Thursday, 5 December 2019


Boston Eye is online from 5am on Monday with an Election Special at newbostoneye.blogspot.com  …






+++ Boxit … three ballots in Boston +++ One General election plus Kirton & Frampton and Skirbeck ward at Worst Street +++ Who are the candidates? +++ Are they local? (if they’re telling) +++ Are some as ‘Independent’ as they claim? +++ Make sure you don’t miss our analysis +++

Monday, 28 October 2019

One would scarcely expect by-elections to be like buses – but in Boston it seems to be the case that you wait for ages … and then two of them come along almost at once.

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On Tuesday 15th October, we were treated to the resignation of local businessman and Tory cabinet member Alistair Arundell after just 23 weeks representing Skirbeck ward – and last Monday we bade farewell to another Conservative …  Kirton and Frampton’s Shaun Blackman, who has quit citing “personal commitments”.

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In a statement Mr Blackman said: “It’s with deep regret that I announce my resignation with immediate effect as councillor of Kirton and Frampton ward. The time needed for the role is greater than that I have available, and I feel that I can not [sic] give the dedication and commitment required to provide an effective level of service and effectiveness to the residents of my elected ward.
“I thank fellow councillors, the leader, and residents for supporting me along my journey, however sadly feel I can no longer continue in position.”
Leader of Boston Borough Council, Aaron Spencer – who must by now be getting the hand of commenting on colleagues’ resignations – said: “I’m saddened that Shaun Blackman has decided to resign from his position as councillor for Kirton and Frampton Ward.
“Shaun was a committed and devoted person, who’s support and loyalty has been highly valued, however his decision to resign is understandable, due to wanting to spend time with his family. I wish Shaun all the very best for the future.”

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So; two resignations in the space of a week – and whilst we thought that one might mean a bit of foot-dragging as far as calling a by-election is concerned, the council is now 6½% down on its total of 30 members and 14% on the Tory ruling group numbers.
We last had a by-election in February 2018 – and before that way back in 2013.

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Both Skirbeck and Kirton & Frampton are big wards with three councillors apiece – but they are marked by voter apathy.
At the elections last May, the Skirbeck turnout was the lowest of the 30 wards at 22.4% - with Kirton and Frampton little better on 25.2%.

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The result last time was fought out between just five candidates – two Conservatives, two Labour, and one Independent – who as with the case in Skirbeck emerged as a member of the Bostonian Independents Group, BiG and therefore, as we said last week is a member of a pseudo party rather than a true independent.
The outcome was a win for the two Tories and the BiGger candidate

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Back in 2015 two Tories and a Kipper took the honours – and we suspect that the Tories might cling on again this time. 

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We’re less sure about who might win in Skirbeck.
The three Tory candidates there polled 814 votes between them with Labour's trio running a close second on 812.
We would expect them to field candidates again this time around, and both BiG – which didn’t declare itself by name in Skirbeck in May – and the Blue Revolution have indicated their intention to fight again.

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In fact, just as we were going to press, Blue Revolution’s Christopher Moore – who contested the seat in May and polled 186 votes … sadly for him the lowest figure on the day  e-mailed Boston Eye to say: “I refer to your comment in the last edition where you state that ‘perhaps’ a Blue Revolution candidate may stand in the Skirbeck ward's by-election when it is called. 
“I am proud to say that you can delete the word ‘perhaps.’
“I am putting myself forward again as I did last time.
“Event after event demonstrates how badly the traditional party system is ‘broken.’ 
“Radical change is now needed more than ever.
“I really enjoyed chatting with people and listening to what they really thought about all kind of concerns. 
As you say, there are ‘interesting times ahead,’ and I look forward to the challenge of representing the folk of Skirbeck in any way that I am able.”


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Certainly, the ruling group needs to win both seats if it can.
A look at the Worst Street political breakdown after last week’s announcement showed the Conservatives claiming 15 of the 30 seats – but one of those was an Independent ‘aligned’ with the Tories … which is not a guarantee of a vote should push come to shove on any contentious issues.

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Genuine Independents number six – but include two former senior Tories who again might find themselves on the spot in the event that their one-time loyalties were to be tested.
Bostonian Independents total five, and Labour has two councillors.

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So, at present, the controlling group in a contentious debate owns only 14 of the 30 seats – which is why we think that they are hoping for a rapid pair of by-elections.
And another problem facing leader Aaron Spencer – if he doesn’t have enough already – is playing the game of hunt the cabinet member.

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To the surprise of some, he chose two brand-new councillors for cabinet membership after May’s elections – one of whom – Alistair Arundell has now quit.
Of the fourteen councillors available to pick from, six are already in the cabinet, one is the mayor and so out of the running and of the remaining seven another is a former leader and so we imagine is also out of contention.
There is a saying that you can’t make bricks without straw – but it may be that Councillor Spencer could find himself being forced to have a go.
He reportedly told last week's cabinet that he will take on the tourism portfolio as well as leading the cabinet and keeping the books.
We trust that this will be pro tem – as what is supposed to be a democratic group is increasingly leaning towards a dictatorship.

