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Urban District Finances in United Kingdom


First, in the case of boroughs where from the time of the first adoption of the Sanitary Acts these expenses have been paid out of the borough rate, the expenses continue to be so paid; and in an urban district which was formerly subject to an Improvement Act, the expenses may be payable out of the improvement rate authorized by that act. The general rule, however, prevails over by far the greater part of England and Wales. The general district rate is made and levied on the occupiers of all kinds of property for the time being assessable to any rate for the relief of the poor, subject to a few exceptions and conditions. Of these the first is that the owner may be rated instead of the occupier, at the option of the urban authority, where the value of the premises is under £10, where the premises are let to weekly or monthly tenants, or where the premises are let in separate apartments, or the rents become payable or are collected at any shorter period than quarterly.

When the owner is rated he must be assessed upon a certain proportion only of the net annual value of the premises. The owners or occupiers of certain specified properties are assessed in respect of the same in the proportion of one-fourth part only of the net annual value thereof. These properties include tithes, tithe commutation rent charge, land used as arable, meadow or pasture ground only, or as woodlands, market gardens or nursery grounds, orchards, allotments, any land covered with water such as the reservoir of a waterworks company, or used only as a canal or towing-path of the same, or as a railway constructed under the powers of any Act of Parliament for public conveyance.

The reason for these partial exemptions apparently is that sanitary arrangements are made chiefly for the benefit of houses and buildings, while the properties just enumerated do not receive the same amount of benefit. The only other point to be noticed in this connexion is that an urban council may divide their district into parts for all or any of the purposes of the act, rating each part separately for those purposes. The expenses of highways in an urban district fall as a rule upon the general district rate, but under certain conditions, which need not be here set out, a separate highway rate may have to be levied. The urban council have extensive powers of amending the rate, and the rate is collected in such manner as the urban authority may appoint.

The expenses of a rural district council are of two kinds. Of these the first is called general expenses, and it includes the expense of the establishment and officers of the council, of disinfection, providing of conveyance for infected persons, and the expenses of highways. These expenses are payable out of a common fund which is raised out of the poor rate of the several parishes in the district, according to the rateable value of each. Special expenses include the expenses of the construction and maintenance and cleansing of sewers, providing water-supply, and all other expenses incurred or payable in respect of a parish or contributory place within the district determined by order of the Local Government Board to be special expenses.

The expression “contributory place” means a place other than a parish chargeable with special expenses. For the most part it has reference only to what is called a special drainage district, that is to say, a district formed out of one or more parishes or parts of parishes for the purpose of the provision of a common water-supply, or scheme of sewerage, or the like, and in the event of such a district including part only of a parish, the remaining portion would, so far as the special expenses for which the district was created are concerned, be a separate contributory place. These special expenses are chargeable to each parish or contributory place, and they are defrayed by means of special sanitary rates, such rates being raised on all property assessed to the relief of the poor, but with the same exemptions of certain properties as have been mentioned under the head of general district rate in urban districts.

Borrowing powers

District councils are empowered to borrow with the sanction of the Local Government Board, subject to certain restrictions and regulations. The money must be borrowed for permanent works, the expenses of which ought in the opinion of the Local Government Board to be spread over a term of years which must not exceed sixty. The sums borrowed must not exceed, with the outstanding loans, the amount of the assessable value for two years of the district for which the money is borrowed; and if the sum borrowed would, with the outstanding loans, exceed the assessable value for one year, the sanction of the Local Government Board may not be given except after local inquiry. The money may be repaid by equal instalments of principal, or of principal and interest, or by means of a sinking fund.


Where the urban council are the council of a borough, their accounts as urban council are made up and audited in the same ineffective manner as has already been mentioned in the case of the accounts of the council under the Municipal Corporations Act, but each of the borough auditors receives remuneration for auditing the accounts of the council as urban district council. Where the urban council are not the council of a borough, the accounts are made up annually, and audited by the district auditor in the same effective manner as has already been mentioned in the case of the accounts of a county council. The accounts of a rural district council are made up half-yearly and are audited in the same way. (1)


Notes and References

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica (11th Edition)

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Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Urban District Finances
  • Author: International
  • Description: History First, in the case of boroughs where from the time of the first adoption of the Sanitary Acts these expenses have [...]

This entry was last updated: November 7, 2016

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