Now they see us, now they don’t…

10 Oct

Firstly I must begin by expressing my thanks to Brownhills Bob for the publicity he gave my last blog post. Secondly I would like to thank other local bloggers and tweeters who were also kind enough to read and redistribute my work. This newest post is a follow up to a piece that Bob ran last month about the appearances of a mystery CCTV camera in Friezland Lane, Walsall Wood.

Thanks to the recently censored Sgt John De-Hayes of West Midlands Police and other local contributors it was quickly established that the mystery camera belonged to Walsall Housing Group. WHG claimed they had informed residents in writing about the camera albeit they failed to provide public signage.

Moving forward a few weeks and I found myself in hot pursuit of a moggie, which in turn was chasing a squirrel just beyond St. James Church Cemetery on Great Charles Street. After realising that both of my potential targets could climb fences far more effectively than myself, I slowed to a canter and continued up Great Charles Street abandoning my pursuit in the process. On the corner of Great Charles Street and Vernon Avenue I happened to glance skywards whereupon I spied a recently installed CCTV camera affixed to a lamp-post.

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22nd September 2012

This camera is operated by Walsall Council, who unlike Walsall Housing Group, have decided to comply with the Data Protection Act in a far more straightforward way, by placing two signs underneath, one clearly stating that they are running the scheme, why it is in place and how to contact them for further information, the other banning ball games – I find this a strange combination, not to mention unfair on ball loving canniness.

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22nd September 2012 – On reflection, the No Ball Games sign may be unrelated

Interestingly however, this camera’s location was only short lived. A few weeks later, still outraged about the ‘No Ball Games’ sign I summed up the courage to return to the spot with my best tennis ball and make a formal protest under the CCTV camera. However, upon arrival the camera had vanished.

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10th October 2012

Dismayed that my civil disobedience was to go unrecorded I slumped off in the direction of Vicarage Road. However, just as I had given up hope of being able to play ball under the watchful eye of the local authorities I spotted the cameras new home, now attached to the lamp-post at the top of Ogley Crescent.

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10th October 2012 – Binoculars required to read the sign

It seems that our Council have gotten quite a taste of using CCTV in built up residential areas, an interesting development. Now, I must make my position clear. I am not against the use of CCTV for the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour in our towns and city centres. However, bringing it in to residential areas does pose a few questions.

There have been several cases in the past decade that I am aware of, where individuals responsible for monitoring CCTV in residential areas have used their position to make and store inappropriate images. Sadly I no longer have the links to these stories, however they include CCTV operatives recording people in various states of undress in their bathrooms, living rooms gardens and so forth. It is a criminal offence to do so and offenders are often forced to sign the sex offenders register as part of their punishment.

I am not trying to argue that this sort of behaviour is inevitable, however have a look at this CCTV footage that has made its way on to Youtube and then consider whether you would be comfortable with a council run dome camera sitting a few metres outside of your bedroom window.

In view of all of this I would like Walsall Council to answer these basic questions:

1) How is the need for the use of CCTV in residential areas established?

2) Where are images recorded and which staff / contractors have access to them?

3) After deciding to use CCTV in a residential area how often is the need for the continued use of each installation reviewed?

4) What if anything is done to physically prevent cameras being able to view the inside of domestic dwellings? – By this I refer to cameras being programmed to pixelate, computer generated blackout or other means of image distortion when cameras pan across a field of view that looks in to a dwelling

5) If the answer to Q4 is, ‘Nothing, we trust our staff not to do this’ then how often is footage audited to ensure correct use?

I sincerely hope that someone from the council can comment on this, so that we are all aware of the current policy and safeguards that are in place to prevent abuse of CCTV systems in such intimate locations. I am not trying to argue that CCTV in these types of area is a good or bad thing per se, only that it is a subject that needs close attention and careful monitoring if local residents are to be kept on board.

To finish, may I also respectfully request that any footage found of a small dog chasing a ball in a restricted ball-game area is deleted and not passed on to the local dog warden for intelligence purposes. Otherwise, I look forward to hearing from the council. Many thanks

The peasants are revolting

3 Oct

Anyone familiar with the excellent work of  Brownhills Bob will note that he has previously documented the utter contempt that Tesco have shown towards our town. Not merely content with leaving Brownhills High street destitute, our favourite ‘local’ retailer have seen it fit to insult us further with a minor renovation of the store, in the hope we will forget about their abandonment of Ravens Court and the Market Site.

