25 May 2008

The Problem With Bureaucracy + Law

This is out of the UK, specifically the Greater Manchester area. The story involves a lost cat, a woman trying to help, and an ordinance on posters.

A little cat had lost its way and ended up in the garden of Joy Tracey whimpering and obviously lost. Now, Joy, perhaps living up to her name wanted nothing more than to give the little moggy some joy and reunite it with its owners, who were probably as distraught as the cat was and wondering where their little feline family member had disappeared to.

So, Joy tried all of the things she could think of in this personal quest to reunite the cat with its family including trips to the RSPCA, animal shelters, pet shops, and advertisements in the local paper. For me this sounds like the woman was really going above and beyond in trying to get the cat back to its owners. Most people would have either booted the cat to the next yard or taken it to the pound and dumped it there.

However, in a last ditch desperate effort, Joy decided she would print up some posters and hang them on local lamp posts in the belief that maybe someone will either recognize the cat or know a family who has lost a cat. It is worth noting that there were just 12 posters involved; a very targeted campaign indeed.

This is where the bureaucracy become bureaucrazy and the law an ass! The ordinance is one designed to stop what some consider an eyesore, namely: the unfettered postering of walls and lamp posts with advertisements and other things. Now it seems that the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992, Clauses A, B and F prohibits posters from being postered on lamp posts and the council was determined that the ordinance must be enforced to the letter of the law. Postering apparently attracts a heavy fine.

Lucky for the council, the posters included Joy's phone number so they were able to call her and tell her to remove the posters or risk the fine.

The question here is the ordinance intended for this purpose. The poster was in essence a public service announcement. The council's over-bureaucratic approach suggests that they were not necessarily acting in accordance with the spirit or intent of the law but rather with the mentality of; poster, prohibited, fine!

For as long as I can remember lost pets were almost universally photographed and made into posters and hung on light posts, telegraph poles, and anything else in the public domain by either the person who lost the pet or by those who had found it.

The cat was eventually reunited with its loving family.

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