FLASHBACK TO 1990: Days of the Poll Tax and acide house parties

Burnley Express old copy
Burnley Express old copy

IT always amazes me how just one front page from a newspaper can give a snapshot on the big issues of that point in history.

The Burnley Express of Tuesday, February 20th, 1990, does just that. Three Burnley articles were a microcosm of the stories on the lips of millions around the country.

For 1990 was the year of the detested Poll Tax, a major factor in the fall of the Conservative Government.

And in youth culture the no less controversial acid house scene of illegal raves was at its peak.

Finally, February 11th, 1990, was a momentous time around the globe for the day that Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years. The people of Burnley marked the occasion by hoisting the flag of the African National Congress in the Peace Garden, Croft Street.

By 1990 the acid house scene of clubs and raves pulsating with house music was well underway. Eleven squatters, including a six-week-old baby, were ordered to leave a Cliviger farm, where such a party was allegedly being planned.

Judge Brian Duckworth at Burnley Crown Court ordered the squatters to leave Pot Oven Farm after a poster advertising a party was seen on a nearby tree.

The Community Charge, commonly known as the Poll Tax, introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Government, was so hated it was the cause of violent riots in central London the month following our publication.

Our front page reports how the charge was expected to be around £300 per head for people in Burnley. The local Labour Party, meanwhile, had predicted that Burnley’s Poll Tax would actually be £37, an 83% rise on the current rate demands. The Poll Tax was eventually abolished and replaced by Council Tax in 1993.

Our front page also featured a hard-hitting story about Government plans to improve baby mortality rates at the Edith Watson Unit at Burnley General Hospital.

Health Minister Baroness Hooper blamed high levels of staff maternity leave and sickness absences for the high level of perinatal deaths. Burnley MP Peter Pike, meanwhile, blamed the situation on a lack of Government funding.

Generous pupils at St Mary’s RC Primary School were determined to do their bit though. They raised £37 towards the Special Care Baby Unit at the hospital.