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If you must deal with them, they must deal with you

“Labour council to let staff ignore people they find annoying”, reports the Telegraph. To be fair to Oxford city council, the Telegraph headline and the first line are clickbait designed to (pleasurably) annoy its readers:

A council that drew a backlash for banning meat and dairy products

Misleadingly phrased and irrelevant. The “ban” only applies to meat and dairy products being served at council events.

will allow its staff to refuse contact with people they find irritating.

Relevant, but still misleadingly phrased. Most of the behaviours that the council says might cause its staff to refuse contact with a citizen are worse than “irritating”:

Oxford city council has introduced a policy to manage citizens it describes as “abusive, persistent and/or vexatious”.

The “vexatious behaviour policy” outlines how staff and councillors should deal with people who make complaints or inquiries in a way that is “manifestly unjustified”, “inappropriate” or “intimidating”.

Guidelines include limiting how often they can contact the council or meeting them face to face with a witness.

The council has more of a point than I first thought. It does have the responsibility to protect its staff from an intolerable working environment or actual violence. No organisation can give infinite time to complainers, even when the complaints are reasonable and the complainers polite. The courts have the concept of the “vexatious litigant” for this reason. I note from the mention of witnesses that the council does not seem to intend to cut people off entirely. It could also hold meetings with citizens it deems threatening by video. Perhaps it does say it will do that and the Telegraph did not report it because it sounded too reasonable.

That said, the quip that instantly came to my mind and yours is no mere joke: Oxford city council does not permit the citizens of Oxford to ignore it. It takes their money by force and frequently fails to properly provide those services that are meant be its side of the coerced bargain. It vexes them with its little obsessions about food and rainbows. Until they allowed to say, “Your demands annoy me, Oxford city council, and I will henceforth ignore you”, Oxford city council is obliged to continue to respond in some way to the complaints of everyone over whom it claims authority.

13 comments to If you must deal with them, they must deal with you

  • Paul Marks

    Since the Act of 1835 (yes almost two centuries ago now) the line has been “you pay local tax – but if you want a lower tax, or the money spent on different things, or just the council run differently, you can vote for different people to run the council”.

    That was undermined by three things:

    Central Government imposing functions on local government whether local taxpayers wanted to do those things or not (that started way back in 1875 – with one of the terrible Acts that Prime Minister Disraeli passed that year, but these days it is vastly worse).

    Local NON taxpayers getting the vote – this hits some areas more than other areas.

    And – elected councilors losing a lot of control of the councils to officials – this was sent into overdrive by Prime Minister Heath’s local government “reforms” (although Harold Wilson’s government in the 1960s was planning much the same thing) which, for example, turned Town Clerks into “Chief Executives”.

    None of the above in any way justifies rudeness to council staff – certainly not, but the pact of 1835 “you pay local tax – but, via your vote, you control the local council” has, to a great extent, been torn up.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – I believe (someone will correct me if I am mistaken) that, in England and Wales, local taxpayers had the vote, both under the Poor Law Reform Act of 1834 and the Municipal Corporation Act of 1835, regardless of sex – i.e. that female local taxpayers had the vote, not just male ones.

    In some American States (such as New Jersey) local Property Tax payers had the vote regardless of sex (and for all elections – not just local elections) back in the 1700s.

    All this seems to have been shoved down the Memory Hole.

  • jgh

    Paul: Correct, before 1835 and from 1869 onwards. Some of my female ancestors were local voters due to being local rate-payers. Also, when there was the business vote, some of them arranged things so that hubby got the “normal” household vote, and wife got the business vote.

  • Discovered Joys

    Take the NHS for instance. There is a whole internal industry about staff dealing with abuse, managerial procedures, and posters for display. I have no problems with the NHS exercising its responsibility for staff care. Notices about abuse of staff litter the walls and counter dividers.

    But no-one seems to consider the impact of all these notices on the public which can come across as accusatory. If I were to wear a badge “Long delays and lost case papers might make me a little terse.” I’d be accused of something, probably blasphemy against the Holy NHS.

  • pete

    Oxford City Council is elected by the people of Oxford.

    It doesn’t take their money by force.

    It takes it via democratic consent.

  • bobby b

    In the US, at least, the burden for invoking the “vexatious litigant” measures are very high, involving multiple instances of truly vexing behavior with lots of proof.

    But if you go into some of the Minnesota and Minneapolis offices wearing a Trump hat, you stand a good chance of receiving no service.

    There’s a difference.

  • Paul Marks

    bobby b – the “public servants” in Minneapolis are clearly public masters, people should leave. They should leave even if they have to take a big loss on selling their homes (or their business enterprises), and have to start lower down in the job market. True Minnesota has a relatively low debt – but it is clearly not a place for honest people (remember who the State Attorney General is).

    Pete – you clearly did not read my comment, please do so. The decline of local accountablity goes back a very long way – with local councils being forced to spend money on various things without the consent of the taxpayers, and unelected officials having more and more power.

    However, your claim that Oxford City Council does not take money by force is clearly false – as Gough’s (Gough of Oxford) book on John Locke makes clear – it is absurd to confuse majority consent with individual consent. If you doubt this then refuse to pay – and you find that force is used against you.

    “We are not using force – me and my mates outvoted you, so you gave your democratic consent to having your kidneys ripped out and sold, stop struggling”.

