Councils, sadly, continue to behave badly.
Councillors at Portsmouth refused to donate £500 to a fun day aimed at raising money for Help for Heroes, a charity looking after wounded soldiers. Their rejection letter stated that they feared it might upset minorities from war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq living in the Portsmouth community “who may also have experience of injury/violence due to the war”.
After the charity complained Portsmouth City Council admitted that it had made “an error of judgement” apologised unreservedly and donated the £500.
Recent reports in the national press show councils as more enemies of the people rather than supporters with some fining householders £110 for leaving their wheelie bin lid ajar, others abusing anti-terrorism laws to spy on householders for trivial offences, (10,000 instances last year, according to the Daily Telegraph) and councils selling people’s personal data from the electoral register to anyone who will pay for it. On this last issue the councils are set a bad example by the DVLA who make millions a year selling driver details to private cowboy car-clamping companies, working for councils.
Some of these companies’ charges are the subject of government proposals to clean up the grubby and unregulated sector, worth a lucrative £240 million a year. These include a flat release fee of £135, rather lower than the cowboys clamping on behalf of Wokingham council and charging £375, although some motorists are claiming they have been charged up to £800. (Is there a market here for a charity or group of charities to set up an ethical clamping company, knock out the cowboys with really competitive rates and use the money for good causes, rather than fill clampers’ and perhaps councillors’ pockets? Wouldn’t motorists rather give their money to charity?)
Meanwhile, according to the Daily Telegraph pensioners in Prestwick, Manchester whose homes have been vandalised with graffiti have been threatened with fines of up to £1,000 and court action by Bury Council officials if they don’t clean it off.