When I first moved to Bath, I remember hearing a story involving a mysterious, tarmacadam road leading to nowhere in particular - right in the middle of a beauty-spot - built by the council and funded by local rate-payers. After this road had been built to the highest standard, the land which it lead to was bought up - with planning permission for a house - by one of the said councilors, who duly built the house (allegedly).
Well, we don't get this kind of blatant abuse happening these days as far as I am aware, because the latest mission-statement tells us (the customers) that the Bristol-based 'Bath and North East Somerset Council' is working hard to make Bath 'a better place to live, work and relax'. My arse.
This spirit of Glasnost has had little effect on the way we are dealt with by local officials who 'deal' with our complaints regarding their inept and poorly thought-out policies, however. Despite the tone of cheery and dedicated devotion to service which is found in the glossy quarterly booklet which is shoved through our letterboxes, you will still find yourself dealing with a hostile and belligerent public servant who will refuse to admit any responsibility for mistakes caused by his office, even when it is blatantly obvious that mistakes have been made. He will - as a final resort - simply throw away your paper letters, which you have been forced to send because he has already blocked your emails, despite the fact that they are non-abusive and reasonable, simply asking why each one of his replies has contained a threat concerning a violation of council policies which never occurred in the first place. (You can tell that I've had experience, eh?)
Why was it that - when building the vast and infamous 'Southgate' shopping precinct here - all of the local stone cladding was made by an Italian company, having shipped the stone to Italy, then shipped the finished product back to Bath? Why is it that a privately funded project which would have enriched not only Bath, but the entire UK, was refused permission on the grounds of flood risk, when the underground car park at Southgate went ahead? The riverside design college project was to be about 20 feet above river level, and the car park is about 25 feet below.
If you are unfortunate enough to get issued a fixed-penalty (parking ticket) here - and hundreds are issued every day - and you do not pay it within a specific period, the 'debt' is sold by the council to a private company of bailiffs based in Northampton, and they get a rubber-stamp from Northampton magistrates court which entitles them to ask for whatever money they decide they want from you. Up until recently, this company of criminals would pretend that they have visited your premises three times, and left a note on each occasion, then present you with a bill for about £800. They then scare you into giving them the money, with threats that it will double by 10 o'clock the following morning if you do not. They also tell you that the fines imposed by Bath council are entirely self-funding, and no profits are made. My arse again.
I paid these criminal bailiffs a few years ago, then I told them that if they had left three notes on my doorstep, then my mail must have been stolen, as I had only found one - the last one. This being the case, I had no alternative than to call in the police, and report the theft of my mail. This would involve the company bailiff swearing on oath in court that he paid me three visits and left me three notes. I received a cheque for the full amount from those bastards by return of post. The local newspaper asked if I would let them run a story on my 'ghost visits' and how I am probably the only person in history to get a full refund from a company of bailiffs, but I declined. I fear that if I had, I would have had to constantly watch my back - and car - and any minor parking offence committed thereafter would have been dealt with in the most severe manner possible, so I opted for a quiet life.
So it's a toss-up - you can choose between personal vendettas and impersonal greed when dealing with many local officials.