Monday, 23 April 2018

After last week’s piece about CCTV security on Boston’s Fenside estate Boston Eye can now confirm that almost all the cameras are being withdrawn – and that work started at the beginning of the month.
It follows a decision by the Mayflower Housing Association which told Worst Street in an e-mail: “After careful consideration at Corporate Management Team, a decision has been taken not to further financially support the CCTV cameras on Fenside estate from April 2018.
“This followed a review of the cost/benefits to Boston Mayflower and although we recognise the use that CCTV footage can be useful the monies saved would, in our opinion, be better utilised in other ways to maintain a settled and safe environment on the Fenside Estate.”
All but two of the ten cameras are being axed ... the survivors are cameras 18 and 46, and the £3,000 cost of removal will be sneaked into a "suitable budget."

***

As we reminded readers last week this saga goes back six years to a budget setting meeting to discuss  cutting spending on CCTV.
Former Boston Borough Council leader, Peter Bedford singled out Mayflower as a ‘big user’ of the cameras but added that they had ‘never paid a fee’ to help with the upkeep – despite the benefits of surveillance on its properties in Fenside.
A council spokesman said at the time: “As part of our on-going efficiency programme, the council is considering the future of its CCTV coverage of the Fenside estate. Fenside has the highest level of CCTV coverage of any residential area in the borough which, as a consequence of our on-going review, has prompted us to question the value for money these cameras return.”

***

It seems that the question has been a long time in the answering … as it is only now that Mayflower has decided that CCTV isn’t worth the money.
The ten cameras covering the estate have been in place since 2000 – and ironically given that cost is at the root of the decision to remove them   they were not paid for by the council but funded from a successful bid to the Home Office to extend the system.
So Worst Street didn’t spend a penny on them at the time – though in fairness, it must be added that in 2013 a major refit saw an upgrading of the control room and cameras to utilise digital wireless transmission and high definition recordings.

***

Boston Borough Council has always been boastful of its CCTV coverage – and we find it hard to see why Worst Street should single out these eight cameras and point the finger of blame at Mayflower.
Until a few days ago, the cameras were in place and working, and it surely can’t cost much for someone in the control room to glance at them from time to time.

***

The bottom line is that it’s yet another blow for one of the most deprived wards in the country – let alone in Boston.
And residents are still smarting from the recent removal of many of their street lights – with 90% of respondents to a council survey giving a negative response to the decision.
We invited Fenside councillors Anton Dani and Nigel Welton to comment.
Councillor Dani told us: “The security and well-being of our community should be put first, and under no circumstances should the decision to take the CCTV down without consulting with the interested parties have been agreed and taken place.
“I was not aware of the issue until I had a short conversation with the Boston police Inspector Andy Morrice. Also I have not been informed by Boston Borough Council although I am a Fenside councillor.
“Councillor Nigel Welton had known about it, as he is a member of the Cabinet, Town centre portfolio holder and a BTAC Chairman, but unfortunately I didn't see any interest from him in this matter.”
Councillor Welton was unable to comment for professional reasons.

***

Word reaches us of a meeting to be held on Thursday – when the subject under consideration is said to be whether to borrow £20 million at around five per-cent and re-invest it at a rate of 10%.
If this piece of recklessness is true, we hope that someone at Worst Street remembers the bad old days of 2008 when  more than 100 councils in England, Scotland and Wales had deposited £798.95m in Icelandic banks and were faced with the loss of the lot.
Boston wasn’t among them – but who can forget the loan that everyone has forgotten?
In 1991, someone at Worst Street borrowed £1 million over sixty years. We have no idea who the borrower was, or why the money was needed – but ever since then, one of the first payments from the borough’s accounts every year is £111,125 to the lender in interest.
That’s a total of £6,667,500 by the time it's all done and dusted.
Do we really want another loan fiasco like the Icelandic one?
And whether the money is invested on the stock market or in property, there are still huge risks to bear in mind.

***

Without any real sense of urgency, the campaign to snaffle £100 million from a government pot of £1 billion so that Boston can build its long-awaited by-pass/distributor road is moving about as fast as the town’s traffic on a busy day.
Last week saw a rather worrying photo of most of the council cabinet signing the Boston sub-Standard campaign.
Frankly, we would like to hear more about how Worst Street is making the running in this campaign – rather than playing second fiddle to a local “newspaper” publicity stunt that makes filling its pages even easier for a few weeks.

