Get ’em out by Friday…

Though I’ve not really been able to take part due to a profusion of essays and idiots jamming trolleys into my back, I have been watching with some interest the developments at the Royal Park School. For those who don’t know, this local landmark has been rotting for 5 years after the council closed it as a school. Various typically hollow promised have been made about returning it to the community which it seems ‘becuase of the recession’ (funny how that is an excuse for everything) have ‘failed’. Of course this failure is nothing to do with the political bullshit inherent in our city council.

Recently, a group of people moved into the building, where they repaired a significant amount of damage, made a number of things safe, and utilised the building in the way that the council itself has promised it would be used: as a resource for the community. The council has evicted them and is now seeking costs of over £3000, despite a request from Greg Mulholland that this not be the case.

I’m not going to go too far into my views on this event. I think they are obvious, or will become so. But one wonders two things: first, whether local politicians have any influence at all, and secondly, if one charitably accepts the first, where their loyaties lie.

I worte to Jaime Mathhews (and the other two useless fools that represent us in Headingley, neither of whom replied):

Dear Mr Mathews

I am writing to you regarding the current situation regarding the Royal Park School.

As you are aware many local residents feel very strongly that the council has continually prevaricated over the issue of this building, and that many of the responses given to local people’s concerns have been tantamount to lies, with a hidden underlying agenda that is not in line with local residents’ best interests.

I am writing to communicate my full support for the current action taking place within this building. It saddens me that as a councilor elected by the residents of Hyde Park you have chosen in the press not to support the wishes and actions of local people, but tow the council’s line of ‘health and safety’. For what is is worth, I can assure you that many of the people involved in this project are known to me and have experience and qualifications in the work they are undertaking. Sadly that level of expertise did not seem matched by the ‘security’ on whom the council has spent over £20 000 of our money to allow the building to fall into such disrepair (though I guess this is fortuitous in the end in allowing local people to access the building).

The people involved in this work have done something that the council, and (by your seeming inaction you as councillors) have failed to do; that is putting their time where their mouth is and doing something constructive for the benefit of the local community.

I understand from the council’s statement on today’s Look North that Leeds City Council is preparing legal action to evict the people doing this work.

I would like to know your views on this, as it seems that you cannot claim to support the local community, whilst agreeing with the councils actions (and previous inaction).

I am writing to you, as someone who helped vote you into your current position (something I am close to coming to regret) to ask that you take every action within your power to prevent the eviction of the residents of the building, and this this is with the aim of handing over the building to community control, in order to allow local people to show that in the same amount of time that this building has been left to rot they can reverse the damage done by Leeds City Council and create a useful and community owned space from this building.

If you are not willing to do this, I hope you will take time to think about your position, as it seems that you are more in line with the overall aims of the Council, rather than the aims of the people you have been elected to represent.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Yours sincerely

Christian Bodden

OK, I may have sounded a bit stroppy. But the reply was a fucking joke:

Dear Christian

I must say I think you have, from the outset, misrepresented my views.

Yes I am concerned about peoples’ safety in the building, it would be irresponsible for me not to be. However, I went in on Sunday afternoon myself and had a walk round with Sue Buckle, Ted Winter and Andy Beresford, who all know that I am supportive of their aims, which is what I said in the Evening Post.

I am adamant and I am doing everything I can to save that building. It’s worth noting that from the day the previous administration closed the school local Lib Dem Councillors have done everything to ensure the building stays standing. I understand there were plenty of bids to demolish the building and build something else originally but local Councillors insisted the building remained, and remained in community use. We had, in my view, a very good bid from Rushbond which would have included keeping the building, converting it into elderly flats, a community space and a brand new library – this of course fell through because of the recession.

I personally do not support them being evicted from the building as they are doing a good job, and I told them this on Sunday. However, as I have said, I am concerned about their safety but I am supporting their efforts to work with council officers to legitimately and safely be in the building.

It’s a bit insulting to suggest we have a record of inaction on this one, this is not true. I have consistently demanded that the building be a) refurbished and kept in community use and b) in the interim the roof be repaired and the building be made safe. I have been ignored and overridden by Council officers – this is something I will be continuing to demand. I have not been told about any legal action to evict them but I will endeavour to find out what is going on.

