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In 1887 the number of houses supplied had grown to 729,162, and the water rentals to £1,621,678 (H. C., 178 of 1889), so that, whilst the number of houses supplied had in 15 years risen 46 per cent., the rental received had risen 71 per cent. The average payment per house rose from £1 18s. Od. to £2 4s. 5d., whilst the quantity of water supplied to each house has, on the whole, positively decreased. The result is shown in the growing profits of the Companies. PARTICULARS FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31st DECEMBER, 1887.
(Return No. 418 of House of Commons.) Name of
Total Surplus on
£ New River.....
3,493,216 457,690 169,566 288,124 East London
2,319,317 251,159 105,960 145,199 Southwark and Vauxhall 2,009,259 191,986 84,275 107,711 Lambeth........
1,649,936 200,919 70,602 130,317 Grand Junction... 1,470,866 173,145 63,598 109,547 West Middlesex
1,245,694 209,521 78,122 131,399 Chelsea
1,190,361 123,265 39,815 83,450 Kent
761,785 118,591 37,012 81,579 Total............
14,140,434 1,726,276 648,950 1,077,326 The water supplied is, moreover, often of doubtful quality. Five companies derive it wholly or partially from the River Thames; the two largest mainly from the River Lea; and only one (Kent) from deep wells. As the population in these river valleys increases, and as the extensive use of manures on the land becomes more general, the sources of supply become steadily more polluted. London must, ere long, imitate Glasgow, Liverpool, and Manchester in seeking a supply of water from some lonely lake. We want an aqueduct from the Welsh hills, to lay on a constant supply of pure soft water. But the existing "water lords” will not willingly see their polluted supply made obsolete.*
The necessity for their supersession by a public authority is admitted ; and as long ago as 1879 the Conservative Government decided upon this course. The price proposed to be paid (£33,118,000) was, however, so outrageous that the Government was obliged, by the public outcry, to abandon the scheme. After ten more years' extortion, the companies would now, no doubt, demand even heavier terms than in 1879.
The water companies possess, however, no legal monopoly. In the past, indeed, active rivalry frequently existed between them ; and even now two companies, in several instances, supply the same
It is quite open to the County Council to obtain Parliamentary powers to construct a competing supply, and the defunct Metropolitan Board of Works had fully decided to take this step. The London County Council should promptly seek power to construct a new supply, and, at the same time, to arrange to take over the existing service at a fair price. There being no legal monopoly, the shareholders can have no “vested interest” in the present excessive dividends. It is accordingly quite unnecessary to offer them anything more than the actual value of their mains and other street plant. Even if they were reimbursed their whole extravagant outlay (£14,140,434), the interest payable by the County Council on a loan of this amount would not exceed £425,000, or £650,000 less than is now paid to the share and bondholders, irrespective of the saving likely to accrue from unification of management. This amount is equal to sixpence in the pound of London's rates, and would amply suffice to provide any improved service required, as well as afford a useful surplus towards the cost of London government. The inetropolis should no longer lag behind nearly every important provincial town, in permitting its water supply to remain in private hands.
Farnham, Guildford and Woking still deliver untreated sewage into feeders of the river Thames. Staines continues to pollute the main stream.
Instances of pollution of the river Lea are not wanting” (p. 137, Local Government Report, 1887-8, C45,526).
With a municipal water supply, the present survivals of the evil cistern arrangement must disappear, and a “constant supply" be made universal. The present statistics on this point are as follows :
NUMBER OF HOUSES SUPPLIED, AND PROPORTION OF THEM, WITH
“ CONSTANT SUPPLY."
NAME OF COMPANY.
Supply for Increase
Increase Constant Domestic Purposes.
during Supply on
31st Dec. Year.
Per House. Per Head.
