Monday, 15 July 2019

Want a booze-up organising
in a brewery?
Don’t ask
Worst Street

Step by step, Boston Borough Council is closing the door on relations with the taxpayers and retreating still further up its own backside.

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Tonight sees a meeting of the full council – which has been put back to its traditional start time of 6-30pm after a fleeting attempt to reschedule it for 7pm – possibly something to do with the early bedtime requirements of some of the older members.

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The minutes for approval are of the meeting on 28th February – even though the annual meeting which saw the appointment of the new mayor, along with some contentious debate, appears to have been overlooked.

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As always, there is space on the agenda for questions from both councillors and the voters – although the latter are called ‘members of the public’ as if they are in some way different and lower in status than councillors.

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Enter Worst Street’s latest Catch-22.
Questions are usually directed at members of the cabinet – and notably the leader. Even though they have to be submitted a ridiculous time in advance, they never appear on the public agenda and remain secret until the night, which means you have to attend  the meeting if you want to hear them.
But by a piece of administration that eloquently defines the word jobsworth, this occasional opportunity has been nobbled … as the agenda item explains.

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“At the annual meeting of the council held on 20th May, council resolved that
Councillor Michael Cooper be appointed as Leader of the Council for the Council term from 2019/20 to 2023/24.   
“In accordance with the requirements of the Constitution, Councillor Cooper has
given notice that he is stepping down as Leader of the Council with effect from 15th July. This creates a vacancy for the position of Leader of the Council which
the Council is being asked to fill at this meeting.”

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Why on earth Councillor Cooper put himself forward in the first place is anyone’s guess – his eleven-day term in office has proved shorter than that of the leaders of some military coups in third world countries.

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But the ensuing cack-handed agenda planning gave Worst Street the chance to deny the public the chance to question the new leader.
The reason?
Councillor Cooper’s resignation takes effect today, and the election of a successor does not appear on the agenda  until after the section for member and taxpayer questions.
Ergo: If you want to put a question to the leader, you can’t because there isn’t one at that particular moment in time – as a member of the public who wished to do that was told quite clearly.
Presumably, this also applies to those other members of the public known as councillors who might want to quiz the leader.

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Although this is a one-off, it does mean that those wishing to hold the leader to some sort of account will have to wait four-and-a half-months from the 4th May meeting until the next full council meeting on 23rd September to do so.

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We believe that this is just what Worst Street wants. As we told you a couple of weeks ago, councillors are accountable in only the vaguest terms, and have no real responsibilities should they not choose to accept any.
Officers are increasingly hiding behind a feedback e-mail address which is being offered to the public as a way to get in touch rather than making a direct approach.
BTAC-ky – now the council’s most important committee in many respects – has reverted to bi-monthly meetings … another move that avoids more frequent accountability.

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The Local Government Association ‘improver’ who is coming to Worst Street for a week during September will find the job akin to wading through treacle in order to make any headway.
Perhaps Worst Street is deliberately making things more difficult ahead of that session so that it can appear to offer concessions to modernity and good communications when they are suggested – as common sense says that they must be – merely to resume the status quo.

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Most of tonight’s council meeting is the usual rubber-stamping – aside from a couple of motions that express similar sentiments … but different deadlines.
A proposal by Tory Councillor Paul Skinner and seconded by his wife, Judith, urges councillors to commit to make Worst Street’s activities carbon neutral by 2050.
A second motion – proposed by BiGger's Anne Dorrian and seconded by colleague Neill Hastie says the same thing (although rather more long-windedly) but with a date of 2030.

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This is apparently deemed so difficult for councillors to take on board that they will be issued with written advice on the procedure for considering two motions on the same subject.

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You might expect us to have some adverse comment to make about this – but we don’t.
We heartily support any move to stop the rot that theatens our environment and improve it for future generations.
But we just wish that our councillors would exercise themselves more with the here and now problems besetting Boston and get on with trying to sort them out.

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Reader reaction to last week’s Boston Eye report on the brainwave of the new leader (that we don’t have until tonight assuming that he gets elected) were interesting.

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One former councillor wrote: “I remember listening to the presentation being made about Merchant's Quay so many years ago.
“Lots of nice drawings, lots of opportunities for Boston Borough Council to invest, but one of the presenters rather destroyed the atmosphere when he said he was in favour because he came from Boston – or words to that effect.
“The apparent need for such a comment made the other ‘pro’ arguments look as if further judgement needed to be exercised.
“Given what happened to the project it would seem I was not alone in my thinking.
“We were, finally, told that Merchant's Quay was not to go ahead because of lack of take up by the necessary end users. (Apparently 70+% such commitment is needed to create scheme viability for developers.)
“If that was so then, is today's retail development/investment climate in Boston any better?”