***

One thing which strikes us is the tepidness of all this.
Instead of a loud, forceful banging of the drum, something named Transport for Boston urges people to sign “to petition the government for a share of extra funding to reduce traffic congestion in Boston.”
Not exactly impressive, is it?
The government will announce this summer which schemes, have been selected for money from the National Roads Fund, and petition forms need to be returned to Worst Street by next Monday.
Council leader Michael Cooper is quoted as saying: “It is vital that we send the biggest, loudest message we can to Government that we deserve a share of this new money.
“We tick so many boxes – an opportunity to deal with traffic congestion, a plan for that already at an advanced stage, better transportation in an area vital to the nation's food security, a boost to economic development and job creation, more much-needed housing and a chance to address long-standing air quality issues. It's my ambition that every single resident makes their the leader’s words, the message that appears to be on the way is more on the lines of: “a nice new road would be jolly good if you can spare the money” – which doesn’t sound likely to get  much tarmac laid.

***

Meanwhile, Boston MP Matt Warman joined the fray with one of those mutual grooming questions that parliamentarians love to ask each other.


Note that Mr Warman asks the minister if he agrees that the Standard campaign
“bolsters an already compelling case for an application to be made to his bypass fund for this road in due course?”
Note, too, that the ministerial response in no way answers the question, nor offers any hint of a positive response. He doesn’t even acknowledge that Boston has problems.
Worrying too are the choices of phrase chosen by both men – Mr Warman employing the words “in due course.”
Mr Grayling responds in like mode – talking of “opportunities to build bypasses in the not-too-distant future.”
Which reminds us – we must buy some jam tomorrow.

***

Having said all that, we wonder whether it is possible that Boston is at last showing signs of moving in the right direction.
A confident-sounding report updating events since the Prosperous Boston task and finish review offers several teaspoons of jam tomorrow.
Among the goodies listed by the group – which first met almost 2½ years ago – is the potential redevelopment of the old post office on Wide Bargate by a London developer who wants to convert the first and second floors into residential accommodation with shops on the ground floor.
A couple of potential occupiers have apparently already shown interest.
This will be good news if and when it materialises – as will other discussions on planned retail development sites.

***

But hand in glove with all this is that things can go awry.
For instance, for six months Worst Street has been working with the firm that wants to convert the former Clarks shoe shop into the town's 93rd coffee shop – “to ensure that work is on schedule to be completed by 31st  March 2018.”
But this has been delayed by unforeseen works and is now in a “ready when it’s ready” situation.

***

A large section of the report favours the idea of “saying it with flowers” – with blooms springing up here, there and everywhere – and a proposal of which we wholeheartedly approve to fill the bricked up windows along Petticoat Lane with mosaic displays.

You saw it first on Boston Eye more than six years ago
The idea is one we suggested  6½ years ago – and while we think that mosaics would be ok, we still prefer the idea of historic photographs which appeared in our original proposal.

***

With less than 250 days to go Boston Borough Council is at last thinking about Christmas.
This time last year, plans for the highly successful civilian event were already trundling along smoothly – and it’s to be hoped that this year’s plans will be able to catch up.
Worst Street is looking for expressions of interest from individuals, community groups and businesses and – to drag things out still further – has set a deadline of 14th May for them to reach the town centre services department.
It sounds as if events will be far more heavily regulated this time around  as well – with cautions that people will need a minimum of £5 million pounds worth of public liability insurance, and that risk assessments and method statements will be required before any lights or displays are erected.
You can find out more by clicking here and download a copy of the form here.
And don’t be confused – Pen Street has only one ‘N’ not two!

***


A couple of issues ago we were on the receiving end of an e-mail from the ever-diplomatic Worst Street leader Michael Cooper … who challenged our interpretation of  the council tax demands on local taxpayers.
Never a man to mince his words  the leader said: “Just to put the record straight just in case you should happen to be interested in the truth.
“If you look at your council tax bill the BBB (sic) rise is not what you stated and remember that the drainage board put their rate up by 2% wiping out half of the borough increase – for every £1,000 of council tax collected BBC receives £48, the remainder being passed to other official bodies.”

