Burslem held a poll, at which 74 per cent. of the electorate voted; the verdict was against federation by 3,240 votes to 2,040, (fn. 56) despite the fact that a few days earlier the Duke of Sutherland at a public meeting in the same town had promised to make over his Trentham estate to the new county borough if federation should take place. (fn. 57) It is this Burslem poll which is so graphically described by Arnold Bennett in The Old Wives' Tale, and was adjudged by the county newspaper as quite unprecedented. (fn. 58) In the week preceding the poll meetings were held in different parts of the town, promoted on the one hand by the Association for Promoting the Federation of the Pottery Towns, and on the other by the Burslem Anti-Federation League. (fn. 59) On the day of the poll, 25 November, 'excitement was great throughout the town and the workers on both sides made supreme efforts to bring every voter possible up to the booths'. 'A number of motor cars', it was said, 'were requisitioned, chiefly by federationists.' (fn. 60) With Burslem, Fenton, and Tunstall standing out, it was Hanley, Longton, and Stoke who, on 30 November, lodged three separate representations with the Local Government Board. (fn. 61) Those of Longton and Stoke were identical and included the financial proposals, based on Alderman Geen's scheme of differential rating for a period of 20 years, which had appeared to be acceptable to a majority of the representatives. Hanley's representation differed from the other two in that it asked for a valuation, the taking over of the gas and electricity undertakings, and the imposition of a flat rate for educational purposes. (fn. 62) The statutory and other formalities were complied with in respect of the Longton representation only, and so it was upon the latter that the subsequent local inquiry was held. (fn. 63)
Before the inquiry opened in January 1908, the position in Tunstall had undergone a change. The Tunstall Council had by the casting vote of its chairman, declared itself opposed to federation, (fn. 64) but in a poll taken on 30 December 1907 a substantial majority of the ratepayers was shown to be in favour (895 to 641). (fn. 65) As a result the council decided to offer no opposition to federation generally, but appointed a sub-committee to secure the best terms it could for Tunstall. (fn. 66)
The Local Government Board Inquiry, the last act of the federation drama to be performed on the local stage, took place at Stoke, again under the presidency of Major Norton, on 8, 9, and 10 January 1908. The position of the parties was that Hanley, Longton, and Stoke were in favour of the proposals, whilst Fenton and the county council opposed them. Tunstall, in view of the ratepayers' poll, played a waiting game. Burslem dramatically withdrew from the inquiry at the outset on the ground that the presiding officer had already expressed himself as favourable to the principle of federation. The lines of the inquiry then followed Alderman Geen's scheme, though it was known that Hanley did not favour his method of financial adjustment. To the general surprise Hanley on the second day proposed yet another scheme. Its proposal in brief was that there should be a flat rate and also a differential rate, and that by means of the latter the existing differences should be adjusted within a period of ten years. (fn. 67) This scheme was fundamentally the Owen scheme of 1902, and at the inquiry was supported only by Tunstall. (fn. 68)
On 23 February 1908 the Local Government Board issued the draft Provisional Order for the federation of the six towns, and the financial scheme incorporated in it differed sharply from those put forward at the inquiry, though in some respects it approached the Hanley scheme. (fn. 69) It provided that those towns which, on a valuation, were shown to have a deficiency of assets should pay the amount of their deficiency into a common fund over a period not exceeding 20 years. This involved a complicated valuation of municipal properties, which was anathema to most of the towns. (fn. 70) Nevertheless, the Order was accepted by Hanley, Longton, and Tunstall, but opposed by Burslem, Fenton, and Stoke. (fn. 71)
In July the Provisional Order Bill (fn. 72) was considered by a Select Committee of the House of Commons, and on the 29th of that month the third reading was passed. (fn. 73) Various amendments, however, were made by the committee, the chief of them relating to the financial adjustment. Differential rating for ten years was introduced, which meant that during that period the rates of the several towns should be pro rata what they had averaged for a period of three years. But those towns which on a valuation were shown to have a deficiency of net assets were, in addition, to make an annual payment to the common fund equal to one-tenth of such deficiency. Thus, if a town had an excess of net assets, it was to pay the same rates, proportionately, as its mean rates for the last three years, but it was to receive no credit for its excess of assets. If, however, a town had a deficiency of assets, it was to contribute rates on the basis of the average for the three years, plus an annual payment of onetenth of its deficiency of assets. Clearly, the adjustment would depend largely upon the valuation of each town's properties and liabilities, and the Bill, as amended, provided that in calculating assets all floating capital and floating assets, gas and electricity works, public halls and buildings, parks and recreation grounds, and sewage works were to be included, but not street widenings or improvements. As to gas works, it was provided that after the payment to the general district fund of 5 per cent. on the amount at which the works were valued, the balance, if any, was to be applied in the reduction of the price of gas to consumers. The same provision was to apply to electricity works, except that the 5 per cent. paid to the general district fund was to be 5 per cent. on general expenditure. (fn. 74)
The Bill, as passed by the Commons, pleased hardly anybody. It is true that differential rating had been inserted in the Order, though for a period of ten years only, whereas 20 years had been the period favoured at the inquiry, (fn. 75) but the bugbear of valuation still remained. The local reaction was strong. Tunstall withdrew as one of the promoters, leaving Hanley and Longton to promote the Bill in the House of Lords. (fn. 76) Hanley and Longton did not like the Order, but having given an undertaking in the local conferences to accept the Local Government Board as arbitrators they felt bound to carry out the scheme. (fn. 77) Petitions were presented to the House of Lords praying to be heard against the Bill from the Staffordshire County Council, Burslem, Fenton, Stoke, and Tunstall Councils, the Longton Justices, the North Staffordshire Railway Co., and certain Tunstall ratepayers. (fn. 78) It was clear that the decisive battle on the federation issue would have to be fought out before the Select Committee of the House of Lords and the final outcome would depend on the way in which that committee handled this delicate and complicated matter.
