I have recently been contacted by a resident of Thringstone, a council tenant of 35 years, who called to say she thought someone was playing a joke on her.
She had received a letter from North West Leicestershire District Council, which said that because she had a gate at the bottom of her garden which gave her access to a publicly owned playing field she was to be billed £20 per year for the privilege.
Never mind that the only purpose she uses the gate for is to be able to maintain her fence and to mow a small part of the councils field, in order to keep it tidy.
She doesn't 'enjoy a benefit' she is simply being a decent citizen who now is going to be charged because they do the right thing.
But now I learn she is not on her own. Many people throughout the district are receiving similar letters or even worse bills for £90 because they may drive down a council owned track in order to park their cars on their back gardens.
There can only be one word to describe it. Ludicrous.
So, alongside other councillors I have been in touch with officers seeking an explanation and, more importantly, a commonsense solution.
The reply I have received says everything you need to know, and I quote:
'The review was undertaken in order to ensure that all residents accessing Council land were treated fairly and consistently.
Where people are gaining access over District Council owned land they can continue to do so but a fee would apply for the benefit of access. The review identified that it was important to regularise the position with a formal licence agreement to prevent land sterilisation issues which could potentially limit the Council's ability to manage and use land in the future.'
...so everything's crystal clear then!
The simple fact is that this 'licencing' scheme has been created as a stealth tax to fill council coffers and there is simply no reasonable justification for it.
The lady that phoned me says she has no intention of paying such a bonkers charge. I wouldn't blame her for a second.