Sunday, 30 August 1998

The Council Exchange

The following is a true story. I know it's true because it happened to me. It was my original intention to send this to the editor of the Cromer Courier, who had published my article "Science Fiction - A Fans Viewpoint". I decided to write it under an assumed name because I did not want any repercussions. It was my hope that the family we did the council exchange with would read this in the Cromer Courtier, realize it was about them, and realize how they had pissed us off and stabbed us in the back. However, it was my brother Paul who talked me out of sending this in. He said that people would have known instantly who I was writing about, but frankly, at the time, I was pissed off with this family, and annoyed that they had stabbed us in the back they way they did.

    However, I can now gladly report that most of my old neighbors are now really fed up with them. It didn't help that they started to slag us off to one of my late father's oldest friends.

    And so, the next article was a piece of therapy for myself. Basically it's me getting something off my chest, something that had pissed me off for too long.


    A friend of mine told me a disturbing story the other day, disturbing and annoying, and I think it should see the light of day. For obvious reasons, I will name no names, but these people should know who they are.

    For most of his life my friend had lived in his house with his family. As the years went by his brothers and sisters either married or moved out, and both his parents died. A few years ago only he and two brothers remained in the house. It was then they told the council that if they knew of any family who needed a larger house, let them know.

    Last summer they did just that. A large family who had moved into the area six months
previously needed a larger house, so the council got in touch with him. As it turned out, this family lived just down the road from him. The council put them in touch with each other, and they looked at each others houses, and liked what they saw. My friend thought the parents of this family were okay, but the children were a bit noisy.

    An official from the council inspected both houses on a number of occasions and found very little wrong with them. An agreement to exchange the houses was reached, the paperwork set in motion, and a date for the exchange agreed. The family was short of funds, so my friend said  they could use the van he was hiring for the day. Everything was ready, the packing began, and everyone was happy.

    But then everything changed on the day of the move. After my friend had emptied his house, the family went round and trashed the place. They pulled up carpet tiles, pulled off the wallpaper, and then telephoned the council to complain about the state of the house, saying that my friend did the damage. They did all this while my friend's brother was helping them clear up!

    The aforementioned council official went out to the house, and inspected it. The family said they wouldn't move into the house because it wasn't fit to live in. They got several of their friends, including an owner of a local business, to say the same thing to this official. The council official threatened to call off the move until my friend had pointed out that the official had inspected the house twice and found very little wrong. The council official told them the move was still on.

    While my friend got on with moving in and settling into his new home, this family began to spread rumours and lies about my friend and his family, complaining about the state the house was left in, yet neglecting to mention that my friend had paid for their use of the removal van and had given them a garden shed and several kitchen units. They even got several of their friends to spread these rumours, rumours which hurt and upset my friend and his family. These rumours even spread to other towns, and to my friend's relatives.

    My friend later found out that they did this for one reason only - so the council would decorate the house for them. If this family wanted that, why not just ask the council? Why spread these rumours and upset my friend and his family, just to get a few walls painted and a few repairs done, at the expense of council tax payers, like my friend?

    It is only in the past few months that people have begun to realize that the rumours were lies, and have told this family so. Even after all this time my friend and his family are upset by what was said about them.

    I'm not saying that council exchanges are bad. I'm considering applying for a move myself. Others should watch out that they don't get caught out like my friend. I hope I don't.