1914: Scramble for Company Assets

From the North Wilts Herald, 18th May 1914

There was a motion on the agenda to oppose before Parliament the Swindon Corporation (Wilts and Berks Canal Abandonment) Bill 1914, either alone or in conjunction with any other body or bodies, and incur all such expenses as may be necessary to carry on such opposition. The Clerk said this was a mere formality in order to render legitimate payments which had already been made in opposition to the bill. As a matter of fact the bill was practically an agreed bill at the present moment.

Mr. Russell said he noticed that the local authorities interested in the canal were to receive £2,500 out of the Canal Company's assets. There were a great many such local authorities, and the amount that would come to each would be comparatively small. Is this to be a scramble amongst all the local authorities or are we to have a prior claim ? Asked Mr. Russell. He would not like to think that Berkshire was going to be practically in a defenceless position, and only going to engage in a scramble with another dozen authorities for a share of the £2,500.

He was told that Berkshire would be involved in an immediate expenditure of something like £1,000 in regard to bridges over the canal, and it seemed to him they had not fought the bill seriously. He believed there was "money at the back of it" and that they might have obtained better terms if they had taken up a stronger position before the Parliamentary Committee.

The Clerk said the negotiations were not yet at an end. The Wiltshire and Berkshire local authorities had consented to a division of the £2,500 being made by the County Surveyors of Wiltshire and Berkshire, assisted by the surveyors of the local authorities, and their decision would be treated as final and binding on all bodies.

The Berkshire County Council were concerned with only four bridges carrying main roads over the canal, and the total number of bridges affected by the bill was between 50 and 60, so that it was obvious that any share the Council would get would be very small.

There were matters of negotiation still pending, and it would be difficult to allude to them at the present time, but they were in agreement that they could not have got better terms out of the promoters of the bill than they were likely to get.