Episode 1 Call the Council


Episode 1

Series following council officers. In this episode, residents in a suburban street call the council after spotting raw meat hanging on a neighbour's washing line.


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Transcript


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From waste and recycling

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to pest control and trading standards,

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the taxes that we pay to our local councils are used to provide

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many of our most essential services.

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I like people who are keen to recycle.

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In this series, we follow the front-line staff working

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behind the walls of Tameside Town Hall in Greater Manchester.

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Like council officers across the country,

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these local heroes are waging war on those blighting our communities.

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Oi, oi! Excuse me! Excuse me, love! You can't do that!

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They're protecting us from hidden dangers...

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The business owner has got a duty

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to make sure that he is protecting his business and the people

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that are coming in to buy food from his business.

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..making sure our cash is spent on those who need it most...

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I am at a loose end. I do not know where to turn.

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..and responding to their residents when they call the council.

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Coming up...officers get stuck into a meaty issue, after residents

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call the council to complain about their neighbour's garden.

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I can go and get a warrant. We'll be back in 15 minutes.

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The dog warden responds to a call about a stray

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-causing havoc on the streets...

-Sit down. Sit down.

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Absolutely wet through, aren't you?

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And officers work through the night to rid the country's roads

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of potentially lethal taxis.

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The UK's 433 local councils are the backbone of our nation.

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Providing essential services like waste management,

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trading standards and health inspections,

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over two million local authority employees work hard

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to keep our communities clean and safe, and us free from harm.

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Good morning, Tameside Council. Can I help?

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Right, I will try the line to Environmental Services. Bear with me one moment.

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East of Manchester, Tameside Council's aim is to support

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and enhance the lives of its residents

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and resolve any problems they face when they call the council.

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And sometimes those problems can be very close to home.

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It can be anything to do with noise, smells, odours...

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just really something that happens between neighbours

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and they can't resolve that between them so they'll contact us.

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Every year, millions of us in the UK complain about our neighbours.

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Latest statistics reveal that one in 20 of us

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were forced to move home due to a neighbourhood dispute.

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The most common issues are boundary disputes, excessive noise

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and stolen car parking spaces.

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But eight residents in this quiet suburban street have called

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the council to complain about something out of the ordinary.

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They say that every day for the past week,

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they've been confronted by the sight of raw pork ribs,

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chicken and duck carcasses strung up for all to see.

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Today they were hung up on the washing line.

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They hang 'em out of the bedroom windows

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and they also hang 'em under the car canopy.

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It's not a nice sight to have,

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especially when there's kids next door.

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I couldn't understand what they were.

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I thought they were some kind of piping bags, you know,

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if you've been icing a cake.

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I won't be... I will be a little bit afraid, you know,

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terrified to find I had rats or any kind of vermin.

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It's just...unbelievable.

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If people are walking their dogs now,

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walking up and down this street,

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people stop and they stare at them ducks and it's upset everybody.

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I hope the council come along and stop them doing it.

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The cuts of meat appear to be being air-dried and cured for use

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in Chinese cookery, but they pose a serious risk to public health.

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They encourage pests and vermin, which carry diseases

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such as salmonella and leptospirosis

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that can be fatal to humans.

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But it's also illegal to run a food business from home

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without registering it with the council,

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who are responsible for inspecting its hygiene regime.

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Today, council officers Bev Hursthouse and Khush Ahmed

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are on their way to investigate.

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Shall we see if there's anything we can see round the back?

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Oh, there we go. OK.

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After seven years working for the council,

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Bev thought she'd seen it all.

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First time the sight greeted me was just...

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not really sure what was going on, really.

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And then you thoughts turned to, "Hang on, where has this meat been?

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"Where has it come from?"

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And then you sort of look at, "Where's it going?"

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Bev and Khush's job is to remove any risk to public health and discover

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whether this resident is running a food business from his home.

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This is our guy here now.

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Hello. Are you all right? Mr Zhang?

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Can we just have a chat with you?

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We need to have a chat with you about a couple of complaints

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that we've received.

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if you can explain to me why are they there?

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OK, so basically, you're curing that product, then, aren't you?

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Mr Zhang claims that he's simply curing the meat according to

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a Chinese recipe and that it's purely for his own use.

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There is no evidence to suggest he's not telling the truth,

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but the food should be protected from pests and vermin,

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not left out unguarded.

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There may be some problem with pests in this area.

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You've got rats, obviously, you've got bird problems,

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you've got problems with maybe foxes.

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In that particular area

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there is quite a lot of rodent activity already.

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You know, back of the house sort of backs onto a field

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and there are some sort of residential properties

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that are being treated for, you know, pest problems anyway.

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If we could agree, maybe consider putting it in your shed

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or keeping it in your house and then everybody's happy.

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How does that sound?

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I understand what you're doing ...

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-I will do it.

-So I'm not going to get any more calls? No more calls?

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Nobody is going to phone me and say, "Bev, there is

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-"still meat on the line?"

-Don't worry.

-Will that be from today?

-Yes.

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-Perfect. OK.

-Thank you very much.

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And you've got my number if you need to give me a ring?

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-Yes. OK.

-Thanks very much. Thank you for your time. Thank you.

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With Mr Zhang agreeing to remove the meat from his garden,

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Khush and Bev have achieved part of their mission...

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but they still aren't sure why he's curing so much meat.

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Coming up - the meat returns and tempers fray...

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I could go and get a warrant. We'll be back in 15 minutes.

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But will the officers find any evidence to prove

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that an unregistered food business is in operation?

