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Twentieth Century


The foundations for democratic local government in the Dartford area were laid at the end of the nineteenth century with the establishment of an elected rural district council and an urban district council. Local householders were given the opportunity to vote for councillors of their choice. The introduction of the Local Government Act in 1894 brought about radical changes. Parish vestries had their civil functions and powers removed and rural and urban district councils were created in their place. Elections for the area's member of parliament also continued, although women did not win the right to vote until 1918.

The Rural District Council's first meeting was held in December 1894. Shortly afterwards, fifteen council members were elected to the Urban District Council. Their first meeting at the Dartford Sessions House, Lowfield Street, was on 3 January 1895. Six committees were quickly established to assist with the administration and governance of the town, Finance, Building and Sanitary, General Purposes, Joint Infectious Hospitals, Technical Education, and Executive. In June 1903, the council met in a room over Martin's Bank.

In the early days, local government in Dartford was purely along party political lines. This emphasis on party politics continued right to the end of the twentieth century, although a number of independent candidates were successfully elected to the Council. As the twentieth century progressed local government became more and more complex. Local authorities were given wider powers by central government. Huge budgets were spent locally and a veritable army of professional local government officers employed to carry out the executive decisions of the democratically elected council members.


Next topic: The early days of democracy


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