35,336 37,684 2,348 68,136 70,119 1,983 Lambeth 40,333 43,678 3,345 84,406 86,418 2,012 New River 42,458 51,668 9,210 148,054 149,457 1,403 Southwark and Vauxhallj
25,180 33,389 8,209 107,191 108,741 1,550 West Middlesex 20,493 23,256 2,763 68,486 69,908 1,422
- 1346,691 375,076 28,385|719,906733,161 13,255
The existing “water-rate” (4 per cent. on the rateable value, and upwards) might continue to be levied as part of the County Council rate; but there is no reason why any special charge should be made for water, any more than for roads, drainage, police or other services of public utility. We can at least afford « Communism in water.”
THE GAS OF LONDON. London's gas supply has now fallen, by successive amalgamations, into the hands of three colossal companies (in 1855 there were 20), whose capital outlay, including past competitive waste and lawyers' bills, exceeds £13,650,000. On this amount they manage to obtain a handsome profit, the annual surplus being over
£1,500,000, or over eleven per cent. So abundant, indeed, is the profit, that huge salaries and pensions are paid, and unnecessary renewals executed, merely to avoid returning a larger surplus. For, unlike the water companies, our gas proprietors are “limited” by Act of Parliament as to their dividends, according to a sliding scale (the largest company paid 12} per cent. in 1887), and any excess is now partially devoted to a reduction in the price of gas. The largest company now charges 2/8 per 1,000 feet, as against 5/- in 1874. This boon we owe to that veteran reformer, Mr. James Beal.
Here again there is no legal monopoly; and the County Council can obtain Parliamentary powers to construct a competing supply, unless the companies consent to transfer their works on equitable terms. These works could undoubtedly now be constructed for much less than the total capital outlay of £13,654,237 ; but, assuming the whole of this amount to be reimbursed to the shareholders, the interest payable by the Council would only be £400,000 a year, as compared with over £1,500,000 now paid to the share and bond holders. The resulting profit of £1,100,000 annually would cover the whole net expenditure of the London School Board.
One hundred and sixty-eight different towns and villages in the United Kingdom already own their own gasworks, and supply gas without the intervention of any middleman, to 1,011,139 consumers, or nearly 47 per cent. of the whole. They make an aggregate net profit of £439,467 (after paying interest on the loans incurred); and this amount is devoted mainly to local improvements.*
Manchester, supplying gas at 2s. 8d. per one thousand feet, made £49,786 net profit in 1887, after paying £56,286 interest on gas loans. Why should not London do the same, and ensure, at the same time, the fair treatment of London's ten thousand gas stokers, recently driven into actual revolt against their overwork ? Particulars for the year ended 31 December, 1887 (Return No. 119 to the House of Commons. April, 1888. Price 3£d.).
Total Total ExpenName of Company.
Year's Outlay. Receipts.
diture. Surplus. £
£ Gas Light and Coke....... 10,236,325 3,194,776 2,022,086 1,172,690 South Metropolitan
2,611,851 858,669 583.151 275,518 Commercial
806,061 300,279 211,038 89,241
*See Return No. :3t5 to House of Commons. August, 1888. Price 44d.
THE TRAMWAYS OF LONDON, THE 122 miles of tramways in London are in the hands of one large and ten smaller companies, whose aggregate capital, swollen, as usual, by legal and Parliamentary expenses, amounts, as stated in the table below, to
THREE AND A THIRD MILLIONS STERLING, Their receipts exceed the working expenses by about £185,000 annually, or more than 54 per cent. on their nominal capital, which goes to maintain the body of eight or ten thousand share and debenture holders who are at present permitted to derive a tribute from London's need of locomotive facilities. The shareholders of the largest company, owning one-third of the whole of the lines (North Metropolitan), get a dividend of between 9 and 10 per cent. per annum on their shares.
PARTICULARS FOR YEAR ENDED 30th JUNE, 1888.
House of Commons Return, No. 347 of 1888.
