Wednesday, 27 April 2011

If you go out in the park today

My wife is back at work, which means we're back to watching BBC Breakfast at ungodly hours in the morning. Accordingly, my blogging rate may increase. There's usually at least one story to get my blood boiling, and today was no exception. It hasn't yet appeared on the BBC News website, but the London Evening Standard has also covered it:
Personal trainers, nannies and even dog walkers could face paying thousands of pounds a year to use public parks for business.

Fitness instructors are already paying Hammersmith & Fulham council to use Hurlingham Park in Putney, and the policy could be adopted by more boroughs.

The council's rules suggest anyone making money in the park will be charged from £350 to £1,200 a year.
So, Jack & Jill are council tax payers in Putney. They go running every day in Hurlingham Park. No problem. Suppose they're friends who run together. No problem. Suppose Jack is the better runner, and offers free advice to Jill. No problem. Suppose Jill returns the favour by walking Jack's dog on Sunday morning, when he's recovering from the night before. No problem. But if money changes hands, suddenly everything changes. The transactions are still voluntary. Jack & Jill are still paying taxes. They're still exercising and staying in shape like good little citizens, reducing the strain on the NHS. But the parasites at Hammersmith & Fulham council are convinced that money is the root of all evil, and that all financial transactions are fair game for their depredations.

The BBC interviewed Robin Cope from British Military Fitness, who predictably said it was absolutely right that his smaller competitors should be forced to pay, and who further suggested that they should be properly regulated.

To be clear, I wouldn't have a problem with private parks charging whatever rates they like, and imposing whatever terms of admission they choose. Unlike public parks, they must respond to customer demand, or perish. In contrast, we pay for public parks whether we want to or not. We don't have the option of withdrawing our contribution if the administrators adopt an unreasonable policy.

Parks, like tips, are among the most valued services currently provided by councils. It is absurd, though predictable, that they are exploiting users of these services before trimming their sprawling mass of inefficient, meddling bureaucrats, and while they continue to offer many services that are simply unnecessary.


  1. While you may be deeply dissatisfied with your good wife returning to work, and thus, you're having BBC Breakfast inflicted upon you at some ungodly hour. I am delighted!

    As ever your blog is a breath of fresh air. As ever, I could not agree more.