If the federation enterprise was to achieve a successful conclusion in the Upper House, it was essential that a strong chairman should preside over the proceedings of the committee, one with the ability to grasp the complicated nature of the issues involved, and with the diplomatic skill, allied to force of character, required to inseminate and develop a spirit of compromise. In Lord Cromer such a chairman was found. With a long record of success in diplomatic and administrative fields behind him, he was still, at the age of 67, able to turn to and master the intricacies of local government, to separate the essential from the non-essential, and to convince the contending parties that he was 'the soul of reasonable compromise'. (fn. 79) Anyone who reads the voluminous reports of the proceedings and evidence before the Lords' Committee cannot fail to be impressed by the skilful manner in which he handled both counsel and witnesses, and prepared the way for final agreement.
The House of Lords Committee began its hearing of the Bill on 24 November and was addressed by counsel for the various towns and other interested parties who in varying degrees recited the history of the federation movement and championed the points of view of their respective clients. Of the witnesses heard the most important perhaps, as his evidence was certainly the fullest, was G. C. Kent, the town clerk of Longton, who for many years had been a strong and able protagonist in the cause of federation. (fn. 80) Another important witness was Major Cecil Wedgwood, a member of the famous pottery firm, who voiced the support of the manufacturing interest for federation; (fn. 81) in 1910 he became the first mayor of the new county borough. (fn. 82)
On 10 December the committee announced certain preliminary decisions. (fn. 83) In the first place they approved the principle of federation, the adoption of which they considered would be of great advantage to the people of the Potteries. Further, they thought that important modifications to the Bill were necessary and suggested that agreement might be sought on what had been termed the Stoke basis, involving the adoption of two main principles: (a) separate rating areas and differential rates for a fixed period, (b) the abandonment of any attempt to value the assets in each district. The committee reserved to themselves full liberty of action should general agreement be found to be impossible. In accepting the responsibility of overriding both the Local Government Board and the House of Commons, the committee 'put the position back in the status quo ante, i.e. the state in which affairs were when the Stoke proposal was put forward', which in its view had the 'enormous advantage of uniting a larger body of public opinion than any other which has so far been advanced'. (fn. 84) This announcement was really the turning-point in the long-drawn argument. The committee had declared in favour of federation, it had indicated a possible solution of the financial crux, it had hinted that in the absence of agreement the committee might act on its own responsibility— 'occasions may arise when it is one's duty to ignore public opinion' (fn. 85)—and further, the chairman emphasized that, in view of the imminent prorogation of Parliament, agreement, if it was to come, must come quickly. (fn. 86)
On 16 December the parties informed the committee that they had reached agreement on the main point. (fn. 87) In the intervening period much argument took place on the merits of what was called the Burslem basis as compared with the Stoke basis of differential rating. The former contemplated the introduction of a flat rate for the six towns together with an additional rate levied for ten years on Hanley with the object of making up the deficiency of Fenton, with which the latter would be faced in paying the flat rate. (fn. 88) Great opposition was immediately manifested towards this Burslem scheme mainly on the ground that it had been introduced at the last moment and that, on the hypothetical figures produced, Hanley would gain considerably at the expense of its neighbours. (fn. 89) When, on 16 December, the heads of agreement between the parties were announced, it was seen that the Burslem basis had been abandoned. These heads of agreement may be summarized as follows. Each district was to pay its own loan charges, except those in respect of gas and electricity; the period of differential rating was to be extended from ten to twenty years; the basis of differential rating was to be in the proportions— Hanley 100, Longton 85, Stoke 87, Burslem 96, Fenton 80, Tunstall 88; differential rates were to apply to all expenditure other than loan charges; there was to be no valuation of any kind; there were special provisions for gas and electricity undertakings; the costs of the six towns in connexion with the Order were to be paid by the new borough. (fn. 90)
The Bill as amended by the Commons was redrafted on the above lines and on 19 December it was passed by the House of Lords, (fn. 91) and on the same day by the House of Commons. (fn. 92) It received the royal assent on 21 December. (fn. 93)
