Sep 13 2012 By Hannah Bewley
IRATE family members and campaigners stormed the Council Chamber forcing members to hold a meeting in the marriage room.
Councillors at Brent Council were evacuated from the main chamber in the town hall after supporters of the Counihan family, who are campaigning against being moved to Ealing by the council, disrupted the 7pm full council meeting.
More than 60 councillors and the Mayor of Brent councillor Michael Adeyeye vacated the room and huddled in the cramped confines of the room on the ground floor which is usually reserved for civil marriage ceremonies.
Many councillors and council workers were standing at the back of the room.
At the meeting, which lasted just over an hour, lead member councillor Mo Butt was asked by councillor Reg Colwill why the security had not been tighter and how the campaigners had managed to get in.
Mr Butt said: "I will take steps to make sure all future meetings are held in appropriate rooms."
Isabel and Anthony Counihan were moved with their five children to Ealing from Kilburn after being reassessed for housing benefit in light of inheriting a small piece of land in Ireland.
They claim they have been dealt with unfairly by the council and have attended numerous council meetings but their plight was not on the agenda on Tuesday Septmeber 10.
The police arrived shortly after the hall had been evacuated to deal with the protestors.
Members of the public usually sit in the gallery above the chamber.
A Brent Council spokesman said: “The public are normally given tickets to sit in the public gallery, however, the protesters walked into the main chamber and refused to leave.
“In order to ensure the protest was ended peacefully and the democratic process allowed to continue, the meeting was adjourned for the police to negotiate an agreement for the protesters to leave after putting their concerns to the council leader in person.
"The full council meeting reconvened in the marriage room after a short delay and was successfully concluded.
"While we sympathise with the situation the Counihan family are in, we have no choice but to adhere to the regulations set by the Government which say that any claimant with savings or capital worth more than £16,000 is not entitled to housing benefit.
"There has been an appeal against the housing benefit decision. A review of the housing decision is close to completion and we have written to Mr Counihan about that."