Being a good citizen is great; acting like one is even better

Chris Addison, aka the ever-loveable and hilariously error-prone Ollie Reader in BBC Two comedy ‘The Thick of It’, has used his column in today’s Evening Standard to put the boot in to Big Brother Watch and our sister organisation the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Ollie Reader His ire is focussed on our decision to question the wisdom of Harrow Council’s snoopers army initiative.

According to Chris, Harrow’s search for 2,000 people who will report on public nuisances such as vandalism, rowdiness and fly-tipping, “sounds perfectly reasonable”; as it does. But he then says “I must confess I thought we were supposed to do that sort of thing anyway”.

Again he’s absolutely right – and there-in lies the problem. Being a good citizen shouldn’t require a £100,000 scheme provided by your local authority to spy on your neighbours. It’s creating a community spirit and having a quiet word with your fellow citizens if they’re doing something which is effecting your local environment; or informing the police if you think that they might be guilty of a more serious crime. If you see something wrong, you shouldn’t need a badge or a reward to report it or try to help to fix it.

In addition, Harrow Council is the only borough in London to have moved to fortnightly bin collections. Research has shown that fly-tipping has generally increased a lot more in those local authorities putting in place fortnightly collections than in other authorities.

Whilst fly-tipping is obviously a public nuisance, it is legitimate to question the motives behind reducing the number of bin collections one week and recruiting 2,000 residents to spy on those that create enviro-crime the next. One might say that Conservative-controlled Harrow Council are trying to clamp down on the effects of previous bad policy choices – their position is driven by failure, both in their waste removal and moreover in local policing – and a badge or or an incentive to snoop isn’t the right response to that.

Chris, and for that matter, Ollie may not like the fact that the TPA and BBW exist to question the schemes that emanate from our politicians and paymasters, but we are here to voice the concerns of the silent majority…rather than parrot the text of council press releases.

By Dylan Sharpe