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We make no apologies for banging on about the way that BTAC is taking the strain when it comes to bearing the cost of the so-called transformation project which is making millions of pounds in cuts so that the leadership can doff its topper to Tory Central for following unpopular orders.
The most recent example was of a massive scheme of events (£30,000 over the previous year’s budget and some of it unspecified ... see last week's blog) sent to be approved by the cabinet because of the excessive level of spending ... but which  really needs challenging.

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The original BTAC brief was to spend its comparatively small budget to support the wards that it represented – eight of them in some of the poorest areas of the town.
But as the transformation project boulder gained speed as it rolled down the hill BTAC was forced to take on more and more.
Its budget has soared from £100,000 to £700,000 with minor tweaks in its so-called constitution allow this virement to take place.
The upshot is that the leadership can show head office a squeaky-ish clean balance sheet whilst town centre taxpayers pay the price.

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The was admitted in a recent set of cabinet minutes, which boasted …


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Interestingly Worst Street itself defines BTAC-ky thus: “The Boston town area of the Borough doesn’t have a parish council and BTAC fills that gap, reflecting and representing the views of the residents of the town wards.
The italics are ours – and highlights what is not being done – i.e. BTAC is not representing the views of its residents.

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In all the time it has been disregarding its responsivities, no member of the committee appears to have had the bottle to challenge what has been happening – and as we reported last week BTAC is now wanting to spread its wings still further and stage events that will bring visitors into the borough from farther afield.

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Perhaps one reason why this state of affairs has gone on for so long is because no-one is prepared to grasp the nettle that would see BTAC becoming truly independent of Boston Borough Council.

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The last time this was looked at was by the previous Chief Executive Richard Harbord – who reported that new, simpler rules were to be introduced in March 2013.
After much waffling the committee resolved that he should report back to a future meeting of the with details of the new regulations for forming town councils in relation to the future of BTAC as an Area Committee or as a stand-alone town council, and also on BTAC’s constitution and whether it could take on more powers.

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Mr Harbord reported back in December 2013 to say that the new rules would come in by September 2014.arbord sreported back in December 2013 to say that new new rules would come in
They would involve a petition by residents followed by a review.
He concluded: “I will be reporting to the Cabinet in due course about this, should it become necessary. The review will take 2 F.T.E (full-time equivalent job post) to complete in 12 months and with consultation will cost around £70,000.
“The Borough Council will meet this sum.”

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A look back through past cabinet meetings shows that this item never reached the agenda whilst Mr Harbord remained in office – he resigned in September 2015 – and as far as we can tell has never seen the light of day via his successor since.

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As we know, everything in Worst Streets takes years to achieve – and readers with long memories might like to be reminded that it’s now two years since BTAC was offered a simple solution that would have seen an end to the once contentious issue of IntoTown buses using Strait Bargate as a rat run.
But – by long standing tradition – this opportunity was never taken up.
Perhaps now that we are now supposed to have a committee on climate change, someone might think it a good idea to remove diesel pollution from a pedestrian shopping centre which sees choking smoke disgorged at pushchair level.

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Are things going on behind the scenes in Boston that we aren’t being told about?
Back in September we reported that our Deputy Chief Executive Michelle Sacks was a guest speaker at a “Focus on Footfall” event in Nottingham where the subject under discussion was: “How BIDs and local authorities can support local business, creating vibrant places that people want to visit.”

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The history of Boston Business ‘Improvement’ District is forever seared on the minds of the local firms dragged into its catchment area and forced to pay a levy that they could ill afford.
Failure to do so resulted in a court appearance a fine and a criminal record.

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For five years Boston BID blew £100,000 a year with no effect until it was voted out of existence in 2013 when its one and only term expired, rather than being given a continuance.
As with BTAC-ky, Worst Street backed Boston BID to the hilt – despite a critical task and finish group report – because the BID was doing some of the work that the council had previously been responsible for and thus saved it money.

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So, to see a senior officer enthusing about what appears to be a case for business improvement groups made the hairs on the back of our neck rise – and we’re sure gave local businesses a return of the fits of the screaming abdabs all over again.

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If such a return from the dead by a Boston BID is remotely possible, then why have we not heard about it other than obliquely?

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What’s more, something else leapt from the woodwork recently – again involving our deputy chief.


The occasion was something called the Local Government Strategy Forum which “brings together the finest thought leaders and peers from across the industry to share ideas and help you improve your organisation.”

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The item on the agenda told us in a 67-word sentence: “Boston Council has been working closely across all levels of education in collaboration with business to understand the future needs and wants of the world of employment, and where businesses can help influence and shape the way we inspire and educate our young people, and this raises productivity through higher skills and wages enabling robotics to replace mundane tasks previously reliant on a transient low skilled workforce.”

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Not only do we keep a fairly close eye on what Worst Street is doing, but so do many of our readers.
Yet a straw poll among them could find no-one who recalls such an ambitious initiative.

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The suggestion in the agenda is that Worst Street has been striving for some time to improve the educational lot of our young folk.
But as always, the devil is in the data …


The information above comes from the Lincolnshire Observatory and has been selected at random for illustrative purposes.
The complete statistics show Boston consistently at the bottom of the pile for qualifications at all levels – not just for last year but for the last decade.

