HC Deb 27 February 1880 vol 250 cc1566-7

asked the President of the Local Government Board, Whether he will be good enough to explain to the House the circumstances under which it is proposed to dissolve the Witham Union, in the county of Essex; and, whether he is aware that the Guardians of both Braintree and Witham Unions are by no means unanimous in their approval of the scheme?


Sir, it is not easy within the compass of an answer to a Question to detail the circumstances which have led to the dissolution of the Witham Union; but, in reply to my hon. Friend, I may say that so long ago as Midsummer, 1877, resolutions were passed by a conference of Guardians representing Unions in Essex, of which Witham was one, recommending the dissolution of the Witham Union and the distribution of the parishes belonging to it among adjacent Unions, and the Local Government Board was invited to hold an inquiry as to the benefits which might result from a re-arrangement of the district generally. In October, 1877, such an inquiry was accordingly held, notice to all parties having been given, and representatives of the parishes interested being present. Prom the Report of the Inspector, it appeared desirable that the Witham Union should be dissolved, the advantages being diminution of staff expenses, economy and efficiency of administration, and the setting free of the Witham workhouse for some other useful public purpose. In January, 1879, the Guardians of the Witham Union passed a resolution, by 11 votes to 7, in favour of dissolution. It is true that three months later—in April, 1879—this resolution was rescinded by 12 votes to 11; but the matter had then proceeded too far to be dropped with propriety, The proposed change had been publicly recognized as an advantage, and had been sanctioned by the Department of State in which are vested the duty and responsibility of carrying it into effect. Moreover, engagements with neighbouring Unions as to the allocation of the parishes had grown up. The final decision as to this allocation, which is always a difficult one, has been delayed by various circumstances, but has now been made. It is impossible for a change of this kind to take place without some feeling of objection to it; but I have no reason to doubt that, once made, it will carry with it the advantageous consequences which were originally anticipated.