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The nation's Council Officers

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aren't just responsible for helping residents with two legs.

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They also deal with the four-legged variety.

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Today, worried residents called the council to report

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a runaway dog that's frightening members of the public

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and in danger of causing a serious road traffic accident.

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It's a job for council animal warden Ian Millett.

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My job, it's public protection against animals

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and protecting the public.

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That's the difference between my job and, say, an RSPCA inspector.

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I'm protecting the public, they're protecting the animal.

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Last year, over 100,000 stray dogs were reported in the UK.

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70% of them were caught by council dog wardens like Ian Millett

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who, for the past 25 years, has been one of the many local heroes

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nationwide putting their bodies on the line for the people they serve.

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I got called out one Friday afternoon.

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It was to go down to a house and they had a Rottweiler in the back.

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I open the gate and I was trying to open it just a little.

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The dog just charged through this gap.

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It just turned on me and it hit me on my side.

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It's took a piece out of my side. It's took a piece out my backside.

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It took a piece out of the back of my thigh

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and I thought "I'm going to die."

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This woman was really brave enough...she went to my van and

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managed to get one of my graspers, which is that pole with the hoop.

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So I managed to get it on that and I walked it about 50 yards to get it

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in my van, locked the door, and I just collapsed on the pavement.

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Then I spent the next 12 months, on and off, in hospital.

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Skin grafts and injuries and things.

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Bit of a mess.

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Despite his terrifying ordeal, Ian continues the fight

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to keep residents safe, and today is no different.

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Just had a call from Tameside call centre and we've had a report

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of a cross Alsatian-type dog running around there

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so I'm just driving now to have a look.

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There it is.

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Let's have a look.

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What we've got to be careful of now is we're actually on a main road.

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What we don't want to do is to scare the dog into the road

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and cause an accident or something like that

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so we have to tread a bit carefully

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until we see how the dog is going to react,

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so it has got to be a bit slowly-slowly from here.

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Despite Ian's caution,

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the dog immediately darts towards the oncoming traffic.

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Everybody still imagines dog wardens

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with big nets, running around the streets catching them.

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Hiya! Sit down.

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Sit down for me. Sit down.

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All you're doing when you're going up to a dog is you're assessing it.

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DOG BARKS

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Watching its ears, watching how it's shaping its body.

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Sit down.

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He was a little bit slow then.

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You've got to try and make that dog trust you.

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Sit down!

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'Then you can catch him.'

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DOG YELPS

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DOG SQUEALS

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Calm down. Calm down. Calm down.

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Calm down. Calm down.

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Absolutely wet through, aren't you?

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Good girl.

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Good lad.

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Thanks to Ian's patience, skill and bravery, the dog is safe,

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but most importantly, so is the public.

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I know you're scared, but we have to calm down.

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'A lot of people are frightened of dogs.'

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If somebody lets a dog out, they're actually frightening somebody,

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so you don't know when you go out there if it's a daft call

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or whatever, that person could be frightened.

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They're entitled to walk the streets without being frightened,

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so you have to go and do your best for them.

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Come on up with me. Come on, then. Jump! Jump! Good lad.

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Good lad, aren't you? Eh?

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Ian's next task is to try to find the owner.

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Just looking for a chip.

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Microchips are not yet compulsory,

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but new laws being brought in from 2016

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mean that owners will have to ensure

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their dogs are fitted with an identity chip.

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"No ID found." There's no microchip,

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so no collar and disc, so we don't know the owner.

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There's nothing wrong with it enough to go to a vet's to get checked out,

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so now it'll be going down to Manchester Dogs' Home.

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I know, you're wet through, aren't you? Eh?

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This dog will now have food and shelter,

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but more importantly, it's no longer a danger to the public.

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But it's not just four-legged pests

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that are causing local residents to call the council.

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Across town, Eileen Moss is being tormented by wasps

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who've developed a passion for her favourite tree.

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It was about a fortnight ago. We'd come back from York.

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We'd been for a week,

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and my daughter informed me there were wasps round my tree.

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I thought there were only two or three at the time,

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but there are loads of them, and I don't like wasps.

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They're not nice, and there are children around.

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Pest control officer Brian Whelan and trainee Geoff Dale

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are responding to Eileen's call for help.

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Just in case these go mad, do you want to just stand in there?

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-Yeah.

-I don't want you getting stung, fella.

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The wasp is a social insect

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and as many as 5,000 can inhabit just one nest.

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Wasps are generally not aggressive

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unless they or their nests are threatened.

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I'm having a look in the bush.

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I think what they're doing

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is they're pollinating on all this sort of stuff.

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If Brian can find the nest, he can get rid of Eileen's problem.

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As you can see, there's not a lot of room to work with.

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After nearly 20 years in the job,

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Brian's used to putting his body on the line.

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Yes, I've been stung once or twice.

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It isn't pleasant, but I suppose it's the perils of the job.

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But there's one pest that Brian is less used to dealing with.

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-It's like when you treat a nest...

-We've got to take a picture.

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What for?

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-What for?

-My daughter, at school.

-Eh?

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She wants a beekeeper.

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I'm going to do another one, Brian, just to make sure I've got it right.

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-Here y'are, mate.

-Make sure you've got me good side.

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There's no wasps' nest, they're just pollinating.

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If there was a nest in here,

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obviously they'd go for you and attack you,

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but there's no nest in here.

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After a thorough check,

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Brian's sure that there isn't a nest in Eileen's tree.

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No.

