London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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London County Council 1912

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]

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Housing of the Working Classes.
Negotiations are proceeding for the acquisition of the various interests in the properties, and
it is anticipated that the buildings on the first section will be demolished early in 1913. Plans
have been prepared for the section of the first block of new dwellings and have been submitted to
the Local Government Board for approval.
Closing and
Very important powers nave been conferred upon the metropolitan borough councils by sections 17
and 18 of the Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1909, for dealing, by way of closing and demolition
orders, with those dwelling houses which have been represented to them as being " in a state so
dangerous or injurious to health as to be unfit for human habitation." Closing and demolition orders
were a part of the procedure authorised by the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, but whereas
under that Act a closing order could only be made by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction on the
application of a local authority, the power to make such an order is by the Act of 1909 entrusted
to the local authorities, subject to a right of appeal to the Local Government Board by any owner
of the dwelling house in respect of which the order is made. Local authorities may by these means
secure the closing and demolition of insanitary houses at no cost to the ratepayers beyond the
expenses of administration ; and it is hoped that vigorous action by the metropolitan borough
councils under these sections will tend to obviate in many cases the necessity for expensive clearance
schemes by the Council under Part I. of the Act of 1890.

The figures given in the following table, which are taken from a memorandum dated 9th November, 1912, issued by the Local Government Board, indicate the action taken during the year ended 31st March, 1912, so far as the information could be obtained, and for comparison the corresponding figures are also given for the year ended 31st March, 1911, for the year ended 31st March, 1910, during which the new procedure was in force for about four months, and for the year ended 31st March, 1909, during the whole of which the old procedure was in force:—

Number of houses in respect of which representations were made to the metropolitan borough councils5561,3958221
Number of houses made fit for human habitation or closed or demolished voluntarily without the issue of a closing order9383198
Number of houses in respect of which closing orders were made280243355
Number of houses in respect of which closing orders were determined1024Information not available
Number of houses (in respect of which closing orders were made) demolished by owners without orders for demolition6425Information not available,,
Number of houses in respect of which orders for demolition were made512¯¯

Capital expenditure
The amount expended on capital account by the late Metropolitan Board of Works and the
Council up to 31st March, 1913, in respect of the clearance of insanitary areas (exclusive of the cost
of erecting new buildings), amounted to £3,424,865 3s. 2d., while the receipts derived from rents and
sales of land, including the amounts charged against the accounts of the dwellings for the housing
values of sites appropriated for that purpose, together with the contributions from local authorities
towards the cost of carrying out Part II. schemes, amounted to £906,740 Is. Id. thus leaving the net
expenditure at £2,518,125 2s. Id.
in connection
with improvements,
In carrying out public improvements other than schemes under the Housing Acts, involving
a statutory obligation to rehouse, the Council has displaced 12,244 persons of the working classes,
and has provided accommodation in new dwellings for 12,902 persons in lieu of that destroyed.
The displacement of persons of the working classes by the Council does not always involve a
statutory obligation to provide rehousing accommodation, and, in numerous cases where such
obligation has existed, the Local Government Board has, in the exercise of its powers under the Act of
1903, dispensed with the necessity for a special housing scheme.
On 23rd and 30th July, 1912, the Council considered as to the course to be pursued with regard
to the impending displacement of 2,285 persons of the working classes from properties, in various
parts of the County, over which compulsory powers of purchase for purposes of the education service
were obtained in the parliamentary session of 1912. Inquiries were made as to the amount of
accommodation suitable for occupation by persons of the working classes and publicly advertised as
to-let in the neighbourhood of the several sites and, as a result, it was found that in almost every
instance the number of vacant rooms in the vicinity was many times greater than the number of rooms
to be demolished on the respective sites. The Council thought there was little doubt that the families
who were to be displaced would experience little difficulty in finding fresh accommodation within a short
distance, and in all the circumstances, having particular regard to the large amount of accommodation
which has been, and is being, voluntarily provided by the Council under Part III. of the Housing of
the Working Classes Act, 1890, it wab decided to ask the Local Government Board to release the
Council from the rehousing obligation.