One of the most unsatisfactory features of the existing local government system is the vicarious election of administrative bodies. This is especially illustrated in the case of education boards, hospital and charitable aid boards, harbor boards, and trustees of separate institutions under the Hospitals and Charitable Institutions Act. The result has almost invariably been the perpetual succession to office of certain individuals, who may or may not possess the qualifications to be desired, who work in the old grooves, and, being practically irresponsible to public opinion, seem to do what is right in their own eyes, and resent as a personal affront any unfavorable criticism of their action'. It is found in Dunedin, for example, that the dominant party in municipal affairs control the administration of hospitals and charitable aid, and it is seldom that an outsider, unless trusted to be amenable to certain influences, obtains a seat on either of the boards, which are to all intents and purposes close boroughs. When the personnel of the various administrative bodies is considered, ordinary citizens are reasonably surprised as to how it has come about that important functions and the command of large amounts of public money should bo nearly always in the same hands. Instances present themselves of want of capacity and manifest unfitness for other reasons sufficiently notorious; and it is clear to demonstration that very few members of these bodies would stand the test of ponular election. In the public interests, which are materially involved, a clean sweep is required,” and this would, we feel confident, be at once effected if all the local boards, without exception, were elected directly by the people, who have to find the money to meet the expenditure. We are disposed to think that the American system, with some, modifications, might bo adopted with advantage —the elections of all local bodies to be held simultaneously with those of the municipal and county councils, and through the same machinery. Under the Local Government Bill all councils are proposed to be elected biennially, and a two years’ tenure of office is quite long enough for members of the councils and boards, considering that those who prove themselves worthy of confidence would be eligible for, and to a certainty would secure, re-election.
The Bill referred to can hardly be accepted as satisfactory in regard to hospitals and charitable aid, since the entire financial responsibility and the onus of administration are placed upon the councils of counties and boroughs. It is declared to be the duty of every Council to provide hospital accommodation for the needs of the district, and sufficient indoor relief in homes or other institutions for all deserving persons entitled thereto, as well as outdoor relief in such cases, in such manner and on such terms as each Council may think fit. It is further provided that a Council may by “ special older” constitute local committees throughout its district for the management of specified hospitals, homes, or other institutions, and may in each instance determine the number of persons being in no case less than seven nor more* than ten, forming the Committee, their tenure of office, and the method of their appointment or election. The local committees thus constituted are to have such powersaudduties as thcCouncil by “special order” may determine. This, it will bo seen, would tend to perpetuate the present system, since the members of local committees would bo nominees of the dominant section of the Council. If there are to be such committees, they should, we think, be elected directly by the persons on the municipal rolls. A still more objectionable provision in the Bill is that authority is given to the Governor (i.e., the Ministry of the day) to exempt from the operation of the Act such of the existing “ separate ” institutions (with the assets, property, and liabilities thereof) as, having regard to their special objects, he may think proper. As to all institutions so exempted, the Governor may either empower the trustees or other persons who at present manage them to continue to do so, or may make what other order in the premises as ho thinks proper in each particular instance. If passed into law this would practically mean, as regards Otago, very much the continuance of the existing state of things, so far as the most striking defects in administration are concerned. Influence would no doubt he brought to bear on the Government to exempt the hospitals and the benevolent institutions from the operation of the Act, and there would still be the same practically irresponsible management and almost perpetual succession of certain individuals to seats on the respective hoards.
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LOCAL BODIES., Evening Star, Issue 10420, 15 September 1897
LOCAL BODIES. Evening Star, Issue 10420, 15 September 1897
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