The new county borough of Stoke-on-Trent came into existence on 31 March 1910. (fn. 94) Although federation was the word commonly used to describe the union of the six towns and Lord Cromer had even spoken of the animus federandi, (fn. 95) the operation effected by the Act was the amalgamation of the Pottery towns and not their federation in the constitutional sense. The councils of the four boroughs and of the urban districts of Fenton (fn. 96) and Tunstall ceased to exist and were replaced by the council of the new borough consisting of 78 councillors representing the 26 wards into which the whole area was divided. (fn. 97)
The provisions of the Act need not be considered in detail, as they embody the decisions arrived at in the House of Lords Committee. It should be mentioned, however, that in the article dealing with differential rating the figures as set out above regarding the proportion of the rates leviable were slightly altered to read: Hanley 100, Longton 86, Stoke 87, Burslem 94, Fenton 79, Tunstall 86. (fn. 98) As this question of differential rating was, throughout the history of the movement, a matter of prime importance, it may not be out of place to illustrate from the accounts of the new borough how it worked out in practice. The relevant article of the Act provided that for 20 years from 31 March 1910 the general district rate to be levied by the council should be levied on a separate basis in each of the areas; the annual rate was to be fixed at such an amount in the £ as would secure that the total amounts in the £ of all the rates levied in that year in the areas for all purposes (except poor law and payment of loan interest) should bear towards each other the proportions mentioned above. (fn. 99) Table I shows in column 3 the differential rating for each of the six towns on the proportional basis laid down in the Act.
Rates levied in Stoke-on-Trent, 1910–11 (fn. 100)
Rates levied in the Six Towns, 1909–10 (fn. 101)
A comparison with the last column of the previous table shows that amalgamation resulted in increases of the rate poundage as follows: Tunstall (approximately), 1s. 3½d.; Burslem, 1s. 7½d.; Hanley, 1s. 1d.; Stoke, 4½d.; Fenton, 1s. 5d.; Longton (approximately), 1s. 3½d.
The expense of promoting (or opposing) the Order amounted in all to over £35,000, and, as directed by the Act, the charge was borne by the new county borough. (fn. 102) Another financial liability of the new borough, namely the amount of compensation for loss of office to be paid to the six former town clerks, occasioned some difficulty. The original clause of the Act was found to have been so drafted as to give the clerks what was thought to be a disproportionately large sum. A Bill was promoted in the House of Lords to rectify the anomaly but was withdrawn after a settlement had been reached by the parties. Under it the claims of the clerks were to be met by the payment of a total sum of £42,500. (fn. 103)
A further difficulty arose in connexion with Section 26 of the 1908 Act. This section provided that accounts should be taken by the new council of all revenue assets and liabilities (except those relating to gas and electricity) vested in the six councils and in levying rates during the first three years of the county borough's existence the balance shown on the account relating to each district should be credited or debited to the district. When the borough accounts were computed it was found that Burslem was in credit to the extent of £16,355 and Fenton £3,071, while the following were in debt to the rating area: Tunstall £2,638, Hanley £14,982, Stoke £1,464, and Longton £342. At first it was proposed to spread the adjustment, in order to relieve Hanley's rate, over a period of ten years, but this was not possible as the period laid down by the Act was three years. In the end the Finance Committee, considering the adjustment artificial, decided to terminate it by crediting Burslem with £1,773 and debiting Hanley with £1,367, Stoke with £134, Tunstall with £241, and Longton with £31. (fn. 104)
So much for the complicated financial difficulties with which the birth of the new borough was attended. The amalgamation of the six towns had been accomplished and if the question is asked why the change came about, the answer is probably that in essence it was a desideratum of local government voiced by those, councillors and officials, burdened with the administration of an overlapping area, the various parts of which had reached different levels of governmental progress. Economy and efficiency were the primary objectives, aimed at not only by the local councils but also by the Local Government Board which throughout showed itself a sympathetic and powerful supporter of the idea of amalgamation. Strong support for the movement came too from the business and professional classes (fn. 105) and also from the local press, particularly the Staffordshire Sentinel. (fn. 106) But so far as the population of the area generally was concerned, apart from the single exception of the Burslem poll, (fn. 107) the issue aroused no great feeling either for or against federation probably because the rarefied atmosphere of local government finance was one in which it was impossible to arouse any strong popular emotion. Although during the fifty years that have elapsed since the union of the towns Stokeon-Trent has become one of the great cities of the kingdom—it became a city in 1925 (fn. 108)—the attainment of full civic unity is still somewhat retarded by the continued existence of local loyalties and feelings.