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Great Britain

Later Victorian Britain, 1867–1900 by T. R. Gourvish, Alan O'Day

By T. R. Gourvish, Alan O'Day

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18 What is certainly clear in relation to earlier periods is the emergence of other interests which counteracted the claims of the ratepayers. One was the appearance of a more professional and bureaucratic form oflocal government. At the beginning of the period, it was still common for councillors to fulfil executive functions; by the early twentieth century, most councils had well-paid and highly qualified professional staff who certainly took over executive functions and might also influence policy.

The poor of the great cities should perhaps be removed, sent to colonies in the country to be rescued from sloth and immorality, with the expectation that the wages of those who remained behind in the urban labour market might increase once the overstocking had been ended. There was a feeling, then, that London and the great cities were overpopulated by the wrong sort of people, and that in the capital above all greater control was needed in order to prevent the creation of a mass of casual and sweated labour.

The structure of local taxation was therefore creating serious problems for investors in the urban fabric, and this, it is argued, created a crisis in the towns and cities of Edwardian Britain. 20 A major issue in urban politics from the late nineteenth century was how to solve this problem of the increasing cost of local government and a narrow tax base. There seemed to be a number of possibilities. One was to bring other sources of income into contribution. Property owners complained, for example, that merchants in Liverpool with ships riding in the docks might make no contribution to local taxation beyond the rates on their office, despite a high turnover and healthy profits.

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