THE WHITELAW AND THE ATKINSON

The fluorescent lighting shone
On incandescent scenes,
At City Hall, where Lincoln folk
Queued up to show their means:
And tried to prove a negative
To girls through perspex screens.

Though Council Tax and Benefits
Were claimed to help the mob,
The staff would not define their rules,
Preferring just to slob.
Suffice to say the staff weren't paid
Except to do their job.

The rules were wet as wet could be,
The staff were just the same.
When caught, they sought (as they are taught)
Excuses which were tame.
And this was very odd because
All Councils play this game.

 

The Whitelaw and the Atkinson
Were working hand in hand
To make the Lincoln Council Tax
The fairest in the land:
If only that were possible
They'd be worth eighty grand.

"If seven maids with seven mice
Clicked on for half a year,
Do you suppose," the Whitelaw said,
That they could get it clear?"
"Why worry?" said the Atkinson,
"The auditors aren't here."


"O poorsters, come and queue with us!"
The Atkinson implored.
"Come in the warm, fill in these forms,
And prove you're not a fraud.
We cannot do with less than four
Before your data's stored."

The poorest poorster had no cash
To tell the clerks about.
The poorest poorster's Jobcentre
Had had to kick him out.
Meaning to say he didn't want a job
Fit only for a lout.

But many poorsters shuffled up
All eager for the thrill!
Their fluoride dose, arranged by those
Who'd sent them this wrong bill,
Was higher than before and many
Certainly looked ill.

 

One batch of poorsters joined the line,
And then another load,
As from the hills computed bills
Returned from every road,
And, oddly, no computer bod
Would guarantee the code.

The Whitelaw and the Atkinson,
Prepared great lists for Court,
So magistrates with large estates
Could tut at the poor sort.
And order them to pay, despite 
Their income being nought.

"The time has come," the Whitelaw said,
"To talk of fewer things:
Like sums and sacks, and squirminess - 
And why this Council mings.
And whether I.T. works or not,
And why our phone just rings."


"Hang on a mo," the poorsters cried,
"Before you prosecute,
For some of us have left our flat
And some are destitute."
"Don't worry," said the Atkinson.
"We'll let you keep your loot."

"A bailiff now is what we need,"
The Whitelaw then declared,
"Loud knocks, a threat or three, a fee:
It's time the costs were shared.
Now if you're ready, poorsters, dear…"
The poorsters, they just stared.

"Don't levy us!" the poorsters cried,
Turning somewhat red,
"We've traipsed around with all those forms
And queued 'til we're half dead.
You've told us that our data's great -
Then lost it all instead."


The Atkinson produced…a form:
"These really are worth filling.
It would be kind of you to queue,
And once again be willing
To offer up your private life
In response to our false billing."

"It seems a con," the Whitelaw said,
"To make them claim once more.
But no-one here at Council Tax
Takes blame, or sees a flaw.
The only ones responsible
For this mess - are the poor."

"Officially," the Whitelaw wailed,
"I cannot sympathise,
As legal culpability 
Might show up in my eyes."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Bills of the largest size.


O poorsters," said the Atkinson,
"You've seen how we have fun.
All claimants might be criminals
When all is said and done."
But the waiting room was empty.
He'd pissed off every one.



Julian Bohan 2003