On 19th March the Telegraph carried this report ...
A council survey on wheelie bins which asked residents about their sexual orientation has been branded a waste of taxpayers' money by politicians. Residents in Birmingham filling in the online poll about household waste and recycling reward schemes were also asked to complete sections about their religion.
In the "About You" part of the survey householders were asked to tick boxes telling the city council if they were gay, straight or bisexual, and if they had a religious denomination.
Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles criticised the scheme. He said: "We've repeatedly written to councils to remind them that local residents shouldn't be asked to fill out intrusive questionnaires about their sexuality, religion and other personal details just because they've inquired about getting their bins emptied or joining a local library.
"Birmingham Council have repeatedly ignored this advice despite statutory guidance from DCLG stating that this is simply not necessary. At a time when taxpayers are watching their pennies, this is just one indication of how Labour-run councils like Birmingham are showing a complete disregard for taxpayers' money. Clamping down on sending out these unnecessary documents will not only save taxpayers' money but protect the privacy of residents of all backgrounds."
The following day Ross Clark of the Daily Wail put it rather more forcefully ...
No doubt the bigwigs at Birmingham City Council thought they should be seen to be doing something about its shambolic waste-collection service, which last December saw the streets disappear beneath 10ft-high piles of rubbish. But quite how the ‘Attitudes To Recycling And Rewards’ survey it has just sent out to residents is supposed to help it empty the bins is anyone’s guess. After a few mundane questions on wheelie bins, it suddenly demands to know: ‘Which of the following most accurately describes your sexual orientation? Bisexual? Gay man? Gay woman/lesbian? Heterosexual/straight? Other?’
If the council was asking residents about the provision of night clubs or dating agencies in the city, it is feasible to see why it might need to know. But what conceivable reason is there for officials to want to pry into our bedrooms over wheelie bins?
At best, it comes across as a bizarre waste of time and taxpayers’ money. At worst, it is downright sinister to think that somewhere on a council computer will sit a database of where all gay and lesbian people live. It makes you wonder if, like a medieval plague village with yellow crosses on the door, Birmingham is going to issue pink wheelie bins to householders who identify themselves as gay.
Sadly this was not an isolated aberration. The Christian Institute website tells how a grandmother who complained to the council about its bin collection service was sent a questionnaire asking if she is a lesbian. Following her complaint Richenda Legge was shocked to receive a “customer survey” asking highly personal questions about her gender, ethnicity and religion.
The happily married 56-year-old “really saw red” when quizzed on her sexual orientation. She said: “I thought the survey was going to be about the bin service and might even explain why my rubbish was not collected when it should have been. Instead it asked me things like my employment status, disability and religious belief. But I really saw red when I read the question about my sexual orientation. There was a choice of heterosexual and straight, gay woman/lesbian, bisexual or ‘other’.”
The survey was sent after Mrs Legge asked why one bag of rubbish had not been collected by bin men. North Norfolk District Council has now vowed to scrap the “intrusive” form.
Conservative Councillor Helen Eales said: “The rules state we must demonstrate as a local authority that we are being fair to everyone – but I fail to see how knowing that a transsexual called us about their wheelie bin would help us in any way at all. At the moment it is still a legal requirement for us to carry out equality monitoring under rules brought in by the Labour government. The forms are of no practical use whatsoever – we don’t look at it for any other purpose even though it might be helpful for us to know how to target our services efficiently.”
Last year it emerged that anyone who wanted to apply for an allotment in Lincoln would be asked by council officials about their sexual orientation. Lincoln Council also wanted to know the race, religion, gender and disabilities of allotment applicants, in a questionnaire provoking frustration among fruit and vegetable growers. A spokesman from the Boultham Allotments Association said sexual orientation should be irrelevant.
The Wail added one or two other manifestations: Residents who live near a proposed relief road at Manchester Airport were recently left scratching their heads to be asked in a consultation: ‘Is your gender identity the same as the gender you were assigned with at birth?’
Susan Field, a 67-year-old from Harrow, was asked the same question when she contacted her council to complain about a set of traffic lights.
‘We have so little privacy left,’ she said. ‘Why should I give intimate details to a total stranger on such an unrelated matter.’
Journalist Ross Clark told of his personal experience: When my car was broken into one evening, I was at first relieved to be rung up by a police officer the next day. I thought he had news that they had caught the thief who had smashed the driver’s window.
It was only when he wanted to know my ethnic identity that it dawned on me why he had really rung me: he had some kind of victims’ monitoring form to fill in. When I declined to say what ethnic group I am from, he politely hung up and I never heard any more.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked for my ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity on official forms. But the question which, funnily enough, I don’t ever remember being asked is: do I want my taxes frittered away on these pointless monitoring exercises — or would I rather the money was spent on doing practical things, such as emptying the bins or finding the man who smashed my car?
I know what the answer would be if a council did put that question to us: it would make last week’s landslide referendum in the Falkland Islands look like an even contest. There can’t be anyone outside those who work in the ‘equality-monitoring’ industry, as it is known — although admittedly this does employ quite a large number of people now — who would vote for the silly forms.
Mind you, it's not just members of the public who have to put up with this rubbish. Sometimes these council mandarins inflict it on each other. According to a report in The Bucks Free Press, Buckinghamshire County Council workers were asked questions including 'What do you think caused your heterosexuality?' and 'Is it possible your heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?'.
The nine members of staff were also quizzed 'If you've never slept with a person of the same sex, how do you know you wouldn't prefer it?'
This story prompted businessman Mark Wallace to write Thirteen years of Labour Government will take a long time to get over. Just look at the public finances - with a deficit of £150+ billion, costly PFI commitments, and malfunctioning public bodies the books alone will take a Herculean effort to balance.
