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Questions affecting Section 3 (a) of the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1923.

We have been consulted on various points arising under the above Section.

A number of enquiries were made whether the sub-section in effect empowered parish councils themselves to undertake such works of public utility as seemed desirable for the neighbourhood. We advised that the sub-section did not authorise a parish council, or, indeed, any other local authority, to institute works of public utility which could not otherwise be legally undertaken by them.

We were asked whether it would be competent for a parish council to arrange a co-operative scheme of work under Section 3 (a) with a district committee. We indicated that the question whether a district committee fell within the definition of a local authority under the above sub-section was doubtful. In view of the fact, however, that a district committee is a statutory committee of the county council, and that its whole income and expenditure are included in the returns rendered by the county council in accordance with the Local Taxation Returns (Scotland) Act, 1881, it seemed to us that no reasonable objection could be taken if the parish council co-operated with the district committee as suggested, provided, of course, that the county council consented to the relief work to be undertaken, and to the expenditure to be incurred by the district committee.

It was hoped that parish councils, by the exercise of the powers contained in the sub-section, would be able to induce local authorities to proceed with additional relief works because of the assistance which they would obtain from the parish councils' contributions. By this means also it was thought that some check would be put on the demoralisation that necessarily ensues in some cases from the continuous unconditional receipt of outdoor relief.

We regret to record that few parish councils have taken advantage of the arrangements authorised by this Section. One of the drawbacks has been found to be the provision that any co-operative scheme to which parish councils contribute must have relation to work carried out by the local authority by means of labour employed directly by that authority and not to work let to a contractor. Experience has shown that the great majority of relief schemes are in fact let to contractors, and few opportunities therefore have presented themselves for inaugurating co-operative schemes of relief work such as were contemplated under the sub-section.

A further difficulty arose in regard to the payment of unemployment benefit. Some men in receipt of benefit who have been set to work on a relief scheme financed partly by contributions from the parish council have been disallowed benefit, with the result that the whole cost of maintenance of the unemployed and their dependants has fallen on the locality, whereas previously a large part of the cost was borne out of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. One parish council, with the special object of conserving the applicants' right to benefit, initiated a scheme of work under which each applicant, irrespective of the amount of aliment granted to him, would require to give two days' work each week. In this case also benefit was withdrawn. A claim for benefit was submitted to the Umpire, under

the Unemployment Insurance Acts, for a decision, but at the close of the year his finding had not been announced.

GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE TO PARISH COUNCILS.

During 1923 pressure continued to be brought to bear on the Government (by correspondence and by deputation) to afford industrial parishes some measure of relief from the heavy burden thrown on them in relieving the destitute able-bodied unemployed. It was again not found possible to give parish councils a grant in aid of their expenditure, but steps were taken whereby the "gaps" in the payment of unemployment benefit were reduced to a minimum, so mitigating to some extent the financial strain on the parochial funds.

LOANS.

To meet expenditure on the relief of the unemployed, 23 parish councils were obliged during the year to raise loans in terms of the Poor Law Emergency Provisions (Scotland) Act, 1921, and the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1923. The loans sanctioned by us in their case amounted to £1,215,500, of which £482,000 was advanced by the Government Committee on Loans to Poor Law Authorities out of the Vote for the Relief of Unemployment.

Up to the 31st December we had sanctioned, under the abovementioned Acts, loans repayable over periods varying from one to ten years amounting, in the aggregate, to £2,676,000. Of this amount £617,500 has been advanced out of the above-mentioned Vote for the Relief of Unemployment.

FEEDING AND CLOTHING OF NECESSITOUS SCHOOL CHILDREN.

In our last Report we referred to the different views that were taken as to the legality of the expenditure incurred by education authorities in providing food and clothing to children whose parents were in receipt of relief from parish councils, and we indicated that a "Stated Case" for decision by the Court of Session was in process of preparation. The adjustment of the case for presentation to the Court proved a matter of some difficulty and had not been completed by the end of the year.

The arrangements between parish councils and education authorities whereby the latter provide meals to poor law children at the instance of parish councils continued in operation during 1923.

INTER-DEPARTMENTAL COMMITTEE ON OVERLAPPING OF PUBLIC ASSISTANCE.

