What is it about litter and waste disposal that brings out the worst in petty officialdom? Or is it that garbage attracts vermin? Whatever the cause, some of the little gauleiters and jobsworths have been having a field day lately ….
In Hinckley, Leicestershire, Andy Tierney dropped two pieces of junk mail in a litter-bin on his way to work. Council officers tracked him down from the address on the envelopes and issued him with a £50 fixed penalty fine for putting domestic refuse into a street litter bin.
I wonder how Andy was supposed to know that there are different kinds of rubbish? Was there a set of instructions on the bin, telling him what he could put in it and what he couldn't? Just how do you distinguish between domestic litter and street litter, anyway? Surely almost all litter starts out in, or passes through, someone's home?
Meanwhile at Torridge in Devon a good samaritan who tried to clear rubbish from a beauty spot was given a £136 bill to dispose of it. Carl Klinkenborg was sick of seeing piles of old tyres and other rubbish littering the countryside near his home so he loaded them on to his van and took them to a local dump. But he was told he needed to pay £136 for a waste carrier's licence and then a disposal fee - or keep the rubbish himself.
In North Wales a pensioner took to clearing rubbish to help him cope with the loss of his wife. Over a two year period Keith Jones collected dozens of tyres and 1,000 bags of rubbish from woods at Tinkersale, leaving them at the edge of the wood for collection by the local council who seemed pleased with what he was doing - they even gave him the plastic bags. Council litter-pickers say that they back him 100% and are amazed at the amount of litter he has collected.
But when a neighbour called the police, Keith was taken to the local police station and fined £50 for fly-tipping.
In Welford Street, Salford, 18-year-old apprentice plumber David Brooks was told by his boss to tip a bucket of soapy water down a drain. But local litter-wardens spotted him and fined him £50. His boss has pledged himself to fight the decision by taking Salford City Council to court if necessary.
The council have admitted that there is no photographic or other evidence of the alleged crime apart from the word of the litter-wardens, but do not say what they think drains are for if not to take water away.
This is the same council that recently had to cancel a £50 fine when litter-wardens said they had seen a woman throw a cigarette-end from her car, but could neither describe the car nor say exactly where the alleged offence took place.
Obviously litter is a real problem and there's every reason to take steps to solve it. Few people would object to the principle of fines for litter-bugs. But if a system is to work effectively and become respected by the public, it has to be administered fairly, thoroughly and sensibly. Instead, councils are sending out half-trained power-mad jobsworths with carte-blanche to scatter fixed-penalty notices out to anyone they don't like the look of.
The GOS offers this advice to his readers. Firstly never, ever, pick up a piece of litter you didn't drop yourself. That's the council's job, and although they have little intention of doing it themselves, they won't be pleased if you show them up by doing it for them. You also run the risk of being accused of stealing the litter because it doesn't belong to you.
Secondly, if you have an enemy you'd like to annoy, all you have to do is write his name and address on a couple of dozen envelopes and dump them in a street litter-bin. Before long Obersturmbahnführer von Litterwarden will be knocking on his door. But be careful - soon councils will start installing CCTV cameras in litter-bins to make sure we all behave ourselves. Because that's their job, really, isn't it? You and I might think their job is to make our environment a more pleasant place for us and to provide us with the services we need (and pay for), but they know that really it's to make us all toe their line. Whatever that is.
P.S. How's this for an idea? Put into a street litter-bin a load of envelopes addressed to the local speed-camera partnership. If we can get the bastards fighting among themselves, perhaps they'll leave the rest of us alone.
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