Can you smell that?

Or is it just me? ‘Stationmaster SACKED for leaping onto tracks and pulling trolley out of path of oncoming trains‘ claims the Daily Mail – a story so scandalous that it receives the coveted BIGGEST STORY IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW SPOT on the Mail website:

Elf N Safety gone mad
Arms crossed in disgust, Ian Faletto is a tabloid dreamboat.

So, Mr Faletto ‘leaped’ onto the track and pulled a trolley out of the way of not just one train, but oncoming trains. He’s clearly some kind of superhero, yet here he is in PC-elf-n-safety-gone-mad-Britain getting the sack for saving the day.

What is that smell?

In the first three paragraphs of the article the Daily Mail makes it perfectly clear exactly what happened:

A dedicated station master has been sacked after 27 years working for the same company – for pulling a shopping trolley off the track.

Ian Faletto jumped onto the line at Lymington Pier train station, Hants, and pulled the obstacle back onto the platform after it was chucked on by yobs.

He was dismissed for ‘a serious breach of safety’ by heartless South West Trains for his act of bravery, which prevented a crash with oncoming trains.

Yet the Daily Mail then makes it clear (in the words of Mr Faletto) that:

‘I saw the trolley on the line at Lymington Pier, got power turned off and managed to remove it before the first train arrived that morning.

The BBC report the same:

The Reverend Alex Russell, vicar of St Mark’s Church, Pennington, has started a petition calling for Mr Faletto’s reinstatement.

She said Mr Faletto had told her he saw the shopping trolley on the line and saw a “potential danger”.

He then called a nearby station to switch the power off before removing the trolley from the track, she said.

So, according to the Reverend Alex Russell and Mr Faletto he didn’t spontaneously leap onto the tracks in front on an oncoming train because presumably the same notification that switched off the power would also have warned any train drivers of an obstacle on the track.

The BBC also make it abundantly clear that the company – South West Trains – have refused to comment on the specific reasons why Mr Faletto had been sacked, but they did reveal the following:

A South West Trains spokesperson said an employee had been dismissed for a “serious breach of safety” but refused to officially explain what this was.

“This action was taken following a full and thorough internal investigation and the decision was also upheld at an appeal hearing,” he said.

“Our absolute priority is to run a safe railway for our passengers and staff.

“All of our employees are aware of the importance of complying with the strict rules governing railway safety, which we have a duty to enforce, and the serious consequences of disregarding them.”

So, the decision was made following an investigation and survived an appeal. It seems to me that this must have been a serious matter and that we’re only – as usual – hearing one side of the story. The truth is that South West Trains have to respect the privacy of the ex-employee so can only confirm basic facts and not give further details. This suits the tabloid press who can call said company ‘heartless’ and blame health and safety safe in the knowledge that the truth probably will not out as long as we only hear from Mr Faletto and friends.

Whilst all I am left with is this annoying whiff of bullshit.

Those interested in the original article posted on the Southern Daily Echo website can revel in the comments – some regarding their personal impressions of Mr Faletto, some blaming ‘Political Correctness’ for the decision, invoking Stewart Lee’s thoughts on confused people unable to seperate political corectness and health and safety legislation.

Cheese-Rolling back and the Mail still isn’t happy

It was only a matter of time before this year’s annual cheese-rolling festival made it into the tabloid newspapers as a prime example of how ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ had gone truly mad. As has been covered before by numerous blogs on a number of occasions, this event was cancelled last year because the event had grown to big for the location. Traffic congestion and parking were particularly problematic and forced the organisers to postpone the event whilst they looked at making suitable arrangements in order to hold the event again. At no point did health and safety play any part in the cancellation of the event.

Well, the event is now returning with the relevant changes having been made, but the media narrative remains the same: ‘That stinks! Uproar as ancient cheese-rolling festival organisers charge £20 entry (and blame elf ‘n’ safety)’. The headline is a long way from being accurate. For starters, the nature of the event has changed and the £20 charge is being levied for entrance to a day’s worth of entertainment – described as ‘rustic games and competitions’.

