McPherson, E., ‘The impact of the Second World War on local authorities in South Lancashire 1935-45’
Ph.D thesis, 1995. Manchester University
Abstract: This thesis is an attempt to ascertain the war’s effects on local government and its work using evidence contained in thousands of documents from the archives of some fifty local authorities in south Lancashire during the period 1935-46. It details the impact on the major traditional functions such as education, transport and fire services, in addition to the new duties which central government was happy to be able to pass on to local authorities for implementation. These included ARP, shelters, nurseries, salvage, emergency feeding, fire prevention and the responsibility for evacuees and refugees. Consideration is also given to broader issues such as finance, staffing and the work of the councils – including (for the first time) the effect of the banning of elections for the duration of the war, and the changes which took place in the balance of power both within the local authority and between central and local government. The local authority had that unique combination of features which no other organisation could boast. It had the local structures in place, the contacts, the local knowledge and the roots within the communities. It was well-experienced and well-equipped with the organisational ability to cope with most problems, and it was an apposite choice in the early 1930s to be the agency charged with providing ARP. Consequently, whenever the Government had a messy, unpopular, cumbersome and essentially local service to administer and organise, it deposited the problem immediately and firmly into the convenient lap of the local authority. This study shows that in spite of the enormous pressures which local authorities were called upon to bear; the unexpected and unfamiliar duties they were required to carry out and the depressing shortages in staff and resources with which they had to cope, they performed magnificently during the war.