Back in September there were reports of a huge revolt against wheelie-bin spy bugs, with thousands of defiant households removing the electronic devices and either dumping them or posting them back to their local town hall. The protesters were ignoring threats of prosecution for criminal damage in their anger at having their rubbish secretly monitored by council chiefs.
One of the biggest shows of defiance was in Bournemouth, where councillors estimated that 25,000 bugs - one-third of the total - had been unscrewed. Astonishingly, the Council was considering replacing all the 'vandalised' bins at a cost of up to £600,000.
The bugs are about the size of a 1p piece. They contain a microchip that enables councils to record the weight of rubbish collected - and to impose fines if the Government brings in laws to punish people who don't recycle enough.
In the Wiltshire village of Winterbourne Monkton, a 'ban the bug' campaign is being led by retired policeman Martin Meeks. Mr Meeks, a former Chief Inspector with Special Branch, said " From my time in Special Branch, I know all about the permissions that have to be sought to keep tabs on someone, and here no one had told the residents what was going on. Kennet Council has covertly installed this device on my property and in my book that is an intrusion into my private life."
He sent the bug back to the council with a letter saying "Had it not been for the exposť in the newspapers I would still be unaware of the arcane means by which this device had been introduced on to my property without consultation or consent."
But Kennet Council leader Chris Humphries said: "These bins belong to the council. They don't belong to the people who hold them. They are interfering with a bin that belongs to somebody else. Residents are not authorised to remove these numeric chips. The question as to whether the chips' removal constitutes criminal damage is a detailed legal issue."
Pretty normal local council reaction these days, sad to say: when someone complains, threaten them.
More recently it is reported that the first official trials of pay-as-you-throw rubbish technology have started. Nearly 250,000 households have had microchips fitted to their rubbish bins in a test of the equipment necessary for sending families bills according to how full their bins are.
The Government has paid for the chips to be installed in three areas of Northern Ireland, now regularly used as a testing ground for Labour's plans for the rest of the country. They do this because the region is ruled directly from London and plans can be put in place by ministerial decree.
Northern Ireland minister David Cairns confirmed that £140,000 had been given to Newtownabbey, North Down and Craigavon councils to install microchips in their bins. All three councils run the fortnightly rubbish collection and recycling systems that have proved highly controversial in England, attracting complaints about rat infestations, health threats and fly-tipping.
Craigavon and North Down councils would not admit that they were in readiness for a pay-as-you-throw tax. A spokesman for Craigavon said the chips could weigh bins, but there was no plan to bring in a tax. North Down said the chips were to measure the frequency with which bins were put out.
Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw said "recycling is a vital part of our battle against climate change - the equivalent of taking three and a half million cars off our roads." How predictable. And almost certainly not true.
It all boils down to yet another nail in the coffin of public service in this country. Once upon a time we could look on our local councils as the providers of essential services, doing the stuff that we need done so we can carry on our daily lives, like maintaining the roads, lighting our streets and taking our rubbish away. It's what we paid them for.
But over the years they realised that they weren't actually very good at it. And like anyone who isn't very good at their job, they began to resent having to do it. And from this resentment grew the idea that even though we were paying for it we had no right to have these jobs done for us - we were slackers and parasites, and we needed teaching a lesson.
The solution they came up with was the same one embraced by all official agencies - reduce the service, and increase the charges. Can't provide a decent NHS? Must be the patients' fault - cut the service, lengthen the waiting-lists or find other ways to make us pay. Can't be arsed to find the cash to build a decent road system, one suitable for a crowded, busy, relatively affluent modern society? Persecute the motorist, make him think it's all his fault and he has no right to be driving around in his car, and then invent a system to make him pay through the nose for using the roads he paid for in the first place.
At the same time, there was the realisation in these organisations that the smaller they were, the fewer senior managers they needed. In order that senior managers could have big offices, big desks and even bigger salaries, they needed more people to be in charge of. That meant inventing more jobs for more people to do - but without actually increasing the services, of course. And then those people wanted bigger offices, so they needed more people to be in charge of, and so it went on. Hardly surprising, is it, that there are more administrators in the NHS than there are doctors and nurses?
Where The GOS lives the County Council have been beefing long and hard about the inadequate grant they're getting from central government, and the ruling party are making noises about enormous cuts in services, and contracting more and more services to private providers. Makes you wonder, doesn't it, how long it will be before our town halls and county halls don't actually do anything at all except house a great many civil servants with very big desks.
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