The Daily Mail is quick to identify the motivations behind these changes:

there’s no surprise that the twin evils of elf ‘n safety [sic] and commercial gain are to blame.

Ignoring the Daily Mail’s laughable complaint about commercial gain – coming from a paper that will write almost anything for the same reason – it is not surprising that nowhere in the article is the claim about health and safety backed-up. All that is mentioned is that the local authorities demanded that the organisers have in place a ‘comprehensive traffic and crowd control plan, limiting the amount of people on the hill’; something that fits in with the reason that the past event was cancelled: the event had outgrown the location and the informal way in which it was run.

This restriction of spectators amounts to 5,000 tickets being available per day to people wanting to watch or participate in the cheese-rolling on the hill – whilst an enclosed area at the bottom of the hill will remain free to the general public with the races being shown on large screens. The organisers justify the charge by pointing out the cost of staging an obviously popular event:

‘Once you try and restrict the spectators, you have to introduce perimeter fencing and security arrangements which are unfortunately all very expensive and we have to find a way to pay for it.’

Nothing here is striking me as unreasonable. This isn’t about health and safety, or even people trying to make a bit of money, it just seems to be about an event that has grown over the years until there was no choice but to organise it more formally.

As for the ‘uproar’ mentioned in the headline the Daily Mail found a veteran cheese-chaser who said:

I don’t think the hardcore fans will pay £20 per day.

All in all this is just another story rammed into a creaking media narrative that struggles so much for real evidence that ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ has gone mad that it has to resort to silly headlines and unsubstantiated claims. All written from behind the safety of the ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ byline. Whoever wrote this should really question just what it has come to when they write articles that they simply do not want to attach their name to.

More ‘Elf ‘n’ safety’ nonsense in the Mail

‘Cathedral spends £140,000 on hundreds of wooden chairs… because PLASTIC seats ‘are a fire hazard” writes the Mail On Sunday Reporter. Of course, this seems like absolute madness, given that wood is generally seen as being more flammable than plastic. However, as always, a quick read of the article reveals that the headline is absolute rubbish:

officials say the fabric covers are a fire hazard…

Cathedral steward Les West said safety chiefs had claimed the same chair material was responsible for a fire at Bristol Cathedral.

Obviously, ‘fabric covers’ as a fire risk is a completely different proposition from the ‘plastic chairs’ used in the headline, but the reporter tries to imply that it was only a claim that the same chair material caused a fire elsewhere. A quick read of a more detailed article – from the Worcester News website – sheds more light on this ‘claim’:

Cathedral steward Les West said the same type of chair was now considered a fire risk and had been responsible for blazes causing damage in other cathedrals, including Bristol.

So the fabric was responsible for causing fires in other cathedrals, rather than merely being linked to just one fire in Bristol. No wonder the ‘journalist’ preferred an anonymous byline. The same steward goes on to say:

“They were showing signs of wear as well as being a fire risk, so we decided that we would replace them over the next three years. “

It is simply part of the ongoing work carried out on the cathedral, it is mentioned in the cathedral newsletter [pdf] – without any reference to the decision being forced upon the cathedral by ‘safety chiefs’ – probably because they are not being forced to abandon the current chairs, rather that they see the fire risks posed by the chairs as another good reason to phase in new wooden seating. Also referred to in the same newsletter is the generous amounts of money gifted to the cathedral in wills (four donations alone totalled £137,000) for precisely this kind of continual renewal of fixtures and fittings.

Increasingly there seems to be two main kinds of ‘journalism’:

  1. Churnalism – the act of copying and pasting PR / wire copy.
  2. Local news sifting – a story covered by the local press is taken by a national newspaper, stripped of context, detail and – above all – journalistic integrity and slotted into an existing media narrative (in this case, the story is distorted until ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ can be blamed.

Both of them are anti-journalism.

More ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ balls from the Mail

‘Elf and safety brigade slaps ban on footballs in the PLAYGROUND… because they’re too dangerous’ Screams the Daily Mail as it heard about one primary school’s decision to stop kids using leather footballs in a cramped playground and use sponge balls instead. The reasoning behind the decision is sound:

Malvern Primary School yesterday insisted the football crackdown was not new, saying the reminder had been issued after a parent complained that a child was nearly hurt.