  • Paul Marks

    jdh – interesting. The big corporations do not care about a business vote (they have lots of influence without it), but, yes, the small family owned enterprises depended on to prevent themselves being looted by Business Rates – these days, like Japan, Business Rates in Britain are largely set centrally rather than by local councils.

    Discovered Joys – I am sure that “pete” will say that the problem with the NHS is lack of money (even though it has been buried in money) and “privatisation”.

    Although it should be pointed out that American health care (contrary to the myth) is also government dominated – for example most American doctors (at least in the early days) slavishly followed official instructions during Covid – rather than engaging in Early Treatment, with well established medicications, that could save the lives of their paitents.

    No mass death would have meant no “emergency justification” for either the (incredibly harmful) lockdowns, or for the injections (the so called Covid “vaccines”). That is why Early Treatment with long established medications was “discouraged” – to put the matter mildly.

    Once the individual link between the healer and their patient is broken (by government or corporate structures) medicine starts to die.

  • Mr Ed

    There is a fashion in the UK for public sector contractors, transport undertakers etc. to put up notices warning people not to abuse their staff. One particularly bizarre area to find these is on roadworks on major roads where drivers are usually going through roadworks at, say 50mph down from 70mph. Alongside notices saying in terms ‘workforce abuse will not be tolerated‘ there are also signs saying ‘Works being completed out of sight‘ when you drive through several miles of apparently pointless roadworks with not a soul to be seen and plenty yet to do.

  • John

    The city is the first in Britain to introduce a ZEZ* Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council say.

    * in case you couldn’t guess that’s a zero emission zone, something even Sadiq Khsn realised was too batshit crazy. Oxford has absolutely got what it voted for – something the entire country will experience to a greater or lesser extent in 2025.


  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ed – we both remember when the ASI and the IEA were pushing getting the Corporations involved in doing work paid-for-by-the-government (the taxpayers), on roads, health care – and so on.

    Many decades before (as far back as the 1920s) Ludwig Von Mises had pointed out that once the “customer” is not paying with their own money, once the “customer” is government officials paying with tax money, Corporations become as bad (if not worse) than government doing XYZ directly – but the warnings of Mises and others were ignored.

    By the way… on the Health Service and also on Care Homes….

    It is not true to say that the British governnment, and other governments, discouraged the use of all medications – they discouraged (to put it mildly) the use of medications that would have, if used EARLY, saved the lives of people who died of Covid – but other medications they did encorage.

    They encouraged the use of medications on elderly people that would make these people placid (less “troublesome”) but would also make it harder (harder – not easier) for them to breathe.

    The medications whose use was encouraged in relation to elderly people with Covid, came from the “end of life” management system, and this increased the death rate – and the large numbers of deaths was used to justify the lockdowns and, later, the terrible injections (the so called “vaccines”).

    Was it a deliberate plan? No – most likely it was just the insane incompetence of a government (and corporate) system.

    But certainly, as Perry reminds us, “the state is not your friend”.

  • Alex

    At May 13, 2024 at 7:00 pm, from pete:

    Oxford City Council is elected by the people of Oxford.

    It doesn’t take their money by force.

    It takes it via democratic consent.

    If that’s true, let’s make the payment of council tax voluntary and remove the prison sentence that can be imposed for non-payment. If the citizen values the service, let him pay for it. Better yet, let’s itemize properly and separately bill for each service that it is not just broad categories but specific services. I think most people would be happy to pay for education, waste collection, for roads and other such vital services. Public transport might not receive as much favour though, but certainly I would pay it – though I would prefer that suppliers of public transport were not subsidized by council or state but instead competed properly in the private sector. People would be less keen on paying for white elephants like massive unusable park and ride schemes – Oxford’s new £50m park and ride isn’t even connected to the road network yet and won’t be until a further £150m is spent on new junctions and other road “upgrades”.

    Here in Gloucestershire I don’t get anything for the council tax I pay except bin collection, rather poor public transport which I do use. Otherwise I don’t see anything for my money – the fire service let a nearby house (admittedly, unoccupied) burn completely down recently which doesn’t reassure me, the police do very little in the area and crime is rising steadily (that’s reported crime which is itself an underestimate of what actually happens – most people don’t bother to report nuisances or we used to distinguish as misdemeanours). I was the victim of a violent crime (assault, with some resulting bodily harm including a bone fracture) some 25-odd years ago and the police never even turned up. They took a report by phone and because I could not identify the perpetrator they did not even interview me in person. I genuinely struggle to think of any other services that my local or county councils offer and certainly haven’t benefited from them.

    Most people you speak to on the door, and I have done a lot of that in the past, care only about (a) crime, (b) education and (c) roads/transport. Parks sometimes get a mention normally about the terrible state, and I have never heard anyone who wanted park and ride services (I personally think they’re a good idea, but could be done privately), or “LGBTQGQZ++” awareness training for staff, etc. I haven’t even heard anyone talk about libraries, which saddens me as I practically lived in the local library as a child but I haven’t been in one for quite some time as they absolutely gutted it about 20 years ago and turned it into a joke with hardly any books. Amazingly it still exists but opens only a few hours on a few days per week.

  • Paul Marks

    Alex – according to the logic of Pete, if both of us (me – and you Alex) vote to rip out the kidneys of Pete and sell them, we are in no way aggressing against him – as we had a democratic election and he was outvoted.

    “Stop struggling Pete – we are not using force, it is the democratic process”.

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