June 5, 1987. INDEX

Ratepayers can challenge rise of 62 per cent

RATEPAYERS in Labour controlled Waltham Forest were given permission in the High Court yesterday to challenge what they claim is an "illegal and unreasonable" 62 per cent rate rise by their north London council.

Mr Justice Macpherson said there was a prima facie case to be answered by the council. The case should be heard as soon as possible.

Mr James Wadsworth, QC, for Waltham Forest Ratepayers' Action Group, told the judge that even Labour councillors thought the rise unreasonable. One, Coun. Stephen Jacobs, had only voted for it because he feared being "slung out of the party".

Leader's 'admission'

The group's application for judicial review was the latest move by the ratepayers who have held mass rallies outside Waltham Forest Town Hall and written thousands of letters of protest to the Audit Commission, the local government financial watchdog.

Mr Wadsworth told the judge: "There is illegality in the rate, or procedural impropriety, because of a failure to make proper consultation under the 1984 Rates Act."

He said the council had acted irrationally or unreasonably, and this had been admitted by Coun. Neil Gerrard, leader of the council.

Another Labour member, Coun. Richard Slack, chairman of the Waltham Forest Planning Implementation Committee, had also described the rise as unreasonable and said that it could seriously damage services in the borough.

Coun. Slack had said the rise was on the instructions of a Labour party committee, "rather than by the proper exercise of discretion within the council chamber," said Mr Wadsworth.

Councillor Jacobs had claimed that the increase was "to get back at the Government". It was more than twice the level he thought was right.

All 31 Labour councillors, as well as the council itself, are being taken to court by the ratepayers.

Mr Paul Crozier, of Coolgardie Avenue, Highams Park, group spokesman, said after the hearing: "Our association crosses all political and racial barriers and we represent all the people in the borough.

The council was not represented in court yesterday.

NOTE: Also in:- Times, London Daily News, Daily Mail, The Sun, Standard, Guardian, Daily Expres, Independent, and Manchester Evening News.
Daily Telegraph, June 5, 1987
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