April 10, 1987 INDEX
5,000 besiege town hall in protest at rates rise

by ANDREW PIERCE

THOUSANDS of banner-waving protesters besieged a London town hall last night in a demonstration against a 62 per cent rate rise.

Tempers flared and punches were thrown at Waltham Forest Labour councillors who were forced to run the gauntlet of a 5,000-strong crowd.

Traffic ground to a halt for miles around and dozens of police officers were drafted in to control the crowd, which was chanting anti-Labour Party slogans.

A meeting was held at the town hall to discuss Tory and Alliance moves to overturn the rate increase.

Tory Party Chairman Norman Tebbit whose Chingford constituency lies in Waltham Forest supported the protest.

Cheered

Dozens of ratepayers barracked the meeting from the public gallery and clapped and cheered the Tory group.

Tory leader, Councillor Mike Lewis, said: "The people outside are ordinary law-abiding non-political people who are protesting at a rate increase that will dramatically affect the standard of living of everybody in the borough. This increase has been rejected by the citizens of the borough so it should be rejected by the Labour Party."

But an unrepentant Labour leader, Councillor Neil Gerrard, who has received numerous death threats, rejected the Tory and Alliance Parties' calls. Shouting above the din from the public gallery he told the meeting in the council chamber: "The reason we think this increase is necessary is to pay for the services which are badly needed in this borough. We have houses which are decaying and people who are homeless."

Jobs

The leader of the ratepayers' protest. Miss Patricia Neary, said: "The Labour Party is flying in the face of public opinion and will kill thousands of jobs and make hundreds of people homeless by this extraordinary rate rise."

When the Labour group took overall control of the council last May it immediately caused a storm of protest by axing 500 Community Programme jobs.

Noisy

The noisy protest outside the town hall was kept up for several hours by thousand of ratepayers but Labour councillors refused to address the demonstration.

There was also trouble in another London borough last night when police were called to break up a noisy protest in Bromley Council.

Members of a militant residents association tried to prevent a major town centre redevelopment plan being approved.

At least six members of the Heart of Bromley Residents Association were led out of the chamber after refusing to stop the protest.

A packed public gallery heard residents leader Jon Clay demanding the meeting should be stopped and councillors arrested because it was unlawful. He said the council had disregarded 600 objections and had never held a public meeting.

London Daily News, April 10, 1987
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