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‘Empire State of Mind’

I always like to support our Public servants as in many cases they get little thanks and are sometimes used like political pawns to better the aims of political parties. However, with the continued devolution of power from central to local government there is another kind of animal within our mist and we must beware.

Many I have worked with in the BIS department such as Sue Bide and within Wandsworth council such as John Rusk; I have always found professional, courteous problem solvers who look after the interests of all parties. We have to agree that most of our public servants are determined caring people with the community at heart.

The problem of devolving power has always been that many local councils and their employees may abuse the extra power at their disposal; either to raise extra funds or grow their status whilst hiding behind the relevant laws that support them;  becoming almost untouchable and unapproachable.

We have all heard the reports of the abuse of parking laws and the ‘money boxes’ (Yellow Junction boxes), that have raised millions upon millions of pounds for the council responsible and caused misery for car owners who fall foul of the tactic.

Fortunately there are only a few of our Public servants who do get an ‘Empire state of mind’; nevertheless, they use it to abuse local businesses and local people causing havoc within our communities behaving like ‘on the spot’ judges & executioners. They enjoy their power and will use it come what may! God help you if you cross them as they have long memories and a network of spies they command; who are always watching waiting for the opportunity to shop you! There will be reprisals if you resist I can assure you.

The waste team in Wandsworth council behave in this manner; ( although I believe the council itself as a body is probably one of the best in the country), this is my view and that of some of my business colleagues who have fell foul of the harsh treatment dished out. In my view they have gotten far ‘too big for their boots’ and are vigorously making a nuisance of themselves by bullying the business community and enforcing the will of their office on those who, in the main, are too weak or afraid to stand up for themselves against the constant threat the people provide.

The waste team involve themselves in matters that are not waste related and act as a self-appointed police force. As one of the waste team enforcers told my colleagues “I am the law”! Yes you heard it that is exactly what he said to a business colleague of mine. I have fell also foul of the harsh treatment from the waste enforcement team and the henchmen like behaviour they deploy.

They will cause you problems when you are at your busiest serving the local community; coming into your business in front of your customers like they own it, dirty and unkempt making demands and threats. I wouldn’t mind if they were clean! We are a food shop you know! Good god!

Even worse, some of my colleagues have had their businesses threatened with closure by the waste team for totally unrelated waste matters! The waste team leader insisting you must do as he says. The team leader of the waste team told me ‘I will deal with your colleague”. I was shocked by the threat at the time. I have to admit I don’t like him, however, thats because I don’t like bullies. I do understand that It must be a testing job at times however, fining the innocent and non-problematic is not the answer to the issues.

The tactics the waste enforcement team are employing are those that breeds fear, bullying and reprisal if you dare to challenge them. I myself have met with the ‘iron rod’ of the waste team and ended in court due to a minor infringement.

One bag that was left on top of my bin by a member of my team who did not do as he was trained to do! Yes! I have a training program on how to put rubbish in the bin such is how high I view the threat from these council employees! Unfortunately, this team are like a protection racket waiting to collect their cash!

In such a climate inevitably one of your employees is going to make a mistake and this is exactly what happened. The senior waste enforcer was laughing at me when he realised we had made a mistake; he couldn’t contain his glee. Can you believe that? He was actually laughing! He was also extremely sarcastic saying “You like a tweet don’t you” “tweet this then” ha, wait until I speak to my manager! ha “go on tweet! you like a tweet don’t you” the opportunity he had so long waited for was here and he could finally take action against me and my business!

Quite unbelievable really to think that this man is allowed to behave in such a way unchecked. Even more unbelievable that it happened! Maybe I should write a book? ‘The enforcer and the black bin bag’.  There are other witnesses to this event; my brother, other local business members and an Independent witness who came to me to tell me how appalled she was with the man’s attitude and behaviour, they offered to complain; I asked her not to as I believe the reprisals will just keep coming.

I am the owner of a business in this borough and a vital employer as are my colleagues! Surely we deserve some respect and common courtesy from our own local council employees? It would be a reasonable approach to discuss any issues and solve problems without the constant ‘fight fight’ approach and climate of fear they so preciously harbour and seem to adore.

It’s hard to believe that a few of our public servants can behave with such disregard for the business community. Due to his poor behaviour and unprofessional conduct, I contacted his superior and asked to meet him. He of course refused and I was met with a blank stubbornness that astonished me; he had already decided to prosecute us; it almost beggars belief! For one misdemeanour? One bag on top of our own bin?

In the end I had to hire a solicitor and the case of course went to Magistrates court; where if you are wise it is easier to plead guilty as to go to crown court and to lose! it would ruin you! they of course know this and they know they have the limitless funds from us the tax payer.

What shocked me more whilst at the magistrates and I could not believe my eyes when I looked at the court order sheet! A court that was once used for rape, burglary, murder, assault, public disorder and the like is solely used to prosecute business after business for what can only be described as minor waste infringements. No fly tippers who are the real problem! What a waste of public funds!

In our 15 years history in business Chadwick’s butchers had never been fined, warned or even spoke to about our waste before; we have always been a responsible company.
What the waste team at Wandsworth are doing is prosecuting and fining businesses for household waste or other waste that is fly tipped; one mistake and the mess will be tied to you. This makes it look like they are doing their job and brings in much needed revenue that will support the need for their existence. A bit like the police asking a criminal to hold his hand up for 20 other cases so they can report them as solved and the criminal gets a lighter sentance for cooperation. The only difference is we aren’t asked!!

As I said, we had left one bag on top of our lockable bin rather than putting it inside! Other sources unknown, chose to leave all their waste in the same area so you end up with twenty bags. The enforcer then uses the one bag that has evidence linking it to the business and blames it for the twenty bags. So the business is blamed for the other rubbish that is fly tipped and the waste team have justified their existence and served out their revenge.

The waste team know my business well and the waste officers knew that the problem was not of my making yet they was determined to use it to their advantage.

No one can influence those with the ‘Empire state of mind’ not even their superiors! as they hide behind the law and will continue to use their power to bully businesses or others until we ‘the voters’ can put them to grass by dissolving their departments or ensure they do their job more professionally and arbitrary.

I was recently on a central government round-table organised by Lord Curry and his team within the Business Skills & Innovation Department There was many SME business leaders present on the round-table and including the secretary of State Vince Cable, Mathew Hancock the business minister and of course the very determined Lord Curry who are all intent on removing the red tape that stunts the growth of SME’s including the culture of some of our council officials who use the whip rather than dialogue to solve problems and raise revenue through needless enforcement.

The BIS department are determined to encourage councils that have an enforcement culture to become more arbiter and conciliatory when dealing with such minor infringements. Such disproportionate action by departments within our councils must be ended and the out of control employees that are in an ‘Empire State of Mind’ needs to be ‘reigned in’ and reminded that they are Public servants who we the ‘tax payer’ pay for and therefore in the long run control.

If you are a public sector worker reading this and have an ‘Empire state of mind’ then perhaps you should leave Public service and set up your own business!!!!


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