DS&S demands more representation

[Luton News: Thursday, May 8th, 1919]

From the Discharged Sailors and Soldiers Association there was a letter informing Luton Town Council that a resolution had been passed calling for a greater representation of discharged and demobilised men on the Pensions Committee. The Tuesday, May 6th, meeting of the Council was told that the resolution, passed unanimously at a representative meeting of the Association, had been forwarded to the Ministry of Pensions, and was in the following terms:

“That this organisation, exceeding 1,000 discharged ex-servicemen demands greater representation on the Luton War Pensions Committee, and, having regard to the numbers of discharged and demobilised men in the town, asks that the representation be increased to six members.”

The existing committee is limited to 26 members, and Alderman Staddon suggested that this application might stand over till the next election of the committee, which must take place shortly.

The Town Clerk (Mr William Smith) pointed out that unless the scheme was altered they would then only be able to select 26 members as at present, and if the two Association of ex-servicemen were each given this additional representation it would mean that the committee would be increased to 34, or ten more members than the Council.

Alderman Staddon considered the present committee large and representative enough. It was carrying out the recommendations to the letter, and all the members were prepared to do their best for the discharged men, irrespective of the Association which they belonged. He moved that the Council reply they did not see their way to agree to the request, and this was seconded by Alderman Arnold.

Councillor Primett said the DS&S had only one representative, Mr Rudd, a former representative who did attend all the meetings, left the town, and the present representative unfortunately could not attend regularly. If they felt that they were only partially represented, and perhaps badly at that, it was for them to put their house in order.

There was a representative from each of the two Associations [DS&S and Comrades of the Great War], and while members of the committee would not object to some more being appointed, everybody there worked for the good of these men and were doing their very best. The DS&S ought to choose a representative who could attend.

Councillor Chapman said he understood the representative concerned was just setting up in business and probably could not give the necessary time. He would like to see the DS&S have two representatives so that they might be sure of having one present. If the one could not attend they were unrepresented.

Councillor Briggs, while not supporting the proposal to have six representatives from one Association, thought that a request for some increased representation was only reasonable. There were three members of the Committee nominated by the Soldiers and Sailors Families Association, and one by the Soldiers and Sailors Help Society. Others were nominated by the Board of Guardians or even the members of the Trades and Labour Council. He would be prepared to support a reconstitution of the Committee to permit of this increased representation.

The Town Clerk said the scheme would have to be amended by increasing the number of members and showing how the additional members were to be appointed. As to the Associations mention by Councillor Briggs when the scheme was framed in February 1917, it was definitely laid down by the body that then had the control of pensioners that those societies were to be represented and form an integral part of the Committee. They were the bodies that had done all the work up to that point.

Alderman Williams did not agree with one Association having six representatives, but was prepared to go to the length of give each of the Associations three representatives instead of one.

Alderman Staddon: “I have not the slightest objection to increasing the Committee as much as you like, but I contend 26 members are doing the work well and carrying out the instructions of the Ministry of Pensions to the letter. The question would never have been raised if this Association had the two representatives instead of the Comrades of the Great War getting one. Immediately you increase it either one or other of these Associations will be competing for the six seats.”

There was an amendment by Alderman Williams that the membership of the Committee should be increased to 30, that six of the members should be disabled men who had been discharged from military or naval service, and that three should be nominated by the Comrades of the Great War and three by the Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers Association.

This was seconded by Councillor Chapman, who said Councillor Briggs misunderstood the part played by the two older societies he had mentioned, the members of which worked throughout the whole week.

Councillor Briggs: “I made no objection to those societies being represented. I said these other Associations were not adequately represented, and I shall support the amendment.”

It was agreed that the original proposal should be withdrawn and the amendment accepted. Councillor Primett said it should be understood, however, that the bulk of the work was done by the ladies of the two older societies and by other ladies who had joined the Committee.