Trustees change their mind on renting village hall to the British National Party

Decision made after Hastings Borough Council threatened to withdraw the charitable subsidy on the hall's rates

Members of the public protested against the BNP meeting
Members of the public protested against the BNP meeting

A village hall in East Sussex cancelled a meeting of the British National Party which was due to take place on Sunday after a local authority threatened to withdraw a charitable subsidy.

Baldslow War Memorial Hall in Hastings, a registered charity, planned to rent out the hall to the far-right organisation but changed its mind following the intervention from Hastings Borough Council. Local people held an anti-BMP demonstration outside the hall.

The meeting – at which the BNP’s leader, Nick Griffin, spoke – went ahead at an alternative location in the town. A BNP spokesperson refused to say where.

The leader of the Labour-run council, Jeremy Birch, told a meeting of the local authority last Wednesday that the rate subsidy awarded to the venue as a charity would be withdrawn if the meeting went ahead at the hall, because the BNP’s objectives conflicted with the council’s policy of "community cohesion". The move was backed by Conservative councillors.

The Charity Commission guidance, Speaking out: Guidance on Campaigning and Political Activity by Charities, states that organisations should remain "politically neutral" and that village halls should not "generally discriminate between organisations on the basis of the views they hold".

None of the trustees at Baldslow War Memorial Hall was available for comment.

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