CHAPTER 4 FINANCE

A tremendous volume of correspondence and thousands of man-hours and reams of paper would have been saved had the Government from the beginning recognised the fact that aerial warfare and its results were a national responsibility to be spread over the country as a a whole and not a burden to be borne by local shoulders.

Despite vigorous protests however, the Government maintained its attitude that the purely Air Raid Precautions expenditure should be only grant-earning and should not be fully reimbursable except for the payment of the wages of A.R.P. personnel, i.e., Wardens, Stretcher Bearers, etc., but excluding Headquarters Staff.

On the other hand, post-raid services, (e.g. Rest Centres, Re-housing, Mortuary, Debris Clearance, etc.), were regarded as reimbursable with the curious and illogical result that to provide for the rescue and first aid treatment of a casualty the local authority had to bear part of the cost, while dealing with a bombed-out cat was a national charge!

Similarly, the provision of bandages only earned grant, while shrouds were provided free!

The attitude of mind displayed in such items was symptomatic of the muddled-thinking on finance which was born with A.R.P. and accompanied it throughout its life. At the beginning, road repairs were not even grant-earning and the whole of the cost had to be paid by the damaged area, the result, of course, being that the worse an area was damaged the greater the burden upon the shoulders of ratepayers who were least able to bear it.

Perhaps most unjustifiable of all was the shelter finance muddle.

Provision of public shelters was originally grant-earning but when, in October 1940, the Government awakened to the fact that bombs meant danger and that many Local Authorities had made inadequate provision, it was announced that in future expenditure on shelter provision would be reimbursed in full.

Those Authorities, such as Walthamstow, who had pressed forward with the work now found that because of their zeal their ratepayers were to be penalised financially while the laggard and lazy Authority would receive full payment for shelters.

This decision of the Government could not be justified on any grounds of equity or decent administration, but they maintained their position from the standpoint that expediency required this bribe to the backward Authorities!

For over two years no payment whatever was made for the use of local authorities' staffs employed on A.R.P. work, with the result that some Local Authorities discharged their own redundant staffs, re-employed them for A.R.P. work and drew grant on the salaries. Those Local Authorities who were reluctant to break the service of loyal employees and stalls of long service found themselves unable to get any payment unless they could prove that the engagement of substitutes had been necessary. Eventually this position was to a large degree remedied by payment of a percentage grant on all expenditure, this grant to cover the cost of staff and premises, other than those specially engaged for the purposes of A.R.P. and C.D.

This healed the difficulty for a period but there-after the over-all percentage grant was withdrawn, grant being paid thenceforward on identifiable posts whether filled by local authority staff or by new appointments.

Walthamstow was not a scheme-making authority and, in theory, all expenditure was therefore subject to prior approval by the Essex County Council if it was desired to claim grant. This, however, was modified by a decision that any of the Essex Local Authorities in the area of Group 7 could, without prior approval by the County Council, undertake any activities approved in official circulars and, generally speaking, this worked satisfactorily.

Many major items, however, required prior approval of London Region if expenditure was to be grant-earning but in the early days we in Walthamstow felt that the problems were so urgent that we could not wait for the usual two to three months required to get approval for major items and on numerous occasions we went ahead and " took a chance."

Our greatest venture in this respect was the pro-vision of our First Aid Posts. On the night when the Munich crisis came to a climax and War appeared inevitable, the Emergency Committee decided to place an order for the erection of ten First Aid Posts, one member of the Committee being called from his bed for the purpose of obtaining his consent.

The order was placed the next day and erection proceeded as quickly as could be arranged. Years later came the argument as to cost but on this occasion London Region displayed an unexpected reasonableness, thanks largely to the broad-mindedness of the official responsible who, in effect, said that a lot of Local Authorities had done nothing in the early days whereas Walthamstow had tried to prepare for the War. Unless, therefore, Walthamstow had squandered the money on non-essentials the expenditure should be approved. Ultimately, after close investigations by the tech¨nical experts, we received approval for £41,669 and had only £75 disallowed.

Although the cost may seem large it has to be remembered that for the money we were better equipped than any other London Authority in the matter of First Aid Posts in regard both to number of Posts and quality of accommodation and that the structural adaptation of ten schools would have cost £30,000 or more.

On a number of other items, where we had not obtained prior approval, we were equally fortunate in obtaining post facto approval. Apart, however, from actual expenditure incurred the local Authority's finances also suffered severely from reduced income as a result of the bombing, for owners of premises rendered wholly or partly unin¨habitable by war damage could claim a reduction in the assessment for rating purposes or an allowance off the rates payable.

A minor item was the voluntary reduction in assessment granted by the Authority in respect of premises used solely as Street Fire Party watch rooms but when this cost the Rates over £3,900 without any refundment from the Government.

To offset to a degree the additional expenditure directly or indirectly attributable to the war there were certain reductions in expenditure by way of cessation or reduction of peace-time services and activities, but these reductions did not completely counter-balance the additional expenses as rises in prices and wages also had to i.e. met on those services which were still operating.

However, thanks to careful husbanding of resources, the financial position of the Local Authority at the end of hostilities was no worse than at the beginning, not withstanding a reduction of approximately £14,500 in the rateable vajue of the Borough.

As we were not a Scheme-Making Authority, our approved expenditure, together with that of other County Districts, was re-imbursed to us by the County Council who, in turn, claimed grant from the Government ranging from 65% to 100% for different items. The total balances not covered by grant were then included, as one of the items, in the County General Rate precept and spread over all the Local Authorities in the County.

Below is a statement showing the amounts expended locally. As a matter of interest it may be noted that our contribution via the precept to the County's A.R.P. expenditure was approximately £100,000 in six years as compared with the local expenditure of nearly £2,000,000, the difference between the two figures being met either from Government grants or County funds.

Part I - General

Part IIa - The Services

Part IIb - The Services

Part III - The Story of the Raids

Part IV - Flying Bombs & Rockets

Part V - To the Unknown Citizen