Ministerial changes on 15 March 1915 saw the Office of Local Government "detached from the Department of Public Works and established as an independent unit, the Officer-in-Charge being directly responsible to the Minister for Education". (1) By July 1 1915 all accounts had been transferred to the new department. (2) On 11 August 1915 the first permanent head was appointed and Public Service Board approval for departmental status gained. (3)
The Local Government Act, 1919 (Act No.41 1919) commenced on 1 January 1920 and continued the system of Local Government embodied in the Local Government Act, 1906 (Act No. 56 1906). The new Act provided for the establishment of County Councils to enable Municipalities and Shires to combine for the carrying out of large works that affected more than one district such as electricity supply and the eradication of water hyacinth. (4) The Act sought to codify local government law through a staggered commencement of its provisions as follows -
* impounding of animals on 1 July 1920 (5)
* town planning on 1 July 1920 (6)
* water, sewerage and drainage on 1 September 1920 (7)
* electricity supply on 1 September 1920 (8)
* preparation of a road map and registering of roads on 1 January 1921 (9)
The Department of Local Government was directly responsible for the administration of the provisions of the Local Government Act dealing with the constitution of cities, municipalities, shires and boundaries of areas and the apportionment of assets, rights, and liabilities between councils following constitutional changes. Councils' financial affairs were subject to departmental supervision with Inspectors of Local Government Accounts empowered to inspect the accounts, internal organisation and management of council offices. When a council was removed from office a Departmental Officer was appointed as administrator. The Department also advised other agencies on local government matters. Although not required by law to do so, it would approach councils on receiving complaints of their failure to exercise discretionary powers or of any misuse or harsh use of such powers. The Department of Local Government also monitored and adjusted building regulations, council borrowing, land resumption, and town planning measures.
Under the Housing (Amendment) Act, (No.27 1924) the Local Government Department supervised the closing of the Government Housing Office involving the transfer of mortgage accounts, sale of vacant allotments, dedication of public reserves, divestment of unused crown lands, and disposal of cottages. After the closure of the Housing Office on 8 September 1926 the Local Government Department dealt with all residual matters directly. Annual statements showing the operations under the Housing Act were complied by the Department and the Public Trustee. (10)
During the 'Great Depression' 1929- 1934 the Department of Local Government worked in close cooperation with the State Government and local councils to organise a system of municipal works for the "gainful employment of food relief recipients". Following this loan grants were used to fund relief work projects giving full-time employment at award rates. World War II saw the Department involved in the organisation of civil defence and emergency service measures. (11)
The Department of Public Works and the Department of Local Government were amalgamated on 1 February 1936 to form the Department of Works and Local Government. (12)
(1) Annual Report of the Department of Local Government for the year ended 30 June 1916 in the Parliamentary Papers 1916 Vol. 3 page 248.
(2) Ibid. page 249.
(3) Ibid. page 248.
(4) Annual Report of the Department of Local Government for the year ended 30 June 1920 in the Parliamentary Papers Second Session 1920 Vol. 3 page 771.
(5) Local Government Act (No. 41 1919) Part XVIII.
(7) Ibid. Part XII.
(8) Ibid. Part XIV.
(9) Ibid. Part XIV.
(10) Annual Report of the Department of Local Government for the year ended 30 June 1926 in the Parliamentary Papers Second Session 1926 Vol. 2 pp. 828-829.
(11) Annual Report of the Department of Local Government for the year ended 30 June 1987 page 10.
(12) Annual Report of the Department of Local Government for the year ended 30 June 1936 in the Parliamentary Papers 1937-38 Vol. 3 pp. 1145.
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