8 February 2012

Pettifogging bureaucracy

Dear Mr Lai

Your letter of 18 January 2012 and email of 6 February 2012

It was only about 2 weeks ago that the Leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius, complained about the stifling effects of pettifogging bureaucracy on procurement at Barnet Council.

He didn't need to look to Europe for pettifogging bureaucracy, he only needed to look at your letter of 18 January 2012.

Firstly the letter was not addressed to me but to the occupier and your department knows very well who I am as I complained about rubbish clearance or the recycling on several occasions in 2011. The following reference numbers apply:


I write the Mr Mustard blog. I have blogged on the subject of bins which you can read at the following links.

You may not have known that I write the Mr Mustard blog but you certainly should have checked your records before sending any resident such a crass and inaccurate letter. What were you thinking? Would a resident who complains often about bins be of the type who ignores the rules?

Let us go through the letter line by line and I will point out to you where I think it needs some improvement.

A recent inspection of the highway in the vicinity of your home revealed that the wheeled bin(s) and/or recycling container(s) allocated to properties in your area continually remain on the footway.

A recent inspection...there were two inspections according to your later email.
in the vicinity...this is vague. Did you mean directly outside my home as that is the only area that you should write to me about.
the wheeled bin(s) and/or recycling container(s)....you really need to be precise. The black and green wheeled bins are collected ( or not ) on a Friday ( collecting them both on the same day causes problems to residents as they are large and the typical front gate is small ) and the blue & black recycling boxes on a Tuesday so neither are likely to be out on a Monday which was when your first inspection supposedly occurred. You should say exactly which bin or box was the culprit. You should also check to see if the resident has put a street number on it.

allocated to properties in your area...I am only responsible for bins allocated to my home not to ones allocated to the rest of the street.

continually remain on the footway...Your later email now says that this phrase is not applicable. The phrase you were looking for was "not true".

The basis of the wheeled bin/container schemes are that all bins/containers should be brought to the boundary of the property on the collection day and for the remainder of the time should be stored within the boundary of the property...That is how I deal with my bins and boxes except that it is not universally the case in this street that bins are returned by the collecting operative to the boundary. If you were to leave your office and follow a May Gurney recycling lorry or a dustbin lorry one day you would find out what really happens.

The presence of a bin/recycling container on the footway constitutes an offence under the provisions of the Highways Act 1980 and also can cause a hazard or inconvenience to pedestrians, particularly the elderly or partially sighted....I think you should focus on the difficulties occasioned to other residents as the first point of this paragraph. If you are referring to S137 of the said Act I think you are over-egging the pudding; the mere presence of a bin on the footway would not amount to wilful obstruction. What used to happen here was that one bin man would come ahead of the lorry and actually pull all of the bins out of the properties of residents and put them in pairs in the road ( he would also sometimes tip one bin into another which was something I complained about and the practice ceased ) in order to smooth the passage of the lorry. Now that, I would say, as it was in volume and doubtless repeated every day in other roads, would be wilful obstruction and you would need to prosecute your own employee first before starting on any resident.

Given the above it is essential that you accommodate the bin/recycling container within the boundary of your property so to comply with the basis of the scheme and remove the possibility of danger or inconvenience to other residents.... I already do this.

Please ignore this letter if your bin/recycling container is returned to within your boundary after collection has taken place....This is not clear. Does the sentence mean if the collecting operative does his/her job properly and returns the bin/container but then that wouldn't cover it being out on the highway in the first place. So it must mean if the bin/container is returned by the resident to within their boundary. The flaw there is that if they are the sort of resident who leaves their bin out on the highway they won't be the sort who brings it back in. Does the letter mean that if you are the sort of resident who follows the rules and this letter is a complete and utter waste of time and mis-directed then please ignore the letter ( which is how I read it ) then don't be such a nincompoop as to send the letter in the first place.

Thank you for your co-operation....No comment.

I was quite annoyed when I got this letter because I don't leave my bins out on the highway. It is a problem for some of my neighbours who have to try and get two bins into an impossibly small space at the very front of their properties because if they don't their bins do not get taken. I asked several neighbours who do transgress sometimes if they got a letter and they didn't. Of course it doesn't necessarily follow that a bin in front of my property is my bin.

Your letter arrived on 20 January 2012 which was a Friday and the green bins and rubbish bins are both collected on a Friday. The green bin collection seems to take place very early and the men are evidently on work to finish as they sprint down the road trying not to see any green bins. In mid winter there is hardly any green waste to be collected.

Not long after opening the letter the bin men came. I took photographs of the street after they had gone. Picture 1067 shows my bin neatly put back where I had left it. Now what is odd is that every bin on the odd numbered side of the street was put back inside the boundary of every property even if it had been put on the pavement. On the even numbered side of the street none were put back as is shown in photographs 1068 to 1072. What sort of game are the bin men playing?

1067: Mr Mustard's floral bin

the even numbered side of the street

a bit of a slalom with a wheelchair

after the bin men have been

bin laden street

On 24 January I emailed you as follows:

Dear Mr Lai

I refer to your letter of 18 January 2012.

On what date(s) and at what time(s) was/were the inspection(s) carried out please?

Do you have any evidence that any of my bins or containers were on the footway ? and what evidence do you have that they are continually on the footway ?

Yours sincerely

and you replied on 6 February 2012.

Inspections were carried out at approximately 9.00am on Monday 16 January and approximately 9.45am on Tuesday 17 January 2012.

The staff carrying out the inspections made a written note of any addresses where any waste containers were found to be on the footway other than on the scheduled collection day.

We noted that recycling boxes were on the footway at 21 Carnarvon Road outside of their collection day. Except that 17 January is their collection day.

The letter we issued to you covers a range of circumstances.

Based on our inspections, we acknowledge that the reference to containers continually remaining on the footway is not applicable. So why write the opposite to me?

Regards "Yours sincerely" would be better.

I have 24hour infra red security video recordings of the passageway to the side of my property which reach to the front edge of my property. I have archived the recordings for 16 and 17 January 2012. You are welcome to visit me and inspect them.

They show no transgressions on my part around the alleged times ( and although I haven't watched all 48 hours they won't show me putting my bins on the pavement ) and leave me at a loss as to the accuracy of your records. When issuing parking tickets photographs are always taken and in these days of mobile telephones nearly all having a camera it is surprising that you have no photographic evidence.

Recycling is well behind the target percentage that the council would like to reach. I routinely recycle tins, bottles, cardboard, newspapers and green waste ( although I prefer to fill my compost bin first ) and I recycle printer cartridges through a charity and egg boxes for chitting potatoes and so on.

Might I suggest that your time would be much better spent in trying to persuade people who recycle nothing at all to start rather than sending stupid letters to residents that do.

Yours sincerely

1 comment:

  1. Part of the problem, as can be seen by your photos, is that the new lampposts have been installed behind the position of the old ones in order to reduce recabling costs. This means they are not in the optimal position for reducing obstruction, which is as close to the kerb as possible. At least, that is what a local councillor told me.


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