Percy Reboul and John Heathfield revisit previous leaders of the borough and find what they achieved

Seventy-five years ago, Finchley changed from being an urban district council into a borough council. It was a much celebrated event because the area could now control its own affairs and raise money to spend on local needs.

The new organisation lasted until 1965, when it became part of the London Borough of Barnet.

We have always needed some form of local government. In earlier days, the person responsible was the Lord Lieutenant of the county, who reported to the sovereign who, among other things, could grant charters giving certain rights to the locality.

Barnet, for example, was given the right by King John to hold a weekly market in 1199 with, not surprisingly, the lord of the manor taking his cut of the profits.

By mid-Victorian times, elected local boards took over responsibility for such things as sewerage, police and street lighting, and had power to raise the money needed from property owners and renters. As today, they were a popular target for those reluctant to spend their money.

By the Thirties, with a rapidly growing population and the need for more and better services to support them, Finchley wanted to control more of its affairs and its citizens applied to become a Municipal Borough. This it achieved in 1933 after a rigorous inspection of its boundaries and administration by the Privy Council.

It was in some ways a golden age for improvements.

A new fire station was built and libraries, public lavatories, sports facilities and other open spaces were organised.

Not least of the achievements was the programme of slum clearance and building of council houses. In 1933, nearly £400,000 was needed to meet expenditure.

The occasion of becoming a borough was marked with lavish celebrations with minor royalty (more important then than today) coming along to do the honours.