History of St Keverne Parish Council

Extracts from St Keverne Parish Council 1894 to 1994
a booklet compiled by Michael Wearne (then Chairman)

In 1911 the four Turns (Traboe, Trelan, Tregarne and Bean) were still in existence for administration purposes. Each of them had an Overseer elected by the Council; their normal term of office was two years and to provide continuity two were elected each alternate year. There was a degree of competition for the posts from both members and non-members of the council. At this time the Clerk, Mr R.Coad, was Clerk, Assistant Overseer and Rate Collector, a combination of functions that seems to haved evolved from convenience.

We do not know when he was appointed clerk, but it was before 1904 because in that year he was appointed Assistant Overseer in addition; the Rate Collectorship was added in 1910. In April 1914 he broached what he describes as "an unpopular subject" for ratepayers and said that on the meeting following his appointment as Collector, the Council deducted £5 from his salary (we don't know what his salary was as the minutes of the years before 1911 have been lost).

He went on to explain that he had compared what he was receiving with that paid to other Collectors in other parishes of the same size in the Union and he found that he was being paid about half as much as they were. "He confidently left the matter in the Council's hands". How well he later felt his confidence to have been placed we do not know, but the Council agreed to raise his salary by £10.

To cover their expenses the Parish Council issued a precept on the Overseers for certain sums which they were then responsible for raising from the ratepayers in their Turn. This was in addition to the main demand for money which was from the Union (effectively the Meneage Workhouse). In 1911 the Union Call was for £252.10s.0d. per half year and the rate was set at 2/6d in the pound on buildings and other hereditaments.

Not many records of the Overseers' meetings appear in the Minutes Book, but on the 30th August 1911 the Clerk reported that he had collected £821.13s.9d. Of this £505 went to the Union.

Human nature does not change fundamentally and the demands were not always met at once. At that same meeting it was resolved to send Final Notices to eighteen parishioners amongst whom are some distinguished names best left in the dusty obscurity of the Minutes Book. Some of the advantages of local government that was really local can be seen by the fact that a fortnight later all but six had paid up. The threat of being summonsed resulted in five paying up before the end of the second fortnight; the one remaining recalcitrant was to be "interviewed". Nothing more is heard of the arrears either in that or subsequent years.

It is interesting to compare this with the present-day rate of recovery of overdue Poll Tax bills; on 12th November 1993 Kerrier District Council was still owed £3,128,000 on a tax which ceased to exist at the begining of April.

The Overseers occasionally excused parishioners their rates for the half or whole year because of illness. In 1917 they found themselves in a position of considerable difficulty because of the unexpectedly large number of unoccupied properties in the Parish and they were unable to discharge their liabilities. The Council accepted their reasons for "making the lower rate" and sympathised with their position.

The War was then at its most devastating and there is no need to look further for the reason for depopulation, but the "lowest rate" imposed looks like a merciful interpretation in favour of some families where the bread-winner was at the Front or killed.

The general impression of a much more personal and humane system than that under which we now live. It was stable, comprehensible and administered at first-hand, none of which is true today.

However the burden was not light. Comparing the cost of living from one age to another is always fraught with difficulty, but a few examples of cost can help: -
Insurance (of employees) in 1911 was £1-10-0   and in 1992 £235-71
Path trimming (for the year) in 1911 was £16-5-0   and in 1992 £2,483-74

These figures (covering the only equivalent expenses) make £800 per annum look quite terrifying, but they are really only useful as showing that things are enormously different; no direct comparison is possible - agencies of collection and delivery have changed out of recognition. There was, for example, nothing to compare in scale with the Department of Social Security.

Overseers disappeared in 1927 when the new Rating Act came into effect, henceforth Helston Rural District Council set and collected the rates. Two Parish Council members were elected every two years to represent the Parish interests at meetings in which the rate was being set.

The Parish Council's direct responsibility ended when it had informed the District of its requirements, much as it does today.