Name of Company with date of
Mls. Chs. £ £ £ £ North Metropolitan (1869) 40 24 1,201,225 345,881 252,223 93,658 London (1869)
19 50 610,000 266,502 209,911 56,591 London Street (1870)
79 357,000 109,943 94,129 15,814 South London (1879)
I 2 72 362,747 70,757
8,822 West Metropolitan (1873) 8 59 202,427 25,729 21,240 North London (1879)
9 73 178,525 15:436 12,947 2,489 Southwark and Deptford (1879) 4 72 162,389 23,518 20,626 2,892 London Southern (1882)
5 60 112,500 13,699 14,051 352 loss Highgate Hill (1882)
3,499 4,075 576 loss Harrow Rd. Paddington (1886) 41
No return rendered Woolwich and South East Lon. don (1880)
4 77 69,239 12,858 10,900 1,958 I 22 24 3,316,459 887,822 702,037 185,785
How this dividend is obtained is known to all men. The 4000 tramway drivers, conductors, horsekeepers and laborers, working London's 940 licensed tramcars (0–5,761, p. 9), are among the hardest worked, most cruelly treated, and worst paid of London's wage slaves. Sixteen hours' work for 4s. wage is no uncommon day's record ; whilst Sundays or other holidays are known to them only as times of extra traffic. Nor is it possible to remedy this " white slavery ” whilst the tramways remain in private hands. Mrs. Reaney and other well-known philanthropists have in vain used every mode of appeal to the consciences of the shareholders. The pulpit and the press equally fail to induce them to forego even a quarter per cent. of dividend in order to improve the condition of the servants by whose toil they live.
But why should London leave its most important lines of internal communication in private hands, to be used as a source of private tribute, wrung from the oppression of the workers? In thirtyone provincial municipalities and urban districts of Great Britain, the local authority itself owns the local tramways (see House of Commons Return, No. 347, 1888). Most of these corporations lease out the lines to exploiting companies; but they can put what conditions they please in the leases; and if the train servants of Liverpool, Glasgow or Birmingham are oppressed, the remedy is in the hands of the municipal electors. But one corporation, åt any rate, does not shrink from the
DIRECT ORGANIZATION OF LABOR, and gives no opportunity to the middleman. The Huddersfield Town Council obtained statutory power in 1882 (45 & 46 Vic. c. 236) to work its own tramways; and has done so with marked success.* The Liverpool Corporation obtained similar statutory power in 1889, but has not yet taken over its lines. The London County Council already owns and works a (free) steam-ferry at Woolwich, served by two steamboats lit by electricity. (Report of Metropolitan Board of Works, 1888.)
London will soon have an unparalleled opportunity in the matter. The tramway companies only received their concessions on condition that the local authority should have power to take over the whole concern at the expiration of 21 years from the time when the promoters were empowered to construct the line in each case, upon payment only of the actual value of the stock and plant (33 and 34 Vic. cap. 78, sec. 43). The first companies complete this period, as regards part of their lines, in 1891 ; and it is time that the Council
gan to consider the matter. Only a portion of the lines could be compulsorily taken over at a time, as the 21 years' period expires at different dates for different lengths of line. But the County Council, first imitating Huddersfield and Liverpool in obtaining statutory power to work its own lines, could easily negotiate with the companies.
Assuming that as much as £2,500,000 had eventually to be paid to acquire the whole lines, the interest on this addition to the Council's debt would only be some £75,000 a year, as compared with £185,000 now paid to the share and bond holders, irrespective of the saving caused by unification of management of the eleven competing undertakings. This difference of £110,000 represents nearly a penny in the pound on the London rates. Placed at the disposal of the County Council, it might mean a reduction of the hours of the labor of our tram slaves to a maximum of eight per day.
LONDON'S MARKETS. For market accommodation the greatest city in the world has to depend on two unrepresentative and sectional public authorities, three philanthropists, and two private monopolists, feebly supplemented by a few insignificant so-called "street markets.
The City Corporation provides and controls eight markets, through which
* So absurdly jealous was Parliament of this mild extension of municipal activity that a clause was inserted in the Act requiring the Town Council to lease out the lines if a contractor offered what the Board of Trade might deem a fair per centage on cost.