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Which means that the wasps must be living elsewhere.

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Reassured that there's no immediate danger,

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Eileen simply needs to be patient

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and hope the weather takes a turn for the worse.

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There's nothing he can do about it. He's done his best.

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I've lived long enough to know there's no use,

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just do what one can do and wait for them to go

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and take sensible precautions and hope they never come back.

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If, like Eileen, you want to avoid being stung in your garden,

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remove anything sweet that might be attracting wasps,

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build or buy your own trap with a sweet concoction inside it,

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or you could call your council.

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As part of their ongoing battle to keep the public safe,

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the UK's local authorities and council officers like John Gregory

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are responsible for granting licenses for a wide range

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of controlled activities and businesses.

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The primary reason for local authorities being involved

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in licensing any kind of business is to protect public safety.

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We license gambling establishments, we license tattooists,

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we license scrap metal dealers.

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All of those have an element in them that there's

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a requirement for us to regulate them.

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Because we deal with that stuff that sort of falls

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just below the level of seriousness for the police,

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but still has quite a serious impact on public safety.

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One key area that local councils are responsible for licensing

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is the taxi business.

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It's a massive industry, worth £9 billion and growing.

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There are over 230,000 licensed taxis

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and private hire vehicles in the country.

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To keep their licence, owners must ensure

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that their vehicles are safe for passengers.

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If they don't, the council will remove their licence.

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Tonight, licensing officer Dave Smith is working alongside

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the police on a sting operation to ensure local taxis

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and private hire vehicles pose no danger to the public.

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It's just down here where you tend to find a few.

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'We run taxi spot-check evenings. The aim of the evening is'

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to officially make sure the vehicle is safe,

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it's roadworthy and, secondly,

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make sure that the people driving them are licensed to do so.

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Taxis and private hire vehicles

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must conform to stringent safety criteria.

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April, April. It's all right, it's just been tested.

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When a member of the public steps into a licensed cab,

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they deserve to be in a properly maintained vehicle

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that will deliver them safely to their destination.

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Operations like this, you tend to find it's going to be

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your older vehicles that are going to fail the tests,

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simply because they have been out longer, obviously,

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and more wear and tear on them, really.

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The law allows the council to test taxis every year

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until they're three years old, and every six months after that.

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Once a vehicle is ten years old and it fails the test,

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the council can refuse to re-licence it

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and the owner must find a replacement.

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Let's have him.

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Dave has spotted a taxi that's nearly ten years old

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and wants to see if it's safe enough to carry passengers.

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They're out there all day every day, some of these vehicles,

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some operate even through the night, they are constantly on the go.

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Hi, pal. How you doing?

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David Smith from licensing. You all right?

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It's a matter, really, of just pulling them in

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one after the other, checking out the vehicle

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and checking out the driver.

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We're out with the police tonight, OK?

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We're doing a spot-check operation.

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I'm just going to ask you to take your vehicle down to Tame Street.

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We'll just give it a quick check. We'll follow you down.

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Dave sends the ageing grey Nissan to the council's garage,

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where it and all cars stopped tonight will be subjected

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to a test much tougher than a standard MOT.

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Brakes, steering and seat belts will all be checked

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and no vehicle is allowed to have any second-hand parts fitted.

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If it's found to be a danger to the public,

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the vehicle will be pulled off the road.

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This is a vital service keeping residents safe,

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but the spot-checks aren't popular with all the borough's taxi drivers.

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I think spot-checks are OK, but not weekend. Not when it's busy time.

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There's a lot of nights drivers here.

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If they come out on a Friday night and take me off the road,

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there goes my rent on the bus. I don't think it's fair at times.

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It's best doing it weekdays when it's quiet,

0:19:160:19:19

not the peak times, and let us get on with our work.

0:19:190:19:22

With 600 taxis and private hire vehicles working in Tameside,

0:19:220:19:27

Dave's having a busy night.

0:19:270:19:29

-That one as well?

-Yeah, go for it.

0:19:290:19:31

Its exhaust seems to be wobbling about a bit.

0:19:310:19:34

Bit of a flappy plate, as well, by the looks of it.

0:19:340:19:36

-Has it got a fare?

-No, there's no fare in there that I can see.

0:19:360:19:39

Hi, pal, how you doing?

0:19:430:19:44

Licensing. We're doing a spot-check operation tonight.

0:19:440:19:47

Want to go up to Tame Street for us and we'll meet you down there?

0:19:470:19:50

All right, pal. We'll follow you.

0:19:500:19:52

My concern is really the safety of the vehicle,

0:19:530:19:58

and I like to think, you know, if it was my family or friends

0:19:580:20:00

that are getting into the vehicle, that they're safe in that vehicle.

0:20:000:20:03

While Dave escorts the taxis,

0:20:060:20:08

council staff at the garage prepare to inspect the incoming vehicles.

0:20:080:20:12

Licensing boss John Gregory is in charge of the operation.

0:20:120:20:16

We're there to make sure that

0:20:160:20:18

the drivers don't have serious convictions, that the vehicles

0:20:180:20:21

are in a safe, reasonably clean condition.

0:20:210:20:23

This Mondeo's exhaust is causing concern for Dave.

0:20:240:20:28

Now it's up to the staff at the garage to check

0:20:280:20:30

if it's fit to be on the road.

0:20:300:20:32

So this was last tested December, this one.

0:20:320:20:37

OK, do you want to back it up?

