POLICE and senior district council figures were prepared for protests after it emerged that a senior member of the British National Party was among the 150-plus guests at Epping Forest District Council’s civic awards dinner.

Police were alerted ahead of Friday’s gathering.

This was biggest event of the civic calendar at the Scout Association headquarters at Gilwell Park.

Concerns that anti-BNP protesters could demonstrate during the evening after Eddy Butler and his wife were invited as the guests of Loughton BNP husband and wife councillors Pat and Tom Richardson.

The event passed without any incident.

Mr Butler, who lives in Loughton, is the BNP’s national elections officer – the mastermind behind the party's election campaigns across the country.

His wife won first prize in the grand draw made at the end of the evening which raised £1,600 for council chairman Richard Morgan’s two chosen charities.

Speaking at the end of the night, Mr Butler told the Guardian: “It’s been an enjoyable evening. I live in the area and help them (the Richardsons) out in the area.” He added he had been involved with a recent leafleting campaign in Debden following a machete attack on a father-of-four in which the victim’s fingers were almost severed.

When asked for his views about anyone opposed to his attendance, he said: “They are entitled to their opinion I don't really care what they think.” A council spokesman told the Guardian on Monday: “The council was prepared for the possibility of a demonstration and had consulted the police. Although prepared for this possibility the rumours proved groundless.” Council chairman Richard Morgan declined to comment on the BNP issue but said it had not overshadowed the evening which highlighted the efforts of many people involved in community life across the district.

He told the Guardian: “We have a fantastic district with so many talented people. The community all works together. They do so much for each other throughout the district.

“We have so many people who do so much for the community and you never hear anything about them.

“Tonight we’ve met some of them but there are so many more out there that we never hear about.” l For a full report on the civic awards, see our special on pages 6, 7 and 8.