Municipal Corporations Act Amendment Bill.
(From the Post.)
The Bill introduced into the House of Representatives by Mr Hutchison to amend the several Acts relating to Municipal Corporations, contains several very useful provisions. These are mainly in the direction of simplifying or consolidating existing enactments, or of rendering them more precise in their language. The most important provisi 'n in the whole Bill, and One which has our heartiest approval and support, is that relating to special funds and loans. Section 11 is as follows : —“All moneys raised by a special loan, and moneys belonging to the borough which are appropriated for special purposes, shall be paid into a separate account, at the bank where the borough funds are kept, to be called * The Special Fund Account,’ and shall not be drawn out of such account except for the special purpose to which such moneys have respectively been appropriated or intended to be appropriated. This is precisely what we have always contended for, anil it gives us great pleasure to be able for once to award unqualified approbation to a course adopted by Mr Hutchison. We have pointed out again and again the gross
impi'opi'lety of the City Council's auiioß in seizing a sum of borrowed money en. trusted to them by the ratepayers and the lenders for a specific purpose and for no other, and using it to liquidate an illegal overdraft which they had on their general account. It is notorious that only very recently the City Council laid forcible hands on a little sum of £30,000, which was part of the unexpended balance of a drainage loan lying at interest in the Bank, and handed it over to their bankers in payment of an overdraft which they had no right to incur, and in respect of which they were threatened with legal proceedings. We denounced that transaction as a grossly improper one, as a most unjustifiable misappropriation of what were really trust funds, and as it was held that the letter of the law actually permitted such a proceeding, we urged the necessity of altering that law at the earliest practicable date, in order to render such actions impossible. We are very glad to find that this suggestion is being acted upon, and we hope the result will be to avert any future danger of municipal institutions being d scredited by so grave a scandal as this to which we have just alluded. The other provisions of the Bill may be summed up briefly. It provides that small boroughs whose annual income does not exceed £IOOO may pay larger interest on loans than that authorised in the present Act. It is proposed that the maximum rate in such cases may be 8 per cent instead of 7 per cent as at present. Another proviso is that whenever any special loan has been duly authorised under the Act, and it is found that the sums intended to be raised will not suffice for the ol jects of the loan, aud the burgesses of a borough by a subsequent resolutlon|approve of a larger sum being raised than was proposed in the original loan, the Governor, on receiving such second resolution, having satisfied himself that it has been legally carried, and that all charges and liabilities in regard to the original loan have been duly cared for, may, by Order in Council, declare the former proceedings void, whereon the larger sum would be taken to be'tho special loan authorised under the Act. This, too, may prove convenient in many instances. Another feature in the Bill is the proposal to repeal the special enactment in existing Acts as to private streets, and to place these on precisely the same footing as public streets, when once accepted and proclaimed by the Council as such. This doubtless would remove much of the present dissatisfaction in regard to' the management of private streets. The Bill also deals with the subdivision of boroughs, the control of private lands in boroughs, the position and duties of inspector of nuisances, and concludes with several miscellaneous provisions. Chief among these last are sections 21 to 24, inclusive, which provide that the Council shall not be liable for forming streets according to levels fixed ; that the Council may amend the rate-book when necessary, may lease lands by public tender, as well as by auction, and may make bye-laws for regulating the sale of meat, and preventing dangerous growth in hedges, &c. The Bill, generally speaking, is a good and useful one, although it is susceptible of some improvement in details, which doubtless will be made in Committee.
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