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Have the council finally lost it?

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Saturday 21 May 2011 11.00am
30 years ago a previous owner of my house changed the shape of my front window. On Friday I received a letter from Southwark Council, kindly letting me know I had 28 days to put it back to its previous state or I will be fined 20,000.00 quid.

Apparently a councillor reported me. I find that difficult to believe on two counts.

Firstly, I am sure our councillors have better things to do. Our local services and security need vast improvements.

Secondly, I am sure that any grown-up would actually come and discuss the issue with me before asking the council to send such a letter and shield his or her identity and hide behind authority.

My neighbours are also outraged. Since moving in to this house, 7 or 8 years ago, I have done my utmost to return the house (which was not in great shape either internally or externally) to the state and character it should be in.

And, then this bombshell.

I am starting to wonder if Southwark has finally lost the plot completely.

If this can not be resolved by my neighbours swearing a statement to the effect that the window was changed 30 years ago, I suspect I will be left with no other option but to stand as an independent in the next local elections and try and sort the priorities of the council out.

There is dog mess all over my road - dog mess can blind children.

There are not enough local facilities to keep kids off the street and engaged in positive activities like sport, music or art.

There are no enough local training schemes for youngsters and the unemployed.

But, our council is worried about a window that was changed 30 years ago.

Cant they use this effort to regenerate the Blue? To help local people feel safe in Bermondsey? To give our youngsters a chance?

In the words of Alistair Campbell un-be-freeking-leevable.
Saturday 21 May 2011 1.06pm
Thats awful, may be you should ask who the counsellor was who reported you and why they didnt have the guts to knock and discuss the issue with you. Or may be they are rubbing there hand together to share the 20k out. I'm sure they are many back handers that go through the council especially at planning committee.
Saturday 21 May 2011 1.15pm
This is a disgrace and also appalling that you should have to fight this .You should take ths to the press-and if it is a member of the council who has reported it- they need to be be publicaly exposed.
Was there any estate agent pics of this window from when you purchased the house-as evidence of the window? Just a thought.
Saturday 21 May 2011 2.15pm
It's easy for me to say this as it's not me being threatened with a massive (and disproportionate) fine, but maybe just ignore them? In my experience, the planning dept are woeful at enforcement, we've had some genuinely inconsiderate development taken place near us without any planning permission whatsoever, and getting the council to do anything about it has been impossible.
Or maybe get them to illustrate (in photo form) how the window used to be? They probably won't be able to, as it's 30 years ago, and what's more, it won't be quick and easy to do, so they won't bother themselves.
As ever, glad to know they've all got their priorities sorted. I know planning is difficult, and these guys are probably overworked, but it's difficult to view them as anything other than largely incompetent.
Saturday 21 May 2011 3.56pm
I don't think ignoring them is the way to. Maybe I am moving into conspiracy theory territory here, but I have recently experienced a few instances where certain organisations, like TFL of British Gasas well as BT seem to deploy a strategy/policy where the consumer is forced to take all the action cases where the mistake was made by the provider. 1 example: In the block where I live, to do a meter reading is a bit tricky if you work. You need a key and the caretaker who holds it starts work later than me and finishes earlier. For years it was OK, British Gas knew my situation and did a reading themselves every 3 months. Recently though they've been pressing me to do the reading, and again I explained to them the situation. So, what happens? My last bill is twice as high as my previous one, and more than twice as high as last year's for the same period. Also, according to British Gas, I submitted the reading... And what is their advice? To do the reading myself. No explanation or offer to investigate why, according to their records, I submitted the reading when clearly I didn't. Is this just a cost saving exercise for them, so they don't have to send anyone round? I have experienced more little things like this with the aforementioned service providers. Coincidence? Paranoia? I don't know. And apologies if this goes slightly off topic. As I said, I don't think you should ignore it, but provide hard evidence of when the window was changed. I guess my point is, sometimes these days it seems one is guilty until proven innocent...
Saturday 21 May 2011 5.05pm
Hmm, maybe you're right, and, as I said, I would probably feel very different if it were me facing such a large fine. I think your advice is better than mine.

"Is this just a cost saving exercise for them, so they don't have to send anyone round?"

Almost everything done 'for your convenience' is an excuse to sack people. It's 'efficient', i.e. your time becomes the utilities' - the time of the customer was the great untapped resource, which our glorious corporate sector has exploited fully.

'Your call is important to us, unfortunately we're experiencing a much higher call volume than normal. Please continue to hold'...
Saturday 21 May 2011 6.19pm
Thank you all for your words of support. I just can't afford to make a structural change to my home - but I can't afford the fine either. I have a one year old baby girl.

Because of this forum I've been contacted by a councillor I believe to be very good.

I will keep you posted.

Saturday 21 May 2011 6.38pm
I cannot explain how much I agree with you. Although I do not have good suggestions I can tell you that I agree on any single word.

Taking on from your point, I was quite surprised when I read a statement from the council saying that because of the cuts they would have reduced street cleaning.

I am not sure what happens where you live, but here they use (used?) to come every forth night, with that spray machine; with the exception that they do not spray a single thing, just few drops; they pass at a speed that would make James Button feel like a debutant and that's it. Bye.. Mess is still there.. just a bit humid.

All the other points were also very well taken. A big push towards the change can only come from people associations asking for this change. I do not think Southwark really make a priority of those issues. Only resident can make it.

Again, I am not sure what to suggest. Can you not appeal by saying that too much time has passed and as they haven't acted in a certain amount of time that falls into prescription, unless they find the person who did that.

Like... is their fault for not checking it efficiently on time.
Saturday 21 May 2011 6.50pm
It's not even a city thing, my parents live in a village so small there's not even a pub or shop.. there is no through traffic.
In common with the area it was customary to have large pieces of stone on the verge to protect it.

Cue local councillor... "remove all obstructions to the highway or "... ironically the councillors own village still has such stones... hypocrisy in local government it seems is alive and well. He even ignores all correspondence on the matter....

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