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Even more cynically, another e-mail asked: “Having heard his thinking on the way forward for Boston, would it be a (charity) fundraising idea to run a book on how long the present Boston Borough Council leader will last?”

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While Worst Street is unaccountably trying to make the dreadful ‘Wild Bill’ TV programme a selling point to lure visitors to the town, it will still be a long time before we lose another image that we would rather do without.
In a column written around US Independence Day, Daily Mail writer Richard Littlejohn speculated as to how the UK might celebrate the first anniversary of Brexit – or “freedom from foreign rule” as he put it.

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Almost inevitably, Boston got a mention.



Doubtless there will be the usual chuntering in the civic ranks, but Worst Street is doing nothing to improve Boston’s image and so only has itself to blame.

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Mention of Brexit makes us wonder if the coming months may prove worrying for our MP Matt Warman.
According to reports, Boris Johnson muttered something about a snap election during a televised debate with Jeremy Hunt the other night.
It came on the same day that the organisation Electoral Calculus – “a political consultancy specialising in quantitative analysis and modelling for electoral and other market research projects” – predicted victory for the Brexit Party in Boston and Skegness, South Holland and The Deepings, and the Louth and Horncastle seats.

click to enlarge image
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Finally – for someone who hasn’t yet been appointed as Boston Borough Council leader until tonight (assuming this will turn out to be the usual Worst Street rubber stamp) – Councillor Aaron Spencer is certainly talking the talk ...

  
... So much so that his promises of big and expensive plans for the redevelopment of Boston appear to have prompted our local ‘newspaper’ the Boston off-Target to rechristen him Councillor Spender – not just in the headline but six times elsewhere.
Its’s good that our local hacks are so well-informed, isn’t it?
Our thanks to the reader who sent in the picture.
Incidentally, the interview included a quote which read: “There’s a vocal minority online who run the town down and everything down, always nay-saying about everything.”
If, perchance, Councillor Spencer is referring to Boston Eye, then we suggest he reads the blog a little more closely.
Seldom, if ever, have we run the town down.
What we  have done .... frequently and with justification ... is to criticise senior officers and councillors for their inactivity, lack of imagination, incompetence and in some cases indifference.
If we had a decent council, we wouldn't need a Boston Eye.




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, 8 July 2019

Deja phew!


 past  comes back to taunt us …
Strap on your seatbelts for a trip back in time …
Remember this?
Well in the way of all good fairy stories we'll begin by saying ...
Once upon a time ...


That was the big news eleven years ago.
Then ten years ago – almost to the day – came the news … 



As if to mark the anniversary, Worst Street last week announced ...
“The new leader of the ruling group on Boston Borough Council has revealed his vision for the town – a massive redevelopment project to dramatically improve fortunes and perceptions.
The draft proposals will form a joint public and private partnership plan to redesign and redevelop an area between the railway station and the river, north of West Street …
“Councillor Spencer said: ‘It will be a comprehensive and complex project over many years – perhaps as many as 15 – and involving many partners and is a long-sighted vision for the future prosperity of our town. …’
Project partners already include Lincolnshire County Council and health partners. Proposals include moving the bus and coach park to the current Staniland car park, all-new development of retail units, a hotel, housing and car parking, a major health and wellbeing hub and a green corridor linking the station and the new centre with the rest of town. It is likely that only the former Jobcentre building near St Botolph’s footbridge will be repurposed.”
He added that: “The scheme in total will completely revitalise this large area of the town.”
It could almost be a copy and paste from eleven years ago – although Councillor Spencer was probably too young to remember it the first time around.
County Hall and “health partners” are already said to be on-side.
They would be.
Lincolnshire County Council stands to make a profit from selling off two car parks for redevelopment and the “health partners” sound to be getting something for nothing.
And is Worst Street really sure that relocating the bus station to the Stanliand car park is such a good idea?
And where will the private investment come from?
We’re still awaiting the arrival of the £3 million 168-berth Gosling Marina on land in the Fenside area which was enthusiastically approved by Worst Street four years ago.
At the time, former leader Peter Bedford was quoted as saying: “Obviously we hope the marina will give the town a much-needed boost and regenerate the waterfront.
“When it is built, it should bring millions to the town, push up property prices and get people coming to Boston – it is a very exciting prospect.”
And where are we with plans to build 16 shops and 15 residential apartments on the car park site near the Centenary Methodist Church between Wide Bargate and Red Lion Street?
Meanwhile, the in-town Lidl – which according to the signs on the hoardings is set to open 'soon' – remains a razed site.
And let's not forget that a year from now, Boston United is supposed to be playing at its new stadium at the Quadrant – easily found by looking for the fast food shops being built in anticipation.