Earlier this week whilst sniffing around I noted a chap struggling to return a trolley to one of the newly installed bays in the car park. I am sure you have all noticed that unlike the more affluent areas of the West Midlands, here in Brownhills we are only allowed a trolley on the proviso that we first place a £1 deposit in the on-board locking mechanism.

This lack of trust is perhaps disturbing enough, but the real piss take is noted in the picture below.

What’s the problem?

Perhaps this isn’t quite clear enough, have a closer look…

Empty Bay

Ignore the abandoned trolleys behind the ‘Zone 1′ return point and look at the horizontal wooden bar that runs across the centre of the picture. The reason the chap was struggling to return his trolley was owing to the fact that in order to get his quid back he either needed another trolley to be present, or he needed to use a fitted chain which should be attached to the horizontal wooden bar with an unlocking key attached to it.

When the bay is empty the fitted keychain allows the first trolley to go back in, subsequently allowing further trolleys to be returned. Every single trolley return point suffers from the same problem, unless there is already a trolley present, shoppers have to walk back to the main entrance of the store to return their carriage.

Now, let’s be honest, this isn’t a major issue for most people. I should imagine anyone with young children or those who lack mobility may find it a bit of a pisser to get back across the car park to return their trolley. However it does clearly demonstrate the amount of thought, effort and energy that has been put in to the Tesco turd -polish.

Perhaps Tesco can tell us why they have put up half a dozen ‘ceremonial’ shelters in their car park, which serve no purpose other than to frustrate shoppers at the end of their custom?

I am guessing that the fixed keychains must be forged  from the same ‘purest unobtainium’ that was used for the cycle rack at the front of the store… either that or this just another example of Tesco trying to make things look pretty without giving a damn if their store really meets the needs of its customers.

Anyone with half a brain from the store management team could have surely resolved this? Perhaps the senior staff were all too busy posing for their glossy cardboard cut-outs that adorn the store façade to notice, or perhaps Tesco really just don’t give a shit about you, me or the town that we live in.

Whichever it is, I am prepared to bet this situation goes unresolved for the indefinite future…

Paul Mccartney, still not dead.

24 Aug

I am a touch late typing this post, amongst other things I was waiting for my dew claws to be clipped. The subject however has been bugging me for quite some time. After watching the quite fantastic opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, I was quite saddened by the vitriol that was expressed regarding Paul Mccartney’s appearance at  the end of the show. There appeared to be universal condemnation for the ageing Beatle and his rendition of Hey Jude. However, two weeks later, when a VT of John Lennon was played in the closing ceremony, there was no such outcry about his inclusion.

The reason for this is simple, Paul is not dead. Dying whilst still culturally relevant guarantees immortality, future generations learn of the legend of Lennon, and never get to see some washed-up wife-beating OAP who hasn’t made a decent record in thirty years. Better still, Lennon being cut down in his prime allows us to imagine, that in 2012 he would still have be a great pop-culture icon.

I have no particular love of the Beatles, Macca or Lennon. Neither for that matter, do I have any particular dislike of them. The Olympic Opening Ceremony was a celebration of British Culture. One thing that we certainly do export globally from the UK is music; as such it had to be a major feature in the ceremony. If you tried to put an anthology of British pop music together and omitted the Beatles you would be laughed at. The decision to include them was a dead cert.

Given this fact it makes perfect sense to invite one of the surviving members to put a show on for the world. It’s not Macca’s fault that he is not dead, that he accepted the gig and that he played (a bloody good version of) the classic ‘end of the night track’ that was asked of him.

It’s sad that we show such little respect for age, achievement and experience, Paul Mccartney is no longer a pop icon, but the fact he happens to still be alive, shouldn’t deny him a place in a contemporary account of our cultural history. I am glad that Danny Boyle realised this. It is a pity that so many others were quick to jump on a band wagon without thinking. That is all.