0:20:370:20:39

While his colleagues get cracking with their inspections,

0:20:390:20:42

dad-of-two Dave is feeling the strain of working through the night

0:20:420:20:46

to keep the public safe.

0:20:460:20:48

Pretty tired now, to be honest with you.

0:20:480:20:50

My little baby's keeping me awake, and a day's work today

0:20:500:20:54

and then coming on and doing this tonight

0:20:540:20:57

is a bit...a bit tired. I'm flagging.

0:20:570:20:59

Got a few hours of it yet, I think, as well, haven't we?

0:21:000:21:03

But Dave's doing a vital job.

0:21:030:21:05

It turns out that the Mondeo he's just brought in

0:21:050:21:08

is putting the public in danger.

0:21:080:21:10

That is actual brake fluid, which has a very distinctive smell.

0:21:100:21:14

It's leaking brake fluid.

0:21:150:21:16

Any form of brake fluid leak at all, it's extremely dangerous.

0:21:160:21:21

Brake calliper on his rear offside is either fractured or broken,

0:21:210:21:26

but it's leaking brake fluid out, going all over the brakes,

0:21:260:21:30

so his rear right-hand brakes won't be working effectively.

0:21:300:21:34

So it's not roadworthy. It's coming off, plates off.

0:21:340:21:37

This potentially lethal taxi is no longer a threat to the public.

0:21:380:21:42

The officers' hard work has already paid off.

0:21:420:21:45

But there's a long night ahead.

0:21:450:21:47

Working Fridays, working Saturdays, it's not greatly appealing.

0:21:480:21:51

I must admit I would much rather be in the pub with a beer.

0:21:510:21:55

My job is making sure that the public is safe,

0:21:550:21:58

and that is our way of contributing to that.

0:21:580:22:01

Coming up, the council officers

0:22:040:22:06

discover a potential deathtrap on the roads.

0:22:060:22:09

It's a fumes risk. It's a fire risk. It's not good at all.

0:22:090:22:14

Across the country, our local councils' call centres

0:22:190:22:22

deal with thousands of enquiries every week.

0:22:220:22:24

Good afternoon, Tameside Council, Karen speaking.

0:22:240:22:27

But while the council impacts on our lives from cradle to grave,

0:22:270:22:31

there are some instances where it's not the council

0:22:310:22:33

residents should be calling.

0:22:330:22:35

When your water doesn't work,

0:22:350:22:36

who would you ring? Would you ring your council?

0:22:360:22:39

No.

0:22:390:22:40

Just bear with me a second and I'll put you through to that team.

0:22:400:22:43

I did have a guy report that some youths had been putting dog...

0:22:430:22:48

-Faeces.

-Faeces through his letterbox

0:22:480:22:51

and he wanted the council to replace his carpet!

0:22:510:22:54

We're not going to replace your carpet!

0:22:560:22:59

Back on the streets, the council's tireless licensing officers

0:23:060:23:09

are working into the night, taking dangerous taxis

0:23:090:23:12

and private hire vehicles off the road.

0:23:120:23:15

They've already managed to identify a number of vehicles

0:23:150:23:18

that could be posing a danger to the public.

0:23:180:23:20

Let's have him.

0:23:200:23:22

These have been hauled in for a thorough check-up.

0:23:220:23:25

That is actual brake fluid. It's leaking brake fluid.

0:23:250:23:28

It's extremely dangerous.

0:23:280:23:29

Head of licensing John Gregory is running the operation.

0:23:320:23:35

Members of the public pay to drive in these vehicles.

0:23:370:23:40

It's our job as a licensing authority to make sure

0:23:400:23:42

that those vehicles are safe.

0:23:420:23:44

There's three black cabs coming in here, so we'll line them up here.

0:23:440:23:47

Enforcing the council's stringent licensing laws requires

0:23:470:23:50

a mixture of legal know-how and strong people skills.

0:23:500:23:54

-Major engine oil link and the fuel tank's leaking.

-Fuel tank's leaking?

0:23:540:23:57

That will cost you a bob or two over time, won't it, that?

0:23:570:24:00

Fuel tank leaking.

0:24:000:24:02

I have sympathy towards people running businesses.

0:24:020:24:04

The cost of running a vehicle has gone through the roof.

0:24:040:24:06

The cost of fuel has pretty much doubled in the last ten years,

0:24:060:24:09

hasn't it? It is difficult to make a living.

0:24:090:24:11

You understand why people cut corners

0:24:110:24:13

and why they might choose to run with that bald tyre,

0:24:130:24:16

because they think they might get away with it,

0:24:160:24:18

but from my perspective, I'm not here to protect those drivers.

0:24:180:24:21

We're here to protect the public.

0:24:210:24:22

He wasn't happy. We're not here to make people happy.

0:24:220:24:25

That doesn't sound good, does it? But we're here to make sure

0:24:250:24:28

that the vehicles are safe and that people are carried safely.

0:24:280:24:31

But it's not always bad news.

0:24:310:24:34

The nine-year-old Nissan that Dave was concerned about

0:24:340:24:37

has passed its test.

0:24:370:24:39

It seems to be quite well maintained, this one, to be honest.

0:24:390:24:43

The driver is free to go back to work

0:24:430:24:45

in the knowledge his passengers will be safe.

0:24:450:24:47

All right, so we'll not bother you again tonight.

0:24:470:24:50

-Stay away from us!

-Thanks a lot.

0:24:530:24:55

But enforcing council regulations

0:24:550:24:58

doesn't always win these committed public servants many friends.

0:24:580:25:02

And the night isn't about to get any easier.