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It always seems to be jam tomorrow where Worst Street is concerned and we find it disappointing that our latest leader should join the ranks of those making such promises so soon
Or, rather than jam tomorrow, do we mean ...



News just in …
The Worst Street announcement said that a bid for finance had been lodged with the Government’s £675 million Future High Streets Fund – but last Friday saw the government announce the 50 applicants who will  receive up to £150,000 to work up detailed project proposals based on their initial plans – and Boston was not among them.
How this bodes for the chances of another bid being worked on – to the £1.6 billion Stronger Towns Fund – is anyone’s guess, but it might be a good idea to go back to the drawing board and ‘repurpose’ the bid currently under construction.

  
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, 1 July 2019






Boston Borough Council has a new leader.
After a meeting on Monday night, Paul Skinner, the Boston Conservative Group Chairman announced: “Councillor Aaron Spencer has been elected as Boston Conservative Group leader.
“Councillor Mike Cooper who's [sic] passion is flying both models and microlights, is to develop his online model business and is to open a shop in Boston.
“He has to dedicate more time to his new venture.”
Councillor Cooper became leader just over two years ago, and was re-elected after the elections in May.
Councillor Spencer, a former car salesman, is a 'professional' councillor who also represents Boston North at county level.
Whilst Councillor Cooper’s time in office might fairly be described as unmemorable, his successor has made the news with his comments about the town centre and its future.
Earlier this year, when he was deputy leader, councillor Spencer – who was first elected to Worst Street in 2011 aged 19 – reportedly said that although it was a shame to see big shops close, too much time and attention was spent trying to help them out.
His comments came after the closure of the town’s Marks and Spencer (no relation) store was announced, and he was quoted as saying: “I think that we need to focus on these medium enterprises in town; of course, it’s a shame that M&S is closing, but we need to do something different. We need to move away from these failing business models and create a town centre full of cafes, bars and restaurants.
“We need to get people living in the town centre again above shops and get people coming to the town.”
Later he added: “I think that we need to leave the past behind, you can buy everything online nowadays and we need to adapt to the changing business environment.
“There’s only so many times that these big businesses can be bailed out, and to be honest I don’t think that they work in Boston anymore.
“I think a lot of the members of the public expect the council to wave some sort of magic wand and the problems will go away, but M&S has announced nationwide closures and we simply can’t help that.
“I’d question some of the people complaining, when was the last time they actually bought from the store? If the answer is a couple of months ago here lies the problem.”
Controversially he also came up with an idea to create specific drinking zones to tackle Boston’s street boozing problem.
He was quoted as saying: “The problem is street drinking and it’s a combination of cultures coming together.
“We drink in the pubs whereas others do it on the streets as there is no communal space for them to do it.
“I think that it would be better if we created a specific area where it can be controlled.
"It's not an idea that I've put forward to the council it's just my personal opinion and I'm not saying that it would practically work but in theory we could police an area better."
He added: “We know that having a blanket ban on street drinking doesn't work as groups of people congregate in hot spots and drink anyway.
"I think if we created a specific area that was well lit, covered with CCTV cameras then we could police the area better and clamp down on anti-social activity.”
Councillor Spencer is also a member of a local popular music combo named Hydro-Bats.
He is also the current portfolio holder for finance at Worst Street - and presumably will have to find a replacement now that he has become leader.

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


The phrase ‘not waving but drowning’ could have been written with Boston Borough Council in mind – but has Worst Street now launched the distress flares in the hope that rescue might be at hand?

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A recent Tweet from a senior figure in the Local Government Association said “Brilliant afternoon spent with Boston Borough Council …
“So excited for to be spending four days with them in autumn – roll on September.”
The message highlighted hashtags – which identify messages on a specific topic – for local government, and the “Local Government Association Improvement.”

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The writer is an adviser in the LGA’s Local Government Support Team, responsible for improvement in councils in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber and the North East of England.
“This involves: developing, commissioning and delivering improvement support to councils, as well as developing and maintaining relationships, partnerships and networks.
“This work experience is coupled with a commitment to supporting and delivering better outcomes for local communities, a strong work ethic and a proactive focused approach, with excellent communication, analytical and research skills.”

