Council Accused Of "Heavy Handed" Approach

Local postcard collector threatened with hefty fine

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A postcard collector from Shepherd's Bush is accusing Hammersmith and Fulham Council of being “heavy handed” after he received a letter from them claiming he was running a business from home and threatening to fine him if he did not prove that he was disposing of his rubbish properly.

Andy Hoang says he collects postcards from around the world and sticks them on the wall of his Goldhawk Road home, as well as posting them on his blog, My Real Wall. He says his hobby involves sending and receiving a lot of post, and he gets about five postcards a day from all over the world.

However, in a letter sent by the Council to Hoang in September a Council officer told the computer technician to prove he was disposing of any waste generated by his “business” in the correct manner or face a hefty fine.

“I must advise that failure to provide or produce your documents will result in the matter being referred to our legal department with a view to prosecution whereby if convicted you could be fined to a maximum of £5,000 (or on indictment an unlimited fine). Alternatively, you may be offered the opportunity subject to a thorough assessment of a formal interview, to discharge of your liability to conviction through payment of a Fixed Penalty Notice. The above findings will be dealt with after verification of proper documentation,” the letter states.

Hoang says he is not running a business at all and does not have the documentation being asked for: “The Council threat shook me up a bit. It seemed really heavy handed to just tell me that they were going to fine me if I didn't come forth with documentation in 14 days, especially as no paperwork could possibly exist. The Council haven't yet come back at me, but then the next thing in the letter says that if I don't send them anything then they'd just pass it on to their legal department and hit me with an unlimited fine.”

Hoang, who began My Real Wall in February, says he has asked his fans around the world to send him postcards of support which he will package together and forward to the Council in response to their letter.

“Personally, I am disgusted that the Council would brazenly send me a threat like this with no evidence, asking me to defend myself from accusations of rubbish tipping which I am not responsible for. How they managed to put together the idea that I am dumping rubbish is beyond me, but with the recent stories on councils asking people to snoop on their neighbours and the recent reports about Alan Johnson trying to curb council abuse of anti-terror legislation, I strongly suspect that one of these methods has been used,” says Hoang.

Hoang says he has done nothing wrong and strongly denies that he dumps any waste at all: “My hobby generates absolutely zero waste. In fact, as I tend to dig around in my dustbins for newspapers and magazines to create collages, I probably dispose of less waste than anyone else on my block. In addition I am totally committed to recycling, and bring most of my paper to work to dispose of in the office recycling bin or in any of the recycling points near me. In addition, I dispose of all my organic waste in the university allotment where I work. I generate far less waste than your average citizen. I have absolutely no idea where the Council got this idea from,” he says.

A Council spokesperson said: “The Council's street scene enforcement officers discovered illegally dumped waste and sent him a producer notice asking him to explain how he usually gets rid of his waste.” We also asked the Council to respond to the charge that its approach was “heavy handed” but received no reply to this question.

 

November 22, 2009

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