0:25:020:25:04

The next vehicle to come onto John's radar is a minibus

0:25:040:25:07

belonging to Jed Avery. He is not having a good night.

0:25:070:25:11

It's, what, ten o'clock. I've had my first puker already.

0:25:110:25:14

All straight down the window.

0:25:140:25:17

You've got to have a certain amount of patience, haven't you, really?

0:25:170:25:20

To pick up the drunks on a Friday, Saturday night.

0:25:200:25:22

Both Jed and John are concerned with the side of the van,

0:25:220:25:26

but for very different reasons.

0:25:260:25:27

We have some quite tight controls about what signage is

0:25:270:25:30

allowed on a vehicle, so we would normally on a private hire vehicle,

0:25:300:25:33

only allow a sign that is about, that would fit

0:25:330:25:36

on the front door of the vehicle, so this chap, if you look at the

0:25:360:25:39

signwriting on this vehicle, it is right down the whole side of it.

0:25:390:25:42

Adverts on the side of vehicles are strictly controlled.

0:25:450:25:48

Prohibiting advertising and political slogans

0:25:480:25:51

ensures a uniform and identifiable fleet of private hire vehicles.

0:25:510:25:55

That way, residents can be sure their taxi

0:25:560:25:59

is sanctioned by the council and, most importantly, safe.

0:25:590:26:02

Has anybody seen it before you put it on?

0:26:020:26:05

The only inspector I saw said, as long as it's not on the windows.

0:26:050:26:09

No, that's not, I don't know who's told you that,

0:26:090:26:11

but it's not right, that. I'm not going to do anything tonight.

0:26:110:26:14

I'm not going to make you start picking it off with a razor blade.

0:26:140:26:17

-However...

-It cost me £275 quid for each bus.

0:26:170:26:20

It has to be approved by one of the licensing officers.

0:26:200:26:23

It's a bitter pill for Jed to swallow.

0:26:230:26:26

This simple mistake will cost him a lot of money.

0:26:260:26:28

Roughly it's about £200 per bus,

0:26:300:26:32

and they're not something you can put on and take off

0:26:320:26:35

and put on and take off. They're proper signage.

0:26:350:26:39

As an unhappy Jed heads home, the council's unsung heroes work on.

0:26:390:26:45

As the team continues their inspections,

0:26:460:26:49

they discover one private hire vehicle that's over ten years old

0:26:490:26:53

and has a serious problem.

0:26:530:26:55

The owner, Mohammed Gaffar, had been collecting fares all night

0:26:550:26:58

until he was pulled in by the council.

0:26:580:27:01

There's oil all the way down to the back of the car.

0:27:010:27:04

You've got the drive shaft boot on.

0:27:040:27:06

And you've got a really bad oil leak.

0:27:060:27:08

It's actually dripping pools of oil onto the floor,

0:27:080:27:10

and the oil is going all the way to the back of the car, it's that bad.

0:27:100:27:14

You must know that you are dripping oil like that. It's a fumes risk.

0:27:140:27:17

It's a fire risk. It's not good at all.

0:27:170:27:20

This vehicle would present a serious risk to the public

0:27:220:27:25

if John were to allow Mohammed to continue working,

0:27:250:27:28

so the plates are removed and the private hire licence is suspended.

0:27:280:27:33

What I would say to you is, don't do any work on it

0:27:340:27:37

until you've spoken to us on Monday,

0:27:370:27:39

because if you spend the money and have the work done and we decide

0:27:390:27:42

that we're not going to re-license it, that money's wasted.

0:27:420:27:45

It's getting to that point where

0:27:450:27:46

you're going to have to replace this soon.

0:27:460:27:48

You can only keep it on until it's 12 years old anyway.

0:27:480:27:52

John now needs to check the car's test history.

0:27:520:27:55

If it's poor, when John and Mohammed next meet,

0:27:550:27:57

the vehicle's licence could be removed permanently.

0:27:570:28:01

At some point, you've got to accept that the vehicle needs replacing.

0:28:010:28:04

It's like taking an old dog to the vet and having it put down.

0:28:040:28:07

They do get attached to them.

0:28:070:28:09

For these local heroes, it's been a successful night.

0:28:090:28:13

We've had 18 vehicles in, five failed

0:28:140:28:17

and had their plates taken off for various bits and pieces.

0:28:170:28:20

Another seven had some minor faults.

0:28:200:28:22

They've got to go away and get sorted.

0:28:220:28:25

So overall, it's about a 30% fail rate.

0:28:250:28:28

It's a bit disappointing,

0:28:280:28:29

but a lot better than we've had in the past, to be honest.

0:28:290:28:33

With five cars off the road

0:28:340:28:35

and several more forced to carry out essential repairs,

0:28:350:28:39

the licensing team's job is done

0:28:390:28:41

and the borough's taxi-using residents can travel without fear.

0:28:410:28:45

Back on the beat, officers Bev Hursthouse and Khush Ahmed

0:28:580:29:01

are on their way to Mr Zhang's,

0:29:010:29:03

the resident who hung meat carcasses all around his property.

0:29:030:29:07

Mr Zhang told the officers that he'd remove the meat from his garden,

0:29:070:29:10

but Khush and Bev are responding to renewed calls to the council.

0:29:100:29:14

I'm making a revisit to this property.

0:29:140:29:17

We've had a number of calls again to let us know that the chicken

0:29:170:29:19

and ribs have been hung back outside again.

