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Parish Councils Act

Parish Councils Act, 1894 (more properly the Local Government Act). The Act completed the great reform of local government in the 19th cent. Towns had been given elected councils by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 and County Councils had been established in 1888. There had been considerable pressure in the Liberal Party for parish councils to develop grass-roots democracy and they were included in the Newcastle Programme of 1891. Gladstone's legislation introduced urban and rural districts, parish councils for villages of over 300 inhabitants, and parish meetings for hamlets. The Act gave women, whether married or not, the right both to vote and serve. Its passage in the Commons and Lords was strongly contested and the severe limits placed on the revenue-raising powers of the new councils meant that few of them had much room for action. The urban and rural districts were swept away by the Local Government Act of 1972, but parish councils survived, save in Wales, where community councils were established.

J. A. Cannon

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