INDEX July 30, 1987
Ratepayers lose action to halt 62pc rise

RATEPAYERS in Waltham Forest, east London, lost their High Court battle yesterday agsinst a 62 per cent rates increase, which they claimed was "irrational, unreasonable and illegal."

They are considering an appeal.

Two judges rejected the complaint of the 20,000-strong Waltham Forest Ratepayers' Action Group, which had collected more than £85,000 to fund their campaign against the action of the Labour dominated council.

The judgment is bad news for other ratepayers' groups in London, which also plan to challenge the legality of high rates rises imposed by their local authorities.

The West London Ratepayers' Action Group plans to seek court order quashing a 49.6 per cent increase imposed on March 11 by the Labour-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council.

Appeal pending

In Ealing, a challenge has been launched against a 65 per cent increase. So far, leave has been refused by the High Court, but an appeal is pending.

Lord Justice Glidewell, sitting with Mr Justice Schiemann, said they acknowledged the strong arguments put forward by the Waltham Forest ratepayers against the "massive" rises, but the court could not say that the decision to impose it on March 10 was irrational.

The judges also rejected the argument that the council had failed to comply with its legal duty to consult properly with its commercial and industrial ratepayers.

Lord Justice Glidewell said the ratepayers had condemned the consultation that did take place as a "charade." It could not be regarded as such simply because the ratepayers had failed to get what they wanted--a rates reduction.

The ratepayers' action group was ordered to pay the legal costs of the case, estimated by council officials to be £100,000.

Councillor Neil Gerrard, leader of. the council, welcomed the judge's ruling, but said: "I feel sorry for some of the people who have been persuaded to put their money into an action which, from the beginning, was almost certain to be a loser."

Councillor Bill Dennis, deputy leader, called for an end to a hate campaign. He claimed: "Councillors have received phone calls in the night saying their wives and daughters will be raped.

"They have been sent presents of wreaths and coffins. It has been pretty vicious."

Mr Paul Crozier, ratepayers group spokesman, said: "Obviously we now have a lot of serious thinking to do and will be taking legal advice about a possible appeal. Our general feeling is still that the council has acted 'unreasonably and irresponsibly."

He said the action group had a moral responsibility to take the council to court.and he criticised the way the local authority had fought the action "using ratepayers' money".

'Chaotic' effect

During a five-day court hearing earlier this month, the ratepayers argued that the council-- later rate-capped by the Government-- acted irrationally by failing to take account of the "chaotic" effect of a 62 per cent rise.

They also argued that the councillors wrongly put their commitment to local Labour party election manifesto promises--to improve services and avoid redundancies -- before the fiduciary duty they owed to their ratepayers to act responsibly.

Daily Telegraph July 30, 1987.
Click to return to index