An instance of temporal qualifications for intervening in policy implementation

A little side story that ended up in my Port Melbourne field notes was about Nancy having returned from holidays to find a notification letter that the process had been initiated for the sell off of part of a lane way. The sell of would have blocked the connection to the street of the laneway Nancy’s back gate opened out onto. Nancy used her back gate for taking her rubbish bins out to the street. As she lived in a row house, if Nancy was to continue storing her rubbish bins in her backyard, the only way to take them out to the street would be through her house. Nancy did not find such a prospect appealing and, as the letter stated, she could object to the sell off.

Nancy was annoyed to find the notice, but relieved that she had arrived with a working day to spare before the temporal window for registering an objection closed. Following the instructions included in her letter, Nancy called Council to speak to a relevant council officer. Nancy reported being referred to as a silly old person who did not understand. The person Nancy spoke with treated Nancy as if she did not have a right to speak on this matter. However, as the owner of her particular house, Nancy did have a right. This was an inaccurate and inappropriate comment made by the council staff member.

A councillor who heard this story said, “It should never have happened.” Dismissing Nancy as ‘a silly old person who did not understand’ was not sensible. Anyway, the laneway in question never should have been considered for sale because, being of use to other residents, this particular lane did not meet the criteria to be sold. Nancy’s situation would not have arisen if the policy had been adequately implemented.

Yet, with the way the policy was implemented in this case, if Nancy’s return from holiday or her attention to her mail had been detained for an extra day, the sale might have gone ahead whatever the person on the other end of the phone thought of Nancy. Objections to the sale were to be taken seriously, according to the policy, if they are made by particular people and within a particular time. Policies operate with qualifications.

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