***

It now appears that the leader’s interpretation may not quite have been on target – as someone who does seem to understand wrote to explain.

“The effect of internal drainage boards’ increased requirements to be collected and handed on by Boston Borough Council has, under capping regulations, to be taken into account when calculating local authority council tax total increases.
“Boston has in the past been very much involved in protest against such accounting requirements as it put them at a disadvantage compared to the local authorities who do not collect, and pass on, such IDB monies.
“The internal drainage boards seriously affecting Boston Borough Council in this respect are Black Sluice and Witham Fourth.  
“Both boards’ requirements are not far from each other in monetary terms – so 50/50.
“And both together add up to approximately half of the Boston Borough Council’s total collection of council tax/drainage rates – so 50/50 again.
“This year only Witham Fourth has had to put up their rate – by 2%. Black Sluice has stood still this year – but watch this space.
“Therefore the total internal drainage board increase requirement could be expressed as 1% of the 2.9% increase mentioned by the council leader. And again, if we do our sums, as this 1% is only applicable to the IDB, then 50% it should therefore be seen as a .5% increase of the Boston Borough Council/IDB collection.
So,  Boston Borough Council has the possibility of a 2.4% increase over the remaining 50% of collection and, to paraphrase Nigel Molesworth, any fule kno that this 2.4%, when applied to the council’s 50%, could be, and is in fact, a 4.8% increase on BBC requirements in order to take the overall rise to the declared 2.9%.”

***

Finally, some silly comments are appearing on Facebook suggesting that Boston Eye has acquired members of staff.
This is completely wrong.
Since we began publishing more than a decade ago the blog has been a one man band.
Over the years we have been lucky enough to attract a number of  excellent contributors – and more are always welcome.
All contributions are always considered – and many are used.
Check out the foot of the page to learn how to get in touch.



You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   
E– mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com  

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston



Monday, 16 April 2018

Now you CCTV it
 – now you don’t!
Our piece last week about the on-going problems of drinking in Central Park and the potential risks of non-official action raised another debate – this time about closed circuit television coverage.
In particular, concerns were expressed about lack of coverage in Fenside, where a reader reported that cameras had been removed.

***

This struck a distant chord with us that went back six years to a budget setting meeting.
A report quoted the former Boston Borough Council leader, Peter Bedford, saying that the council needed to cut spending on CCTV provision.
He also urged more businesses in the town to stump up some money if they wanted the cameras to remain in place.
The report went on: “He singled out housing association Boston Mayflower as a ‘big user’ of the cameras and said that they had ‘never paid a fee’ to help with the upkeep – but still reaped the benefits of surveillance on its properties in Fenside.”
A council spokesman said at the time: “As part of our on-going efficiency programme, the council is considering the future of its CCTV coverage of the Fenside estate. Fenside has the highest level of CCTV coverage of any residential area in the borough which, as a consequence of our on-going review, has prompted us to question the value for money these cameras return.”
He added: “We are currently seeking the views of a number of key organisations including Lincolnshire Police and Boston Mayflower about our thoughts.”

***

Fenside received ten cameras in 2000.
One possible reason for so many is that is listed as among the worst deprived areas in the county, and has a fairly steady crime rate.
So why would CCTV camera coverage be removed?
The Worst Street CCTV control room also monitors cameras for South Holland District Council, East Lindsey District Council and North Kesteven District Council as well as its domestic role of monitoring Boston and Kirton – around 200 live cameras.
Selling services to other authorities makes money; giving it away does not.

***

Because Worst Street now apportions value to everything it provides it comes up with the idea that anyone apparently getting something for nothing – in this case Mayflower Housing – has to be jumped on at the earliest opportunity.
Yet how – if Fenside “reaped the benefits of surveillance” can there be any question about “the value for money these cameras return.”
Also, who foots the bill for the town centre coverage – it is the local businesses?
We don’t believe that is the case.

***

But because Fenside appears largely to be a Mayflower housing estate, the association was apparently expected to pay.
Our readers say that the cameras there are conspicuous by their absence – there is no mention of CCTV provision on the Mayflower website and a question directed to the organisation went unanswered.
When Twitter users asked Worst Street whose responsibility it was, they were referred to Mayflower.
So there you have it – a tightly closed circle where no one will offer an explanation … although a final word from a reader said: “I have spoken to Mayflower and the chap I spoke to knew nothing. Didn’t even know they’d been taken down!”

