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The Press Association has been favored by the Government with the following copy of a circular about to bo issued to

local government bodies : The Government, in accordance with the pledges given last session, have under consideration the propriety ot introducing in the ensuing session measures to improve the position- of local governing bodies, and to give them financial assistance in the prosecution of public works. The Government think that before. Parliament deals with those measures, it would be desirable for local bodies’ to have an opportunity afforded them of directly expressing their opinions on some of the more important points. I, therefore, have the honor to ask that you will, on behalf of the body over which you preside, answer questions in enclosed paper, or as many of them as you take an interest in, and return such answer to me at your earliest convenience. The bulk of the questions, you will observe, relate to the constitution, powers, and duties of governing bodies. For your guidance, I propose offering an explanation on some of the matters to be dealt with. It is, I think, generally admitted that the Government of towns and villages under the Municipal Corporations Act and the Town Districts Act needs no great alteration. Amendments on point of detail will no doubt be from time to time required, It is also generally admitted that there are a numbei of special purposes for which special bodies are required,, .and must be allowed to exist as at present, such as harbor management, education, etc. Therefore, it is only to government of country districts that this circular is intended to apply. Government, after careful enquiry, are satisfied that there are some districts which desire dual, governments of Counties and Road Boards, and others which wish only government of one or other of these bodies. It is evident that legislation, to be satisfactory, must be so framed as to allow each district to choose readily which of such, forms of government it prefers to have. One of the measures most needed is the consolidation of the Road Board Act, which, by bringing the whole law relating to Road Boards into one statute, would much simplify the working of these institutions. Your answer to quotations as to Counties and Road Boards will materially help Government and Parliament in dealing with Road Boards, and also amending Counties Bill. As to tho finances of local bodies, of course the greater part of their revenue must at all times be derived from rates, and believing that the present system of valuation is unnecessary and expensive, and that local bodies might, at small coat to the colony, be relieved of the cost of valuation altogether by using Property Tax valuations, Government are preparing a new Rating Bill on that basis. By such Bill it will be proposed that every third year in March, commencing in the yeur 1883, the Property Tax Commissioner, who will then have completed his valuation, shall furnish each body with his valuation rate. He will also have to furnish each body, every intermediate year, with a list of any alterations made, by him owing to a change of owner. .The ratepayers will be protected from exceasivo valuation, for not only will they have the appeal to Board of Reviewers, but also under the Property Assessment Act of last session. The Government must .purchase property if they do not reduce: their valuation to what the owner has valued it at, by which Government are protected from unfairly low valuations, by having the right of purchase at owner’s valuation with Ll2 per cent, added. Rates.will then be struck on the capital value of the land, and, of course, the making but of the rate-book will, under the proposed Bill, be a matter of clerical work simply. It will also be proposed to vest the power of selling or letting land for non-pay-ment of rates in the public trustee .six months after judgment be obtained, or notice given to a defaulter, but compelling the public trustee to do so in getting a certificate of judgment, and also enabling him to pay over to the local body rates, etc., in arrear before the sale or lease, in which case he will retain interest charged. As these powers are generally exercised in case of unoccupied or deserted lands, over which the public trustee has it will be more convenient for him to have these powers, and it will save both trouble and expense to local bodies. As to the financial aid which would be given by the colony to local bodies, the Government proposals of last year were embodied in the Road Construction Bill, and Crown and Native Lands Rating Bill, but Government are now considering the propriety of making important alterations in these Bills before introducing them again, and hope thereby to make them satisfactory to Parliament and the public. In considering this question, I would like you to bear in mind (I) that it is most desirable to avoid having to obtain aid for local bodies directly from Parliament; (2) that whether money for construction of local public works be found by Parliament or by local bodies it must bo to a great extent, and for some time to come, be found out of the loan ; (3) that, as regards such works as main roads, which connect one centre of population with another, thereby promoting the prosperity of the whole colony, to an even greater degree than they benefit immediate localities through which they pass, it is only fair that the whole colony should bear at any rate the greater part of the cost of construction. The rest should be borne by tho property so benefitted. In other words, by rates which should be spread over a reasonable term of years, so as to repay tho principal with interest at low rates The Govornr ment endeavored to effect theee objects by the Road Construction Bill of last session. [Here an explanation of the Bill is given, etc.]— I have, etc., H. Atkinson. Answers to questions asked by the Colonial Treasurer in circular :—l. Should the County Chairman be elected as Mayors ire I 2. Should counties be enabled to

split up or amalgamate or otherwise, or alter their boundaries without consent of

Parliament as is now required ? 3. Should the road districts in each county form the ridings of the county ? A Would you suggest any alteration in the mode of electing councillors ? 5. Can you suggest any new duties which should be imposed or new powers which should be conferred on counties, more especially as to the power of making by-laws ? 6. Should the counties be enabled to create new road dis- ■

tricts, or alter existing ones of their own motion, or only on the petition of a majority of the ratepayers ? 7. Should the counties or the road boards have the

power of altering the divisions and the numbers of the members of the

road boards ? 8. What rating powers

should counties have? 9. What rat-

in'' powers should road boards have ? 10. If the operation of the

Counties Act is suspended in any county should road boards be enabled : to exorcise any of the powers of the county, and if so which ? 11. Should road board

members hold office for a fixed time, and

if so, what, or should a proportion retire every year? 12. Should road board Chairmen bo elected as Mayors are 7 13.

elections being held in open public meeting like those of School Committees in districts where the Road Board by special order adopts this plan ? 14. What alteration do you suggest in the Eating Bill as sketched in the circular enclosed herewith ? 15. Please state where the provisions of the Roads Construction and Crown and Native Lands Eating Bills would suit your district, and if not, what alteration would you suggest which would make these measures more useful ? 10. Have you any suggestion to make generally on the matters dealt with in the circular in which this is enclosed ?

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Bibliographic details

LOCAL GOVERNMENT., Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 635, 13 May 1882

Word Count

LOCAL GOVERNMENT. Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 635, 13 May 1882

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