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The LGA describes itself as “the national voice of local government, working with councils to support, promote and improve local government.”
Specifically, its “improvement” offer “provides a range of practical support … to enable local authorities to exploit the opportunities that this approach to improvement provides.
“This includes support of a corporate nature such as leadership programmes, peer challenge, LG Inform (our benchmarking service) and programmes tailored to specific service areas such as children's, adults', health, care, financial, culture, tourism, sport and planning services.”

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It’s a big list, but we can’t think of a local authority in greater need of a kick up its civic bum than our very own West Street.

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Whilst it remains to be seen whether anything will result, we won’t holding our breath for any good news.
Whilst the LGA takes its job seriously, there is existing evidence that – when it suits our powers that b’aint – they feel free to ignore sensible, sound and honest advice if  adopting it might upset the apple cart.

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Why do we say this?
In recent months, we have had sight of the response to a number of complaints about the conduct of councillors – all of which have been rejected.
Part of which is almost a pro forma reply says:

The Local Government Association advises as follows: -
“A Councillor’s primary role is to represent their ward or division and the people who live in it.
Councillors provide a bridge between the community and the Council. As well as being an advocate for your local residents and signposting them to the right people at the Council, you will need to keep them informed about the issues that affect them.
In order to understand and represent local views and priorities, you need to build strong relationships and encourage local people to make their views known and engage with you and the Council.
As a local Councillor, your residents will expect you to:-
 Respond to their queries and investigate their concerns (casework).
 Communicate Council decisions that affect them.
 Know your patch and be aware of any problems.
 Know and work with representatives of local organisations, interest groups and businesses.
 Represent their views at Council meetings.
 Lead local campaigns on their behalf.
Good communication and engagement is central to being an effective local representative. Working with local organisations, such as the Parish or Town Council, is one way to keep in touch.”
In the same breath, Worst Street declares: “This is what is advised but there is no formal mechanism to enforce such behaviours.”
And it goes further by saying: “There are no formal requirements for a District Councillor in terms of a job description or any legal requirements as to how much engagement they much make with their constituents. Indeed, the only legal requirement for a Councillor to attend meetings in that they must attend at least one meeting in a six-month period or this will lead to automatic disqualification.”

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It's not as if these recommendations are in any way excessive or unreasonable  in fact they are precisely what taxpayers believe that they are electing their councillors to do.
So why is is that these recommendations have not been integrated into the so-called code of conduct for Boston Borough councillors?
Because the Worst Street administrators don't have the guts to make the council members do their job as they should if they can't be bothered  which is shameful beyond belief.
If Worst Street deliberately can be that disinterested and dismissive of the way that councillors should or should not deliver the promises they make to get elected, then imagine the likely response if they are told  by the Local Government Association that Worst Street is a crock of merde that needs a good overhaul.
We’re afraid that everyone   councillors and officers alike  are having it too cushy to consider improving anything for a single moment.


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


Saturday, 22 June 2019



Lincolnshire County Council has 70 councillors of whom six represent Boston - almost 10% - including the vice chairman.
Some are also Boston Borough councillors.
Guess how many attended the “Your councillor wants to meet you” session at the Lincolnshire Show?
The signs outside the county tent are reproduced above.
ONE!
Do you think that any of them are ashamed?



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, 3 June 2019


Since the last edition of Boston Eye, and with absolutely no help at all from the sluggards at Worst Street, it slowly became possible to work out what – if anything – has been going on in the new-look district council.
In fact, it took the sloths four weeks from the day of the election finally to cobble together a list of councillors and their photographs – although some of the information is incorrect, and the lion's share is still absent.
And important information is also lacking in three councillor profiles – notably the register of interests held by some Tory members.
It is a legal requirement to give this information to the councils monitoring officer   and as far as we are aware, it is also illegal not to make them available to the public online. Certainly, Worst does so for all but these three.
All this delay  as we have already said   has meant that any taxpayer minded to postpone contacting their councillor due to an imminent election has found themselves officially stymied for more than a month ... which is totally unacceptable, especially as some issues may have involved a need for urgent action.

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Again – such is the snail’s pace at which Worst Street operates – even though the council’s annual meeting was not until 2½ weeks after the elections, three of the five documents on the agenda were listed as “to follow.”
These included the significant “Appointment of Leader of the Council and Cabinet Appointments” plus the constitution of committees and the appointment of chairmen and vice-chairmen of committees.
It goes without saying – this is Worst Street, remember – that these promised items did not appear on the public website agenda in time for the meeting, and now taxpayers will most likely have to wait until the council meets committee by committee or until the minutes are published ahead of the next meeting in mid-July to see the complete list.