***

As is so often the case with Boston Borough Council, a stroll down memory lane produces distinct feelings of amnesia.
Whilst the initial meeting that discussed charging Mayflower called for a report to     the scrutiny committee’s corporate and community committee which met at the end of 2015, it made no mention of the Fenside CCTV coverage.
Latest score: Worst Street Black Holes United 1 – Communication With Public 0.

***

Speaking of black holes in communication …
It’s now six months since Boston Borough Council's cabinet of curiosities agreed to organise a meeting with Brylaine Travel and Lincolnshire County Council to discuss rerouting the Into Town bus to avoid pedestrianised Strait Bargate following a recommendation by BTAC-ky – the Boston Town Area Committee after talks with Brylaine's Operations Director.
Well?

***

click to enlarge

And in the same vein …
Whilst it’s still early days, little has been heard of much by way of progress in the Boston sub-Standard campaign for the town to receive government money from a £100 billion kitty for road improvements to create the “distributor” road that will apparently solve all our traffic problems.
It’s a couple of weeks or so since the campaign was launched with “support” from Worst Street – though after an initial announcement the council has had nothing more to say.
The Standard meanwhile has been chasing up hauliers for their support – but so far there’s no news of how many signatures have been gathered.
And it’s not as though time is a luxury, as announcements about selected projects will be made in the summer.
Meanwhile, the hilarious official view remains … that most of the traffic heading into the town, does not come out the other side – a view that anyone monitoring traffic beside John Adams Way or Sleaford Road for a few minutes could quickly dismiss as nonsense.

***

Whether a few signatures on some scraps of paper are enough to persuade the government to hand over £100m for a road scheme is anyone’s guess.
What we do know is that past efforts by the sub-Standard in this area have not been a glittering success.
When Royal Mail decided look for alternative premises to relocate the post office the Standard launched a petition and subsequently told us that it had garnered “more than 150 signatures.”
At least that was better than another effort when Boston Borough Council announced its intention to charge disabled blue badge holders to park.
Without even a blush of embarrassment, a reporter presented just 27 – yes, 27 – protest coupons from readers ... and if that wasn't bad enough, three were from people living outside the borough – including one from as far away as Kent.
We wait with bated breath.

***

King George V’s last words are widely, but incorrectly reported as being “Bugger Bognor” – and we are beginning to wonder whether similar sentiments are being expressed by today’s great and good about Boston.

***

As some not very forceful efforts are taking place to prise money from the government for a road to bypass half of Boston, Lincolnshire County Council continues to bang the drum for a by-pass just about everywhere else.
A recent report quoted County Councillor Colin Davie, who is responsible for Lincolnshire’s economy, saying that that any future Lincolnshire Coastal Highway should include a bypass around Horncastle.
The planned highway would run from the A1 at Newark via the A46 to Lincoln, before heading east along the A158 to Skegness.
In a quote that says much about Clowntly Hall’s attitude to Boston, Councillor Davie – who incidentally represents Ingoldmells Rural – said: “We have so many visitors coming to our part of the world and I don’t want them to be stuck in traffic jams anywhere. I want them to move fluidly through the county. If they want to visit Skegness and then visit Mablethorpe and then visit Louth and come back to Lincoln, then I want them to be able to do it at their speed.
“The A158 is what I consider to be the most travelled route. Quite clearly in peak times, there are logjams in Wragby and in Horncastle. I think we need to alleviate those.”
And as Boston nibbles at the edges of the issue, the county council has already held events with councillors, businesses, bus operators and other organisations, asking for potential areas of improvement to the road network.
Bugger Boston.

***

The road debate prompted a pertinent comment from the pseudonymous reader Frontliner, who e-mailed to say: “There may well be some modicum of truth in the suggestion that over past years our farming industry has carried a great deal of blame for being less than ‘encouraging’ towards alternative inward industries.
“Even now, there are very few ‘food providers’ who use local labour and still very little acceptance of alternative inward investment in our borough.
“However, every project offers lessons ... it is clear now that ‘Farming’ has morphed into an Industrial Project – much like car manufacture, or furniture production.
“Sadly, some farmers, and dare I say ‘supportive’ politicians failed to see that the efficient transportation of goods from field to factory and distribution point, and onward to the supermarket, has become an integral part of that industry, which is also reliant upon a ‘speedy and efficient, road structure’ ... and  that for Boston, this is now the missing link!

