Ratepayers call a protest meeting

Ratepayers' meeting advert

[Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph: August 30th, 1919]

A public meeting is being called for the Plait Hall, and the promoters inform us that they are determined to prove that the Town Council have lost the confidence of the burgesses, and are morally bound to come before the electors as a whole.

Said one of the organisers this morning: “We are doing this purely as a matter of public right and honesty. The Town Council appear to be content to take advantage of the wartime measure which permits them to retain office, whether the public agree or not, and we feel that is not good for the town.

“We want them to come before the ratepayers honestly and fairly. If they do retain the confidence of the electors they will, of course, go back, and no-one will have anything to say against them if they are elected. It is absolutely necessary, however, that some test should be made of their position, and we are hoping for a great meeting in order that the wishes of the burgesses may be made known.

“It is not a political meeting, but a meeting to obtain justice for the community, and equally for the members of the Town Council. We differ entirely from the statements made by a spokesman for the Council recently, and if they are to be whitewashed, well, let the business be done in the polling booth.”


In the same edition of the Saturday Telegraph, letter writer “H.H.” commented: “It is as well that those [Council] members who think they are immune from condemnation should know from outside that the ratepayers do not share in nor have any inclination to support any scheme adopted that would ensure affairs reverting to the pre-disturbance period.

“We want men who know their own minds and who will work for the good of the Borough generally, not for their own personal ambitions. We also want a Mayor with the capability for ruling, one who will worthily represent the loyal and peace-loving people of his constituency, who will not fly away at the first sign of unpopularity and leave the safety of his town in the hands of those he should be himself controlling.

“Finally, I sincerely trust active measures will be taken to ensure the whole Council placing themselves in the hands of the electorate. We have scores of men and women of undoubted qualifications who would readily come forward at the burgesses' bidding and offer their services to assist in the advancement and welfare of this progressive borough. The freer they are from political taint the better for the borough.”


Further comment came in a letter from “Onlooker” in the Luton Reporter (Tuesday, September 2nd). He wrote:

“Surely the position of the Council is very simple. At the present time public feeling is such that any member resigning and putting up for re-election would hardly stand a dog's chance. By November in this year things will have considerably quietened down, for the public memory is notoriously short, and by sitting tight until then the retiring councillors will have a much better chance.

“By November 1920 our Peace Celebrations will be fading into oblivion, Luton will be ceasing to be a music hall joke or a warning for the moralist (the rates will be higher), and the retiring councillors able to congratulate themselves that their chances are much better then thei colleagues of the preceding year.

“By November 1921 the affair will be forgotten (the rates, however, will be still higher!) and the chances of those retiring will be quite normal.

“It is clear that in future we shall require on the Council a much stronger type of man who will keep a very tight hold on affairs, for our finances will not stand the strain of any more losses of the description the town has sustained lately.”


And in the same edition, “Ratepayer” wrote: “It is the duty of every ratepayer to help form a Ratepayers' Association, non-political and non-sectarian. The Town Council will in future have to spend a vast sum of money, and it should be the policy of the ratepayers to see this money is spent economically.

“We want no spendthrifts or Socialists on our Town Council to kill the coming industries and the prosperity of this town. We have a big blot to wipe out, and it can only be done by level-headed and intelligent ratepayers.”