Sunday, 9 June 2013

The madness of regulators, the delusion of politicians and some downright disgusting behaviour

I've just come back from a cycle ride on the Marshes.  The magnificent vista, Elgar on the iPod and the sheer effort of cycling got me thinking.

Our regulators are mad, many of our politicians are deluded (I leave it up to you to consider whether I'm amongst the deluded) and some people behave abominably.

This week, as a solicitor, I've been dealing with the 'madness of regulators.'  One example will almost certainly spawn a book in the fulness of time - but as one HSE inspector said to me it will end up on the fiction shelves as no-one will believe what happened!  However another example shows the stupidity of over-regulation.

I've a client who has been asked to apply for a bespoke environmental permit (at some significant cost) for activities, which if done singly would be exempt from licensing.  They recycle waste.  They recycle the 'restaurant sized' buckets that contained mayonnaise or other gloopy foods and produced shredded plastic chips which are then reprocessed into other plastic items.  If they washed out the buckets by themselves, if they shredded the clean buckets separately they would not need a permit.  Seemingly doing the two operations together needs a permit.  Madness, maddening and ridiculously costly.

I was reminded of this as a cycled along the marshes - marvelling at the estuary, the birds, the wetlands etc and fuming at the fly tipping.  Surely the Environment Agency and local authorities should be devoting more resources to this environmental crime rather than to a business which is acting in an environmentally responsible way?  But then who sets the priorities for the EA, who approves the laws and the regulations for them - why the politicians of course.

But then if only people behaved responsibly we wouldn't inspire our politicians into trying to regulate problems away.  I'm usually not overtly political in my blogs but I really do single out one T Blair for the delusional approach that we are still trying to undo.  Most problems simply can't be regulated away. You need to ensure, in my humble opinion, that you work with the grain of human goodness and behaviour.  But is that always possible?

One of my neighbours came to me this morning holding a full doggy 'poo-bag' that had been thoughtfully discarded in her hedge.  She told me that this was about the fifth offending bag she had had to deal with.  She took me for a walk and showed me other poo-bags thoughtfully discarded in other hedges.  She told me that she had reported the matter to the police - who told her it was a matter for the local authority.  Actually it is a matter for both the police, the local authority and society as a whole.

So what is it that makes someone pick up the dog mess, place it in a suitable bag, tie a knot at the top and then decide it is appropriate to deposit the bag in someone's hedge?  How do you educate someone like this to take their dog-waste home, or deposit it in a suitable litter bin.  How much effort should we put in to catching and 're-educating' this person or person's unknown?

Personally I'm not into wasting resources on DNA fingerprinting the entire local population (including the dogs) to find out who is responsible - but I would happily see photographs of the culprit being circulated locally.  You don't need regulation or regulators for this just a webcam or two...

Power to the people!