September 23rd saw meetings of both Battersea and Wandsworth Borough Councils.
Local fundraising efforts for various Relief Funds were clearly well underway, Battersea granted use of the Grand Hall for a concert in aid of the Mayor’s fund and an entertainment for the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund as well as allowing the Lower Hall to be used for a concert for the Belgian Relief Fund, for swearing in Special Constables, as a space to mobilise the Boy Scouts and as a depot for the benefit of the war Distress Fund. Hiring the Grand Hall was £2 5s, the Lower Hall was 15s, although the Boy Scouts got it free. Free use of the Baths in the borough was granted to Territorials either resident in Battersea or whose HQ was in Battersea, and also to any Belgian refugee boys.
Battersea also agreed to bear the expenses of the Committee set up to administer the Distress Fund in the borough, and turned to the more complex question of how to deal with staff who had joined the Forces. Information on service pay and allowances was proving difficult to get hold of, but the Town Clerk was assured it would be available soon. The Council decided to pay their staff full pay up until 24th September, then to pay the difference between service and Council pay. Staff joining up not only caused discussions over pay, but how to fill their vacancies – Deputy Town Clerk Edwin Austin was called up for service with the Territorials, and the appointment of a temporary replacement was agreed. [Edwin Austin later became Town Clerk and was known for his fondness for cycling]. The Medical Officer of Health was also off to join the Forces, having been offered a position with the Royal Army Medical Corps. There were also administrative issues raised by the War, a number of councillors expressed concern over the use of firms with German sounding names, and a resolution was passed that any payment made to those firms would have to be referred to the Finance Committee. The South Western Star reported that enquiries were to be made, and that disagreements arose over whether Ferranti Ltd was Italian or possibly German – they were actually a British firm.
Meanwhile, about a mile and a half West, Wandsworth Borough Council were dealing with many of the same issues. They too decided to pay their staff the difference between Forces and Council pay, and guaranteed them a return to their old job when the War was over, with no loss of position or benefits. The Mayor and Town Clerk were given responsibility for taking decisions on how to handle the issue of vacancies. The Finance Committee agreed to fund offices and staff for the Borough War Relief committee, premises were provided in a building on the corner of Huguenot Place and Melody Road. The premises were meant to be leased for a year, with a secretary provided for six months. They also had to deal with the prospect of an increase in the local rate – the Board of Guardians had increased the amount required, which some councillors blamed on the Metropolitan Asylums Board and called for an increase in directly elected membership of the board to curb spending. Other councillors were concerned by the effect of the war on people if it went on for months, would an increase in the rate be too hard for them? The necessity of finding more money prevailed, however, and the rate was increased to 4s. Permission was granted for local rifle ranges to open until dusk on Sundays for the duration of the war, so that those who wished to join the Forces could practice drilling and shooting. This was also reported in the Wandsworth Borough News and the next column reported the results of the Novices’ Competition at Wandsworth Rifle Club – noting that membership was increasing every day due to the War, which explains the application for longer opening hours.
Battersea Borough Council Minutes, 1914-15, ref: MBB/1/15
Wandsworth Borough Council inutes, 1914, ref: MBW/1/14
South Western Star, Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm