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County Council Finances in United Kingdom

Note: For information about the county council, click here.



The county council is a body corporate with power to hold lands. Its revenues are derived from various sources which will presently be mentioned, but all receipts have to be carried to the county fund, either to the general county account if applicable to general county purposes, or to the special county account if applicable to special county purposes. The county council may, with the consent of the Local Government Board, borrow money on the security of the county fund or any of its revenues, for consolidating the debts of the county; purchasing land or buildings; any permanent work or other thing, the cost of which ought to be spread over a term of years; making advances in aid of the emigration or colonization of inhabitants of the county; and any purpose for which quarter sessions or the county council are authorized by any act to borrow.

If, however, the total debt of the council will, with the amount proposed to be borrowed, exceed one-tenth of the annual rateable value of the property in the county, the money cannot be borrowed unless under a provisional order made by the Local Government Board and confirmed by parliament. The period for which a loan is made is fixed by the county council with the consent of the Local Government Board, but may not exceed thirty years, and the mode of repayment may be by equal yearly or half-yearly instalments of principal or of principal and interest combined, or by means of a sinking fund invested and applied in accordance with the Local Government Acts. The loans authorized may be raised by debentures or annuity certificates under these acts, or by the issue of county stock, and in some cases by mortgage.

The county council must appoint a finance committee for regulating and controlling the finance of the county, and the council cannot make any order for the payment of money out of the county fund save on the recommendation of that committee. Moreover, the order for payment of any sum must be made in pursuance of an order of the council signed by three members of the finance committee present at the meeting of the council, and countersigned by the clerk. The order is directed to the county treasurer, by whom authorized payments are then made.

The accounts of the receipts and expenditure of the county council are made up for the twelve months ending the 31st March in each year, and are audited by a district auditor. The form in which the accounts must be made up is prescribed by the Local Government Board. The auditor is a district auditor appointed by the Local Government Board under the District Auditors Act 1879, and in respect of the audit the council is charged with a stamp duty, the amount of which depends on the total of the expenditure comprised in the financial statement. Before each audit the auditor gives notice of the time and place appointed, and the council publish the appointment by advertisement. A copy of the accounts has to be deposited for public inspection for seven days before the audit.

The auditor has the fullest powers of investigation; he may require the production of any books or papers, and he may require the attendance before him of any person accountable. Any owner of property or ratepayer may attend the audit and object to the accounts, and either on such objection or on his own motion the auditor may disallow any payment and surcharge the amount on the persons who made or authorized it. Against any allowance or surcharge appeal lies to the High Court if the question involved is one of law, or to the Local Government Board, who have jurisdiction to remit a surcharge if, in the circumstances, it appears to them to be fair and equitable to do so. It will be seen that this is really an effective audit.

Revenue of county council

The sources of revenue of the council are the exchequer contribution, income from property and fees, and rates. Before 1888 large grants of money had been made annually to local authorities in aid of local taxation. Such grants represented a contribution out of taxation for the most part arising out of property other than real property, while local taxation fell on real property alone. By the act of 1888 it was provided that for the future such annual grants should cease, and that other payments should be made instead thereof. The commissioners of Inland Revenue pay into the Bank of England, to an account called “the local taxation account,” the sums ascertained to be the proceeds of the duties collected by them in each county on what are called local taxation licences, which include licences for the sale of intoxicating liquor, licences on dogs, guns, establishment licences, etc. The amount so ascertained to have been collected in each county is paid under direction of the Local Government Board to the council of that county.

The commissioners of Inland Revenue also pay into the same account a sum equal to 1½% on the net value of personal property in respect of which estate duty is paid. Under the Local Taxation (Customs and Excise) Act 1890, certain duties imposed on spirits and beer (often referred to as “whisky money”) are also to be paid to “the local taxation account.” The sums so paid in respect of the duties last above mentioned, and in respect of the estate duty and spirits and beer additional duties, are distributed among the several counties in proportion to the share which the Local Government Board certify to have been received by each county during the financial year ending the 31st March 1888, out of the grants theretofore made out of the exchequer in aid of local rates. The payments so made out of “the local taxation account” to a county council are paid to the county fund, and carried to a separate account called “the Exchequer contribution account.”

The money standing to the credit of this account is applied:

  • in paying any costs incurred in respect thereof or otherwise chargeable thereon;
  • in payment of the sums required by the Local Government Act 1888 to be paid in substitution for local grants;
  • in payment of the new grant to be made by the county council in respect of the costs of union officers; and
  • in repaying to “the general county account” of the county fund the costs on account of general county purposes for which the whole area of the county (including boroughs other than county boroughs) is liable to be assessed to county contribution.

Elaborate provision is made for the distribution of the surplus (if any), with a view to securing a due share being paid to the quarter sessions boroughs.

The payments which the county council have to make in substitution for the local grants formerly made out of Imperial funds include payments for or towards the remuneration of the teachers in poor-law schools and public vaccinators; school fees paid for children sent from a workhouse to a public elementary school; half of the salaries of the medical officer of health and the inspector of nuisances of district councils; the remuneration of registrars for births and deaths; the maintenance of pauper lunatics; half of the cost of the pay and clothing of the police of the county, and of each borough maintaining a separate police force. In addition to the grants above mentioned, the county council is required to grant to the guardians of every poor-law union wholly or partly in their county an annual sum for the costs of the officers of the union and of district schools to which the union contributes.

Another source is the income of any property belonging to the council, but the amount of this is usually small. The third source of revenue consists of the fees received by the different officers of the county councils or of the joint-committee. For example, fees received by the clerk of the peace, inspectors of weights and measures, and the like. These fees are paid into the county fund, and carried either to “the general county account” or, if they have been received in respect of some matter for which part only of the county is assessed, then to the special account to which the rates levied for that purpose are carried. The remaining source of income of a county council is the county rate, the manner of levying which is hereafter stated. (1)


Notes and References

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica (11th Edition)

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Schema Summary

  • Article Name: County Council Finances
  • Author: International
  • Description: Note: For information about the county council, click here. History Finance The county council is a body corporate with [...]

This entry was last updated: November 7, 2016

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