I hope this clearly sets out my views for you.

Regards

Jamie

Councillor Jamie Matthews
Headingley Ward

I like the phrase ‘insulting’. It is one you tend to hear when you have made a point that someone dislikes. One that perhaps touches a nerve, makes them think about their errors and ways.

Oddly, the eviction happened two days later. Either Matthews is as naive as his colleague Monaghan, a liar, or just thinks he can fob off someone who doesn’t appeciate his politics. Maybe all three.

What this event has highlighted is the real lack of interest in this area from the council. I note that some (mostly Labour) councillors from nearby have shown quite an interest and considerably more proactive support. But of course it is electioneering, as the flyer through my door proved the other day. So I would, personally, counsel against too much trust in them.

I’ve commented on these before – but to review: I’ve mentioned Monaghan before, standing up and displaying he cannot even be bothered to learn a bit of history about the area he ‘represents’, but has made it quite clear he will never live in. He was assigned to discuss my issue with the way the bin-yard fines was handled and the ludicrous response from environmental services about the problems in my area. He plainly did not actually read my comments and request for help/advice, just kept forwarding it to the person concerned. OK, he was a bit busy at the time valiantly trying to beat the BNP to the Yorkshire and Humberside Seat, but lets face it he’d probably move to Kent with his MEP’s salary, saying the North was a bit scummy, like he did about Hyde Park, in Leeds student.

Matthews: Well, this incident is clear. He also claimed he would help with various noise issues, the general lack of local nous indicated by the Police, being threatened by builders wrecking local houses. A veriatble Yes-Man, he was. But nothing really came of it, like everything it faded away when he’d made some lame and false promises.

As for Hamilton: Well, I contacted him about the same issues. It took a complaint to the council to get a response (not from him, he was on an extended holiday apparently). I wonder if he exists.

This leave our worthy MP, Mulholland. I also wonder if he exists. I have never heard from him at all, in reply to any letter I have sent. Probably for the best – a friend of mind contacted him about the embryology bill, and got the reply that her request was counter to his religious beleifs, so he could not address her concerns.

Meanwhile, Hyde Park falls into disrepair, the mess from the bin strike, half of it made by the scabs they employed, still fills our streets. My plants grow legs and wander down the street to be found dead in student houses, the same ones that try and blame people who complain about their continual noise for that same noise, and worse. Raw sewerage pumps from broken pipes when one bedroom houses are converted to house six.

I don’t know what it is like for those whose ward reflects where they live? I apparently live in Headingley, quite how that works I don’t know. I hope I don’t get asked to pay a parish precept for Headingley to have the Town Council it wants. They will care about us in the Harolds and Thornvilles about as much as the Lib Dems care for anyone except the student vote they want. But I doubt anyone else will truely be any better.

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The World Freak Show…

After banging my head on the cupboard on Thursday night, and going to bed with a sore head and a sulk, I managed to miss the most hyped-up offering that ‘Auntie-Beeb’ has had for a while. Well, other than Eastenders, which seems to beat it in the ‘Most Popular List’. Don’t we live in such an informed and politically interested country…?

Having now indulged in the delights of IPlayer, here you are folks, as I’m sure you were waiting for it, the long awaited (and maybe predictable) Christian Bodden response to Question Time. Bring it on… Crash Roll and so on.

A lot has been discussed about whether offering this platform to Nick Griffin would show his true colours, and simply allow him to make a fool of himself. Many people seem to rest on their happy laurels that this was the case. Sadly I disagree.

Don’t get me wrong, I think he showed himself for the vile and ignorant animal that he is. Sadly, against the backdrop of most of the rest of the show, this was not as striking as perhaps one could have hoped.

Griffin showed himself to be the perfect politician. Misinformed, relying on self-constructed spin, offensive, and resorting to cheap jibes about his opponents. But then we had Jack Straw blustering and skirting around the issue of immigration because he plainly had no answer to perhaps the government’s hottest potato. We then had Sayeeda Warsi displaying the Tory tendency to reduce everything to the the most blunt means with her parties ‘cap’ policies on immigration. Then we have the general debate from Bonnie Greer, and various members of the audience about the meaning of ‘indigenous’ handled in such a blunt manner: yes, we all (according to current archeological theory) came from Africa, but what does that actually add to the debate…?

