Angry scenes at Counil Tax protest

By Dave GooderhamANGRY scenes greeted a group of pensioners as they demonstrated against a huge hike in Council Tax payments.Action group, The Protest Against Council Tax in Suffolk, took to the streets of Bury St Edmunds yesterday, calling for the level of Council Tax to be frozen by Suffolk County Council in 2004-05.

By Dave Gooderham

ANGRY scenes greeted a group of pensioners as they demonstrated against a huge hike in Council Tax payments.

Action group, The Protest Against Council Tax in Suffolk, took to the streets of Bury St Edmunds yesterday, calling for the level of Council Tax to be frozen by Suffolk County Council in 2004-05.

But their demonstration on the town's Cornhill, where the market is held, almost came to an abrupt end after the intervention of the market inspectors, who are employed by the St Edmundsbury Borough Council.


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Group member, Peter Van Geersdaele, said: “The inspectors said as we were not paying for a stall, we were creating a problem. They threatened to call the police.”

Its chairman, Reg Hartles, added: “Market trader officials were trying to move us, but we had permission from the police.”

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One police officer went to the demonstration and spoke to committee members near their stall outside The Body Shop, where they had been handing out leaflets and waving placards.

The stand came after Suffolk County Council raised its Council Tax this year by 18.5% - which many residents said they were unable to pay.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said: “An officer did attend with a view to facilitating a peaceful protest and expression of opinion. The police's aim is to prevent a breach of peace and minimise any disruption.”

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said: “The stall was asked to move away from the market because it was breaching the regulations of the market as they did not have permission to be in this particular area. As they were blocking pedestrian access, we asked them to move on.”

The incident did not stop the action group enjoying a successful protest with more than 600 people signing petitions and pledging to write to their representatives at local and central government.

The demonstration in Bury St Edmunds followed similar demonstrations in Stowmarket, Woodbridge and Ipswich in recent months where more than 2,000 signatures have been collected.

Mr Hartles said: “We are covering various district council areas in protest against the Council Tax. Our aim is obviously to get Council Tax lower and we do think there should be no increase next year.

“Our argument is based on the fact that in the last four years our Council Tax has gone up 46.4%.

“If it didn't go up at all next year, there would still be an average increase of about 9% over five years - that is three times over the rate of inflation.

“We are optimistic and we must keep the pressure up and we have had fantastic support from the public.”

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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