***

Reports last week announced that a group of Eurosceptics intend to record the story of Brexit for posterity in a Museum of Sovereignty.
An ideal and obvious location immediately springs to mind – but according to the Daily Telegraph’s political correspondent it is likely to be built in the nation’s “leave capital.”
And where might this be, we hear you cry?
You may already have guessed – Lincoln!
The report explains that along with neighbouring constituencies the city recorded “one of the highest leave votes in Britain.”
Wrong!



Not only was Lincoln bottom of the Brexit vote in the county – it was almost 150 places below Boston nationally.
Yet Lincoln may get the museum – although perhaps it may not be the greatest tourist attraction of all time.
But where are the protest voices from Boston Borough Council and our local members at Lincoln?
Silent as usual.
Even our own representatives say Bugger Boston.

***

Last week saw the Boston Big Clean Up – when for a single week of the year the town looks spruce and sparkling.
But what caught the eye of one of our readers was a photo on Worst Street’s Facebook page showing thee members of the council’s staff picking up litter.
Our reader observed: “Interesting to see the big clean-up is being rolled out as a big volunteer success story as usual. What a shame one of the pictures shows members of staff who are being paid for ....er collecting waste when they should be working in their full time paid posts.”
OK, they’re helping make the town cleaner – but we still feel that our reader has a point.

***

The big clean up followed hard on the heels of the appointment of three more members of the town centre maintenance team funded by BTAC-ky to keep the town tidier.
Support was also forthcoming from Boston Big Local which is helping to fund a chewing gum removal machine at a cost somewhere between £2,000 and £4,000
We hope this latest efforts is more successful than the last.
Ten years ago Boston Borough Council spent £7,000 on a machine to remove chewing gum from the town’s pavements.
After a photo opportunity, it disappeared from the public gaze – to appear just one more time before it was found broken at one of the Worst Street depots.
And in yet another example like the previous one of robbing Peter to pay Paul we noted that almost as soon as the extra maintenance staff were in place than they were hijacked by the “voluntary” Boston in Bloom group to do some seriously heavy spadework.

***

Lincolnshire County Council was first to tell us that a new £1.75m household waste recycling centre is open to the public in Bittern Way in Boston.
The official opening ceremony took place last Friday 13th and it opened to the public at 9am this morning.
The former site at Slippery Gowt Lane – a stone’s throw from the new one – closed at 4pm yesterday.

Some Lincolnshire websites, BBC Radio Lincolnshire and MP Matt Warman were quick to share the news.
Not so Boston Borough Council’s website.
Of the 22 stories headlined on WorstWeb none mentioned the change of location for the tip when we looked after close of business on Friday – and detailed information elsewhere said that it was in Slippery Gowt Lane.
The absence from the Worst Street website may also be the reason that the story had not appeared on the Boston sub Standard website either – as Worst Street writes most of the paper these days.
Hopefully the new tip will get a mention when the powers that ba’int totter into West Street later this morning.
Another triumph for the Bugger Boston brigade.

***

Finally, we received an e-mail from a regular reader to say: “I was looking forward to seeing mention of Councillor Mrs Cooper’s court appearance in today’s Eye, shielding someone else in a driving case. 
“I suppose it is a difficult one, and I have not seen much reported anywhere apart from a few lines in the Target.”
Reporting court cases is not something we do – but out of interest, we took a look around and sure enough  found the following on the Boston Target website.


We could find no mention in the Boston sub-Standard.
Mrs Cooper was elected to represent Boston West on Lincolnshire County Council in May last year, and is the wife of Boston Borough Council leader Mike Cooper.
The case has probably given rise to endless speculation in which we will not participate – although some possible explanations are reasonably obvious.



