Scope and Content

Oxfordshire County Council was established under the Local Government Act 1888 (51 & 52 Vict. C. 41) whereby the administrative responsibilities of the old courts of Quarter Sessions with their commissioned justices were transferred to new institutions elected on a popular franchise. The Act established a council in each county consisting of chairman, aldermen and councillors. The county was divided into 45 electoral divisions, each returning 1 councillor on a franchise determined by the Municipal Corporations Act 1882 (45 & 46 Vict. C. 50) for borough voters and the County Elections Act 1888 (51 & 52 Vict. C.10) for the remainder of the county. Under the terms of the Act Oxford City was given autonomous status as a county borough with full responsibility for its own administration.

The Council inherited most of its predecessor's administrative responsibilities including rates, buildings, some licensing powers, asylums for the poor, reformatory and industrial schools, bridges, coroners, parliamentary elections, diseases of animals, main roads. Responsibility for the police was shared with Quarter Sessions through a standing joint committee. County councils were also permitted to appoint medical officers of health. The Act permitted councils to delegate responsibilities to committees and this was the system (already adopted by Quarter Sessions and other local authorities such as Poor Law Unions) used by the Council to carry out its statutory duties. The Act specifically required the appointment of a finance committee to prepare estimates and authorise payments from the county fund.

The Clerk of the Peace was to be appointed Clerk of the County Council by the Standing Joint Committee with responsibility for all county records subject to the jurisdiction of the custos rotulorum and the Court of Quarter Sessions and County Council acting jointly through the Standing Joint Committee. Responsibilities concerning the registration and deposit of certain records under various enactments were henceforth to be undertaken in his capacity as Clerk of the County Council.

In accordance with the Act, the first county councillors were elected in January 1889 and held three provisional meetings in January, February and March to elect the aldermen, chairman and vice-chairman, to adopt standing orders and regulations, and to appoint members to committees. The first official meeting was held on 1st April 1889.

In addition to the Standing Joint and Finance Committees 5 other committees were appointed: County Rate, Executive, General Purposes, Roads and Bridges and the Committee of Visitors to the Littlemore Asylum. The Act required the existing (QS) Executive and Visitors' Committees to remain in being until their successors were chosen. The element of continuity between QS and CC is demonstrated in the number of justices who served on each committee: overall, 20 justices were elected out of a total of 45 councillors and 9 were appointed aldermen (out of 15). The Act also specified that all existing administrative officers of QS including the treasurer, county solicitor, county surveyor, inspectors of weights and measures and chief constables - should continue to serve under the council.

County councils played a crucial role in the huge expansion of state activity created by governments during the early- to mid-twentieth century. New powers and duties were added to existing responsibilities by legislation. Before 1914 these included the Local Government Act (1894), the Small Holdings and Allotment Acts, the Education Act (1902) and the Mental Deficiency Acts. During and after World War 1 the duties of the Council were significantly extended into the spheres of public health, agriculture, public assistance, town planning and civil defence (particularly in preparations for aerial attack and invasion). After World War 2 the Council's responsibilities were expanded by such significant pieces of legislation as the Education Act (1944), the National Health Service Act (1946), the Town and Country Planning Act and Fire Services Acts of 1947, and the Childrens' and National Assistance Acts of 1948. Usually new functions were delegated to committees (sometimes required by law i.e. 'statutory committees') specially appointed for the purpose. Information on the Council's functions and associated legislation can be found under the relevant committee headings.

The County Council was abolished under the Local Government Act 1972 which replaced the existing structure of county and county borough councils and borough, urban and rural district councils with a uniform two-tier system consisting of 44 new counties and administrative districts. Elections to the new authorities were held in April 1973 after which they met as shadow authorities until they assumed control on the 'appointed day', 1st April 1974.

This archive consists of agendas, minutes, reports and yearbooks relating to meetings of the Council and its committees and sub-committees. Standing committees were generally required to submit a report for each quarterly meeting of the Council. These reports were combined with agenda for the next council meeting (and, later, a copy of the minutes of the previous meeting) to create a series known as the Official File of Committee Reports (colloquially known as the Grey Books).

The records were created and maintained by the Clerk's Office as the chief administrative agency of the Council. They were catalogued and referenced by the Modern Records Section and transferred to Oxfordshire Archives in July 1999 as accession number 4543. Records from accession numbers 4570 (CC1/16/A2) & 4584 (CC1/20/A4-A13) have also been included. As these records have a unique significance and status as records at the highest policy-making level of the organisation and which the Council has a statutory duty to make available to the public they have been catalogued as a distinct archive unit rather than as records of the Clerk's Office to which they technically belong. Related records such as Members' attendance registers and declarations of acceptance of office can be found amongst the records of the Clerk's Office.

Please see the Records of the Littlemore Asylum (H1/CV1/A1-2) for minute books of the Committee of Visitors of the Littlemore Lunatic Asylum.

Minutes are usually bound and indexed and contain reports of sub-committees and chief officers.

Catalogued by Chris Gilliam, May 2003

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