The cultural harm that Blair and Brown did, though, will take even longer. I'm talking about the presumption towards snooping, the invasion of privacy, the boom in victim culture, the corrosive effects of political correctness and the general busybodyness that they nurtured. All of these factors served to extend the state, to oppress the individual and, of course, to waste money.
Ample evidence of this problem was unearthed by the Mail on Sunday last week. Through Freedom of Information requests (undoubtedly Blair's most positive policy initiative) they have uncovered a rash of hectoring, politically correct questionnaires and training courses that councils are using on their staff.
Sample questionnaires are designed to make people experience the kind of questions they might be asked if they were a minority group, such as "What do you think caused your heterosexuality?" Other councils ask things that are simply irrelevant such as "Can you sing a few lines of a Supremes song?"
This is at best pointless and wasteful. At worst, it encourages a culture of being nosey and hyper-sensitive to every potential difference between people. Instead of training local government staff to consider everyone by their gender, ethnicity, sexuality or anything else, we should be training them that it is none of their business how people live their lives. They are there to serve regardless of who the customer is, and being judgemental or cosseting should be equally forbidden.
It would be easy to assume that this kind of nonsense goes on at trendy lefty councils. But that would be to underestimate the depth of the cultural rot that has gone on. Councils that the Mail on Sunday identified as culprits include Conservative-run Buckinghamshire County Council and Cheshire West Council. Hopefully their leaders will go public on this issue - not to defend such a waste of time and money, but to announce it is being scrapped.
A Welsh visitor to Wallace's blog commented ...
I wonder whether anybody has paused long enough to question where the line will be drawn. Take this sort of thing to its extreme but logical conclusion, and you'd have to have an individual law for every person in the country, because no two people are alike!
If we can have laws saying that we can't call homosexuals by certain names, can I have a law that says the English can't call me a "Taff"? In return, we'll also have laws forbidding the Scots from calling the English "Sassenachs" and the Welsh from telling people "don't act so bloody English".
Should we also have a law forbidding the telling of King Arthur legends that represent dragons as figures of evil, since some Taff -- sorry, Welshman -- might conceivably take offence at this also? Should there also be a law against calling football "the national game," since this might make the rugby-loving Welsh feel like second-class citizens?
If we do get a bunch of Welsh-protection laws, should we then have laws to protect blonde women, or Essex girls? At what point do we stop and say, "Enough, already. This is getting ridiculous." It should be obvious that all these laws obliging people to be polite to certain classes of other people are not only discriminatory in themselves (as well as a subversion of civil liberty), but ultimately unworkable.
Who gets to decree that some sections of society are entitled to all these legal protections, but others aren't; and by what authority do they get to decree it?
The GOS says: It seems to this antediluvian observer brought up in an age when common sense was rather more in evidence than it is today, that there are three possible explanations for this tide of offensive snooping into people's private business.
The first is that council officers are doing it for prurient reasons. Can we imagine them poring at night over their lists of citizens' sexual secrets, a Twix bar in one hand and a wad of tissues in the other, dribbling on their opened flies? Perhaps not. I know from personal experience that many local council employees are not grubby little perverts, but boringly normal people with boringly normal lives. To tell the truth, it might be easier to accept them if they did wear ladies' knickers and hang around in Thetford Forest picnic-sites on a Saturday night – at least that would be marginally interesting.
The second is that there is some sort of plot in action. A cabal of minority activists representing gays, lesbians, transexuals, transvestites, sado-masochists etc. have seized the bastions of power at the Town Hall and are conducting a campaign to change the public mindset to one where all perversions are considered normal and the only deviants left are us tedious vanilla heterosexuals. It's an appealing idea and there may be a grain of truth in it. Certain actions by members of the gay community in recent years do suggest that the dog may end up being wagged by its own tail, albeit rather limply. It was nice to hear the other week that Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the couple who wouldn't let two gay men share a double bed at their Marazion bed-and-breakfast because they thought their own views deserved some respect in their own house, have found a solution – by running the house as a retreat for Christians, they will be exempt from equality laws. Good for them.
Not that I respect the Bulls' beliefs particularly. I think Christians are silly, to tell the truth. But when it comes down to the law favouring the beliefs of men who like to fiddle about with each others' bottoms over the beliefs of people who think there's an old man in the sky who tells them what to do, well, that's pretty bloody silly as well, and since the law reflects the society of which I am reluctantly a member, I object.
The third and most likely scenario is simply this: our political masters have decided, almost certainly in response to pressure from said gay, lesbian, transexual etc. minorities, that they need to do something about the alleged persecution of people who differ from the sexual norm. That pressure will almost certainly rely on the most dishonest of arguments – “if you're not for us, you must be against us. Unless you legislate to protect our interests, that means you must support our persecution.”
Of course, politicians don't actually DO anything, do they, not ever, so they make others do stuff for them – in this case, local authorities. And at all levels of government there's an age-old strategy when required to do something that will cause extra work and expense – rather than taking action of any kind, simply gather more and more information about it. Then if anyone questions what you're doing about the drains, or the potholes, or the vandals in the park or the paedophile at the school gates, you can say “Oh yes, we're certainly taking action on this, we're gathering information/taking a survey/carrying out a consultation exercise, because obviously we have to understand the size and nature of the problem before we can decide how to solve it, and blah, blah, blah ....”
So there you have it, really. Next time you get a questionnaire through the letterbox from the council, asking you which hand you masturbate with or how many people you share your bed with, just be consoled by the thought that they don't really want to know and that in all likelihood no one will ever look at your answers once they're entered in a computer. They're just safeguarding their jobs by keeping busy without having to do any actual work.
And we can all relate to that, can't we?
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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