Victorian London - Organisations - London County Council



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J.G. Bartholomew, The Pocket Atlas and Guide to London, 1899

LONDON COUNTY COUNCIL (THE), which was created to take the Place of the Metropolitan Board of Works by the Local Government Act of 1888, has administrative powers of great importance to the well-being of the inhabitants of the Metropolis and duties of a manifold and comprehensive character in its good government. Taken altogether, and eliminating the faddists, the theorists and the sentimentalists, all of whom are very well in their way (so long as they do not get too much of it) thw Council has justified Its existence and become, what it was doubtless designed to, an institution of great public, utility, a central power for organising such general improvements, apart from its administrative duties, which the continuous growth of London has made necessary.
    The drainage system, the great work which was initiated and carried through by their predecessors and which stands their credit as contributing very largely to the health of the Metropolis, is an important department of the Council's work, and the Registrar-General's health statistics are sufficiently satisfactory, London being one of the healthiest of the large towns, to show that this all important work has had good results. 
    The public improvements which were an important part of the work of the previous body, in the construction of the Thames Embankment, etc., have been boldly taken up, too, by the opening of the new street from Holborn to the Strand (making a thoroughfare in Kingsway with its outlets in Aldwych which, when the buildings on each side and in the Strand are completed will be an additional ornament, separate from its utility, to Central London). A series of improvements at the N. end of Tottenham Court-rd, in Hackney and other places must also be placed to the Council's credit. Likewise the construction of the Blackwall Tunnel and other schemes now in progress.
    The Electric Tramway system has certainly contributed, as everything else seems to be trying to nowadays from tube to motor bus, to the convenience of the people in bringing them quickly and cheaply from the outside districts to the main centres.
    The management and development of the parks and open spaces has probably been one of the most successful parts of the Council's work. The arrangements for the upkeep of these spaces, their floral culture and the presence of bands during the summer season, have been a great boon to the toiling inhabitant in almost every part of London.
The Fire Brigade with the latest improvements, the supervision of the structure of buildings, including theatres and music halls and the numerous round of duties required by successive Acts of Parliament, etc., the licensing of stage plays outside the Lord Chamberlain's jurisdiction, the preventing of adulteration in food, the better housing of the people, are all evidences of the wide administrative circle of work which it has to perform.
    As the educational authority for both elementary and higher schools it has had added by the Act of 1903 a sphere of work of the highest importance, and when the difficulties surrounding the question of religious education have been cleared away by a reasonable compromise to which all sides may be expected to contribute, this department will be one which will enable the Council to be a still further benefit to the community.
    With all them duties it is not surprising that successive Governments have declined to add in the one case the control of water by instituting the Metropolitan Water Board as a separate body, or in the other by the Port of London Bill giving another body the management of the Docks. The Council are naturally represented on each of ,these, but the surprise would be that the 138 gentlemen who constitute the Council, either as Aldermen or Councillors could add to the already important and multifarious branches of work that come under their charge. It doss occur to one that a debt of gratitude is due to them for the zeal and energy voluntarily given to their work,
    The question of the expenditure of the Council is one which will always command scrutiny on the part of the public. Unfortunately the tendency of the times seems to be such that the rates from successive parliamentary enactments, etc., must go up, and the result is that living in London is not growing cheaper. The question may come to the front some day, whether in the face of the main thoroughfares being highways sit the world, the reconstruction of the central part of London should not be paid for, partially at least, by Government aid, thus helping the suburban ratepayer, who is mulcted to so great an extent. The London County stock now outstanding amounts to about 72,000,000- and the county rate to 2s. 11d. outside the City and 2s. 8d. within, including 1s. 6d. for education.
    The offices of the Council are in Spring Gardens, Charing Cross, and the Education Offices on the Victoria Embankment. Hours 9.30 to 5, Saturdays 9.30 to 1.

Charles Dickens Jr. et al, Dickens Dictionary of London, c.1908 edition
(no date; based on internal evidence)