When you prepare for a phone-in programme the nightmare scenario in the back of your mind is that no one will phone in. When my producer Matt suggested to me yesterday that we should cover the story about Westminster City Council taking Addison Lee to court to ban them from putting their company name on those cigarette bins you find on walls outside pubs and club, I thought he was having a laugh.
In essence, Westminster are trying to allege that they contravene planning regulations. Astonishing, eh? You'd have thought they would welcome them as something which helps keep Westminster's streets clean and tidy. But on the contrary. I suspect this is some idiot jobsworth who delights in quoting some obscure piece of planning law. I'd hope that it is something the Cabinet Member for Planning might now put a stop to. They maintain it only applies to 7 bins in a conservation area in Marylebone, but just watch them try to ban all 16,000 of the bins. Addison Lee pay £50 for each one and then it is up to the venue owner to empty them and maintain them.
Anyway, with some trepidation, I introduced the topic at 9pm, spoke to Murad Quereshi from the London Assembly, who thought it was just as daft as I did but couldn't get anyone from Westminster to put their heads above the parapet. And the phone lines went mad. The two calls I enjoyed most were from people who supported Westminster's line. Hang on a minute, I thought, there must be some vested interest at play here. Sure enough, they both turned out to be Black Cab drivers - the main competition for Addison Lee. Both of them were a little embarrassed when I asked what they did for a living.
One of the cab drivers did, however, come up with a good idea. He suggested that each bin should have the photo of a missing person on it, alongside the Addison Lee logo. A very good suggestion, which I hope they might take up.
It made for a great discussion. Who'd have thought cigarette bins could provoke such passion! I hope someone at Westminster will get a grip on this, but more importantly, it taught me always to trust my producer, Matt!