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Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal - 13 May 1887

Sir,— In reply to your correspondent of the 6th instant, Mr. Frederick Wibberley, who makes the sweeping assertion that the accounts of the overseers have never been produced by any preceding overseer before the vestry meeting. I beg leave to say from my own personally knowledge that the accounts of Messrs. Mason, Creswell, Strong, Mellor and Mansfield, have all been respectively produced, when the accounts of receipts and expenditure have been read over by the chairman, and the balance in hand then declared. And what is a most singular coincidence, after making such a sweeping assertion, he should be the only person to examine Mr. Mansfield's accounts last year. Now, for Mr. Wibberley enlightenment, I will furnish him with an extract from the General Order of the Poor Law Board— "The overseers shall make out a balance-sheet of receipts and payments for each half year ending the 29th day of September an the 25th day of March, and they are to submit the balance-sheet duly signed, with a duplicate of it, to the auditor. Those balance-sheets are to be examined and signed by the auditor; one of them to be given to the clerk to the Guardians, the other the overseers are to submit, with their book of receipts and payments, to the vestry of the parish at their next meeting, and after being laid before the vestry, are to be preserved with the other parochial documents." And again, "By an act passed in 7 and 8 of Victoria, c101 s33, any overseer, collector, or assistant overseer neglecting to make up the accounts, or alter the accounts, or allowed them to be altered when so made up, is liable, on conviction, to forfeit forty shilllings." Now, with regard to the inspection of his books, I beg leave to say, as assessor of taxes, I have examined his rate book thrice, for information required by the Surveyor of Taxes. With regard to my actual balance at the end of my term of office, in 1883 and 1884, it was £4 9s. 10¾d., according to balance-sheets signed by auditor. The £3 15s. 10¾d. balance, as he terms it, is a misrepresentation, it consisting of a then uncollected contribution required by the Union, he knowing well that his portion of the said contribution had not been paid some time after the 29th of September. I have now in my possession a letter from his wife, saying (and these are her own words), we have tried to get the money for the poor rate and cannot, asking for an extension of time, and this after the third application for the rate. The delay in paying contribution was owing to instructions received from the clerk to the Guardians to make out a new valuation list according to the Ordnance Survey, before making or collecting any rates, and this was a work of some time, as there were 30 or 40 acres of land to be found in various portions all over the parish, I having my ordinary business to attend to. Mr. Wibberley states that his balance ending his term of office, 25th of March 1887, was about £7. Is he not mistaken? Was not this balance remaining on the 29th September 1888? A ratepayer says such a precedent has occurred at Shirley as the books not being produced. Did a ratepayer possess half the knowledge he would have the public believe, he would know full well that according to act of Parliament no overseer, collector or assistant-overseer may, when he removes out of a parish, take with him any books, documents, papers or money belonging to the parish, and that such an offence is punishable by law. I don't remember any warm reception I met with, as I never asked for my predecessor's books, merely asking what the amount of balance was he was holding belonging to the parish. A ratepayer has made reference to the critical eye of the auditor. He has observed and reported thereon to The Local Government Board, and they in turn have reported to the present overseer, requiring information respecting the fact of late overseer's collecting on a larger rateable value than appears in the valuation list. With regard to my own rate being merely nominal, my rateable value is such that the late overseer inserted my name in the jury list, refusing to cancel the same when notified of his error. I only obtained exemption by appearing before the magistrates, producing my credentials as an officer of Inland Revenue.
    I would, therefore, in conclusion, call a ratepayers attention to the disparity in his statements. First, he says, I well know the law, and then advises me to have a better knowledge of the same. In reply I would say, "Physician heal thyself," and not let thy ulcerousness appear so plainly on the surface; and, in future so praising his supreme judgement and vouching so positively for the strictly official and legal manner in which the late overseer's duties have been performed, he may rest himself fully assured that the district auditor would not have reported, nor the Local Government Board have interfered if his judgement had been correct.
    Yours truly,
        THOS. STRONG.
            Shirley, May 10th, 1887.

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