It pointed out that its cramped playground was shared by pupils of all ages but stressed it was supportive of sport and backed the importance of physical exercise.

In a statement it added: ‘Malvern Primary School treats the health and safety of its pupils as a top priority and has for a long time had a policy of protecting children by recommending sponge balls in the playground before school starts and during breaks, especially as the playground accommodates children from the age of four to 11.’

As someone who always played football during school breaks I can well understand the risks – I lost count of how many windows we broke over the years, but luckily we had big outdoor spaces so we could always be avoided by other kids. If Malvern Primary School has cramped playgrounds shared by pupils of 4-11 then it seems perfectly sensible to make that space as safe as possible. Put it another way, if a group of boys started booting a football around in a busy shopping centre the Mail would be screaming for ASBOs before a sweet old pensioner even took a 20-yard screamer directly in the face. What is the difference? These are both shared public spaces, they should both be used responsibly, the sponge ball is a sociable compromise, not an example of ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ gone mad.

As pointed out in the comments (and currently well in the red):

DM having a go at health and safety again how predictable. Anyone who thinks this policy is wrong should try the following experiment. Find a four year old relative, preferably one you love. Have an eleven year old blast a leather football into them. On the way back from the children’s hospital try to think about what you have caused and how it might have been prevented.

As for the Mail trying to bring obesity into the article as if replacing the material that a football is made of is part of the cause, it really is pretty pathetic stuff. The rent-a-quote wheeled out by the Mail doesn’t even make any sense:

But Tam Fry, chairman of obesity prevention charity the Child Growth Foundation, said: ‘Children must be exposed to risk, otherwise how can they be expected to learn?

‘It may think it is protecting the children, but they could just as easily fall over playing with a sponge ball.

‘Policies like this mean our children are in danger of becoming cocooned cotton buds.’

Point one: what does a child learn from being hit in the face with a football?

Point two: the decision is not being made to protect those playing football (who understand and accept the risks of getting a ball smashed into their groin), it is to protect the other young kids who are using the space. It is easy to avoid being hit by a ball if you are involved in the game, less easy when you’re chatting to friends and get smashed on the back of the head.

Point three: how does making a space more sociable possibly equate with children ‘becoming cocooned cotton buds’ (which doesn’t even make any sense)?

It’s hard to believe that this is what modern journalism has become in the Daily Mail – or that it is now by far and away the busiest newspaper site in the UK with over 56m unique users each month*.

*which is about 56m more each month than this blog.

In the media spotlight

Last month the Daily Mail wrote a worried piece titled: ‘How will children ever grow up if schools won’t let them take risks?‘ which was followed by the following in bold: ‘A passionate attack on politically correct nannying by the inspirational teacher sacked for allowing pupils to go’. Not only does this highlight Stewart Lee’s point that a lot of people confuse ‘political correctness’ with health and safety legislation. The teacher in question – Richard Tremelling who was Head of Technology at Cefn Hengoed School in Swansea – has received coverage from all major media outlets for allegedly being sacked for taking some students sledging without carrying out any form of risk assessment.

Obviously the school in question has now been on the receiving end of a large amount of angry correspondence from people who were encouraged by certain newspapers to contact the school about such an outrageous decision. The deputy head – Geoff Brookes – has now responded to this correspondence he has received in a humorous manner and confirms that ‘the reality of the case was much more complicated than that and I can’t go into it now for legal reasons’. What he finds ‘fascinating’ is the response he has received from those encouraged to contact the school:

It could have been quite hurtful if it wasn’t so bizarre. Clearly, there are people out there who have far too much time on their hands, along with access to old typewriters – still the instrument of choice in some of the remoter areas – while the skill of corresponding in capital letters using a blunt pencil clearly continues to thrive in Essex.

It is disturbing that there are those who accept everything they read at face value. If it appears in their newspaper of choice, then it must be true. So the letters are based on half truths, incomplete understanding and assumptions. A tabloid headline seems to confirm the fears of the confused elderly about the state of the world and draws out their prejudices along with lined paper and a grubby brown envelope.

