Electric dreams

Manganese Bronze, the manufacturer of the most familiar model of London taxi, went into administration, putting a question mark over the black London cab.
— Although they enjoy the status of a timeless icon, London cabs only became universally black after the second world war, while their less welcome signature, diesel fumes, only came in during the 1950s. Remarkably, the first non-horse-drawn London cab was in fact electrically powered.
— Introduced by Walter C. Bersey in 1896, the cabs could achieve 12 mph and had a range of 15 miles.
— The 12 cabs were withdrawn by 1900, however, on account of unreliability, not so much because of their batteries as their pneumatic tyres.

House prices

The housing benefit bill has reached £23bn. How many housing benefit claimants are there and what are they claiming?

No. of
claimants
Ave.
weekly payout
4.17m
Nov 2008 £77
4.41m
Nov 2009 £83
4.79m
Nov 2010 £84
4.95m
Nov 2011 £87
5.03m
May 2012 £89

Master racers

Frankel, a racehorse, retired after winning all of the 14 races in which he had been entered. That puts him at number 11 in the list of most successful unbeaten racehorses. The top five are:

Kincsen (born Hungary 1874) 54
Black Caviar (b. Australia 2006) 22
Pepper’s Pride (b. US 2003) 19
Eclipse (b. Britain 1764) 18
Karayel (b. Turkey 1970) 18

Bills, bills, bills

Inline sub2


Canterbury City wrote to residents asking them for an annual £16 charge for walking through a council car park to reach their homes. Some more odd council charges:

£80 East Cambridgeshire’s charge for ‘pre-planning application advice’

£84 Cambridgeshire County Council’s charge for a ‘licence to cultivate’, as levied on a GP who planted a few flowers on the verge outside her surgery

£95 Mole Valley council’s charge (later waived) to collect rubbish bags from volunteers on a charity litter-pick which raised £300 for a school in Africa

£2,500 Salford City Council’s charge for ‘traffic management’ while schoolgirls marched through streets to protest at the closure of their school.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated