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BACKCHAT - TOULMIN SMITH

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A baroness's best friend...
A baroness's best friend

Any city council contemplating congestion charging should not expect a field day on car-related fine revenues. Car lovers like Baroness Joan Walmsley will use every scrap of ammunition to fight off attempts to tax driving.

The baroness won a legal battle over a fine imposed after she typed an incorrect registration number when paying the London congestion charge on-line. She put the last three letters of her old car, JBF, instead of her new one (a Ford Puma). These stuck in her mind as an acronym for 'Joan's Best Friend'.

Someone's listening

True blue Westminster City Council is adopting tactics more associated with Big Brother in a bid to defeat anti-social behaviour: it is bugging lampposts to monitor noise in Soho in a bid to make the area's bars less rowdy.

But the top brass insists the new high-tech surveillance equipment will not pick up individual conversations.

The council's anti-social behaviour team would not be out of place in a James Bond film - its previous invention, the remote controlled retractable urinal, would have been a useful weapon in Q's armoury.

Specialised amenities

North Lincolnshire Council is to get rid of its snickets because they are causing 'torment' to residents.Thinking a snicket must be a kind of rodent, I turned to the council for enlightenment. No need to worry, it is a local word for alleys behind houses - an unusually pointless amenity since they are mainly used by burglars.

Bad timing

One might think the period immediately before the May council elections is not the most appropriate for the Local Government Association to print a guide to its senior members.

On 10 May its website made available 'Your Contacts at the LGA', noting it was updated because of elections. Included were Chris Clarke (Lib Dem) who failed to get elected in Gloucestershire CC, and Peter Chalke (Con) 'LGA Conservative group leader, Wiltshire'. He stood down and now represents neither the Conservative group nor Wiltshire.

Drinking-up time

Pub landlords are gradually cottoning on to the fact that there will be no sales unless they apply for a licence from their council by August. One small brewery is preparing, with a hint of relish, a 40,000-page dossier on behalf of all its pubs in one county.

Nice beach reading for the officers involved.

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