Two weeks after the Peace Day riots, the Luton Reporter newspaper (August 5th) gave its view of what it headlined “Luton's burden of debt and disgrace”. Its editorial read:
In spite of the visible scars and stains left by the disastrous happenings of a fortnight back, the town had become more or less restored to a normal condition of affairs in time for what has always been known locally as the holiday month. Unhappily there remains the burden of debt and disgrace.
The financial burden involved will take a lifetime to efface and the unenviable notoriety that has thus been given to the town will also take some living down.
Luton has become a bye-word all over the country. It stands condemned of what the Town Clerk has not hesitated to describe as an outbreak of Bolshevism, anarchy, drunkenness and criminality, and the innocent as well as the guilty must suffer. Many there are who have had insults heaped upon them.
Some who have booked rooms at the seaside for their holiday have had to forward deposits as a guarantee for good behaviour, others have had deposits for rooms returned with the information that neither their money nor their presence was desired. Just imagine reputable citizens being told that “Luton hooligans are not wanted!”
Quite as serious is the financial aspect and we cannot imagine anything more futile than the attempts made by some members of the Town Council to try and minimise the loss the town has suffered.
Alderman Wilkinson and others complained of the publication broadcast of an estimated damage of £250,000, but they were a long way from convincing any thinking person that this figure is very wide of the mark. Every speaker was careful to base their case upon the value of the Town Hall premises before destruction. But that surely is a false standpoint from which to view the matter. The only sound calculation of the damage done is the cost to the ratepayers.
Not many months back we were told the lowest figure for a new Town Hall was £150,000 and on top of that has to be brought into account the cost of replacing the contents, the temporary premises, compensation for private properties damaged and looted, provision of extra police assistance, and other expenses incidental to the riot.
This is the bill to be reckoned with and the ratepayers will be lucky if they get off with less than an extra sixpenny rate this half-year or next, and another sixpence in the £ for 50 or 60 years for a new Town Hall.