Nuttall, Pamela M. (2019) Corruption in Municipal Government in the late Victorian Period, (1871 –1902): A study of the conduct and attitude of the Councils of Manchester and Salford to delivering government with integrity, and the extent to which allegations of malpractice made by critics were warranted. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis provides a contextualised study of the behaviour of municipal government in the municipalities of Manchester and Salford during the late Victorian period, when the work load of both Councils was increasing in both volume and complexity, and the necessary expertise to deal with this workload was not always available.

This thesis addresses one main question: why did the two Councils of Manchester and Salford prove incapable of avoiding situations where both their competence and at times their morality were brought into question?’ The evidence used to assess how the two Councils conducted their business relies heavily on the reports and commentaries detailing Council behaviour provided by the contemporary local weekly press. These were a factor in moving public opinion towards the need to improve the standard of integrity which was expected of local government. The mindset and resulting attitude of both Councils to municipal government, which in many cases was derived from commercial practices, has been explored. The result of this attitude led to a failure to take effective action to deter behaviour which had previously been tolerated, and to deal fully with councillors and officials responsible for this behaviour; damaging the reputation of the Council for integrity. The failure of the Councils to recognise the need to act to improve the standard of integrity has also been discussed; this was the reason for the delay in implementing changes such as improvement in audit procedures. The final chapters of the thesis bring together evidence which explains why the proposition in the main question was valid.

This thesis argues that the majority of allegations of Council corruption were merely cases of mismanagement by incompetence, or ignorance. These actions, which involved misfeasance, fell short of Council corruption, with the implication that the actions of the Council lacked integrity. There were however cases where the behaviour of the Council did constitute an abuse of power and by present day standards would be regarded as Council corruption. Nevertheless, the evidence of this thesis suggests that whilst criticism in these cases concentrated on castigating the Councils for their actual behaviour, allegations of Council corruption were usually absent. The Victorian Councils of Manchester and Salford in the late Victorian period were thought to have done a ‘good job.’

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