And much as I think that Griffin deserves to be derided at any opportunity, it seems David Dimbleby had plenty of cheap jibes of his own.

So, the great debate. Should the BNP have been given this platform? The discussion of ‘free speech’ seems to be the main issue here. Aside from Griffin’s comment that the BBC is a thoroughly unpleasant and ultra-leftist organisation having some truth if you remove ‘ultra-leftist’ and replace it with which-ever political ideology is currently trendy and most likely to gain viewers, it is supposed to be an impartial tool of the ‘democracy’ we live under.

Let us, for the moment, assume that to be true. On that basis, it is right that the BNP be given this platform, as that is their Right.

Some people may find that distasteful, but bear with me for a while. What is a Right? Can yoou tell me that an animal has the right not to be eaten by a predator? No. (Sorry Vegans).  Much as I would like to adhere to Animal Rights, Women’s Rights, Thomas Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’ and so on, and don’t get me wrong I live my live according to those kind of moral assumptions day by day, Rights have little real value, or even existence unless ratified by a political system that upholds those rights.

This is the inherent paradox in the likes of the UAF and Hope Not Hate, they would like to deny fascist parties or individuals the right to free speech that the political system the former support allows to the latter.

The BNP are a legitimate political party. Some people have tried to argue about the BNPs legality, or legitimacy, based on their policies, particularly on membership. Sadly it is a bit late for that when a party is on the ballot papers, and gaining seats. So the BNP have as much right the platform, representation, and so on as any other party.

Those of you who have now stopped reading and will wonder if I have suddenly become a signed up member of  The Fash, have fun and I’ll see you later. The more intelligent remainder can hopefully see where this is going.

Surely something is wrong with giving someone quite so abhorrent the right to speak?

‘Hang on’, I hear the reply from the proportion of those who have stayed because they hope that this has suddenly become something they can all comment their racist tripe at the end. ‘You are the real fascist trying to deny us our right of free speech’. Sadly this is the standard, and slightly peurile, reply to this. I will return to this later.

To sum up the previous discussion into a more succinct term, what I am saying is that ‘liberal democracy’ is perhaps an oxymoron, if not a pile of poo, (though see my caveat below about whether a Liberal Democracy is what we actually are).

The most base form of Modern Liberalism, often referred to as Social Darwinsim, generally proposes the absence of Government, and survival of the fittest. Sounds good to me, as Little Boots will never die under this ideology. By the way that’s the only joke you are going to get. On the other hand, you have Social Liberalism where the interdependence of man is stressed, and one requires a benevolent government to help out occasionally. One end of this spectrum pretty much allows free reign to behave like a twat, while the other still has the problem of being subject to someone else’s rule if you do not wish to do so. Liberal democracy is supposed to offer individual freedom and protection from too much government control, and so in part this could be seen to strike a balance. Various forms of this are often touted as allowing this ‘freedom of speech’, and preventing governments from denying political expression. Notwithstanding the fact that really we a Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy, for the purposes of this argument I shall assume that there is little difference. In reality, as I will explain below, it matters little.

I do not intend to go much further into the subject of liberalism itself, but it shows itself here to be a slightly flawed and woolly system. And Democracy more so, shown by the fact that I am ‘represented’ in Europe by a fascist prick.

One of the absolute triumphs of this Question Time was that it demonstrates this fact perfectly. As well as showing the all of the elected representatives on the show for the fools they are, it has brought this free speech debate to the fore again.

My hope, is that some people may now begin to question the overall political structure that puts the BNP where they are. I am not talking here about Immigration, or Social Cohesion, or anything else on this micro level. I am referring to the whole system of so called democracy that allows the BNP their platform.

But is the only alternative the totalitarianism that we are all against..? No.

Liberalism is not the opposite end of the spectrum to totalitarianism, whatever one may suppose from its genesis.

