Cornish barber stands up to council
Feb 2013 06

A Cornish barber who used a loudhailer to warn drivers when he saw traffic wardens has been put on a ‘cautionary list’ of people viewed as a threat to council workers’ safety. Liskeard barber Andy Blackwell decided it was his civic duty to help local taxpayers avoid paying more money to the council in parking fines. When he saw parking wardens approaching, he switched on his loudhailer, which emitted a siren and then repeatedly announced ‘Traffic warden alert.’

On one occasion, he was confronted by two wardens who took a photograph of him.  ‘How come there’s two of you doing your job?’ he said to them. ‘Does one do the reading and one do the writing?’ ‘I never threatened, or cursed or swore,’ he continued. ‘As far as I was concerned I was doing a public service.’

Cornwall Council, however, took a different view. They sent him a letter saying he had ‘verbally abused’ council employees and caused them ‘extreme distress’ and they would be putting his name on a cautionary list.

‘The cautionary contacts list,’ said the council, ‘is an internal system which aims to protect council staff from potentially harmful situations, including physical assault and verbal abuse. Many local authorities around the country have similar schemes in place. This information is only used within the council and is only available to those employees who may potentially be exposed to such risks.’ Sounds like taxpayer funded intimidation to me!

The Liskeard barber has said he does not wish to antagonise the council further but the loudhailer is available for the use of his customers. ‘It’s a little bit of fun, and people have thanked me,’ said Mr Blackwell.

Indeed, just a few month’s earlier his very own town mayor was taking on Cornwall Council for raising parking charges in Liskeard. The rise was causing ‘death by car parking charges’ to local businesses and the mayor wanted to lease back the council car parks to establish a fairer regime. ‘We are interested in trying to promote people coming to the town,’ argued the mayor. Quite right. Maybe he should hand round more loudhailers then…

Tim is Grassroots Coordinator for Bath and the South-West. He is an historian, author and veteran local campaigner.