One writer seems to regard ‘Allo ‘Allo! as a wartime documentary. Apparently, if we had been in charge “between 1939 and 1945 we’d all be speaking German now, doing the double-time goose step and calling each other Fritz and Heidi”. Another letter tells me it is my fault that “the country is full of queers, tramps, no-goods, dossers and what have you”. No wonder my performance management document is published in chapters.

“You should bow your head in shame,” another letter tells me and I could hardly disagree, given the fact that I am responsible for raising “wimps in a litigious society”. It is something I can tell my grandchildren, I suppose. “No wonder the country is in such a mess.” In fact our purpose is to “grind the planet to a standstill”. This explains why I am so tired at night.

The attitudes that underpin some of the letters are very disturbing and primitive. Our leadership team is described as half-wits “who speak a language no one outside of Wales can understand or would want to”. How do they know? A writer from Bristol addresses the headteacher helpfully, saying that “one characteristic of the female mind which I have recognised from observation during my lifetime is that women placed in positions of authority lack the ability to use the judgment that men could make”. Sadly, the rest of the letter isn’t quite as reasoned or well balanced.

I urge you to go and read the rest and consider, once again, just what impact newspapers do have on people. As easy as it is to think that no-one really believes what they read in the papers, there is a lot of evidence that they do. And when they do, it is those at the center of the story have to face the consequences.

What would you do?

If your front garden was so overgrown that the Royal Mail refused to deliver your Mail would you:

  • A – tidy your garden, pruning the overgrown bush and removing the branch blocking your front door; or
  • B – complain to the Royal Mail and run to the Mail screaming ‘It’s health and safety gone mad’.

Of course, it is B every time for people who want the world to revolve around them. Here is the front garden in question, complete with the lazy, whinging pensioner who refuses to cut his garden back:

Now, in my humble opinion I’m with the postman here. Why should they traipse through this shithole that could easily be tidied up by an obstinate misanthrope who would rather spend his energy writing letters and complaining to the Mail than sort his bloody garden out? The useless tosser – Kenneth Payne – making the complaint makes it very easy to side with the post office:

‘Seventy years ago we came through the Blitz and now people can’t even do their jobs properly. It’s health and safety gone mad.’

Yes, nice one, bringing the blitz into it, as if that somehow is going to support your side of the argument. It seems like your argument could easily be turned around, Kenneth, it seems that you’re also kind of saying that 70 years ago this nation survived a blitz and now it can’t even manage to prune a bush. Or are you saying that millions died to secure your freedom to have an overgrown garden? Or millions died so that a postman could do battle with your garden each day because you can’t be bothered to tidy it up, even a tiny bit?

I don’t normally swear, but every time I see another ‘Elf ‘n’ safety gone mad’ (seriously, that was the prefix used in the headline, in a national newspaper) that is just some lazy twat moaning about how the world doesn’t want to bend over backwards just because he can’t be bothered to pull his finger out of his Daily-Mail reading arse, I just want to punch people.

It isn’t health and safety gone mad, it’s the tabloid-media-publishing-this-shit-all-the-time-because-they’re-scraping-the-barrel-for-outrage-and-sales.

How Richard Littlejohn gets paid to recycle his own crap

Richard Littlejohn dedicates his main piece today to more ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ bans, calling it ‘a special Guy Fawkes edition of Mind How You Go’. I was going to go through the claims one-by-one, but as the first claim unraveled it become so amusing and lengthy that I don’t think I’ll bother. Instead, enjoy a look at how Richard gets paid to recycle and embellish his old crap over and over again.

The claim: ‘On the orders of elf’n’safety, residents of ­Ilfracombe, in Devon, were forced to watch a virtual bonfire on a big screen.’

I just knew this story was rubbish, given that generally speaking those responsible for health and safety don’t ban things, let alone give ‘orders’. A quick Google search reveals the truth:

The idea was hatched after rugby club officials started to wade through the mountain of health and safety paperwork needed to hold the event.

