Amsterdam to consider proposal to ban consumer NY fireworks

Amsterdam council will discuss a proposal to ban amateur New Year fireworks in the city in its next board meeting in November. The many fireworks set off on the streets of the Dutch capital by partying people cause unnecessary injury, damage and weeks of cleaning up, according to an organisation representing people who live in the historic canal district. The Comité Westelijke Grachtengordel has asked Amsterdam’s leaders to ban amateur fireworks in the coming December and January. Jan van der Pas, secretary of the committee, told that the current situation is ‘crazy’. ‘We want to stop fireworks in the centre,’ he said. ‘The most important reason is safety for people, those setting off fireworks and people around them. In five minutes, people can have injuries to their faces, eyes, fingers that last the rest of their lives, and it is very dangerous for dogs, animals and children. ‘Damage costs insurance companies a lot of money, and hospitals are busy with the wrong things. Another big issue is the fact that we are busy cleaning up for a month something done in an hour.’ The committee does not oppose having one properly-managed, professional display somewhere in the centre, he said, but it is arguing that the firework-strewn street party that attracts thousands to the Dutch capital to celebrate ‘old and new’ has reached the end of its shelf life. Mr Van der Pas, a yacht designer who lives on the Singel in the Unesco-recognised canal belt, said that his own location is littered for weeks after the big bash – and while well-behaved tourists are welcome, amateur fireworks are not. In a letter to the council executive, the Comité Westelijke Grachtengordel, also cites concerns about damage to people's hearing, noise-related stress for older people, animals and children, and air pollution. Concerns have grown in recent years over a relatively lax approach to consumer firework safety in the Netherlands. Earlier this year, the VNG association for Dutch authorities called for a national ban on New Year fireworks, but the Dutch cabinet defended them as part of a 'valued tradition'. Earlier this month, the Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb announced amateur fireworks would be limited to designated zones to control nuisance on New Year's Eve. A spokeswoman for Amsterdam municipal council confirmed that the fireworks proposal is on the agenda for the next council meeting on 7/8 November.  More >

Spijkenisse opens ‘silly walks' crossing

Why did the Spijkenisser cross the road? Who knows, but the real question is whether or not the walk was silly enough. In what is believed to be a world first, the town of Spijkenisse near Rotterdam has unveiled an official sign asking pedestrians to cross the road in a comic way. The town council has rebranded a zebra crossing with signs inviting members of the public to bring out their best Monty Python steps, in a tribute to the famous John Cleese sketch. Aloys Bijl, a local civil servant, told the AD that he had suggested the idea after hearing about a similarly silly crossing in Sweden. Hoera, het #sillywalk oversteekbord is geplaatst @gemNissewaard this Dutch town Spijkenisse has a #sillywalk crossing @JohnCleese come and see ! @RTV_Rijnmond — Jacco van Giessen (@jaccovangiessen) October 18, 2018 Jan Willem Mijmans, head of outdoor space at Gemeente Nissewaard, added that the stunt aimed to cheer people up but if it ‘ran wild’ and threatened road safety, then the silly walk sign would be modified. He told the NOS broadcaster: ‘It’s fun to see people cross with a smile and we hope that a lot of people will do it.’ Officials stressed that vehicles at the busy crossing will be expected to stop when a pedestrian places a foot on the zigzag, however straight or crookedly. Similar but unofficial road signs put up by an art collective in a small town in Sweden were criticised by the country’s government roads agency but reportedly not frowned upon by the local mayor. The 1970 Monty Python sketch involving a fictitious ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ is known as a comedy classic, and is also referenced in images on a 125-metre underpass in Eindhoven and a Zondag met Lubach spoof tourism video.      More >

New rules for cosmetic treatment ads

Dutch cosmetic surgeons and other aesthetic medicine practitioners have drawn up new rules for advertising which ban misleading ads, those guaranteeing certain results and adverts aimed at minors. The Dutch Foundation for Aesthetic Medicine drew up the rules after former health minister Edith Schippers said clients should be made properly aware of the risks attached to cosmetic surgery 'in simple, clear language'. The new rules have been adopted by the Dutch Advertising Commission, which will deal with any complaints about misinformation. Current health minister Bruno Bruins told the ANP that he welcomed the new development. 'Medical cosmetic treatment is never risk free,' he said. 'It is important that people are properly informed.'   More >

