BNP row: Village hall warned over Nick Griffin speech

Nick Griffin
Image caption Nick Griffin is due to speak at the hall in St Leonards on Sunday

A Sussex council has threatened to cancel a village hall's rate subsidy if it hosts a speech by British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin.

Mr Griffin is due to speak at a meeting at Baldslow Memorial Hall in St Leonards on Sunday.

Hastings Borough Council said it was "contrary to the interests of the community" and councillors voted to withdraw the hall's rate relief.

The BNP has accused the authority of blocking free speech.

Leader of the labour run council, Jeremy Birch, said: "I can't agree that Hastings people should be subsidising a charity that's prepared to provide a platform to someone who is so completely opposed to the community harmony philosophy of this local authority."

'Politically motivated'

The authority has written to the people who run the hall in St Leonards telling them they will have to pay back £376 they received as a charity in rate relief if Mr Griffin's speech goes ahead.

It has also written to the charity commission to check whether their guidelines allow the hall to host the meeting.

The people who run Baldslow Memorial Hall have declined to comment on the issue.

Carlos Cortiglia, of the BNP, said the council's actions were an attack on democracy.

He added: "It's a natural right that we all have, whatever our ideas we all have to be heard and for other people to hear what we think.

"If they agree they will support us if they don't agree they will not support us."

Free speech campaigner Padraig Reidy also criticised Hastings Borough Council.

He said: "This move is very clearly politically motivated and while the BNP is an organisation that has very few supporters in this country they do still have the right to free expression and the council should not be interfering with that right."

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