Banana skins and picking daffodils: The most ridiculous council fines

If you thought parking fines were out of control, take a look at some of these...

Share

It’s easy to forget the good work local councils do and just moan about them: the ridiculous rules; the crazy fines; the ludicrous health and safety measures; the apparent love of mindless bureaucracy.

It’s all too easy to just write them off as a bunch of petty-minded Napoleons with an unhealthy penchant for micro-management.

Yes, it is all too easy, which is why I’m going to do it some more.

Let's start with a story on Tuesday which reported that Canterbury council were going to charge 14 households in Whitstable £16 a year for pedestrian licences to access their own back doors. This was because residents would have to walk through a council-owned car park to reach the rear of their houses.

Now, I think of myself as a reasonable person and I want to believe that local government is run by people who are also reasonable. But then a story like this comes along and shakes the very foundations of my views about the reasonableness of humanity. I mean, who thought this up? And – literally – what were they thinking?

It would be easier to pass over if the news wasn’t littered (pun intended) with similar stories of overly bureaucratic rules and ridiculous fines.

You only have to go back one month and Canterbury council are in the limelight again. In September the same local authority were in the news for painting double yellow lines on a stretch of road just 21 inches long. Motorists, it was reported, would be fined £50 or £70 for parking over the lines, which aren’t even big enough to park a skateboard. But even this ridiculous restriction has already been bested by Norwich city council, which has a stretch of double yellow lines just 17 inches long.

It doesn’t end with parking. Littering is a veritable cornucopia of ludicrous fines. In February 2010 Lincolnshire council fined a woman £50 when her baby dropped a piece of banana. The local authority issued the fine after the tip of the banana rolled off her 16-month-old son’s blanket and into a puddle. Lincolnshire council said the fine was “standard procedure”. Yes, that’s “standard procedure”: the mating call of the jobsworth. You can imagine Daleks intoning it mindlessly as they exterminate undesirable litterers in the pedestrian precincts of the future.

Bananas, strangely enough, form their very own absurd subset of littering stories. In October 2009 a man was fined £340 by Rhondda Cynan Taf council for throwing a banana skin out of a car. In full Dalek mode, a spokesperson for the council said: “We have zero tolerance with throwing litter on the floor.” The same person, who may have been watching a lot of Tom and Jerry cartoons in the run up to the incident, also said: “The banana skin could be on the pavement, someone could slip on it.”

The same crusading council, showing the kind of zeal the Khmer Rouge would have been proud of, had prosecuted a van driver twice consecutively in 2007, once for smoking inside a work vehicle then for throwing the offending cigarette on the floor, presumably in his haste to follow the first order to stop smoking.

Welsh councils seem to be particularly fond of the double consecutive fine. In 2007 in Carmarthenshire a man was given a £60 parking fine, quickly followed by a £75 littering fine for throwing the parking fine on the floor. Carmarthenshire council said they hoped the case would act as a deterrent. Hmmm.

You could almost fill an encyclopaedia with news stories of petty littering fines. In January 2010 a man was charged a total of £465 for throwing a can into some bushes in Telford. In August 2008 a woman was fined £75 after a “bite-sized” piece of sausage roll fell from her four-year-old daughter’s mouth onto the streets of Hull city centre. The young mother’s case was dismissed from court after she explained that the piece of sausage roll had subsequently been eaten by a pigeon – the most sensible life form present at the scene.

My favourite of all littering stories though has to be that of 16-year-old Max Twizell from Northumberland who was fined £50 by Newcastle city council after dropping a balloon. Yes, that’s right, a balloon. I hope you, like me, have images of some council official waiting patiently for hours for the balloon to settle on one piece of ground long enough for him to issue the fine. Unfortunately the balloon was deflated, as, I hope, was the official after teenager Max said: “If the warden had asked me to pick it up I would have done. It was just a balloon.”

Rules are rules, it seems, and they are the same for children as for anyone, no matter how young. Such was the case for four, six and ten-year-old sisters, Sienna, Olivia and India from Poole in Dorset when they were reported to the police for theft after picking daffodils in a local park. Police promptly arrived on the scene and threatened the girls’ parents with arrest, reducing the sisters to tears but giving them a timely reminder of their civic duties.

If this catalogue of petty officialdom has made you want to emigrate, you might be consoled – or driven to suicide – by the fact that it is no better anywhere else in the world. In the US, for example, local authorities get even weirder with their petty rules, like in Maine where it is illegal to have Christmas decorations up after 14 January or New Jersey where it is illegal to wear a bulletproof vest while murdering someone or North Dakota where beer and pretzels may not be served at the same time or Ohio where it is illegal to get a fish drunk.

On which note, I’m off to get drunk myself. When I’m sufficiently inebriated I’m going to leave a trail of banana skins and deflated balloons all along my street. The trail will lead to my house which will have a note posted to the front door. The note will read “LIFE IS NOT A STANDARD PROCEDURE.”

I’ll let you know how much I get fined.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
It is much easier to correct errors on the web than in print  

There would be no need for corrections if we didn’t make mistakes in the first place

Will Gore
Michael Crabtreeof the San Francisco 49ers misses a catch during 2013's Super Bowl XLVII  

Super Bowl 2015: It's the most ridiculous sporting event of the year, but I absolutely love it

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links