The Oxford Mail moans in a recent headline that the Oxford city council is “powerless to prevent the spread of graffiti”.

MORE than 1,000 cases of graffiti scrawled on private property are blighting Oxford…

That sounds pretty bad. What sort of extraordinary, perhaps dictatorial, powers would the council need to be granted in this state of emergency, to enable them to rescue us from this blight? The article continues that the graffiti cannot be removed

 because firms are not paying to have them removed, the city council’s graffiti team has warned.

“But 99 per cent of them don’t pay because of the cost and they think they shouldn’t have to.

“There are more than 1,000 jobs on my database we can’t touch –and we have the equipment and the training to deal with them.”

The council charges £27 an hour on top of £15 per square metre for the removal of graffiti from privately-owned property.

It seems strange to formulate this in terms of “lacking powers”. My guess is that if they considered it to be a sufficient problem for the public welfare that they wanted to use tax money to fund the cleanup, very few property owners would wish to hinder them. They lack the power to force the property owners to pay because most of the public agrees that, having been victimised by the graffiti writers already, the property owners don’t deserve to be punished with the compulsory expense of cleaning it up.

This is the city council acting like a private company, advertising its graffiti-cleaning service. But a private company would never think to formulate its inability to attract customers willing to pay £27 an hour for its property-beautification schemes as “we are powerless to carry out our plans because 99 per cent of our potential customers don’t hire us because of the cost and they think they shouldn’t have to,” and whine about how unreasonable that is, because “we have the equipment and the training”.

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