In February an Inter-Departmental Committee was appointed by the Prime Minister "to examine the existing arrangements for the grant of assistance on account of sickness, unemployment and destitution from public funds and from the contributory schemes of Health and Unemployment Insurance, with a view to securing the fullest co-ordination of administrative and executive action." The Committee comprised representatives from the Ministries of Labour, Health and Pensions. Scotland was represented by Mr. Jeffrey, our Secretary.

COST OF RELIEF TO THE ABLE-BODIED AND NUMBERS ASSISTED BY PARISH COUNCILS.

The expenditure incurred by parish councils in relieving the unemployed has remained at a high figure. During the year to 15th May, 1923, their actual expenditure was no less than £1,465,783. Of that sum £1,352,170 was paid in outdoor relief, the remaining £113,613 being made up as follows:-Cost of indoor relief £12,283, administrative expenses £65,753, interest on overdrafts, etc. £35,577.

We are unable to state the gross expenditure on the able-bodied poor for the year to 31st December, 1923. But the sum expended in aliment by some 90 parishes who furnished returns to us weekly was approximately £1,196,500, an average of £23,000 per week. The weekly expenditure during the early part of the year remained fairly constant at about £20,000 until April. During the weeks ending 14th and 21st April the expenditure increased to £33,437 and £48,217 respectively, this large increase being almost wholly attributable to the occurrence of a two weeks' "gap" in the payment of unemployment benefit. Thereafter the weekly expenditure again became fairly regular and remained at approximately £22,000 until the end of September, when a four weeks' "gap" again caused an increase to over £36,000. The commencement of a new unemployment benefit year on 18th October had an immediate effect on expenditure. The weekly cost was steadily reduced, and during December the average weekly cost had fallen to less than £18,000.

The numbers of unemployed afforded relief (exclusive of dependants) varied little during the year, except during "gap" periods. At the beginning of the year about 46,000 able-bodied persons were in receipt of relief. In April the numbers reached 61,300, and in October 51,400. At the end of the year the figure had fallen to 33,200. The weekly average number relieved over the whole year amounted to 45,300.

Statistics relating to 36 of the parishes seriously affected are printed in a special table (Appendix XVI.). It will be observed (1) that, taking an average of the numbers of destitute able-bodied unemployed persons and their dependants relieved each week during the year, the figures range from 160.1 per 1000 of the population in Cardross Parish to 2-2 in Ballingry Parish; (2) that the average number of unemployed persons and dependants on the roll throughout the year for the 36 parishes was 136,124; (3) that the approximate cost incurred by these parishes in paying aliment was, for the first quarter £253,396, for the second quarter £325,533, for the third quarter £289,345, for the fourth quarter £297,063, a total of £1,165,337 for the year, representing an average weekly expenditure of £22,416.

STATE-ASSISTED SCHEMES OF RELIEF WORK.

The Unemployment Grants Committee continue to give grants to local authorities in respect of works promoted to relieve unemployment. Since the issue of our last Report the Committee have decided to give larger. grants in respect of certain revenue-producing undertakings. The increased grant is given in respect of schemes where the expenditure will not be immediately productive, and where orders for material will be placed which will give employment in an industry seriously affected by unemployment though not necessarily

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in the area in which the work is to be carried out. Grants are now also given under certain conditions in respect of works promoted by public utility companies, e.g., gas, water, electricity, etc.

Where we were the appropriate certifying Government Department we were again consulted whether the works were suitable works of public utility, and we were able generally to give our certificate to that effect.

We understand that from December, 1920, the date of the appointment of the Unemployment Grants Committee, until the close of 1923, schemes for Scotland amounting on a very rough approximation to £6,250,000 have been passed by the Committee, as eligible for grant. This sum is made up as follows, viz. :-(1) Loan schemes (a) revenue-producing £2,811,000, (b) non-revenue-producing £3,087,000; (2) 60 per cent. wages schemes, £352,000.

UNEMPLOYED WORKMEN ACT, 1905.

The Glasgow Distress Committee, with the financial assistance of the Corporation, continued their operations at Palacerigg Farm Colony, and at the beginning of the year they employed between 50 and 60 men. By the end of the year they were employing between 110 and 120 men.