Imagine if you will, the following:

You live in a community/society/group/whatever plural term you wish to employ, where you are not subject to the power of the state that you are born into. You may be taught the morals and values of that group, but you have access to learn and explore what you feel is right. You are free to leave the group at any time; if you find a group with whom you agree, they will naturally accept you. Or you can engage with those around you about why your view may change theirs for the better. They may agree and develop, or they may not, in which case you can compromise, or you can move on. The main thing is that no one person has the final say.

Because people who produce a product or service do it to make a living, not pay their shareholders, transnationals do not appear by buying up smaller organisations, and smaller organisations do not feel they need to be bought to stay alive.

Because resources are shared, everyone has more. No-one really is in want. No group needs to deny entry to others because it is under resourced. Because differences either meld, or separate of their own accord, no one needs to fear difference, or fear being over-run, which is one of the major precursors of racism in modern society. You can be afforded free speech, even if this is abhorrent, because it will not lead to your controlling, or harming anyone else who does not agree with it. So the BNP can sit in a field in Derbyshire, goose-step and tell racist jokes, but really they are not a big harm to anyone, because they can sit and do it to their greasy selves.

Who really would not agree that this sounds better than what we have now.

Of course this is not an infallible system. Of course there is the problem of greed, and power. But it seems likely that once everyone has more, many people will want less. There is the problem of individual pathologies; crime – This model relies strongly on the idea that crime is a result of structural inequality, which is not unilaterally accepted within the social sciences. Of course what happens to the poor sods born into the BNP’s Derbyshire Reich indoctrinated with the more unpleasant ideologies. And what happens when this group does decide to try and use their muscle to take over? These are, of course, very real concerns about this model. I have some ideas, but as this is already getting quite a long post I will leave it to those more versed in Anarchist Theory to debate and discuss them, for now. Or of course to challenge me, as this is my own, perhaps rough description.

But I will make one point. The ‘objection’ I hear most often to this idea, is that it ‘just won’t work’. When asked why, it is normally not that people do not believe it won’t work, but that they cannot comprehend the paradigm shift that would be needed to bring it in to place.

I agree. It is pretty incomprehensible. But, if we deny that fear of change, perhaps, one day we will move closer.

Let us use these troubled times to try and think outside the box a little. And maybe we will learn something new.

Making a Pigs Ear of it all…

I have swine ‘flu. So I am told, from the very thorough medical examination I underwent from some idiot on the end of the phone.  I have to say this is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Not because I get to spend a week in bed, alternately sleeping and complaining on facebook. But because if this is how the country manages in the ‘early stages’ of this supposed pandemic, I am really glad that I will hopefully be immune when the real thing kicks off…

This all started on Friday, when Aimee was sent home from work, having collapsed and become very poorly. Though, to be fair, I have felt worse from various other respiritory illnesses this is quite a bummer of a disease, not least because it seems to go in waves and one point you are sat there thinking ‘am I imagining all of this, have I succumbed to the media hype?’ and the next minute it hits you like a jack-hammer and you feel shite.

Anyway, Aimee phoned the helpline.  First they ascertained that she was not unconscious – ‘hold on, I’ll check… “Can you hear me? What is your name?” Slap, Slap… Oh my god I’m unconscious I’m in a tunnel and there’s a beautiful light at the end… Wham! Oh, no hold on I’m not unconscious…’

After a few questions she was duly  diagnosed. It turns out the nearest place to pick up Tamiflu is Seacroft. An hour each way on the bus. And only open office hours in the week, and 11-4 on Saturdays. I always said that I was not going to take the latest wonderdrug, as I am normally quite anti this sledge-hammer medicating of the masses. But I did ask the helpline what would be the procedure if I subsequently became ill, and we had problems finding someone who would take the morning off work to trek to the arse-end of chav-town to pick me up some drugs.