Officials at North Devon District Council, which owns the rugby club land, have cracked down on safety rules after yobs hurled fireworks onto a nearby football club bonfire four years ago.

Under the new regime the club would be required to hire five qualified fire marshals, recruit dozens of volunteers to watch over the 2,000-strong crowd and fix metal barricades around the fire to keep people at a safe distance.

So, it was the case that the organisers didn’t want to go make the effort to comply with health and safety regulations that most people would consider sensible – especially given the incident that made North Devon Council become stricter in their approach to safety. Isn’t this the whole point of health and safety legislation, protecting people not just from themselves (which they might argue they do not need) but from the irresponsible actions of others.

Yes, perhaps it is a shame that we have to fence off bonfires because of the idiot actions of a few, but then it is also a shame that the actions of a few Muslim extremists lead to the whole Muslim population being smeared by the tabloid press. The press cannot bemoan one whilst actively reveling in the other.

The organisers and participants actually seemed to enjoy the event according to reports:

The organisers of the non-fire night built a fire on private earlier this week and Ilfracombe rugby player Joel Cooper, 25, and his 22-year-old brother Leo, recorded it with a video camera. Joel said: “I think it was a brilliant idea. The health and safety stuff was a real pain.

“We used to have the bonfire on the pitch so we have the added advantage of a clear ground for the next game.”

What is clear, as usual is that nothing was banned, at all. No orders were given and in fact the council, who declined to comment on the tabloid rubbish did point out that ‘the rugby club had not been in contact’.

The best thing about this claim is where it was dredged up from, step forward the book ‘Littlejohn’s Britain’, written by, you’ve guessed it, Richard Littlejohn. An abridged version of the story already appears on the Mail website, it was put there in April 2007:

On November 5, 2006, a crowd of more than 2,000 people assembled in a field in Ilfracombe, Devon, to watch a virtual bonfire on a big screen.

Heaters were arranged strategically around the field to give the sensation of the warmth of a real bonfire and loudspeakers played the sound of wood crackling.

The organisers decided on this performance after concluding that it would be uneconomic to comply with precautions insisted upon by the local council’s elf ‘n’ safety officers.

They would have to hire steel safety barriers, an army of stewards and first-aiders, and have the fire brigade on standby. They concluded it wasn’t worth it.

Hilariously, in 2007 Richard conceded that no orders were issued by ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ but that it was a decision made by the organisers in order to avoid having to meet or bother with the new requirements. Not only is he lazy enough to copy and paste the bulk of his ‘new’ column from stuff that has already appeared on the Mail website at least twice and in his book, he actually feels the need to embellish his own bullshit a bit further.

This column provides a perfect example of how Richard Littlejohn gets paid to recycle his own shit.

First of all, he produces his shit by rehashing Daily Mail articles or reader emails (normally making them even more dishonest than they were originally) and publishes them online and in print. At some point he collects all of this shit, staples it together and calls it a book. He then abridges this shit and prints the same shit back in the Mail again. He can then copy and paste the same shit – with some new embellishments – years later into a ‘new’ pile of shit.

Somehow, he gets paid every step of the way for doing this. You couldn’t make it up.

One of the other snippets from Littlejohn’s column today has already been laughed at by Primly Stable. Littlejohn hilariously wonders whether after prisoners have been given the right to vote why don’t we ‘go the whole hog and let them stand for election’. As Primly Stable points out, they already can stand for election.

Just a reminder that Littlejohn gets paid nearly a million pounds a year to write this shit.

The same old stories

It has been another busy week for media disinformation on a range of their favourite topics. The Daily Mail has made more extremely misleading claims about migration, this time attacking skilled workers by implying that only 1 in 4 of them actually work in a ‘top job’. The figures in fact could only confirm that 29% were in low-skilled work, whilst almost half of the sample returned unclear data – data that the Daily Mail or anyone else cannot possibly draw any conclusions from.