Book containing fake PM speech withdrawn

A book containing 50 of the ‘most touching, best and most inspiring Dutch speeches’ has been removed from the shelves because a speech attributed to former CDA leader and prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende proved to be a fake, Trouw reports. The speech, in which Balkenende speaks nostalgically about the days of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), is in fact a satire published on a left wing activist website in 2006, the paper discovered. Jan-Peter Balkenende who is now a professor of Governance, Institutions and Internationalisation at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, was prime minister from 2002 to 2010. In 2006 he often referred to the ‘VOC mentality’, praising Dutch derring-do but ignoring the exploitation and slavery the Dutch trading company brought to what is now Indonesia. ‘I dream a little of the Golden Age sometimes,’ Balkenende said at the time. ‘The century when this small country worked its way to the top unaided.’ He later apologised for the remarks. Alarm bells did not go off for historian Denise Parengkuan, who compiled the speeches, when she came across the following: ‘It (the VOC) shows what a small country can do. (..) Our heroes from those days Jan Pieterszoon Coen and Michiel de Ruyter had that business instinct, that drive, that VOC mentality of taking what you want (..) They offered many natives new challenges, in the land that we developed for them or in the hereafter.’ Parengkuan admitted she ‘had not checked the speech properly’, Trouw writes. This is not the first time the fake speech has been taken at face value. A recent book on Dutch history, Tot hier en nu verder’ (Until now and beyond) by journalist Cees van Lotringen also contained quotes from the speech and had to be pulped as well. Publisher of the speech book Hans van Maar of Just Publishers told Trouw he was very disappointed. ‘We were very proud of this book. It seems the author did not check the facts. That puts the rest of the books in doubt as well and that is why we have withdrawn it,’ the paper quotes him as saying. The former prime minister, who was offered an apology and a bunch of flowers by the publisher, did not wish to comment, Trouw writes.  More >

Consumer confidence falls again

Dutch consumer confidence in the economy fell again in October, the national statistics office CBS said on Friday. Consumer confidence has now fallen for three months in a row. This month's four point decline takes the confidence index to 15, but this is still well above the -3 average over the past 20 years, the CBS pointed out. In particular, consumers have less confidence in the economic climate and are less willing to spend money on major purchases. However, CBS figures covering consumer spending in August show a rise of 2%, year on year. The increase was down to spending on white goods, cars and clothing, the CBS said.   More >

Thousands drive without a valid licence

Dutch driving licence specimen Thousands of people are still driving around in the Netherlands despite being given a driving ban, either for drink and drugs offences or because they are no longer considered safe on the road, broadcaster NOS said on Friday. In 2016, some 5,000 people who were banned from driving did not hand back their driving licence to the issuing authority CBR, figures from the agency show. While not everyone who has been banned from driving still gets behind the wheel, the police stop an average of 3,000 people a year who do not have a valid licence, NOS said. Repeat offenders fine of up to €8,300, or a prison term of three months.   More >

NS faces hefty bill from UK government

Dutch state-owned railway firm NS may have to pay millions of euros to Britain's trade ministry because of a disputed clause in a rail franchise agreement. The Great Anglia railway franchise, a 60:40 joint venture between NS overseas operation Abellio and Japanese firm Mitsui & Co, is said to be facing a 'hefty bill' from Britain's transport ministry Dft because the London economy is performing well. The agreement for the East Anglia franchise includes a risk sharing measure known as the Central London Employment (CLE) mechanism. This was intended to provide protection for the operator and Britain's department of trade (DfT) against revenue fluctuations if more people started using the service because the London economy was booming. However, the way the CLE has been calculated means Abellio is facing a far higher bill than expected. 'It is now widely accepted that CLE is a flawed mechanism that does not deliver on the intended aims,' Abellio told in a statement. 'We are therefore working with the DfT to develop and implement more effective risk sharing models.' Contract Abellio won the contract to run the Greater Anglia service in October 2016 after beating off stiff domestic competition. The franchise runs until 2025. The NS booked higher transport revenues abroad than it did in the Netherlands in the first half of 2018. Abellio, which runs Scot Rail services as well as Greater Anglia, started a new concession in the West Midlands in December 2017 which pumped up British sales by 33% to €1.1bn in the first half of 2018.   More >