Despite the fact that anyone with even GCSE science could probably work out that even with the utmost hygiene the chances of my becoming ill and then not really wanting to have to trek across Leeds again were quite high, one cannot get any drugs in case. One suggestion was that I should ‘quarantine my girlfreind’. Bet you’re single love, ain’t you. The next was that whoever was feeling the least ill should go…

Now I thought, that becuase the illness is actually quite mild, the general dosing of the population (conspiracies about drug companies notwithstanding) was to keep people indoors and try and prevent the spread as this variant was one that most people have no resistance to. I was tempted to do this: ‘Oh yes, this batch is for me, Atischoo, oh, do excuse me, sorry did I splatter you…” But I persisted. After the helpline, NHS Direct, and my GP’s Out of Hours Service had all given contradictory information I gave up.

I went to Seacroft. Honestly, the place was like fucking Fort-Knox. Security at each end of the corridor. I was told to go to the end and speak to the nurse. Putting one foot too far over the yellow line resulted in a barked ‘Wait there!’.

You will recall that you can get this drug just by phoning and telling them you have a list of symptoms which you could, if you so chose, just recite of the website. Yet they seem to think that I am likely to be about to storm the doors and steal mine. Maybe it’s the leather jacket, that makes me dodgy it seems.

OK, I know there is quite a black market trade in Tamiflu, but it all seems a bit daft to me.

I did ask why one has to trek out to Seacroft, and they can’t set something up at LGI. It seems one of the main problems is parking. So (despite the fuck-off multi-story attached to the hospital) those of us who don’t drive have to trek miles on the bus because those who are surgically melded to their cars can’t be trusted to park nicely. Typical.

Anyway… Sure enough at some point on Sunday my temperature shot up to god knows what and I started feeling like I’d filled my system with scopolamine or some other vile poison. I called the helpline on Monday and then the hospital and informed them that they would be deliveing me some drugs. They did so.

After all this I decided that I probably would give it a go, also on the advice of the one medical professional I actually trust, who reminded me how ill pneumonia makes me. I think it’s helped, but at some points I actually wish I was feeling worse, so I could just sleep and not go through this I feel OK, no I feel like death would be a release, oh I feel OK again business…

One thing I will say from this. Don’t take shite from them. Challenge them, and don’t let them assume that you can expect your mates to disrupt their lives ‘cos the PCT has decided that the only place they will hold drugs is miles away. Everyone’s joining groups about I love the NHS… Hmmm. It’s better than most, but cut the fucking bureaucracy and it would be 20 times better…

Weltschmerz

Last night, for the first time ever, I actually felt physically ill on reading the news. Not some bombing, some mass murder, the gang rape of a child or something. But the news that I am ‘represented’ in Europe by the BNP.

Well, this goose-stepping psychopath does not represent me. I care little enough about Euro-politics, not because I don’t think that they are important, but because in the grand scheme of things I think it has little overall effect on my life. Some might say that is naive; rather, I live my life in a way that so far as possible I let many things wash over me with a quiet acceptance that the alternatives are probably not that much different.

He also does not represent me because I simply reject his representation for who he is. For what good that will do me. Sadly, he does represent a large portion of my country, and certainly the 120 000 and odd bigotted and ultimately ignorant fools who voted him in.

Weltschmerz is a German word, translating literally as ‘World-Sorrow’. It can mean a simple dismay at the state of the world, or a feeling that one’s own weaknesses are a result of this. It is also associated with the Romantic Poets, and a feeling that the state of the world is counter to ones own freedom of thought and mind.

Which sums up how I feel today.

The familiar argument has of course arose, about freedom of speech, and how comments of violence makes one as bad as the object of one’s violent expression.

This state of affairs shows that we are not mature enough for freedom of speech. Of course this is a paradox, as to disallow freedom of speech places one in a situation where someone tells someone else what they can express. But does the state of the world mean this must be so? There is probably no answer to this, save the anarchist-influenced informal regulation that might only be a pipe-dream.

What this also shows, is that once again ‘democracy’ has failed. I have joked that the thing that has pissed me off most about this whole fiasco is that I have been forced to break the habit of a lifetime and vote. I have never voted in a general election. My main reason for this is that I will not vote for someone who does not represent my views. Which no political party ever has. I nearly voted in 1997, after growing up under Tory rule. I would be ashamed to have voted in such a disfunctional government. I considered voting for Greg Mulholland in the last general election, based on his good record as a councillor in Headingley. Again, I would have been ashamed, after his vote on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, reputedly because of his own Catholic beliefs.

