Hello, Hackney Blogger!
The story of Ms. Devers and her travails before the Hackney Council were
featured last evening on a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) news show, "As It Happens," that leaks across the border. The piece included an interview with Ms. Devers that touched a nerve on the other side of the world (well, eight time zones distant, anyway), in part because she and I are the same age. "Metric Martyr" puts it mildly, I'd say.
We both grew up learning - and admiring - a Britain for which that inspiring phrase, "so many owe so much to so few" did not describe the apparent
relationship between the residents and the governing body of Hackney. Not at
all your "finest hour" to put up with this crew of people "clothed in a little authority," to borrow from another prominent Brit of yore.
I could relate how metric was tried and soundly rejected here thirty and
more years ago, including the use of shotguns on roadside speed limit and
distance signs, but I have a better idea: Send your delightfully batty Council
here for a vacation or even a lecture tour.
Yes, perhaps they could come to inform us benighted colonials about the benefits and requirements of metric. I'd bet you wouldn't get them back unless they had private medical insurance and perhaps if they displayed the same stupid attitude they'd find out why so many Americans keep guns in the homes and shops.
Don't you have Recall or Initiative and Referendum rights? Good luck casting off your tyranny!
Friday, 25 January 2008
A letter from America:
From the Hackney Gazette:
FEARS have been raised over the safety of Hackney Marshes after the ground gave way beneath a 15-year-old boy's feet on Sunday, plunging him into a six-foot hole.
It is believed that the hole may have been caused by tunnelling to bury overhead power cables beneath the Marshes 14 months ago as part of a £50 million project for the 2012 Olympics.
Hackney Council, which manages the Marshes, has been forced to close off two football pitches on North Marsh and carry out inspections each weekend amid safety fears of further cave-ins
Sunday, 13 January 2008
Hackney Council charges pensioner with 13 "criminal offences" -does using Imperial scales really make her a menace to society?
Is persecuting a 63 year old woman for using non-metric scales the best use of council resources? Of course it is, this is Hackney. From the Telegraph:
An extraordinary thing happened one week last September. Gunther Verheugen, a vice-president of the European Commission, announced that Brussels had abandoned its policy of forcing Britain to go exclusively metric.
The British, he said, could use non-metric weights and measures as long as they wished. Indeed he went further. The belief that it was a criminal offence under an EU directive to sell in non-metric measures, he said, was an invention of the "tabloid press", which had "repeatedly and erroneously printed stories" of "people having to buy their food from markets in kilograms rather than pounds".
Mr Verheugen's announcement won front-page headlines in the national press. Yet, only a day later, trading standards officials made a mockery of his statement by seizing two sets of "illegal" imperial scales from a stall run by the sister of Colin Hunt, one of the five original Metric Martyrs, in London's Ridley Road market. This event was totally ignored - except by this column.
Just before Christmas the stallholder, Janet Devers, a 63-year-old pensioner, received a 67-page document from Hackney Council charging her with 13 criminal offences, including use of her old imperial scales. Yet only a month earlier, in a letter to the British Weights and Measures Association, one of Mr Verheugen's senior officials had stated that "use of pre-2000 weighing instruments in imperial-only units" remained entirely legal under EU law, since "the directive does not prohibit the use of such instruments".
Mrs Devers was told the council's costs, for the time of the officials who seized her scales (£68 an hour each, equivalent to £141,000 a year) were already £2,000. Fees for Hackney's lawyers will bring the total much higher - apart from any fines to which she might be liable (up to £5,000 each), for offences which Mr Verheugen insists do not exist.
Saturday, 5 January 2008
From the Times:
Hackney is a borough of London not exactly renowned for the prosperity of its residents. Yet anyone living in a modest family home in this deprived part of the capital pays more in council tax than the Prime Minister, who lives in a luxurious flat in prosperous Westminster.
In fact, a pensioner living in a Band E property in Hackney on a pension of only £13,000 a year paid £255 more in council tax last year than the Prime Minster, who earns more than £180,000. No wonder reform of this iniquitous tax is low on Gordon Brown’s agenda. But the pressure for change will grow with the news this week that council tax is to rise by an inflation-busting 5 per cent for most people in April.