The Public Works Loan Board 1817-76 and the financing of public infrastructure

WEBSTER, Ian (2015). The Public Works Loan Board 1817-76 and the financing of public infrastructure. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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The Public Works Loan Board 1817-1876 and the financing of public infrastructure. The Public Works Loan Board was formed in 1817, mainly to lend money to finance public infrastructure. Nearly 200 years later, the PWLB is the major source of loans to finance local government infrastructure. Yet no history has been written of the PWLB, and there is very little mention of the PWLB in academic literature. This thesis therefore relies on the unused PWLB archive to explore five case studies of lending to mine owners, turnpike trusts, poor law unions, local boards of health and local school boards. The first two case studies cover the PWLB’s first ten years, and show that its lending to mine owners and turnpike trusts was too limited to have much impact. It is also clear that the PWLB was acting like a cautious commercial provider of loans at the prevailing market interest rates. Even so, it made losses because of parliamentary and Treasury actions. In the last three case studies, the PWLB’s role changed materially, as it became a provider of low interest rate loans to public bodies. In this role the PWLB became an agent of a central government that was compelling local government to invest heavily in workhouses, water supply and sewer facilities, and elementary schools. The result was that PWLB lending soared and was profitable, and public infrastructure investment rose sharply. The case studies highlight the characteristics that determined the success or failure of the PWLB. They also chart the major movement of power from local authorities to central government. The PWLB provided more than half of the finance for the building of workhouses, schools, and water and sewer facilities during three critical periods. The PWLB was therefore essential to the success of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the 1870 Elementary Education Act and the 1872 Public Health Act. By 1876, the PWLB had become an important provider of finance for public infrastructure provision.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: Helen Garner
Date Deposited: 21 May 2015 16:25
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2015 16:52

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