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One exception is the list of members of the cabinet of curiosities.
If you poke around WorstWeb – the council website – you will come across the list, which has a couple of surprises in it …
The new look cabinet comprises Councillor Michael Cooper who was re-elected as leader – although we had heard some mutterings that a challenge might have been in the offing.
His deputy is Councillor Nigel Welton, formerly portfolio holder for the town centre, who takes over the brief for tourism, arts, culture and heritage.
Councillor Aaron Spencer retains the finance portfolio but ceases to be deputy leader– which means he presumably waves adieu to the £6,600 special responsibility allowance that goes with it.  
Councillor Yvonne Stevens becomes the portfolio holder for environment, a post previously held by David Brown, who lost his seat.
A newcomer in every sense is Councillor Chelcei [sic] Sharman who was elected for the first-time last month and has now been appointed to look after the town centre.
Councillor Martin Griggs stays put with housing and communities as does Councillor Paul Skinner for regulatory services.

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We always thought that building a quality cabinet would be a bit of a challenge – perhaps due to the closeness of the result and surfeit of Independents, and the reluctance by the leadership not to think outside the party-political box.
Boston Borough Council has slightly more talent than the cabinet choices suggest – but unless blue is your colour, you can forget being asked to bring your skills to bear on the many problems that the town faces.
What a shame that Boston couldn’t be brave enough to look at the example boldly set by North Kesteven District Council – whose leaders have created “the North Kesteven Administration.”
Reports say that whilst the Conservatives have taken the roles of chairman, vice chairman and leader of the council, the leader, Richard Wright, declared that the Conservative group would “no longer exist” and the new group would be formed.
He then invited unaligned councillor Steven Clegg and Lincolnshire Independent Mervyn Head on board to make it more inclusive – and said that a third of some policy-making committee places would be open to opposition members.
Whilst such a move would send Worst Street panjandrums rushing for the chaise-longue and a phial of sal-volatile, the move is better than sensible and councillors will still have their party allegiances.

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Such an enlightened approach might have made life easier for Leader Cooper – who clearly had a number of former Tories – now Independent – with long service and prior cabinet experience who are being wasted in  the wings … although there are rumours that some are already wavering over the possibility of a return.

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So we wonder whether we were alone in raising an Eye-brow at the appointment of Councillor Sharman to what is considered one of the most important portfolios in the cabinet – that of the town centre.
Councillor Sharman represents Swineshead and Holland Fen at both district and parish level, is a mother of two very young children and head chef in the family-run Green Dragon pub in Swineshead Market Place.
In every way, she is well equipped to represent her ward – but taking on Boston town centre seems a step too far.
Certainly, it will require attendance at BTAC-ky – and it is interesting to note that previous portfolio holders have all represented wards covered by the committee rather than coming from outside.
Indeed, it is also worth noting that when former Town Centre holder Nigel Welton was elected to represent Kirton and Frampton – his choice of a safer seat than Fenside which he previously held and which was in the BTAC-ky area – his portfolio was changed as well.

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The cabinet was announced at the full council meeting a couple of weeks ago.
This is the annual meeting – one which normally is a formality as it sees the appointment of the new mayor and the departure of the old one.
As such, it is usually a back-slapping exercise ahead of the great and the good slipping off into a side room for a can o’ peas and a sip of Chateau Rue Pire 2019.

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But this year, such civility was not to be.
Most of the action – if that’s what you can call it – was from the Bostonian Independents Group … BiG for short if that’s not a contradiction in terms.
Whilst group ‘spokesman’ Councillor Brian Rush made his presence felt, the reports that reached us nominated newly-elected Councillor Anne Dorrian as jeerleader-in-chief.
We even heard accounts of an outburst at the seating arrangements for BiG members. Apparently alphabetical is no good any more
These ‘Independents’ it was announced in no uncertain terms ought to have been seated in order of importance, which – for the benefit of the uninitiated   meant: Councillors Rush, Dorrian, Woodcock, Watson, Hastie and Welbourn.
Well, it makes sense to someone – but it does seem rather early in the day for ‘independents’ to be so obsessed with status.

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This brings us back to the overall definition of ‘independent.’
A picky debate is underway about which independents may have struck up alliances with other parties – well, the Tories actually – and what that implies.