But this failure of ‘democracy’ is the worst. Pop Will Eat Itself sang: ‘but if the answer isn’t violence, neither is your silence’. I have not been violent, and I have not kept silent. And I am now saddened.

I am sometimes an idealist. I have largely held reservations about violent responses to fascism. Partly because I think dangerous egos can take hold, and even people who will stand up and fight are often not mature enough to justify their means. Also, because although ideologically I am not anti violence, I refuse to succumb to allowing violence to be the answer, as I am, by nature, a gentle person. But where are we now? 120 000 people in Yorkshire and The Humber is too many to ignore. And this poison will grow and grow.

This is not some call to arms, or statement of intent to join Antifa. But the time is coming when many of us will need to make the choice whether we sit back and allow this to continue, by our posturing and faith in good nature and The System. Or whether we will be forced back to a time when human evil cannot be controlled in any other way: the ultimate recidivism. World Sorrow, indeed.

Giving them drugs, taking their lives away…

I should be writing my dissertation, but this requires comment. Finally, in peer reviewed journals, sensible discussion on the risks of drugs is coming to the fore.

This is something that the late Nicholas Saunders commented on nearly 20 years ago, though his statistical assessment put the risk as similar to that of fly-fishing. Whilst it is true that there is ‘no safe dose’ of ecstacy, as it can kill unpredictably this is also, as the Cheif Constable of North Wales suggested a year ago, the same for many over the counter pharmaceuticals, or other drugs consumed everyday.

Caffeine, a drug with an LD50  estimated at between 3-10g orally (a single packet of the US brand pep-pill No-Doze is reported to be possibly fatal)  is a key component of many peoples’ “morning stimulant” and present in many energy drinks and in pills such as Pro-Plus or the aforementioned No-Doze. Nicotine, a drug which provokes similar withdrawal effects to Opiates and Benzodiazepines is a major consumer product, yet still smokers may be refused coronary treatment. The list goes on; the argument about the criminogenic effects of alcohol consumption is well known.

Incidentally the risk of an unpredictable reaction from pure and unadulterated MDMA, taken safely, is very very low.

What is perhaps most problematic about this affair is the National Drug Prevention Alliance calling for Professor Nutt’s resignation. For what? presenting accurate statistics. If he did indeed present his ‘opinion’ as the NDPA suggest, I would agree that he should resign, as there is little room for opinion in the dissemination of medical fact. But it was statistical analysis he presented, and it is encouraging that this has been presented in an academic setting.

And now, Home Secretary Jaqui Smith has demanded and received an apology. This is perhaps most concerning.

Whatever one’s personal opinion on the morality or safety of drug use, Prof. Nutt has published an article, based upon statistical analysis of the dangers, in a respected peer review journal.

It is often argued that hiding debate around drugs serves a contrary purpose to the management of the drugs ‘problem’. Furthermore, to demand an apology for publishing a valid scientific argument is tantamount to censorship of scientific knowledge. Jaqui Smith has done both these things.

Two grumpy old men

Well, Jamie Matthews got back to me. Actually had quite a constructive conversation which was good. Though it is a shame it took a complaint to make this happen.

From this I have had contact from the local police too… Predictable though. Police responses are reactionary (no shit, Sherlock) and of course officers cannot be expected to understand issues from all areas they Police. The Inspector dealing with the complaint got back too: He has discussed the issue with the officer concerned and “advised him”. What that will do I do not know, but at least he listened. We’ll see if I encounter that officer again when I am pissed and get harassment. Of course that will never happen.