A Security Shambles…

17 Jul

As a dog, I have never been formally employed. I am presumed to be too small to be of significant use to humans. However, notwithstanding the rampant sizeism that pollutes your species, there is one industry in particular that all dogs are qualified to both work in and comment upon. Security.

On a daily basis I patrol my territory keeping it safe from, burglars, trespassers, cats and other lowlife scum who occasionally tread the suburban sprawl of Brownhills. I have a highly attuned nose and an appetite for investigation, which has in the past lead me to acquire a fair deal of insider information about the practices and procedures of the private security industry.

It is therefore no surprise to me, that there has been an almighty cock up in connection with the provision of security at the Olympics. There are several factors that have influenced this, but none more so than the desire of one party to keep costs down and the other party to make a tidy profit. I believe you humans have a word for this concept. Greed.

Imagine you want a job. Times are hard and you have limited choice, perhaps a spot of security work will tide you over. There seems to be plenty of it about, you settle down and begin the application process. The mountain you face looks something like this.

Owing to various regulatory requirements you must first be able to supply a full five year work history. This involves reference checks against all periods of self employment, PAYE employment, unemployment and education. It means contacting, employers, accountants, job centres and other organisations. It also includes a credit check and two character references. It may sound simple but compliance with this standard is a real pisser. For every ten applicants who start the process about five will come through the other side.

After such a thorough probing, you are delighted to learn you can start your basic job training. A three day course in door supervision or security guarding, with an extra day of physical skills training and conflict management training thrown in for good measure. This is a pass or fail course and you have to sit an exam at the end of it which is externally marked.

After jumping through this hoop you can then move on to applying for your government approved security licence.

This requires the applicant to supply a continuous address history for the past five years, a passport pictures signed by a ‘responsible person,’ proof of successful completion of basic job training, full CRB disclosure from any country lived in outside of the UK in the past five years, declarations that you’ve never been in trouble with the law or been detained under the mental health act and a cheque for over two-hundred quid.

If you get that lot in order, many applicants do not, you can now move on to phase three of the application. Job specific training. This is where some bloke who used to be in the armed forces and lost the will to live about twenty years ago gives you between one and seven days training in the specifics of your assignment. After this and assuming all your paperwork is correct you can start work. Finally!

Except you can’t. You have been hired specially to work on the Olympic games contract by a private security firm and it is only (for example) June. Thus far the bastards have not paid you a penny but have dug through the past five years of your life and made you endure between ten and twelve days unpaid training. At the end of this process you are expected to sit tight doing fuck all for a month until you can start to earn.

I also forgot to mention that as this is the Olympic Games you also need an extra security check to make sure that you are not a member of the IRA, Al Qaeda, the Lib Dems or any another organisation committed to the destruction of our parliamentary democracy. If this counter-terror check comes back clean, then yes, you are officially a Londinium 2012 security guard. But you still can’t work ‘till the games start.

Having made it this far through the shit storm, you may be now tempted to leave and work somewhere else, but perhaps you would first like to know how much you will earn, when you eventually get some work? Except, your security company won’t tell you that, it depends on where they send you, but you can expect a mediocre £6.50 to £8.50 per hour. To put this in real money, it works out at £12,000-16,000 per annum on a standard 37.5 hour week. But remember, you aren’t on a salary and you can’t start work for several months.

If you think piss is now being extracted from you at maximum velocity, there are still a couple of sucker punches waiting for you yet. This job that you have signed up for, which keeps you waiting for months to start, well, when it does start it only last for six weeks, before you are demobbed and chucked on the scrapheap. Your employer may not have mentioned this but after the games they will have a major surplus of security officers and your services will no longer be required. Welcome back to being unemployed, along with ten thousand other ex-guards, with the same qualifications and training as you.

The good news however, is that your pay cheque will be arriving shortly after your P45, that should cheer you up… Before you get too excited though, think back to your recruitment phase, do you remember the training and licensing costs that were incurred in your SIA licence application? Do you think these costs will be swallowed up by your multi-million dollar lords and masters? Ha. Think again. The licence is your personal property which means you pay for it, deducted out of your wages. You have no use for the badge after the Games but it still cost you around a week’s take home pay. Tough shit.

