Katherine Spiller lives alone in Temple Road, Cowley, since she has neither a partner nor children. She admits she has been feeding the pigeons for twenty years and treating them as her pets. When they became a nuisance to her neighbours, causing noise, and alleged property damage, the neighbours complained to the council, who wrote to Ms Spiller and asked her to desist. She ignored their orders, either thinking it was a joke or not understanding what might ensue under our draconian regulations.
Now she is expected to pay a fine plus court costs adding up to £2,000. Where exactly will she get the money? For someone living on our miserable state pension, or even a modest occupational pension, the amount is unreasonable. Yet if she doesn't pay, she will face menaces from debt-collectors, and will be black-marked by credit rating companies. She may even have to sell her home to pay.
This is insane. We treat old people appallingly in this country.
According to the Oxford Times, Ms Spiller is a poet, and retired librarian. When the council first wrote to her, she responded by sending them poems about pigeons. She sounds like one of the charming eccentrics who make our society colourful.
The Council should use persuasion and mediation, not bullying, to solve such problems. A councillor or representative should have visited Ms Spiller's home and explained why the pigeons were causing a problem to the neighbours. If that didn't work, face to face meetings between all concerned should have been set up to discuss a solution. I would suggest Ms Spiller might get a wild-bird feeding table from the RSPB, and set it up in her garden to attract small, harmless songbirds. She could also get some wall-attached nesting boxes and hanging bird-feeding devices suitable for bluetits, finches, robins, blackbirds and thrushes, none of which her neighbours surely could object to.
If that doesn't keep them happy, maybe ultimately, she could get a cat, which definitely would keep the pigeons away, and give her just as much satisfaction as a companion. All these solutions could have been discussed in a calm, supportive civilised way. But they were not. Instead, she got threatening letters.
Labour Councillor Mary Clarkson says that when you take into account the administrative costs and legal fees involved in bringing such a prosecution, they will exceed the £2,000 fine, so this policy is costly as well as harsh and authoritarian.
The solutions I have suggested would have cost very little. The Council could have paid for all of them, and thrown in an annual subscription to the RSPB too, for a tiny fraction of the money they have spent on bullying a lonely old lady.