Thursday, 6 January 2011

Life in Toytown

Here in Bath - as I am sure is the case in towns and cities all over the UK - there is a nostalgic hankering (amongst those old enough to remember) to return to the petty-minded, hostile and corrupt type of local government that was the norm before Thatcher embarked on her crusade of privatisation and de-centralisation (for 'de-centralisation', read 'cuts in funding'). Apparently, there is a similar yearning for the old Soviet Union in modern Russia, which is now run by a combination of the Mafia and ex KGB agents.

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.


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  2. I never got a note from my unpaid parking ticket! They are out to get you!

    In the gov in the states....calls what you have described "negotiation" for a vote, but in fact it is extortion for money for the state they represent.

    Off to get my lung drained........

  3. Only a few years ago, if an innocent tourist parked their car in slightly the wrong place, the council allowed shaven-headed thugs to turn up with a truck and hoist the car onto the back to tow it away (took about 40 seconds) to a private pound. You would then have to walk the 3 miles to the pound, pay £130 to the criminals to get your car back AND pay the council £30. Even those greedy idiots soon realised that they were losing more revenue by scaring away tourists, so they stopped the practice.

  4. Exactly why I haven't been back!

    off to drain my other lung......

  5. Municipal corruption? I could spend hours telling you about one particularly bad case in Brighton. Rather than 'cherchez la femme' it's always a matter of 'cherchez le dosh'!

  6. We have a bridge to no where. goes over a lake and ends on the other side in a swamp. This form of "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" is called Pork Barrel Spending.

    They did a lousy again

  7. Why does life have to be such a fight...(sigh)?

  8. (oops! pressed the post button too soon).
    At least here in Canada you can wait a year and then challenge your parking ticket in court. I did this for my one and only parking ticket ever (truthfully) last year.
    When I arrived in court ready to challenge the officers testimony (he couldn't even remember the location of the offense and just claimed he had to be right because 'he'd been on ticket duty for three years"!) the bailiff (bless her heart) took me aside and told me, if I challenged the evidence I'd be there all afternoon, they would confiscate my phone which had the pictures of where and how my car was parked, and I might end up with the same fine reduction I would get by simply pleading guilty and asking for the fine reduction.
    I gave in, told the judge I was guilty and (untruthfully) explained I found the parking signage confusing. After a short explaination of how confusing said signage really is, the judge asked me did I REALLY want to plead guilty? I said yes, and he, fully complicit in the entire charade reduced to fine to a nominal $5.

  9. That sort of thing is dispiriting and disgraceful. It seems that the semblance of democracy brings out the worst in the democratic 'winners'. I've always fought successfully against such injustices to me, but there's a whole lot of fighting to do against mass injustice and dishonesty.

  10. P.S. When Bath City Council blocks your emails, they use a system which is sold to them (us) by a private, online security company who you will NEVER be able to contact direct, unless you want to buy their product. It is also maintained by them and paid for by the council (us) and it is really quite clever.

    Not only does it identify the email address of the sender (as we all can) it also identifies the machine used to send the message, so that no matter how many different addresses you use, they will still be blocked. The council officials are far too stupid to do this for themselves.

    Also - even more impressive - it can (and does) worm it's way into the heart of your computor in order to erase messages in your 'inbox' which have been sent by them, which they would like to recall. I have seen it happen tree times, before my very eyes. I pasted and copied the last one before opening it into a reply again, and that worked - it was saved. This has to be illegal, but God, I wish I could do that sometimes.

  11. This sounds absolutely crazy. I would be a mess if I had to deal with any of the above. And as for deleting emails . . . that's creepy and very 1984.

  12. Yes it is, Amy. I first came across this when receiving emails from a local college. Because they were to do with Life Drawing classes, I mentioned the word 'nude'. The automatic system detected this as an offensive word, and put my email into quarantine. When I went to my 'sent' box, it disappeared as I looked at it - before I had a chance to save it anywhere else. This could only have been done by the private screening system, paid for by the college. The trouble is, without going back into the entire history of the entire server (as if) there is never any trace record left, anywhere. It is a type of illegal intrusion which probably comes from old defence technology, and marketed - I am afraid - to the UK by US hackers.

  13. you have just referred to me as an (and I quote) "an old poof!"

    HOW VERY dare you!

    I am only 48!

  14. Sorry John - I was using the word 'old' in the Mark Twain tradition, and meant no ageist offence. You must remember that 48 was a good age in those days, and the further south west you were living, the younger you would die. I hope that makes you feel better.

  15. Have you tried this site?

    Also checked with my computer programmer/webdeveloper son and he says that entering your email inbox is hacking and illegal. Also not easy. Though not that hard for the unscrupulous. He told me that Google email is very safe as, due to the Chinese governments hacking into dissidents' emails, it is now encrypted unlike most others. May respectfully suggest that you change to gmail/Googlemail for personal stuff. However he also said that many people unwittingly give permissions without realising. Facebook for instance will ask for access if you click on 'fun' surveys etc and loads of people do. I have another shock for Facebook members but will save that for another time.