Thursday 22 October 2009

Islington Council

Yesterday was my day in court. And as someone who doesn't frequent these places, I found it fascinating. I suppose it shouldn't have come as a surprise that the place was filled with the sort of people you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley...or perhaps that view just comes from the prejudice of expectation. Naturally the proceedings are orchestrated by nice middle-class folks who come attired in their designer labels. The contrast with the summonsed couldn't have been greater. Nor should I have been surprised that as I chose to attend in suit and tie (oh my word it was difficult to remember how to knot one of those) I was mistaken for a solicitor. Perhaps I should have taken my chances on that score...Catch me if you can.

The outcome for me was not quite what I'd hoped, but as I had expected given my experience (mainly the divorce court) of courts to do their level best to satisfy no one. The case was adjourned until 10th November to give Islington Council time to contact the trustees and confirm that they accept they are responsible for the outstanding Council Tax. This was even though the court accepted that Islington Council had no prospectof getting a liability order against me.

But for me there was a bigger issue, which entirely hardened my view that Islington Council is incompetent and spiteful. As part of the procedings yesterday, the council was asking the court to agree to something approaching 6000 liability orders. As theses sessions are monthly, I understand, that makes roughly 72,000 orders a year. I find that figure mind boggling, and in itself implies something fundamentally wrong with the council's approach to taxation and the collection there of. But, and this is really what got me going..... the council has to prove that they have sent the demands and the summonses. They do this by having a post book in which they record what has been despatched. The problem yesterday was that the figures in the post book didn't match the number of summonses the Council claimed to have issued. As the court pointed out, that meant that if the liability orders were issued, then some people could receive an order when they haven't received a summons...and if it was an elderly person the shock could be fatal. The council didn't have an answer for that and the whole lot got thrown out. All 6000 of them. The council charges £120 per summons, a cost of £720,000. Plus the loss of revenue...say at a modest of £200/summons...that's £1,200,000. A rough total of £2million. Now call me prejudiced, but that strikes me as grossly incompetent and suggests a completely cavalier attitude to the legal system and to the general public and public funds. I hope the council officials are contrite, but somehow I doubt it judging by their response. And don't forget we pay for this with our taxes - all of us - because the bulk of council revenue comes from central government.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Rules are meant to be broken

In recent weeks you will have spotted a thread of anarchy beginning to spread through the Nota Bene household. First the ticket for stopping in the bus lane, then for disobeying a red traffic light, followed by The Boy's violent affray on the rugby pitch. To be sure, we are not a law-abiding lot, although we have not yet plumbed the depths of Ronald Biggs misdemeanour, nor the Kray twins - although there is a passing resemblence between the boy and myself.

So you will not be surprised to learn that I have taken my cocking a snoot at authority to new levels. There are reasons for this, of course. I feel the heavy hand of authoritarianism of our New Labour master ever more heavily on my wallet and my very being. It is time for rebellion and revolution. I have been boning up on my Che to help me on my way.

Last night I was at the heart of our democracy and I took my opportunity. It was just one small step on the road to revolution, although I'm not sure I am yet a Bolshevik icon, but it's the small things that make a difference.

Here are a couple of pictures from inside the House of Commons. The policeman was not best pleased, and I was expecting to be marched down to the cells. And I don't think it'll give much away to Al Qaeda. The flock wallpaper in committee room 10 was very nice, but I was disappointed there was no chicken balti on the menu.

Monday 19 October 2009

His Royal Highness

Winter has arrived. I don't need to read the weather forecasts to know this. I feel it in my bones. In my finger bones in particular. That's not some strange physical quirk on my part, and I don't get cold feet in the night either. It's just that when I'm on the motorbike, the cold gets through. Doesn't matter what I do, I freeze. And the leaves haven't even fallen yet. In most places they're still green, although Epping Forest is beginning to turn brown, orange and golden yellow. It's a beautiful place to walk your dog. I wish I had a dog.

But at least it's warm in the cottage (inspite of British Gas declaring war on my boiler and decreeing it defunct and the sole cause of global warming). For the boy, though, he's not had that warmth this weekend. He's been away on is Duke of Edinburgh Award hike, sleeping under canvas. He's back tonight, and hopefully not encased in a block of ice, like Scrat. I'm looking forward to it in eager anticipation of being subjected to a non-stop barrage of tales of daring and adventure from arrival until bedtime, and then again at breakfast tomorrow...and for the following days, weeks and months thereafter.

This weekend appears to be the weekend for everyone to do their DoE...I've seen numerous bedraggled pictures of friends' offspring on Facebook. In my day, it was the few and not the many that made the sacrifice. But these days, it seems a basic qualification for life. The boy appears to enjoy it - he's also doing cycling down at the local club, and helping out at the Drama Club. So his evenings and weekends are pretty full, even before the rigours of homework, and putting his socks in the wash basket.

I hope the Duke is proud of what the youth do in his name.