Monday 11 August 2008

Government By Tickbox

Every day Mick and June Dunny leave out titbits on a bird table for the feathered friends who share their back garden.

The morsels are always gratefully received by the sparrows and assortment of birds, who return with their pickings to nests in the surrounding trees.
Obviously, such dangerous individuals couldn’t be allowed to get away with this for long:
But to their amazement the elderly couple have been ordered by council officials to stop feeding wildlife and threatened with legal action if they fail to obey.

Far from an attempt to live in harmony with nature, the customary ritual of helping birds in their daily search for food has been branded a dangerous practice that must be stopped.

After receiving a complaint from a neighbour, environmental health officers wrote a letter to the Dunnys informing them they were causing a noise nuisance and attracting dirt and possibly disease to their village.
Note that no-one from the council was prepared to actually investigate the complaint to see if it was well-founded, or just a local crank with too much spare time on their hands. No, they just despatched the standard letter, because that’s the easy thing to do.
A council spokeswoman said: 'We are unable to discuss individual cases but if we receive a complaint about any matter which could cause an environmental health issue it is our responsibility to follow it up.

'Feeding the birds can sometimes cause problems if, for example, inappropriate foodstuffs are put out which can cause fly infestations or even rats.'
But you didn’t ‘follow it up’ – you just despatched a standard letter, taking no notice whatsoever of the circumstances. Whether it’s Mrs Dunny feeding a biscuit to a few house sparrows or mad old Mrs Grady down the lane, putting out sacks of feed daily to darken the skies with thousands of feral pigeons, makes no difference. All shall receive ‘the standard letter’.

This is the ‘service’ for which we pay council tax? No judgement, no actual work involved, beyond the despatch of a pre-printed one-size-fits-all standard letter?

But then, this is the same council that cocked up its garden recycling plans due to supply problems and banned its employees from lifting heavy compostable waste bags due to ‘elf and safety, so why should anyone really be surprised?

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