Sorry for the side-track, but you mentioned being hauled off to the cashpoints. I've obviously been out of the UK for too long. There's some sense in spot-fines and it's high time they were introduced in the UK for trivial acts of negligence. They're (here at least - Germany) proportionate (€10 or €15 is typical for a parking offence, for example as opposed to minimum £60 in the UK), eliminate bureaucratic back-and-forth, and if you feel it's wrong, you can simply refuse to pay it, and invite the authorities to take you to court, where you'll face exactly the same fine plus costs. Or do the whole thing by post if you don't have any cash.
Oh, and AFAIK only police officers, traffic wardens, public prosecutors and ticket inspectors on public transport have the power to issue them. I've never heard of councils going around fining people. Where did they get that legal power from?
If, next time I am in the UK, and some non-police officer goon tries to spot-fine me, would I be placing myself at an unacceptable risk by refusing to pay it?
Pretty well anyone, it seems, can be appointed or authorised to issue fines, on the spot or in the post. This includes everything from littering the street, putting the wrong rubbish in the wrong bins, putting household waste in public rubbish bins (a man put a piece of junk mail in a street litter bin and was tracked down and fined). Fines are issued for overfilling rubbish bins....
Apparently the list of people who now have a legal right to enter your home is pretty extensive now aswell.
In the context of the main theme, it appears only 28% of people thought plastic police (Police and Community Support Officers) were of any use. The Home Office then invested $400,000 in a "fly on the wall" documentry. After the series showed the public appreciation was recorded as over 60% so they spent another £400,000 on the next series.
Now I suppose the PCSOs could have got their act together but I doubt it.
This represents a dangerous new approach to meeting the public's expectations; if you can't actually deliver the service, just invest in some programs and the public will think you have.