You have been sucked in, bled dry and blown out again, so a private corporation could make a few million quid off your back under the pretence of supporting sporting excellence.

Unsurprisingly, a large number of applicants saw this coming, deciding to abandon this temporary, piss-take of a job offer and leave their employer high and dry. Which is why G4S now find themselves up a certain creek without a paddle. They were trying to peddle the mother of all exploitation operations. Two weeks unpaid training for six weeks work, followed by the loss of another week’s wages in final salary deductions. The government want to have a professional security outfit at the games, but they were happy to jump in to bed with the private sector because it was cheap. It was cheap for a reason and it has backfired spectacularly.

The Private Security Industry functions by exploiting staff to keep costs low and profits fat. It is a brutal way to earn a crust and G4S and the government are getting what they deserve. This whole episode is free-market capitalism at its worst.

Which is why I am confused. If you had hired me and a few of my bitches to help you with Olympic security you would be required by law to provide us with food, shelter and accommodation. You would not be allowed to transport my canine chums and I in anything like the same dirty, cramped, crowded conditions that humans have to endure on Public Transport, or abandon us to sleep under a bridge at night. You could only work us in eight hour shifts in hygienic, clean, quiet environments.

If you dared try and expose us to the hellish, cat-like behaviour you show each other you would be prosecuted, persecuted and a few of your species would even attempt to kill those who tried to subject us dogs to such cruelty. You seem to provide safeguards for the working conditions of dogs far more assiduously than you do for your fellow humans. Yet for the most part this rampant exploitation of humanity, in the name of profit, seems to go unnoticed by your species. You are a confusing lot.

Having said that, I am a dog. There are a great deal of things about humans and the Olympics that make no sense to me. Apparently there is an entire stick throwing competition taking place as part of the games but not a single dog will be allowed near it… madness.

Pool Lane, closed or open?

8 Jul

On a pleasant Sunday afternoon I was most upset to almost be mown down by a fat man riding a smelly, loud exhaust-fume belching motorbike. Now, I can attest that us canines are not renowned for our road sense, however, the incident occurred on a road which has been closed to traffic since 2007. Pool Lane, which runs parallel to the dam wall at the southern end of Chasewater Reservoir, is currently subject to a prohibition order which will make the ‘temporary’ motor vehicle ban that has been in place for the last five years permanent. If you want to know more about this I suggest you read this excellent post by Brownhills Bob.

Clearly, fatty on his fossil-fuel-fired pollution machine, must think that such restrictions do not apply to him and that Pool Lane is open for business. At the time of his transgression there were several small children on pedal bikes, joggers and walkers all using the road on a fine summer afternoon, not to mention other members of my species, too engrossed with sniffing each others backsides to notice the impending danger. After his near miss with me, the ignorant fool slowed somewhat and managed to avoid other pedestrians before zooming on through the non existent road block, designed to restrict such behaviour.

Aside from urinating on his spark-plugs, there are some steps we can all take to try and rectify this situation. If you have an ounce of common sense then use the details in Brownhills Bob’s post and contact the council to register your opposition to this road being reopened. I also would love the park management to have a look at the temporary blockade that is in place and see if it can be improved at all. As it currently stands Eddie Stobart could get one of his 18 wheelers through the gap where the scaffolding has been pulled out and the barrel turned. I appreciate that it still needs to allow pedal cycle users and other legitimate traffic through but any short-term maintenance would be most appreciated.

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Pool Lane ‘road block’, Sunday 8th June 16:30

Hopefully my brush with the fat faced, helmeted road-hog will be an isolated incident and no serious injury, (to humans or dogs), will occur before this matter is permanently dealt with.

Chasewater Rising

8 Jul

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Whilst out chasing rabbits on Thursday eve I paused to take a look at Chasewater reservoir. On today’s afternoon stroll, (no rabbits present) I took a similar picture from the same spot. In the three days that have since passed, the water level has noticeably risen. Hardly a surprise given Friday’s deluge, but still interesting to observe.

 

 

Hello world!

8 Jul

Welcome to WordPress.com! This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

Happy blogging!

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