You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   
E– mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com  

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston



Monday, 9 April 2018

Despite repeated claims that street drinking is under control and not the problem it once was, the response to a complaint to Boston Borough Council raises issues of major concern.
A regular reader has sent a copy of the Worst Street reply to a complaint made when he saw “a regular incident” of drinking in Central Park.
The reply summarised: “You approached the council’s workmen who were in the park at that time and asked them if they were going to challenge the drinkers.
“You said their response was ‘no because it’s a waste of time.’
“You said to the workmen that if they were not prepared to do anything then they should ask the CCTV to look and get someone down who would do something about it.
“You said the response was that ‘CCTV is a waste of time and that it’s going to get worse.’
“You made it clear to the workmen that you were not happy with their reply and their response was they would not act because the drinkers ‘might get a knife out.’”
The reply concludes by saying that the council is taking the “appropriate action” to ensure employees are aware of their role in dealing with potential breaches of the PSPO Alcohol regulations and to the manner in which they communicate with customers.
Ominously, it adds: “We are also taking appropriate action against the individual employee you spoke to who gave rise to your complaint.”

***

This raises more questions than it answers.
The fact that drinkers are still congregating in the park and the complaint mentioned  that this was a regular occurrence is proof that tackling the culprits is a waste of time.
We see no reason to doubt that the employee who feared the possibility of a knife attack was genuinely worried – and it would not surprise us to know that his colleagues felt much the same way.
The numbers on either side in this event are not spelt out – but our experience is that there are generally half a dozen or so drinkers to a bench when they congregate in the park.
Even if the council workers were equal in numbers, the offenders were doubtless emboldened by alcohol, and who knows what might have been the result.
Sadly, we read accounts of people dying for the most trivial reasons almost every day.

***

The council upheld the part of the complaint relating to the defeatist attitude of staff in the war on drinking in public places.
But the police and the private enforcement officers are the people we expect to tackle things such as this hands on.
The Worst Street response says at one point: “Members of the public are encouraged to report incidents of drinking they witness within the PSPO area directly to Lincolnshire Police on their non-emergency number by dialling 101. Quite how this is done is not clear.
“This is more effective than passing information onto a third party to relay information onto the police, who act on our behalf to enforce the PSPO Alcohol.”
Somehow, we doubt this.
The 101 non-emergency system is notoriously slow and unreliable, and often connects with call takers who believe that Boston is in Massachusetts – whereas a third party complaint relayed to the police by borough council staff  … perhaps using a special number … could bring a rapid response which would impress complainants and deal with the problem without potentially risking the lives of people who ought not be put in that position.
The subtext of the Worst Street reply says “don’t bother us with this – even though offences are taking place in a public park for which we are responsible and the problem has not gone away.”

***

We always imagined that such things as the drawing up of accounts was a precise affair – and that the bottom line would stay the same whoever totted them up.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case with the Christmas in Boston group (CIB.)
Regular readers will recall our reports about disharmony in this civilian group of volunteers which resulted in a splinter group – mostly comprising electricians – declaring themselves the official Christmas in Boston group and expelling those who disagreed with them in the run up to the lights being switched on last December.

***

By that time, though, the group’s original treasurer had completed the accounts and forwarded them to the chairman of BTAC-ky as well as paying a surplus of £2,093.39 into council funds.
Since then the group that hijacked the committee has beefed its membership numbers up to eleven –  including a couple of local shopkeepers one of whom has been appointed treasurer.
Because the original accounts were a source of contention, BTAC-ky had them audited – and they were found to be in order.
A copy of the expenditure accounts appears below


But now a new set of accounts shows much that is different and apparently contradictory – again, we reproduce the expenditure figures as an example.


Interestingly – for a group dominated by electricians for much of the time – it may not be surprising to note the appearance of almost £2,000 for “electrical items” when no such entry appeared on the original report … although a lot of other items that might have been included beneath this headline are listed separately.
And whilst we won’t burden you with all the details of the group’s income accounts, we can’t understand why – after £2,093.39 was paid into and banked by Boston Borough Council as a “surplus” from the event  – an identical amount was subsequently paid out to the new chairman … electrician Andrew Lovelace … as a “loan” from Boston Borough Council early last month.
The same figure then subsequently appeared in the “new” treasurer’s report as “A. Lovelace loan to CIB.”
Transparency is the big buzzword at Worst Street, and whilst Christmas in Boston is independent to a degree, it remains answerable to BTAC-ky – which in turn is answerable to the taxpayers.
And as this mishmash of accounts has become almost unaccountable, we think that an explanation should be forthcoming.