0:29:190:29:22

I'd have hoped that on our first making it clear to the gentleman

0:29:220:29:26

that actually, we've had quite a number of complaints here,

0:29:260:29:29

you've got to live in this road, and the last thing,

0:29:290:29:34

really, that you'd want to do, is upset your neighbours.

0:29:340:29:37

The food that was hanging in the back yard was a health risk

0:29:370:29:40

to the public because it could attract pests and vermin.

0:29:400:29:43

But the officers also received reports of Mr Zhang

0:29:430:29:46

leaving his house with large bags full of food.

0:29:460:29:50

We're getting a couple of reports

0:29:500:29:51

that people have seen him looking like he's loading his car up

0:29:510:29:55

with takeaway-style items and what it could be, he's making deliveries.

0:29:550:30:00

To run a food business from home, a lot of people do do that.

0:30:000:30:03

Cupcake businesses are through the roof at the moment.

0:30:030:30:06

That seems to be this year's trend.

0:30:060:30:09

No, it's not illegal, but what you need to be doing

0:30:090:30:12

before you consider running a food business from home,

0:30:120:30:15

28 days before you plan to open, register your food business.

0:30:150:30:19

It doesn't cost anything to register.

0:30:190:30:21

But if the officers discover Mr Zhang is running

0:30:230:30:25

an unregistered business from his home

0:30:250:30:27

and is not complying with health and safety regulations,

0:30:270:30:31

he could be prosecuted, fined and even face up to two years in prison.

0:30:310:30:35

Hello? Hello?

0:30:370:30:39

Is there any hung on the line today?

0:30:430:30:45

No, there's nothing on today.

0:30:450:30:48

The meat has gone from the garden,

0:30:480:30:50

but has appeared hanging in the windows.

0:30:500:30:53

But Bev's eye is drawn towards the garden shed.

0:30:530:30:56

If you look there in his shed, you can see there, can't you,

0:30:560:31:00

it looks like takeaway, doesn't it?

0:31:000:31:02

Yeah. This is getting silly now, isn't it?

0:31:020:31:04

The curtains have just moved, so there is somebody in.

0:31:080:31:11

History in itself is sort of indicating that

0:31:110:31:15

that is the relatives of the gentlemen,

0:31:150:31:17

and I do think they have very limited English.

0:31:170:31:21

Mr Zhang denies operating a food business,

0:31:220:31:25

but there's no sign of him,

0:31:250:31:26

and whoever is inside isn't answering the door.

0:31:260:31:30

Bev and Khush adopt a new strategy to try and meet Mr Zhang in person.

0:31:300:31:34

What I think we'll do is pull the car to the end of the road

0:31:340:31:37

and hang around for half an hour or so.

0:31:370:31:39

Just see if he comes back.

0:31:390:31:41

Give it 20 minutes, half an hour.

0:31:410:31:43

Sure enough, within five minutes the tactic pays off.

0:31:500:31:53

Let's have a look.

0:31:580:31:59

Hi, Mr Zhang, we've met before.

0:32:020:32:03

Bev Hursthouse, my colleague Khush.

0:32:030:32:05

We need to come in and have a chat.

0:32:050:32:07

We feel that you may be operating a food business from here.

0:32:070:32:10

Two options will be, we can come in now and have a chat with you.

0:32:100:32:14

A chat. A talk.

0:32:140:32:16

When I ask you some questions...

0:32:200:32:22

Let me speak to you.

0:32:230:32:25

No, listen to me. Listen to me.

0:32:250:32:28

When he got a bit confrontational,

0:32:290:32:31

it was kind of needing to bring him back down

0:32:310:32:35

and talk reasonably with him.

0:32:350:32:38

Mr Zhang, before you get angry and aggressive,

0:32:380:32:41

once you do this...

0:32:410:32:43

Because I need you to answer some questions for me,

0:32:470:32:49

which can be done quite straightforward.

0:32:490:32:52

This was the issue with this chap that, in his mind,

0:32:520:32:58

I think he thought he wasn't doing anything wrong.

0:32:580:33:01

A man's home is his castle,

0:33:010:33:02

but if your actions cause a nuisance,

0:33:020:33:07

if they cause concern to the others, you're bound to get complaints.

0:33:070:33:11

We could either come in and have a chat, yes?

0:33:110:33:14

Nobody else needs to get involved, no other third parties need to

0:33:140:33:17

get involved, the police don't need to get involved.

0:33:170:33:20

All you need to do at this stage,

0:33:200:33:21

all you need to do is prove to me it's not a food business.

0:33:210:33:24

I can go and get a warrant and we'll be back in 15 minutes.

0:33:240:33:27

I would much rather provide somebody with advice any day, over the

0:33:290:33:35

only option that's left is sort of heading towards the courts, really.

0:33:350:33:40

If there's an imminent risk to the public,

0:33:400:33:42

then that's the only option. See you shortly.

0:33:420:33:45

-All right, I'll see you in a bit, then.

-All right, cheers.

0:33:450:33:47

With this, Khush sets off to collect a warrant

0:33:490:33:51

from the magistrate's court.

0:33:510:33:53

Coming up, will these dogged council officers

0:33:530:33:56

find any evidence of an unregistered food business?

0:33:560:33:59

We're just going round and round in circles here.

0:33:590:34:01

In the licensing department, officers John Gregory and Dave Smith

0:34:090:34:13

are preparing to meet Mohammed Gaffar,

0:34:130:34:15

owner of the silver taxi

0:34:150:34:17

that was putting passengers' safety at serious risk.