As for the bins. That has been reported to the council. Apparently they will deliver four new bins, in four to six weeks time. What a fucking joke! They did say that they will provide some green bags, though it is of course the householders responsibility to clean up the mess (personally I think this is a bigger blight than graffiti and posters which seems to have plenty of money poured into their removal, but anyway…) No sign of the green bags I was promised, so with the general lack of bins from not getting the increased number I was promised 6 months ago I can see even more mess… Am tempted to say sod it as I am moving down the road and so it will no longer be my binyard (though the new one looks just as problematic…)

It’s kind of the same old story really. Empty promises and excuses. Of course if you believe half of what I have been told none of this is paid for by the council tax, so I cannot use that argument, and doubtless rattle on about Thoreau like all apprentice disobedients do (usually the ones who pay it off when it gets tough). I disagree with the council tax for many reasons, for many reasons, house size not being an indicator of income being a main one, and much as I comment often on the benefits of a more mutualist society where this may not be needed, poor service is not a reason for not paying it. This may strike you as odd from me, as I am committed to actually getting value for what you pay out in the consumerist transactions we all are slaves to and frequently complain about how our taxes are spent, but the simple matter is that not paying does not solve anything, oppressive as that situation is.

I heard a great one the other day too: students do not use the majority of services paid for by council tax (education, social services and so on), this is why they should not pay it. True, but neither do I. And a fair proportion goes towards the “gentrification” that the University then lays claim to. What do we do, give up on Welfare as a bad job, so everyone pays for exactly what they use? Anyway, I digress.

I am going to continue. Be an angry young man (or maybe a grumpy old man, now) and become the thorn in the side of local services. And incidentally the new neighbours, looking at the state of the binyard for my new house…

The power of recourse…

Following the incident with the “builders” across the road, (and I use the term “builders” loosely, looking at the quality of the work) I have been active.

It’s amazing what a complaint can do… or is it?

The Police got back to me in the end. An ageing Sargent came round and repeated largely the same rote, though at least he listened. The Noise Service wrote to me and made the point that they are not obliged to run an out of hours service and that they do not have the funding to run it any later.  Apparently there is an agreement that noise issues are down to the council, not the police. “Responsiblisation” as David Garland puts it – shifting the ownership of issues that are essentially crime out of the policing sphere into the community

What a surprise. I guess here we see the key flaw in Garland’s terminology. His observation is valid, but I cannot see this responsibility anywhere… But I guess that is his point.

It took a complaint too, for one of the local councillors (Jamie Mathews) to contact. He asked for anecdotes – so he got them:

Hi Jaimie,

Further to our conversation the other day, here’s a bit more detail about some of the issues that I feel the Council needs to be addressing in a more proactive way. As I said when we spoke, this is the main issue – problems obviously are going to happen, and it is what resources are in place to deal with them.

The background to the incident that lead me to try and make contact was as follows – basically there is a house opposite mine which is currently under renovation – I believe for Deu Estates, who seem to be on a mission to buy up half the street. The burglar alarm on this house had been fitted, but not isolated and started going off at about 3am – I called the “out of hours” noise team, which was closed as it was after 2 on a week day. The Police of course claim to be able to do nothing (I did suggest that maybe if nothing was done they may need to come and arrest me for removing it with a lump-hammer, though that didn’t seem to sway them). So I was stuck with this (which sounded not unlike a dial-up modem at 150dB) until the builder appeared at about 8.30. This incident escalated somewhat when as I was trying to arrange to get the builder’s number one of his mates decided to start giving me a load of abuse about this, and when I went back inside and said if this couldn’t be resolved I’d just get the council to deal with it tried to kick my door through. The police attended this, and overall were extremely dismissive of my concerns – something which I am making a formal complaint about.

So really there are two issues here – firstly the Noise Service line. One has to ask exactly what is the point of an “out of hours” service that does not operate out of hours? I have been in contact with them, and received the standard reply that they do not have adequate funding, and the service is provided as an extra, which they are under no obligation to provide. They also informed me that it was agreed with the Police that the council held responsibility for noise problems, but if the council is not providing that service who does? At the time the Noise service did nothing, other than contact me back and put me under pressure to provide the builder’s number, despite my informing them that as I had just been threatened by one of the builders I felt that acting at this late stage would just exacerbate the whole issue.

So this brings me to the side point point here – I don’t know how much input local councillors have into the policing of the area – but it is clear that that police have very little understanding of how this area works – the one who attended when I called them about the builder certainly seemed not to have any idea how much of an effect the continual issues in South Headingley affect people. The Police seemed happy to step in, in force, with the party in the Hessles last year, in a way which caused an incredible amount of tension for both local residents and students, both in terms of increasing the general feeling of persecution that students feel but also as they seemed to not realise that a fair few local people were not overly happy about meeting a line of aggressive dogs preventing them from getting to their homes  – it seemed almost as if the police had this lip-service idea of helping the community, but treated the area concerned like a little enclave where every resident was a student and therefore under suspicion.

