Family ‘held to ransom’ after council finds lost dog

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When the family said did not have the money Mimi was placed into kennels, increasing the cost to £85, and they were warned she could be given to another family if they do not pay up.

Married mum-of-two Melanie Tonge, 39, a married mother-of-two from Westnoughton, near Bolton, Greater Manchester, said: “It feels like my dog is being held to ransom.

“I just couldn’t get the money together. Now Mimi has been taken to the kennels.

“The shelter has told us unless we can pay the costs she will be re-homed. I just don’t understand it. I am so upset.”

The family claim they are facing financial hardship.

Mrs Tonge said: “We cannot find that sort of money – we either pay our council tax or pay to get her back.

“I am so upset. The dog escaped because a friend left the gate open.

“As soon as she escaped we were frantic and l went looking for her.

“She is microchipped and we look after her and she does not roam the streets.”

She has told her children, Caroline, aged five, and John, aged three, that Mimi is being looked after by somebody else.

A Bolton Council spokeswoman said the authority operates an ‘in house’ dog warden service for the collection of stray dogs during daylight hours.

If a stray dog is collected, the dog is returned free of charge if it is the first “offence”.

But during weekends and evenings, all Greater Manchester authorities use a company called Animal Wardens, who return the animal to the owner after a fee of £60 has been paid.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “This fee is paid direct to the company and the council is not involved in payment of this fee.

“If the owner’s details are not known, or they refuse to pay, then the stray dog is kennelled at Leigh Dog’s Home.

“The owner must then pay an £85 fee, which remains at this price for seven days, after which the dog becomes the property of the home.

“In this case, Mrs Tonge’s dog was picked up at about 5pm by Animal Wardens, who asked her to pay the £60 fee and she refused, so the dog was transferred to the Leigh Dog~s Home.

“She can still retrieve her dog by paying the £85 fee within the next seven days.

“The dog’s home offered to only charge her £25 as a goodwill gesture if she picked the dog up that evening, which she also refused.” Mrs Tonge denies having been made this offer.

Motorist rings council to ask if car park is haunted

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Another member of the public rang his local authority to ask if he could roll up a zebra crossing, according to a survey of the most bizarre requests received by town halls.

Other queries that had officials scratching their heads included someone who wanted to know if they could register the death of a person who was still alive, and a request to be told the plot of She Stoops to Conquer, an 18th century play.

Some callers retained a touching faith in the wisdom of their councils, more used to handling requests about parking and recycling, by ringing them for advice even while abroad.

An East Dorset resident rang the town hall’s tourist information centre while in Cologne, Germany, to find out why his bus hadn’t arrived.

The same office received a call from a resident temporarily in South Korea, who wanted a Christmas turkey ordered from the local butcher.

Meanwhile a German man turned up at a council premises in Northumberland demanding to be given political asylum, and police had to be called when he refused to accept that all Europeans are free to enter Britain.

A caller to Surrey council complained that the phone number they had been given for their library was out of order – only to be told that “0900 1800” were in fact its opening hours.

A tourist asked what time of day the dolphins in Cardigan Bay could be seen, while a Sutton resident wanted to know where to find “an old bath that I could fill with custard”.

Baroness Eaton, chairman of the Local Government Association, the umbrella group representing councils in England and Wales which compiled the survey, said: “These examples show just how broad a range of issues council staff deal with each day. Councils literally have to be ready for anything from the mundane to the mind-boggling.

“Councils try to help callers with support and advice as much as they possibly can. While the vast majority of calls fall within the bounds of councils’ usual responsibilities, there are occasions when call handlers are left baffled.

“The fact that councils are so often the first port of call for residents who are seeking a solution to their problems shows just how central a role councils play in the lives of their communities. While councils offer more than 800 local services, some requests really are beyond them.”

‘You are not here’: council map with wrongly placed arrow fools visitors

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The arrow should point to Trinity Street where the map is located but instead points to New Union Street, more than half a mile away Photo: CATERS

The sign, in Coventry, West Midlands, features a large black “You are here” arrow supposedly pointing to the street which it is standing in.

But in fact it identifies another street a considerable distance away and the map has left a host of shoppers and tourists aimlessly wandering the area.

The arrow should point to Trinity Street where the map is located but instead points to New Union Street, more than half a mile away.

The map was produced by council-run management company CVOne – which is responsible for producing all official visitor material for Coventry and Warwickshire.

But local residents said the company has now made their town a laughing stock.

Shopkeeper Richard Knibbs, whose store, Cash Generator, is next to the map, said: “This map makes it look like we don’t know one end of our own city from the other.

“What on earth must visitors to Coventry think when our visitor information has them wandering off in the wrong direction.It is causing major confusion for people.”

A spokesman for CVOne said: “The map was placed there as a temporary measure while a new city centre street map was prepared for printing.

“We would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the confusion caused. The new sign will be in place as soon as possible.”

The ‘bewildering’ council road signs

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It is the county known as “The Rose of the Shires”, an evocative description that has long appeared on road signs welcoming visitors.

But officials have been criticised after replacing the wording with the “bewildering” new slogan: “Welcome to Northamptonshire – let yourself grow”.

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The replacement signs cost £25,000 and have been erected on roads entering the county as part of a campaign to rebrand the area.

It is one of a series of schemes across the country in which councils have replaced traditional boundary signs with new boards featuring what motorists describe as “sloppy slogans”. The cost of the schemes runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Other new signs, uncovered in a survey by The Sunday Telegraph, include:

– “Welcome to Tower Hamlets – let’s make it happen” introduced at a cost of £29,677

– “Welcome to the Borough of Tunbridge Wells – Love Where We Live” (£1,994)

– “Proud to be part of Sandwell – Great people, great place, great prospects” (£20,430)

– “Welcome to Newham – a place where people choose to live, work and stay” (£95,039)

– “Welcome to Oldham – many places one destination” (£30,000)

– “Hertfordshire – County of Opportunity” (£2,142)

- “Hyndburn – an excellent council” (£25,566)

The phrase “let yourself grow” was the result of a £100,000, two-year rebranding project by council and business leaders in Northamptonshire, after research found that the county lacked a distinctive image.

Those involved included Terry Hanby, a branding expert from Cambridge University, as well as a local design agency, Impact.

Northamptonshire Enterprise Ltd, a company set up as part of the project by the county council, the tourist board and regional business organisations, paid for the new signs to be erected and the old ones removed.

A spokesman for the company – which is represented by an Oxfordshire-based communications company – defended the slogan, saying: “The phrase is something to incorporate what the company stands for.

“It symbolises growth and prosperity and represents our mission to make Northamptonshire and everything within it high-quality.”

However, motorists have criticised the signs.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “First and foremost signs should give drivers information. Tacking on some sloppy slogan like ‘Let’s make it happen’ seems to be a waste of time and money.

“There’s enough PR speak elsewhere without having it on our roads.”

Marie Clair, from the Plain English Campaign, added: “Northamptonshire seems to be marketing itself as a bag of compost. What is wrong with telling us a little about an area’s history or activities or local features?

“These signs are bizarre, bland, bewildering and banal. These are weird, hippyish phrases that sound like a throwback to the 1960s. They mean absolutely nothing. They tell you nothing.

“These are public information signs. They are meant to tell you something. What is wrong with something clear and informative? It is a disgrace to know the amount of money being spent on them.

“These sorts of signs are infuriating to motorists and yet they give the first impression of a place – and not a good impression.”

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