0:34:170:34:20

You've got a really bad oil leak.

0:34:200:34:21

It's actually dripping pools of oil onto the floor. And the oil

0:34:210:34:24

is going all the way to the back of the car, it's that bad.

0:34:240:34:26

The officers have reviewed the vehicle's test history

0:34:260:34:29

and now have a difficult decision to make.

0:34:290:34:31

In the interests of public safety, they can keep the car off the road.

0:34:310:34:35

But that could take away Mohammed's livelihood.

0:34:350:34:38

You know, I've got four kids, so I don't know what to do.

0:34:380:34:42

I'm completely lost.

0:34:420:34:46

-How you doing? All right?

-Not bad, thank you.

0:34:460:34:48

I've had a look at the history. It's not good, really.

0:34:480:34:51

If it was just that CV boot on its own, and it had always passed its

0:34:510:34:54

tests with no issues or with only very minor issues, then occasionally

0:34:540:34:57

we might just give the benefit of the doubt under those circumstances.

0:34:570:35:01

In this case, that's not the case.

0:35:010:35:02

Your vehicle hasn't passed the test for the last 18 months.

0:35:020:35:07

It's always had to go away and be repaired.

0:35:070:35:09

This engine oil leak has been a persistent problem

0:35:090:35:11

certainly over the last six months, looking at this.

0:35:110:35:14

Last six months, yes.

0:35:140:35:15

Can't just keep allowing you to patch them up, so in this case,

0:35:150:35:18

our decision is we're not going to let you relicense that vehicle.

0:35:180:35:21

-You're going to have to get a replacement vehicle.

-Yeah.

-Yeah.

0:35:210:35:24

To get a new car is quite expensive,

0:35:270:35:30

so if I say I will make a request for another one year,

0:35:300:35:35

and I can guarantee I am going to change my...

0:35:350:35:38

It's not going to happen, I'm afraid.

0:35:380:35:41

You're going to have to replace that vehicle.

0:35:410:35:43

-So we can't have another six months?

-No.

0:35:430:35:46

No, I'm not going to let that vehicle back on again.

0:35:460:35:50

It's well below the standard that we expect.

0:35:500:35:53

If it's not six months, at least another three months

0:35:530:35:56

-so I can earn some...

-No.

0:35:560:35:58

That vehicle isn't going to be relicensed again.

0:35:580:36:02

You make your living from it. I know the situation you're in,

0:36:020:36:05

-but I've got to think about public safety.

-Definitely, yeah.

0:36:050:36:09

I've got to draw the line somewhere,

0:36:090:36:11

and unfortunately in this case, we've drawn the line

0:36:110:36:13

with your vehicle, and you're going to have to replace it, I'm afraid.

0:36:130:36:16

-All right.

-All right.

-OK. That's fine.

-OK, then.

0:36:160:36:21

Thanks for coming in.

0:36:210:36:22

'At the moment, I got no option. I have to scrap that car,'

0:36:220:36:26

so I have decided with my family,

0:36:260:36:28

I'm going to go to sign on as a job-seeker.

0:36:280:36:31

I think in that situation, I won't be able to afford it,

0:36:310:36:35

because the car and the fees, the MOT, insurance, it's a nightmare.

0:36:350:36:42

It's their living. The vehicle helps them make their living.

0:36:440:36:47

If we take the vehicle off them, they're not earning,

0:36:470:36:50

and that's a difficult position to put anybody in.

0:36:500:36:52

We appreciate that, but we've got to see past that.

0:36:520:36:54

We've always got to think about public safety,

0:36:540:36:56

and that is the whole reason for licensing drivers and vehicles,

0:36:560:37:00

is to protect public safety, and that's what we are here for.

0:37:000:37:03

It's the end of a successful operation for John and Dave.

0:37:040:37:07

And despite saying he'd need to claim benefits,

0:37:070:37:10

Mohammed bought a new safer vehicle a few days later,

0:37:100:37:13

keeping his job and the people of the borough moving.

0:37:130:37:16

Across town, council officers have been kept busy

0:37:250:37:28

by the resident suspected to be running a food business from home,

0:37:280:37:31

allegations he denies.

0:37:310:37:33

The police don't need to get involved.

0:37:330:37:35

Prove to me it's not a food business.

0:37:350:37:37

It's late in the day, but Khush and Bev,

0:37:370:37:40

accompanied by colleague Simon Ashton,

0:37:400:37:41

have obtained a warrant to enter the home of Mr Zhang.

0:37:410:37:45

This is the warrant to enter your property. That's your copy there.

0:37:450:37:50

That basically means that we can come into your property

0:37:500:37:54

to investigate what we spoke about earlier on.

0:37:540:37:56

Mandarin Chinese, please.

0:37:580:38:00

We're just phoning the interpreter.

0:38:020:38:04

Mr Zhang has requested a Mandarin interpreter,

0:38:040:38:08

a service which Bev is able to access over the phone.

0:38:080:38:11

The council officers are now able to enter Mr Zhang's shed.

0:38:140:38:18

Previously, Bev spotted what appeared to be

0:38:180:38:20

takeaway-style containers in here, possible evidence

0:38:200:38:24

that he's been running a food business from home.

0:38:240:38:27

Although now out of sight of the window,

0:38:270:38:29

the containers are still there.

0:38:290:38:31

Mr Zhang provides an explanation, speaking through his interpreter.

0:38:310:38:35

-INTERPRETER:

-'I just told you that I need to pack lunch.

0:38:360:38:40

'Those containers are for me to pack lunch.'