Returning to the noise issue – I have had a similar issue with noise from an alarm in the house next door, again owned by Deu Estates. This was a faulty fire alarm, which went off again all night. I initially contacted Mr Singh from Deu on the number he provides for out of hours contact when he wishes to let a house. His response was that he lived about 10 miles away and it was too late for him to come out and deactivate the alarm. The noise service did attend on this occasion, and called Mr Singh on the number they had for him as key holder (and his home number from the phone book) – he had taken both phones off the hook. They said they could do nothing further as they could not arrange to have the alarm de-activated. So the response to this was a letter to Mr Singh and no sleep for me.

A further problem with this house is an extractor fan, which is loud enough to wake me when all 6 tenants come in pissed at 3am and troop to the toilet. The noise team’s response to this was that “I would have had the chance to object when planning permission was applied for” – the planning notification I got was for two dormer windows. Not extractor fans or (incidentally) converting the premesis to a 6 bed HMO with the associated lack of facilities for rubbish, loss in water pressure (the water on these properties coming through the other houses). So again, the noise team and the associated planning issues seem to be totally ignorant of the reality.

It is my understanding that to gain a licence for a licensable HMO the owner must be a “fit and proper person”… One wonders how someone who has seemingly not applied for full planning permission for the premises, and has needed to be reprimanded for noise problems is a fit and proper person.

The other major issue which it seems that the council services have no understanding of is refuse. A year or so ago I called to report that a large amount of building waste had been fly tipped in my shared bin yard – giving a description and number plate of the van I had seen doing so. The response was that this was the resident’s responsibility to clear. When I commented that I had no means to do this, I was told that as they had my name connected to the binyard and I had effectively refused to arrange removal when asked,  I would be prosecuted. I think my response was something along the lines of “just f-ing try it” and at some point the waste was removed. A couple of months later however a letter was posted through all the doors threatening action about the state of the binyards. This time, as I have actually on more than one occasion I pointed out that there were insufficient bins, to get the standard response that one bin per household is provided and that is all. We have four bins, for 6 houses, one of which is a 6 bed HMO. I have raised this with the HMO team and been assured that this would be looked into and if appropriate a trade bin provided due to the large HMO using the yard. about 3 months later there is no sign of this, and the bins are still often overflowing.

I have notice this morning that all our green bins are now a pile of burned plastic, so doubtless we will have no recycling facilities for weeks on end, and the same argument about whose responsibility it is to clean up the mess.

So there are a few anecdotes, I have plenty more, but these illustrate the key issues – that, as we discussed, there is no one size fits all policy.

The refuse team need to realise that one large HMO on a street can seriously unbalance the way a service needs to be run, and be prepared to make changes to the standard service.
The Noise service needs to operate out of hours, and be able to access properties to deactivate problem alarms when the key holders refuse to.
Landlords need to be denied licenses for properties unless they can show that they have a record of addressing problems – issuing a licence and then worrying when they do not comply is not enough.
The police need to understand the concerns of local residents.

There are a number of minor issues of concern too – we all know there is a problem with litter in the area, but walking from my house to the University I pass a total of two bins – both of which are always full. There are permanent parking issues – but where is a permit scheme, preferably limiting the number of permits issued, while managing to allow visitors of local residents somewhere to park…

Unfortunately I think the  issues are clouded by the supposed student/local binary – this seems to be the only issue addressed and then vast resources seem to be spent on placating students and reassuring locals, without looking at the micro issues – I know some people are galled by the idea that money is spent dealing with problems that they feel would not happen if students were kicked out of the area, but that is not the solution, nor will it happen. But money needs to be found to address the actual tangible problems…

I hope these examples are useful – an apologies that I did feel that I needed to go through the complaints form to try and make contact – At this point I was feeling very unlistened to…

Thanks for Listening

Christian Bodden

We’ll see what happens. Nothing I suspect.