During the year the Corporation obtained powers under the Glasgow Corporation Order Confirmation Act, 1923, to apply the assessment leviable under the Unemployed Workmen Act, 1905, to repay moneys which they had advanced to the Distress Committee prior to the passing of the former Act. For a period of three years after the passing of the Act the Corporation is empowered, with our consent, to advance the Distress Committee the moneys necessary to carry on the work of that body, and in like manner to recover these advances from the above-mentioned assessment. All moneys must be repaid within six years from the time the advances were made. DISTRESS IN THE HEBRIDES AND THE NORTH-WEST HIGHLANDS.

In our last Report we stated that, at the close of 1922, schemes of relief works on a revised scale were under consideration for meeting the necessities of the Outer Hebrides for the winter 1922-23. With assistance from the Ministry of Transport, a considerable amount of road re-surfacing work was undertaken early in 1923 in Lewis. In Harris road schemes aided by the Board of Agriculture afforded employment until the end of June. In South Uist the district committee did not see their way to accept the offer of assistance by the Board of Agriculture to carry out certain road works in their area.

In the autumn, on learning from the Board of Agriculture that there was a prospective failure of the potato crop in the Outer Hebrides, we instructed Mr. Beaton, our General Superintendent of Poor for the Highland district, to visit the area and to enquire into conditions, and into the question whether it would be necessary to initiate special relief measures with the object of alleviating such distress as might be likely to emerge during the winter 1923-24.

Mr. Beaton reported that the weather during the summer and autumn of 1923 had been particularly unfavourable to agriculture, and that the close of the season had found the inhabitants of these parts with a very limited supply of the staple articles of food. The potato

crop in many districts was a complete failure, and, in the most favourably situated districts, the yield was very small and of little value as food. The grain crops were poor. The summer fishing was not successful, and many men received merely nominal amounts in return for their labours. Finally the persistence of wet weather throughout the late summer and autumn prevented the cut peats from drying. It was evident, therefore, that the position, particularly in Lewis, was much more unfavourable than it had been for many years. Mr. Beaton, after thorough enquiry, and after consultation with local officials and parish councillors, made an estimate of the number of families who were likely to suffer during the winter from lack of the necessaries of life. At the end of November, on our instructions, Mr. Jeffrey, our Secretary, and Mr. Beaton visited the Hebrides and held conferences with the parish councils and district committees in Lewis. and Harris, at which they discussed the action which should be taken locally to relieve the acute distress that was expected to emerge. Mr. Beaton thereafter proceeded to North Uist, South Uist and Barra, and held similar conferences with the parish councils of these islands.

As potatoes form one of the chief articles of food of the inhabitants of these parts, and as the failure of the potato crop was the principal factor in causing distress, it was felt that the best method of meeting the situation would be to arrange for special supplies of potatoes to be sent to the distressed areas for distribution by way of poor relief in kind among necessitous persons. The parish councils, with the exception of Stornoway and North Uist, readily agreed to undertake the distribution. Estimates of the quantities of "ware" potatoes likely to be required were drawn up, and it was arranged that the potatoes should be sent in instalments as requisitioned by the parish councils. The potatoes were purchased and shipped by the Board of Agriculture at our request and under our instructions. Up to 31st December, 150 tons had been despatched. The expenditure incurred by the parish councils in obtaining the potatoes, being expenditure on the relief of distress, for which expenditure no provision had been made in the year's budgets, was financed out of long-term loans obtained from the Vote for the Relief of Unemployment, on the recommendation of the Committee set up by the Government under the Chairmanship of Sir Harry Goschen, K.B.E. Negotiations for loans from that Committee to the amount of £9160 were in progress at the close of the year. It should here be mentioned that this scheme in practice was not free from difficulties on various grounds. For example stormy weather and the uncertainty of the sailings and arrivals of steamers resulted in delays in the delivery of potatoes. Parish councils found difficulty in selecting the really necessitous cases. Further, the refusal of many to accept assistance from the parish council was strongly marked. It is thus probable that the parish councils will not requisition the quantities of potatoes originally estimated to be required.

Schemes of relief work, consisting mainly of the repair of footpaths, were drawn up by the parish councils of Barvas, Lochs and Uig, and applications for grants for the purpose from the Unemployment Grants Committee were about to be lodged by the close of the year. It was expected that men employed by these parish councils would receive potatoes in part payment for their work.

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