What can we do when Oxford City Council officers refuse to collect the plastic which won’t fit into our blue boxes? Stop drinking milk?
Like many others in Oxford, I make a trip to the tip every so often to dispose of the excess plastic, glass and paper which accumulates as a result of the current fortnightly collections scheme. It is one of the unintended consequences of the cut in the rubbish collections rota that those who of us who do zealously separate our recyclables from the rest of the rubbish find ourselves unable to store the results over the intervals between collections.
One wonders what the council officers of Oxford’s Rubbish Department think about the number of car journeys now being made for this reason – but, of course, the question answers itself at once. Council officers don’t think – invite them to try, and they scratch their bottoms and dribble a bit with the effort, but nothing resembling thought is likely to result.
I have been a bit busy lately and missed my fortnightly visit to Summertown’s “refuse disposal facility”. In consequence, I had more plastic that would fit in my blue box – a household of five gets through a fair amount of milk in a fortnight from those thick plastic bottles which you cannot crush.
Anyway, I left a plastic bag full of plastic bottles propped up beside my blue box. The dustmen (refuse disposal operatives?) came and went – and left my bag unemptied. I was still in arrears, as it were, by the equivalent of nearly an entire box-full. I assume that the refuse disposal operatives (on the whole perfectly decent blokes) were obeying orders to this effect – they cannot have missed seeing the bag, and its contents were obvious. So some council office bureaucrat must have so ordained.
There may, of course, have been a political motive here. Most of the Oxford City Council officers prefer a Labour administration – their “rights” to unlimited sick leave, extra days off after Bank Holidays and so on are less threatened when the brothers and sisters of the left are in power – and they appear to have done their best to make the new collections scheme as unpopular as possible during the Lib Dem administration, with considerable success, as became clear at the recent elections.
I suspect it was nothing so subtle. Some dim little pen-pusher at Oxford City Council was just looking to spite a society which despises him and his kind.
The rise to power of little runts like this is a by-product of two aspects of New Labour ideology plus the perceived politico-economic benefits of having as many people as possible in work. One ideological imperative is the need to control as much as possible of the lives of citizens, and to berate and bully us if we fail to behave as Labour intended. The other is a chase for equality of outcome which is achievable only by divorcing status from merit. The creation of lots of posts in local government pushes all these buttons – hordes of stupid people with no obvious abilities are given desks and salaries with a remit to impose controlling legislation on the tax-payer.
It is a reasonable bet that the officer from Oxford City Council who ordained that excess plastic should not be collected was someone who would have been flipping burgers or stacking shelves but for Labour’s vast expansion of the public services. His appointment, with a grand-sounding title, a large salary, generous pension and a big desk, seemed to him to elevate not only his bank balance but his status, and the fact that the job actually gave him power to affect the lives of those who thought themselves his betters was the icing on the cake.
He is dismayed to discover that he is no less despised in his new job than he had been all his life. His superiors, with bigger desks and even grander titles, look down on him. Those whom fate has put beneath him sneer openly at him. He thought his desk and computer made him look like a banker, but everyone else sees a wanker. Jude Law looks cool in a rumpled jacket, and our man expected the same reaction to his creased brown Next suit. Pete Doherty looks laid back with his tie loosely knotted, and the Chief Deputy Assistant Rubbish Officer, or whatever he is called, sees the same effect when he looks in the mirror at the wide purple-and-silver tie which came in a set with his shirt. He is very conscious, though, that others see him differently, without being able to see quite why.
What he found by way of consolation, however, is that he has more direct power than even Gordon Brown to make the lives of others miserable in a low-level irritating way. He is resigned to the fact that people are always going to look down him, and sneer at his vulgar clothes, his estuarine whine and his sweaty lack of social grace, but he can get his own back, oh yes. Thus the directive to leave uncollected the plastic which does not fit in the box provided for the purpose.
What options do we, the council tax payers, have? We could stop drinking milk, I suppose, and reduce the plastic coming into the house, but that means that our diet is being controlled by a ghastly little jerk from the council. We could slip the plastic bottles in with the non-recyclables, but that offends our genuine commitment to recycling (Runty, incidentally, neither understands nor cares about that – it is just a set of regulations to him). We could have a bigger plastic box, but few of us have room for one wheelie bin let alone two. Or we can do what I do, and drive our excess plastics to the tip ourselves, clogging the streets with unnecessary journeys and filling the air with CO2, perhaps following along behind the council truck which has just passed our house without collecting our plastic bottles.
What’s to do about it? Well, New Labour has two years max before it is consigned to history, but it will take time for an incoming Conservative ministry to convert its commitment to small government into P45s for the dross which has accumulated in the public services. Like the rats which now frolic around the uncollected rubbish, (and which, in my imagination, bear a strong facial resemblance to our man with the plastic tie) the layer of public servants which has been employed in jobs like this will take a long time to eradicate.
We can, I fear, only grin and bear it, taking our revenge only in the certainty that the sort of little oik who can only get job-satisfaction like this is probably short of other forms of satisfaction as well.