I don’t ask much of my district council. In ten years I’ve asked them for help about three times: once, to let me park outside my house; another time to arbitrate when the neighbours decided it was acceptable to keep six large dogs in a concrete yard no bigger than twenty metres square. And this week I asked if they might consider putting some grit down on the footpaths in the park. But on each occasion the answer has been a resounding… We’ll think about it/we can’t do it/we’re not the right people for it/we are the people but we haven’t the resources/what did you say you wanted?
I’m sure this accounts for my rather jaundiced view of local democracy. I’ve got nothing against local authorities per se. My father worked for one (for several, in fact) for years. Heck, I even worked for one myself once. And there are things about my local authority that are fine and dandy: the bins get emptied fortnightly, they cut the grass regularly and the flower displays are always very pretty.
But if I were of a paranoid disposition or writing a la Franz Kafka I think I’d be wondering if there’s someone out there in town hall land whose job is to think up things specifically to annoy the local population. A Head of Irritating Everyone or a Director of Obstruction or something. Because in spite of all representations and in the face of every possible petition… ‘puter says ‘nah’.
- No you can’t have a residents parking permit. (The reasons for this ten-year-long piece of intransigence have ranged from ‘all the other district councils have to want one at the same time’ to the latest, ‘we don’t think there’s a need for one’. This in spite of the fact that at least one district authority in the county – and hundreds elsewhere up and down the country – already have them and the fact that one of the first things I was asked to do when I moved here ten years ago was sign a petition asking for, thats right… a resident’s parking scheme. No need for one indeed!)
- No, we can’t do anything about the smell and noise of a yard full of dogs (although, as the environmental health officer who visited told us, ‘I wouldn’t like to live next to it’).
- And no, we’re not going to grit the footpaths in the park. We’re going to do this instead…
I could do it myself; it would take me no more than an hour to shovel some grit on these footpaths. I WOULD do the job myself if they’d let me! And, of course, some might point out that I could put my money where this blog post is and stand for election to the council myself while I’m at it.
But to do that with a realistic prospect of success requires nailing your colours to a party mast and – IMHO – political ideology is one of the things that’s wrong with local democracy. Too often it seems to lead to petty squabbles and tit-for-tat voting rather than serious consideration of the issues.
So in the meantime it’s yah boo sucks to you, voters of Bostonshire. Because it’s not getting any warmer.
Oh, and you can’t spell either.