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Councillor Dorrian even made the issue the subject of a blog item entitled: “Does Your Vote Count?” – which engaged the benefit of 20:20 hindsight that being elected bestows on some councillors.
She chose five wards where the difference between victory and failure was closely run – Fenside, Fishtoft, Five Villages, Old Leake and Wrangle and Wyberton – to show how a few extra votes might have made a difference.
The drift of the piece appears to be that there would have been more independent councillors had more people voted for them – something that had never crossed our minds until now.
Of the Wyberton result, she says: “Wyberton Ward saw Tracey Abbott elected as an INDEPENDENT with just FOUR votes between her and the UKIP-turned-Conservative incumbent, David Brown.
“Within a couple of days though, Tracey had ignored all the offers of support from the other Independent councillors, in order to align herself with the Conservatives and bag herself a Vice Chairmanship.”

***

Councillor Abbott  has not only been sniped at by Councillor Dorrian, but many others too  – so we asked her to respond to the criticisms being made.
She replied:

“I will not deny the fact that I have aligned myself to the Conservative group, but to make it quite clear I have not joined the Conservative Party
“My association is clear to see and all above board.
“I feel this is a little more honest to the electorate than some of the arrangements and alignments that have been made between other councillors in the chamber and other groups.
“In the future these deals will become apparent, but it is not my position in this reply to disclose the deals and arrangements that I am aware of.
“Being elected on to Boston Borough Council came as a great surprise to me. For the first few days as you can imagine I was in considerable shock and very overawed with the whole situation.
“At no point in these first four days did anybody contact me other than one person.
“My husband, however, was bombarded with phone calls, text and Facebook messages – each of them requests for him to persuade me to form various allegiances. 
“In every instance my husband made it quite clear that he could not speak for me and would not try to influence my decision and then he passed on my contact details.
“As I previously mentioned only one person took time to contact me personally and show any concern for my trepidation and fears. This person was an existing Conservative councillor whom I have known as a friend for a number of years and I placed a great deal of trust in this person’s support. 
“This person made a very kind offer of giving me help and support in my formative years as a councillor, and I felt that the offer was genuine and unconditional.
“The suggestion made was that I joined her on one of the Scrutiny Committees to enable her to be able to offer the guidance and support I would need.
“But as you are aware, I would not have been able to avail myself of this offer without becoming part of a group of more than two councillors, so out of respect for this kind offer I felt the only option was to align to the Conservatives.
“I was asked if I would join the Conservative Party, which I refused to do. After discussions with the leader and the deputy leader of the Conservative group it was agreed that I would retain my right to vote as my constituents would wish me to vote – this means for, against or abstain on any motion presented within any meeting.
“Whilst I will admit that at a later date Ms Dorrian did try to contact me by phone, it was inconvenient to talk both times she called.
“I was expecting to speak to Ms Dorrian at one of the induction meetings arranged but she was late arriving and this didn’t happen.
“The other contact with members of other groups were along the lines of a message to my husband can you let your wife know that all independents are meeting up at three tomorrow’ and a piece of paper being thrust in front of me at the first induction meeting stating all the independents are signing this, and expected me to do the same – but without explanation of what it exactly was I would be signing.
“This was the sum of the kind offers made by the Independent group.
“It came as a great surprise when I discovered I was being offered the position of vice chairman of the Scrutiny Committee but it certainly was not because of any conditions for aligning myself to any group.
“I was even more surprised to find out where I was to be seated at the AGM. I discovered this when I arrived in the council chamber and saw the pre-prepared seating plan.
“After attending the AGM and viewing the behaviour of some councillors at the meeting, I believe I made the correct decision.”

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Needless to say, Worst Street – having had a month to get things right – got things wrong, and after and despite repeated explanations of the situation incorrectly declared Councillor Abbott to be a member of the Conservative Party rather than being aligned to the Tory group.

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This prompted a statement from the Tory group deputy leader Councillor Nigel Welton – which although it fell short of an apology –  at least may have the effect of ending the attacks on Councillor Abbott.
Councillor Welton said: “After some confusion with the incorrect listing of Councillor Tracey Abbott as a Conservative party member on the Boston Borough Council website the Conservative group on Boston Borough Council would like to clarify the fact that Councillor Abbott has not joined the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group.
“Councillor Abbott has aligned to the Conservative Group to gain professional advice and mentoring that is essential for a newly elected councillor.
“The group are looking forward to working with Councillor Abbott over the next four years, as we are with any other councillor regardless of any party or group allegiances.
“The priority must be what is best for the town in what will be a very challenging time.”

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Councillor Dorrian’s blog, meanwhile, conveniently ignored the fact that not all Independents are members of the Bostonian Independents Group   there are almost as many who have nothing to do with it.
BiG claims six members  – and for now has no leader, but a spokesman.
For some peculiar reason, whilst it registered as a pukka political party with the Electoral Commission at the end of May last year, it deregistered less than eight months later on 29th January this year.

