|Federation of the six towns
31st March 1910 saw the federation of the
six towns to form the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent
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What is Federation?
Federation of Stoke-on-Trent
The Federation of Stoke-on-Trent is a unique occurrence in the history of English local government in that it is the only occasion when several towns have been amalgamated into one county borough. The history starts in the early 19th century and ends with the formation of the county borough of Stoke-on-Trent in 1910.
There were four main periods of activity:-
The first tentative step towards co-operation was taken in 1817 when a meeting in Hanley called for future joint public meetings called by the head constables of the various settlements to be held in Hanley. This was the first instance of a call for greater law and order in the Potteries although there seemed to be little other interest in co-operation.
Shortly after the introduction of the Reform Act a Municipal Corporations Bill was introduced which proposed that the new parliamentary boroughs should be granted charters of incorporation. The bill failed with the prorogation of that Parliament and neither were the Potteries included in the reforms of the later Municipal Corporations Act 1835 but enough interest in incorporation was stimulated for several meetings on the subject to take place.
The Staffordshire Advertiser reported on one meeting in Burslem that incorporation would lead to one town having undue influence over the others, a theme that was to recur for many years. The same meeting in Burslem did however resurrect a theme from the meeting before 1820 and that was the promotion of law and order in the Potteries, the meeting calling for the appointment of a stipendiary magistrate.
Only two years later the people of Fenton voted in favour of incorporation of the borough but further meetings in Stoke and Burslem came out against incorporation but did reiterate the desire for a stipendiary magistrate. Later in the same year a further call for better policing was made at a meeting chaired by the Duke of Sutherland.
Between 1840 and 1888 there were some changes in local government and the end of the parochial and manorial systems......
In Tunstall and Fenton the board of commissioners had been superseded by local boards of health in 1855 and 1873 respectively.
Against control by Staffordshire.... Consensus in the Potteries was against becoming under the control of Staffordshire County Council and the idea developed of the Potteries seeking to become a county in their own right. Accordingly a proposal was submitted to the Local Government Board on 2 July 1888 for the creation of a county of the Staffordshire Potteries. However on 9 July 1888 it was proposed to amend the bill to reduce the population requirement for county borough status from 100,000 to only 50,000; if adopted this amendment would enable Hanley to become a county borough in its own right while the rest of the towns would come under the control of Staffordshire.
On 13 July 1888 Captain Heathcote, MP for Staffordshire North West, moved an amendment to the bill that......
In response the President of the Local Government Board, Charles Ritchie proposed that that the matter be resolved by way of a provisional order bill in the next Parliamentary session and that he would undertake to introduce such a
bill. William Woodall, MP for Hanley supported the amendment but accepted Ritchie's assurance. However he was also bound to protect Hanley's interests and moved that Hanley be added to the proposed list of county boroughs, but would surrender that right if all of the Potteries were to become a county borough or county in their own
right. Ritchie re-iterated his hope that the matter could be resolved by way of provisional order bill and with that both amendments were
Apart from an abortive scheme proposed later in 1889 by Longton for Stoke, Fenton and Longton to become a county borough, the events of 1888–1889 proved to be the last attempt at federation until the 20th century.
Stoke makes a proposal... In December 1900 Stoke town council proposed a meeting with 'a view to federal action'.
The invitation was sent to:-
However legal opinion was sought, the advice received being that the county plan was unlikely to succeed and expanding the county borough of Hanley to include the other Potteries towns was a more viable
Hanley proposes expansion of the County Borough of Hanley ... Later in 1902 Hanley council made a formal proposal to the Local Government Board for the expansion of the County Borough of Hanley to include not only Stoke, Burslem, Longton, Fenton and Tunstall but also Smallthorne Urban District, Wolstanton Rural District, and the parishes of Milton, Goldenhill, Chell, Trentham, Stoke Rural, Caverswall and Stone.
Only Longton council supported this proposition.... because at the same time Sir Hugh Owen, a former secretary to the Local Government Board, presented to the six towns committee a scheme of financial adjustment.
Faced by such strength of feeling Hanley council felt compelled to withdraw its submission to the Local Government Board bringing the first attempt at federation in the twentieth century to an unsuccessful end.
4) Second federation proposal 1905–1910
Undaunted Longton council amended its proposal to....
Stoke in favour - Fenton against.... The parliamentary borough of Stoke-upon-Trent meant Longton, Stoke and Fenton and while Stoke town council were in favour, the voters of Fenton were not and overwhelmingly voted against the proposal.
Despite this Longton and Stoke submitted their proposal to the Local Government Board in early 1907 and a local enquiry was held soon after in
Stoke. The inquiry reported back quickly and in April 1907 informed both Stoke and Longton councils that the scheme proposed was not comprehensive enough and that there ought to be another conference of all six towns to discuss a more comprehensive federation
Tunstall now in favour, Burslem walks out of talks..... Before the inquiry opened a poll was conducted in Tunstall where the ratepayers of the town showed themselves to be in favour of federation. As the council itself had voted against federation it decided not to oppose or support federation but instead to achieve the best deal it could for the town. The inquiry opened on 8 January 1908 and lasted for three days, it was chaired by Major Norton, an officer of the Local Government Board. Norton's appointment itself caused controversy as the delegation from Burlsem walked out on the first day on the grounds that Norton had already declared himself in favour of federation.
Rating scheme causes change in voting..... Less than six weeks after the inquiry closed, on 23 February 1908, the Local Government Board issued a draft provisional bill for the federation of the six towns. This was not unexpected but the rating scheme proposed differed from the schemes discussed during the inquiry and included a complicated valuation of the properties belonging to each municipality, something that none of the towns wished to do.
Focus of federation proposal moves to London
With the issuing of the draft order, focus of the process moved from the Potteries to London. The Local Government Provisional Order (No. 3) Bill was introduced into the House of Commons in July 1908 by the Select Committee on Private bills chaired by Sir George White and received its third reading on 31 July 1908. The bill had received significant amendment during its passage through the House of Commons most notably in introducing a complex, differential rating system for a period of 10 years.
The proposal pleased very few of the interested parties.
The House of Lords Select Committee assigned to deal with the bill was chaired by Lord Cromer and sat in November and December 1908. After several sittings the committee declared several important decisions......
This last point was important because without it all disputes would have to be passed back either to the Local Government Board or the House of Commons and with prorogation of Parliament on the horizon, this would lead to delay which would jeopardise the whole bill passing through Parliament in that parliamentary session.
Reluctant agreement made made on rating system..... On 16 December 1908, less than a week after the committee made its announcement, the six towns informed the committee that an agreement had been reached and that a differential rating system for 20 years had been agreed, no valuation of assets would be undertaken and that each town on its own was responsible for discharging any loans it had outstanding on 31 December 1907.
With this agreement reached the committee redrafted the bill in the terms agreed by the towns and it was passed by the House of Lords on 19 December 1908. Returned to the House of Commons the bill was passed by the Commons the same day with Royal Assent being received on 21 December 1908.
The Local Government Provisional Order (No. 3) Confirmation Act came into force on 31 March 1910. The new council consisted of 78 councillors representing 26 wards, the first mayor of the county borough of Stoke-on-Trent was Cecil Wedgwood.
The county borough was to be short lived as on 1 July 1925 the county borough of Stoke-on-Trent became the City of Stoke-on-Trent under letters patent from King George V dated 5 June 1925.
text: Wikipedia article "Federation of Stoke-on-Trent"
next: Town Halls - the battle for the civic centre
contents: Index page for Federation