***

At Easter, we heard that the electricians tried to make their mark with some illuminated symbolism at Boston’s memorial gardens – but perhaps let their enthusiasm run a little wild.


Perhaps someone should have told them that we live in South Lincolnshire rather than 1870s South Carolina!

***

A year ago as of now, Councillor Michael Cooper became the leader of Boston Borough Council – taking the helm from Councillor Peter Bedford after another of those internal political spats that puts Worst Street head and shoulders below the rest.
Almost two months later he went into print – declaring his passion for Boston and his gritty determination to make life here better for everyone – even though he lives outside the borough.
There followed the usual cut and paste statement of intent that has served previous leaders so often and so well.
At the end of the year, Councillor Cooper said much of the same in his Christmas message – in particular citing the arrival of new businesses that his predecessor had also quoted.

***

At the leader’s first twelve month mark ...
No big announcements.
No sign of movement.
No removal of cabinet dead wood.
Nothing.
But disappointingly, a stroll down memory lane throws up a couple of headlines that we are sure the leader would rather not have appeared.
The first concerned a complaint about remarks which involved two uses of the F-word and what appeared to be a suggestion of violence after comments were made about his non-dom status.
In that case, the official Worst Street whitewash squad quickly dismissed the complaint going as far as saying that the phrase “I will punch him in the f*****g face” carried  “no intent to actually cause you physical harm.”
Hmmmm.

***

But the really serious, disappointing and most prominent act by the leader in the past twelve months was to spearhead a campaign to force Boston Mayor Brian Rush to resign over some vaguely-specified complaints of  allegedly racist comments on Facebook – but more importantly to the chamber potties,  criticising their chums as borough and county level.
Cooper proposed the motion that Councillor Rush should quit – and when outmanoeuvred issued copies of the Facebook and Twitter entries at the centre of the complaint to the media to keep the pot boiling.
In between all this he further embarrassed Worst Street with an execrable radio interview where listeners heard him expel a reporter from his office in an arrogant and contemptuous way.

***

Most recently he resurfaced with a demonstration of his lack of knowledge of how local commerce works.
In a quivering contribution to the local free magazine Simply Boston he whooped that a bypass for Boston was closer to becoming a reality than ever before.
Not only was the Boston barrier on its way to becoming a reality but: “More new businesses, more new jobs, existing businesses expanding, exciting business news yet to come – all also reality (sic)”

***

His list is endless – and includes the conversion of the former Clarks Shoe shop to “a coffee house, increasing the leisure and recreational offer in the town …”
Perhaps he could advise Mrs Eye where to find shoes locally now that there are only two outlets left in town.
Even at this late stage, he is still dining out on the relocated Duckworth Jaguar/Land Rover showroom and extension to Sports Bike Direct – first cited by his predecessor almost two years ago.

***

As with his predecessor, he turns a blind eye to the fact that commerce is a two way street.
Granted, we are gaining new businesses in Boston – but as Cooper the Whooper was celebrating the arrival of new business, the Trespass outdoor shopping outlet was closing down in Wide Bargate – leaving another black hole in the town’s most important business centre.
Time and again, we remind our leaders that Boston has lost more than it has gained with the commercial churn that has seen the town centre become home to ‘phone shops, bookmakers charity shops, pound shops and vaping shops galore – as yet another coffee shop  will bring the town total to around a dozen.
There was a time when a coffee shop was a welcome break from a morning spent browsing and buying from real shops that sold the sort of stuff that real people wanted to buy.

***

As you park your Jaguar then sit and sup yet another overpriced coffee in yet another shop, ask yourself whether you would rather be checking out places such as the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Shop, McKay’s, Milletts, Thornton’s, Jessops and QD – all of which you can find in other towns a few miles from Boston – but  all of which once occupied shops in the heart of the town.