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Was this a cunning plan by the Bostonian Independents to deregister and then field candidates under an ‘Independent’ banner – which meant that electors had no idea whether they were voting for a party now calling itself  a group, or an individual and genuinely Independent candidate.
All of which emphasises Councillor Dorrian’s claim that had people known the result in advance, they might well have taken some different decisions at the ballot box.

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Members of BiG say that their existence as a group is to entitle them to committee representation and that they remain free thinkers and voters  although the same is true of the Independent quintet comprising councillors Austin (2) Bedford, Edge and Woodliffe.
But the form that BiG signed to do this clearly stated that this made them members of a “political group” – defined by various dictionaries thus: “A political group exists when people assemble together in order to promote a common ideology and achieve particular objectives in the public, governmental sphere. Political parties and trade unions are political groups.”

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Whilst BiG makes much of its status and importance (even though its website has now disappeared ... see above) there are as many other Independents in the council chamber – some who have done deals with the Tories in the past, and others who have ‘Tory’ written through them like letters in a stick of rock. And no-one seems to have taken issue with the election of one candidate as a UKIP councillor who is now listed as Independent.

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Our contributor ‘Scanner’ has been hard at work again – this time with comments on an issue that we have raised more than once in the past.
If concerns the gifting of more than £300,000 – in grants of £160,000 from the government’s ‘Rapid Rehousing Pathway’ and £145,050 Rough Sleeper Initiative Fund.
Whilst sums such as this can be put to good, practical, hands-on use – in this case to help rough sleepers – Boston has fallen back on its old jobsworthy ways of turning money into jobs for the boys … and doubtless the girls.

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Over to you, Scanner …

There’s no doubt that Boston has more than its fair share of rough sleepers and it is almost certain that the true figures underestimate the official figures trotted out.
At last, it seems that the Government has found the cash to help these unfortunates. So, hooray!
Boston being the seventh highest of all the 326 districts in England has been awarded £300K to help alleviate this blot on our community.
With £300K to play with, I’m sure that there should be no problem in providing serviced accommodation to give these people a base which is a necessary part of helping them to get on their feet again along with the support from the drug and alcohol advisory groups and other charities in the area.
What has West Street said about the grant? Apparently, “It would allow the Council to carry out a number of initiatives”. I love the jargon.
1. “It will employ three ‘navigators’’ to provide intensive support to those on the streets, or in danger of losing their homes.”
THREE ? Are there enough rough sleepers to justify three roaming the area? They certainly won’t have a map showing hostels and night shelters.
Doesn’t the Council already have a legal duty to advise those, ‘in danger of losing their homes?’
2. “It will also fund a tenancy sustainment officer who will work closely with private rental landlords.” Don’t think he/she will be rushed of their feet as we’re constantly told there is a lack of accommodation for those who need re-housing let alone those needing housing for the first time – especially given the high rents asked here. Also, landlords can be choosey about who lives in their properties. Some will need a lot of persuasion.
3. “It will provide TWO ADDITIONAL outreach street workers AND a programme co-ordinator and access to suitable accommodation to get those at risk off the street and into a safer environment”. Note ‘access to’ not ‘provide’.
That’s seven officers appointed – at what cost? Are they to be full time or part time? How long will their contract be for? If full time, with expenses, they could eat up nearly half the £300k in the first year.
Surely, what is needed is the conversion of a suitable building – the soon-to-be-empty Dunelm fabric warehouse next to B&M springs to mind – into a number of single bedrooms, 1/2 wet rooms, a kitchen and dining area, a leisure area and a consulting room?
Possibly a flat for a manager/ess and facilities for volunteers. I’m no expert but there should be enough change from £300kto provide the necessary support for some time to come and other sources of funding will be available.
Sure, there will need to be council involvement but, surely less than the seven staff being proposed?

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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News of a crime that seems not to have made the headlines … We hear that thieves made off with a number of bicycles stored in a caged rack and in broad daylight as well. Sadly, for the victims, whilst the area was monitored by the borough’s famed closed-circuit television system, the cameras were not working, and no evidence is available.
Even so, the theft of such a large quantity of bicycles ought not to have gone unnoticed – occurring as it did in a well-used public area.
And where was that, we hear you cry?
None other than the car park behind the Boston Borough Council Municipal Offices in West Street.

