With householders again shut up in their homes, and public services stretched by Covid cases, you would have thought that councils would have been focusing on the essential.
Far from it. Over the past few months, we have received a number of reports of people being unnecessarily harassed by council officials or their private contractors.
One woman said she was issued with a CPN for allegedly having Japanese knotweed in her garden. Several council officials came to her house to issue her with the order last autumn.
Two sisters were fined £150 for feeding bits of a hash brown to pigeons in Manchester. Meanwhile, a 75-year old man was fined for feeding pigeons in Ealing, leaving him (his friend told me) ‘absolutely distraught’. A man in Arun was issued with a CPN last October for feeding the birds in an area adjacent to his flat.
Last December we were contacted by the sister-in-law of a man in Ealing who was issued with a £780 pound fine, after a letter addressed to him was allegedly found in the wrong bin.
It seems that while the public have been made to cut back on their ‘non-essential’ lives, the extractive parts of the state and their private contractors are continuing their work.
While state services should be supporting the public through this difficult time, it appears that some parts of it are still thinking about how to squeeze money out of people for petty or non-offenses.
At the weekend the Mail on Sunday exposed how Wandsworth Council is currently employing the private contractor NSL to rifle through people’s bins and issue fines for minor misdemeanors. This at a time when the council has been unable to collect rubbish due to service shortages, and many recycling centres are closed.
Think about this: people are stuck in their homes while private contractors are rifling through their bins and issuing fines.
With state services and communities under unprecedented pressure, this extractive and petty fining is a public disgrace and insult. It needs to be exposed and to stop.
We cannot leave it to the state to decide upon public priorities; this is not a time for switching off and accepting whatever officialdom decides to do. The scrutiny of state services and provision has never been so essential.
- If you have received an unreasonable fine or CPN over the past year, especially during lockdown, do get in touch. Are the private litter police still patrolling in your area? Have you been hassled about the state of your garden? If so, we want to know about it.
- If you live in an area affected by these practices, do write to your MP and/or councillors, to express your displeasure at the conduct of public officials at this time of public emergency.