***

By a remarkable happenstance, scarcely had we finished writing our tribute to Councillor Cooper’s first year in office than we received an e-mail from the man himself.
Written in his now familiar combative style, it began:

 “Just to put the record straight just in case you should happen to be interested in the truth
“If you look at your council tax bill the BBB (sic) rise is not what you stated and remember that the drainage board put their rate up by 2% wiping out half of the borough increase. ---for every £1,000 of council tax collected BBC receives £48, the remainder being passed to other official bodies
“UPVC windows --- again you fail to report the facts --- But why let the truth get in the way of a good story  ----
“The case in question was not only refused by BBC planning department ,but also by the planning inspectorate after the BBC decision was appealed ,  who agreed with the BBC planners over the status of the building in question .The planning inspectorate is completely independent and based in Bristol . The owner of the property was given numerous opportunities to change the windows . Court action was only taken after every other avenue had been exhausted over a considerable period -- You make the accusation of the council being heavy handed but that is completely untrue, if you looked at the facts this would be very obvious “

***

We are always pleased to receive feedback from readers – especially when they are as aggrieved as Councillor Cooper, and we welcome the opportunity to explain things further – despite our accuser casting us as fakes and liars from the outset.
BUT
The issue over who pays what and to whom by way of their council tax is one that is exploited by all the authorities who share the spoils.
In the case of internal drainage boards, they impose a tax on Worst Street which is passed on as part of the money it collects – effectively robbing Peter (the taxpayer) to pay Paul (the drainage board)  without wanting to include any numbers which make them look bad.
For many years Worst Street has joined the others who finick the figures to try to put themselves in the best possible light.
We based our calculations on the borough’s council tax booklet which we doubt that many people have seen.
It used to be posted out with the council tax bills – but now seems to be available only on the borough’s website – WorstWebif you can find it.

***

According to the booklet, council tax on the Eye’s offices have risen by 4.52% – yet Councillor Cooper takes us to task for not doing the council’s work for it and massaging the  figures to exclude the drainage board charges.
Taking up Councillor Cooper’s challenge, we not only took a look at our council tax bill – we reproduce the relevant section below.


Conspicuous by its absence is any mention of a drainage board.
And try to make sense of the figures if you can.
The entire confusing cavalcade of charges is an exercise in smoke and mirrors, with no participating authority willing to put its hands up to demanding more for less.

***

WorstWeb is similarly obfuscatory – telling readers “From April 1st band D properties will have to pay an additional 10p a week. As almost 90 per cent of properties are rated below band D most households will pay less.”
Whilst this is entirely true, it relates to the Boston figures alone – minus the drainage board charges – and is nothing more than an attempt to massage the figures to make Worst Street look good.
We’re sorry if this doesn’t sit well with the leader – but when councils manipulate the figures for image purposes they have only themselves to blame when other try to paint the true picture.
We wonder what is more important to people – how the kitty is divided, or how much more money is being handed to local authorities for an ever-declining service.
And at the end of the day, the job of the Eye is to comment on what it sees – rather than what the powers that be would wish us to see.

***

Whilst we thought that Councillor Cooper had some argument – albeit a niggling one – over the issue of local taxes, we think that he is way adrift in his comments about our piece on the council’s treatment of the owner of a listed shop in West Street who refused to replace UPVC windows with wooden ones. You can read it hereThe whole thrust of our piece was to highlight the nonsense spouted about some listed buildings and to call into question the need to make any prosecutions at all over a building that is now in such a pitiful state.
It was an appeal for common sense, rather than pedantry.

***

Finally, whilst Worst Street gets so many things wrong, it can at least claim to be more or less even-handed when it comes to pay issues.
Its annual gender pay report says that half of its 296 employees are male and half are female.
“The mean gender pay gap is 10.0% which in terms of hourly rates equates to £12.76 an hour for men compared with £11.49 for women.
“The median gender pay gap is 0% – or £10 an hour regardless.”
Broadly speaking, that level of pay works out at around 25k a year – about 10% lower than the national average wage.
One argument could be that Worst Street is among the smallest of councils, and pay rates reflect the fact.
But it doesn’t explain why – according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance Town Hall Rich List –  two members of top management are getting more than £100k a year.
Last time we looked around the council’s transparent website, we found the Chief Executive on £95,000 – with no one else in sight.
So what’s been going on?
But perhaps some savings might be on the cards.
A secretive meeting of Chief Officer Employment Panel recently met to hear a report from the Chief Executive on the senior management structure – and we hear that this may mean one of the high-faluters may be jumping ship.



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