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Sadly, it has recently become a case where we are increasingly highlighting the laziness at Worst Street which can be laid – not at the door of councillors – but of the people who are supposed to be working for the progress and prosperity of the borough.
Another criticism come in the form of a letter from a reader concerning on of our few landmarks worthy of interest – Boston Guildhall.
He writes: “I’m sure the whole town will remember when the Guildhall and the Bed Centre (it woke up as The Haven) re-opened with great acclaim after millions of pounds of our money had been spent on the archaeology and refurbishment of the buildings – heralding the Guildhall’s importance in recording the history of the town. 
“The work itself needed doing but subsequent events must have amazed people.
“Why were most of the artefacts, many provided by Bostonians, hidden away in secret stores – only to emerge for special exhibitions? Surely, these represented much of the town’s social history?
“The Haven – Boston’s own cultural centre art gallery – didn’t last long before it was deemed a loss-maker and sold off.
“The much-travelled Tourist Information Centre had found its true home at last In the Market Place, won an award, and very successfully dealt with hundreds of enquiries each month.
“Again, there was no money for its upkeep, so it was moved to a small corner of the Guildhall.
“Surprise, surprise!  There were insufficient funds to keep the Guildhall open so in one stroke our welcome for locals, tourists and visitors was reduced to opening hours Wednesdays to Saturdays between 10am and 3pm. At all other times you are faced with a locked building.
“If you phone when it is closed, you are referred to the council or the Visit Boston websites. It seems you cannot be put through to the council’s switchboard as even with today’s technological wizardry this cannot apparently be done.
“It’s wonder that The Heritage Lottery Fund and other funders haven’t demanded part of their money back as the council are only providing part of the service promised.
“Why am I bothering to write this …?
“Well some friends who are very interested in the town were coming to Boston on a Bank Holiday Monday, as many visitors do.
“They were amazed and disappointed that the Guildhall was closed, and all I could do was sympathise.
“I know that the staff and the officers work hard to attract visitors to the town, but they must feel like they’re standing on a cliff edge watching the ground being washed away at their feet. 
“The constant message from West Street is that large visitor numbers are essential for the economy of the area. We may need them, but this has never stopped the council making cuts.
“Will this new council will put its money where its mouth is?
“I doubt we will see huge changes, but please! Mr/Mrs Councillor, surely, it’s not too much to ask that as Bank Holiday Mondays are the norm, the Guildhall could be open on these Mondays at least?
“Or is it being cheeky to suggest that the Guildhall should be open for the whole of these holiday weekends? After all we don’t have that many.”

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Talking of promoting one’s district, we note that a former Worst Street senior officer – now Chief Executive at neighbouring East Lindsey – spent a useful day in London visiting the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Transport.
The aim was to “champion” East Lindsey by promoting its challenges and opportunities.
Give that what other Lincolnshire districts do today, Worst Street either overlooks or does in a half-hearted fashion when it’s too late, isn’t it about time for some digital extraction by our own highly paid officers – especially since the seven-strong officer ‘cabinet’ now earns is around half a million a year between them.

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Finally, two entries for the gone and totally forgotten department …
First, a petition that newly elected BiG Councillor Neill Hastie placed on the government website way back in November last year.


When we first checked the progress a month after the petition launched the number of votes stood at 55. The government says that once a petition reaches 10,000 signatures, it will respond, and at 100,000 signatures, a petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.
Ten days after the elections saw Mr Hastie become Councillor Hastie, the petition closed – with just 19 more signatures.
What now?
Back in February Councillor Hastie told a local ‘newspaper’ – “Street drinking is a problem in Boston and we need a pro-active enforcement which is what I will try to bring if I'm elected in the elections.
“I want to reintroduce the Boston Rangers and they can tackle more than just the problem of street drinking.
“The Rangers can tackle the fly tipping problems we have; the people defecating in the street and patrol the market.”
Don’t think we’ll hold our breath …

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And the second entry…
In July last year, Worst Street announced that plans were being hatched to mark the centenary of the handing over of the land which became Boston’s Central Park.
A bid for funding to support further improvements was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund, to build on recent enhancements to the Tawney Street entrance.
And …?
Well, let’s celebrate the 101st anniversary instead.
Or perhaps re-check the dates. An ordnance survey map of 1887 published by Frances Frith that we looked at last week showed the area of land in question clearly marked as – Central Park.

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Since before the election our blogs have been produced against a background of health problems for the writer – including a memorable visit to the A&E department at the Pilgrim Hospital. In view of developments it seems prudent to ease back a little whilst, hopefully, things improve.
Please keep your e-mails coming. 
Urgent issues of importance will still appear but for the time being there will not be the weekly 4,000-word marathons such as this one.
We are aiming to be back by the end of the month, and will keep you posted …

  
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