0:38:400:38:45

OK, thank you.

0:38:450:38:47

When we went into the shed,

0:38:470:38:48

we did see packs and boxes of food containers.

0:38:480:38:52

Again, the individual stated that they were for his own use.

0:38:520:38:57

As darkness falls, negotiations to find a resolution

0:38:590:39:02

to the case of the dangling meat continue behind closed doors.

0:39:020:39:06

The best way to resolve this would be if he could agree

0:39:070:39:11

at this time, just to keep the chicken and the ribs indoors

0:39:110:39:14

and not on display where it can be seen,

0:39:140:39:16

that will then stop any further complaints.

0:39:160:39:19

-INTERPRETER:

-'I will promise

0:39:210:39:23

'that I will not take the food outside any more,

0:39:230:39:26

'but probably next year, around the same time,

0:39:260:39:29

'I will do the same preparation, hang the food in the garage.'

0:39:290:39:35

Mr Zhang offers to add a set of doors to his car port

0:39:350:39:40

to create an area where he can hang his meat out of reach of vermin

0:39:400:39:43

and out of sight of his neighbours.

0:39:430:39:46

Unfortunately, this solution creates another problem.

0:39:460:39:49

If you build a structure in here and it blocks out that window there,

0:39:490:39:54

and then a building control officer comes down,

0:39:540:39:56

then you've got a building control officer visiting the property

0:39:560:39:59

and wanting to speak you.

0:39:590:40:01

The gentleman just wasn't really seeing any issues

0:40:010:40:04

from any neighbouring properties.

0:40:040:40:07

He was talking about building a car port,

0:40:070:40:09

and that's where he's going to hang it.

0:40:090:40:11

Well, that just blocks out all of the light of the property

0:40:110:40:14

next door, and you're try to explain to him, that he needs

0:40:140:40:17

to consider everybody, really, apart from just himself.

0:40:170:40:21

It was quite difficult to get that one across, really.

0:40:210:40:25

It's now nine hours since the officers first arrived,

0:40:290:40:33

and with so much time already spent on this case,

0:40:330:40:36

Khush decides to draw proceedings to a close.

0:40:360:40:39

You contact building control. You contact them.

0:40:400:40:43

You contact them yourself. You ask them what you need to do here.

0:40:430:40:48

-Yeah.

-It's not us. YOU contact them. OK?

0:40:480:40:52

We're going to have to leave this at some stage.

0:40:520:40:55

We're just going round and round in circles.

0:40:550:40:58

-I don't want to talk to you.

-That's fine.

0:40:580:41:00

-We're going round in circles.

-I only talk to this lady.

-That's fine.

0:41:000:41:04

'I think he expected us to do everything,'

0:41:040:41:07

and that is why I... not took offence to it,

0:41:070:41:11

but took the attitude that it's his responsibility,

0:41:110:41:16

he's the one that, if he's doing that process, he's got to

0:41:160:41:20

take the responsibility of making sure what he can and cannot do.

0:41:200:41:25

It's a difficult conclusion to a testing day.

0:41:250:41:29

There's still no conclusive evidence

0:41:290:41:31

that Mr Zhang is operating a business,

0:41:310:41:33

but these hard-working council heroes

0:41:330:41:35

have ensured he keeps his food indoors

0:41:350:41:38

and out of reach of pests and vermin.

0:41:380:41:40

The meat's gone from outside at the moment

0:41:410:41:45

and I do believe that the process is nearing an end,

0:41:450:41:49

so hopefully the meat should be gone from the window soon as well.

0:41:490:41:53

We'll see how it goes.

0:41:530:41:54

And thanks to the efforts of Bev and Khush,

0:41:560:41:58

the neighbours are safe and have a meat-free view once more.

0:41:580:42:02

The neighbours I've spoke to are all happy,

0:42:040:42:06

because the ducks have gone.

0:42:060:42:07

The council came down straightaway and the council sorted it out.

0:42:070:42:11

They got the job done of getting the stuff off the line,

0:42:130:42:16

which was our biggest gripe.

0:42:160:42:19

It was a sight to behold.

0:42:190:42:21

Once again, dedicated council officers across the country

0:42:230:42:27

have been battling on behalf of us, the public.

0:42:270:42:29

They're keeping our roads safe...

0:42:290:42:31

It's a fumes risk. It's a fire risk.

0:42:310:42:34

..our neighbourhoods happy...

0:42:340:42:36

Let me speak to you. No, no, listen to me. Listen to me.

0:42:360:42:40

..and they've looked after all their residents,

0:42:400:42:44

even the four-legged ones.

0:42:440:42:46

I know, you're wet through, aren't you? Eh?

0:42:460:42:49

All of this, when we call the council.

0:42:490:42:52

It's good to know the area, it's good to know that

0:42:530:42:56

actually what you're doing, the support you're giving

0:42:560:42:58

and the assistance that you give

0:42:580:43:00

is benefitting the area that I live as well.

0:43:000:43:04

Yeah, that's built in with the job.

0:43:040:43:07

From waste and recycling to pest control and potholes, this series takes us onto the front line of local council operations with the country's heroic council officers. These dedicated public servants are protecting us from hidden dangers, making sure our cash isn't wasted and tackling those blighting our communities.

In this episode, residents in a suburban street call the council after being greeted by the shocking sight of raw meat hanging on a neighbour's washing line, the dog warden is summoned to a stray causing havoc on the streets and officers work through the night to rid the country's roads of potentially lethal taxis.


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