They have also made some very bizzarre claims against health and safety, again. This time they claim that ‘A ten year old champion swimmer has been banned from wearing his goggles in the pool under health and safety rules’. As Minority Thought points out ‘the decision to prevent Alex from wearing goggles has nothing to do with health and safety rules of any kind’ and in fact as the articles confirm the reason is as follows:

The school, St Anne’s in Royton, Greater Manchester, says it is following Oldham Council swimming guidelines which state that beginners and improvers should become used to eye contact with water.

It seems to me that the traditional tabloid portrayal of ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ would demand that goggles be worn at all times in order to protect eyes from the water, this is the complete opposite of the normal ‘elf ‘n’ safety gone mad’ myth.

This story is little more than an aside in the real story that an hospital eye consultant (ophthalmologist Parwez Hossain) has advised that participants in apple-bobbing should wear goggles and that bottled or boiled water should be used and the stalks removed from the apples. The Mail refers to this advice as ‘Halloween health and safety horror’ and insert the normal comments from outraged Joe Public:

Shop assistant and Halloween enthusiast Ben Richards, 29, from Southampton said: ‘This seems like health and safety gone mad.

‘I’ve done apple bobbing for years and never had any problems. It is all part of the Halloween experience.’

And, oddly, they even give some space for the thoughts of Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples & Pears (which represents apple growers) as if because he deals with the marketing of apples he is somehow in a position to comment on the dangers of bobbing for apples:

‘Health and safety can be taken too far and in this case it is ludicrous in the extreme. I have never heard of anybody suffering an injury as a result of apple bobbing.’

If he had read the comments of Parwez Hossain he would have known the following:

Mr Hossain said three people were admitted to the hospital with apple bobbing injuries last year. He added: ‘Casualty staff have seen children and adults turning up on Halloween with scratches on the cornea and eye injuries from impacts caused by apple bobbing…

‘Admissions to casualty on Bonfire Night have gone down as people have become more aware of health and safety but we have not seen a decline on Halloween.’

The Daily Mail declares that ‘now apple bobbing has fallen foul of the health and safety police’, even though this is merely advice given out by one hospital in an attempt to reduce the numbers of people they treat for avoidable injuries during halloween. The Daily Mail really needs some basic lessons on risk and they really need to stop using the word ‘police’ to accompany any advice that they do not wish to heed. There is no ‘health and safety police’, this advice is not backed-up by any kind of sanction or legal impediment. It is advice you are free to ignore or heed, something very different to the laws enforced by the police.

In other news the Daily Mail has been horrifying readers (and providing fuel for the EDL) by claiming that the ‘Islamification’ of Britain is in full swing because ‘Mohammed’ is the most popular name for newborn boys in the UK. Accept, of course, that is isn’t. It is actually in 16th place but the Daily Mail adds together all the variant spellings of the name until they force it into first place. Even then it only accounts for 2.09% of all newborn boys born each year in the UK. You can read more on this story on the following blogs:

Meanwhile this blog might be a bit sporadic for a bit whilst some other projects are being developed.

Littlejohn making a living from making it up

Richard Littlejohn is rather proud of the fact that he makes a living from writing about ‘elf ‘n’ safety’, presumably this is because he genuinely thinks he is performing some kind of public service by cataloging all these examples of health and safety ‘madness’. Sadly, as Tabloid Watch has posted today, he is guilty – as is much of the media – for simply inventing his stories. Not only this he is also keen on recycling his own content, Tabloid Watch points to a recent couple of examples of his repeated phrases, but they have all-to-familiar ring to them but I’m just too apathetic currently to dig up the other times he has used them.

Anyway, Littlejohn today provides another example of his well-researched cataloging of ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ madness: ‘The end of elf’n’safety? Cobblers!’ is his headline, which is kind of rehashing the Daily Mail headline (his research consisted of reading the article after all): ‘COBBLERS! Medieval paths in Iron Age village deemed too dangerous by health and safety chiefs’. Littlejohn writes with his usual assurance:

Another report highlighted the loss of most of Britain’s ­historic cobbled streets, which are being dug up and buried under Tarmac by councils on the off-chance someone might slip over and sue for com-pen-say-shun.

‘On the off-chance’? One Google search later (yes, it really is that easy to do research Richard) reveals:

Dunster attracts thousands of visitors a year because of its 1,000-year-old castle and features including the medieval cobbled streets.

But injuries from tripping over have ranged from a broken arm to a cut forehead and sprained ankles – and they are also the reason no-one will make repairs…

Paul Toogood, said… “The cobbles on the one side of the street are dangerous, extremely dangerous.

“They have six to seven-inch holes in and we’ve had to call the ambulance five times for people that have fallen over this year alone.”

So, people are being injured on the cobbles, even if Richard thinks that they are not. Now, have ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ Nazis been responsible for the idea that they are replaced with ‘smooth slabs’? Err, no, back to Paul Toogood, chairman of the Dunster Working Group:

“The trouble is, nobody is responsible for the pavements, they don’t belong to anyone.

“In an ideal world we would like to lift the cobbles and lay them again, but we have to think about litigation; if someone falls over we could be sued…

Mr Toogood said that once a smooth pavement was laid, they wanted to hand over responsibility to the highways department to maintain it.

He said the department would only consider taking responsibility if a smooth pavement was laid.

The Dunster Working Group has held three public meetings to gather feedback from residents and Mr Toogood said most were in favour of laying the pavement, but this was all subject to finding £60,000 to £70,000 of funding.

So, not really about health and safety at all, is it? This is a problem inherited by Dunster because it was part of the Luttrell family estate until 1951, after the sale of Dunster Somerset County Counil’s highways department took over the responsibility for the roads, but not the pavements. This has led to the current situation and fear of litigation has stopped any attempt at repairs.

The real question here is whether these fears of litigation are genuine, back to Tabloid Watch who takes these quotations from the Young report:

Britain’s ‘compensation culture’ is fuelled by media stories about individuals receiving large compensation payouts for personal injury claims and by constant adverts in the media offering people non-refundable inducements and the promise of a handsome settlement if they claim.


One of the great misconceptions, often perpetuated by the media, is that we can be liable for the consequences of any voluntary acts on our part. During winter 2009/10, advice was given on television and radio to householders not to clear the snow in front of their properties in case any passer by would fall and then sue.

This is another manifestation of the fear of litigation. In fact there is no liability in the normal way, and the Lord Chief Justice himself is reported as saying that he had never come across a case where someone was sued in these circumstances.

Perhaps people wouldn’t be quite so frightened in Richard didn’t keep repeating the myth that everyone was liable to ‘com-pen-say-shun’ if they so much as get looked at a bit funny in public. Still, keeps you in work now Labour have been voted out and Gordon Brown has gone quiet, eh, Dick?

When is a home not a home?

Another ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ story in the Daily Mail today in which they ‘confuse’ the communal area of sheltered accommodation with someone’s ‘home’: ‘‘Elf and safety jobsworths order OAP to take down portrait of Queen because ‘it could fall on a firefighter‘. In the first line the Mail claims that:

The Queen and Prince Charles have been banned from a pensioner’s home – on health and safety grounds.

Which the Mail knows is a lie because they acknowledge in the very next line that:

Royalty-lover Jean Thomas proudly hung a picture of the royals on the stairs landing outside her sheltered housing flat in Swansea.

The article and the pensioner keep repeating how meaningful and important this portrait is to her, which kind of begs the question as to why she chooses not to hang in it her flat. A spokesman made it perfectly clear why the portrait has been taken down:

‘Fire safety legislation requires landlords to ensure homes with communal areas and entrances are safe and well protected in the event of fire.

‘We have been working closely with the fire Service to keep entrances, exit and escape routes free of combustible materials and trip hazards or obstructions.

It is that simple. If you live in a block of flats you are not allowed to put stuff in the corridors / stairs / landings because these areas do not belong to you and are ordinarily the sole escape route for any resident. Landlords must ensure that these entrances / exits are safe and uncluttered, it makes sense and is a sensible thing to do. The Daily Mail is clearly not impressed with these ‘jobsworths’ but they know full well the kind of article they would write if anything happened in an old people’s home and the landlord was to blame in any way for ignoring fire regulations.