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Not only that. But recent figures published on a local ‘news’ website showed the majority of the borough’s secondary schools listed as being in need of improvement.

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For a brief moment, we thought that we were perhaps moving from those dark days of our previous MP Mark Simmonds, who famously declared in a radio interview when asked about the lack of jobs for locals: “I can meet some young people in Boston who say ‘Mark, when are you going to get all these migrants out of our town, and I say to them, ‘Well, when you’re prepared to go into the fields or the packhouses.’”
“”
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With average pay in the Boston and Skegness constituency in the order of £16-£18,000 a year, anything that might improve opportunities for school-leavers starting out in work is to be applauded.

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But with a low wage economy dependent on land work and packhouse shifts, what is likely to emerge once “robotics replace mundane tasks previously reliant on a transient low skilled workforce.”

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Perhaps Worst Street would like to tell us more about this mysterious cunning plan.

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There’s no blog next week a) because later today we are sampling the delights of the NHS which may see us out of commission for a couple of days and b) because we have a birthday.
All being well, we will be back in a couple of weeks …



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, 21 October 2019

Stands the clock at half past four
And Skirbeck Tory is no more. 
With almost surgical precision, Alastair Arundell’s meteoric rise and fall from soaring rocket to damp squib was announced at exactly 4-30pm last Tuesday 15th October.

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Elected in May for the first time, Mr Arundell was appointed portfolio holder for the town centre, then moved further up the command chain to take on the portfolio for tourism, arts, culture and heritage.
At one time there were mutterings that he might even be  in line to be elevated to deputy leader should there be a reshuffle – just a heartbeat away from the presidency.

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When leader Aaron Spencer last tweaked his portfolio holders’ line-up, he said that he didn’t plan changing his cabinet in the immediate future, and pledged a staged process of “working together,” which would be a two-way process, for the benefit of Boston.
Given the narrow choice of new candidates, might this be the time to co-opt a non-Tory party member on board?
We wait with bated breath.

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Meanwhile, in a warm and touching tribute to his former colleague, Councillor Spencer wrote on TwitterI'm saddened that @CllrAArundell has decided to resign from his position within @Bostonboro.
It's been a pleasure to work alongside Alistair over the last 5 months, however I respect his decision to not let residents down due to his work commitments.

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But back to Mr Arundell’s departure.
In a statement published last Tuesday 15th, he declared:

Over the last 5 months as a Councillor, I feel I have gained a huge knowledge into a side of Boston Borough Council that I wasn’t aware of, prior to being elected.
A considerable amount of hard work goes into ensuring our town has the facilities it does, and I was proud to have the opportunity to better it further.
However, due to personal circumstances, after discussing with Councillor Aaron Spencer, Leader of the Council, I have decided to resign from my position with immediate effect. 4.30pm 15th oct.
I thank the residents in Skirbeck ward for electing me back in May, and wish all colleagues the best of luck for the future.
Boston is a marvellous town with huge potential, and I’m confident that, working with the residents, it can thrive again.
People who know me understand I give 100 percent to anything I do and with the latest business acquisition I don’t feel I could now give that as I just won’t have the time and understand that this is not fair to the wonderful people of Boston.
Thank you so much for your support, I will never forget it.

So what was that support?
Below is the result of the election in May, when nine candidates contested the three seats.

 

The 2,736 votes cast produced the lowest turnout of any ward in the vote and represented 22.4% of the electorate.
Along with Alastair Arundel two ‘Independents’ were elected – although they subsequently unmasked themselves as members of the Bostonian Independents Group, and therefore a pseudo party rather than truly independent.
Nonetheless, they created a local website – which has not been updated since 19th May, so they’ve been busy, haven’t they?

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Skirbeck could be an interesting ward when an election date is set.
As you can see from May’s results there were two other Tory candidates, three Labour, and one Blue Revolution.

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Back in 2015, the result looked like this …


Kipper Stephen Ball subsequently slipped sideways into Boston BiG, and ‘distinguished’ himself with one of the worst attendance records of recent years.
Labour’s Paul Gleeson – a veteran with a good reputation as a councillor, lost out last time, and Tory Martin Griggs sought successful re-election in another seat rather than risk re-election in  Skirbeck for a second time.

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Of the remainder, the only other wannabee to try again was Labour’s Paul Kenny a former mayor and prospective parliamentary candidate at the last four general elections.

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So, we can probably bet on a Conservative and Labour entry; perhaps a Blue Revolution, and maybe even a Brexit bid.
Interesting times ahead.

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Whilst Alistair Arundell made his mark in a rapid space of time in Worst Street, his disappearance was even quicker.


This was his entry on the Worst Street website of councillors early the morning after he quit.

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So why did he decide to go?
It’s been said that the idea had been in his mind for a while – though having only been in office for 23 weeks one has to ask  - why bother to stand in the first place?

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One part of his farewell missive to voters cites “personal circumstances,” while another speaks of his latest business acquisition which he says means “I just won’t have the time” for the council.

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An interesting sidebar to the time frame is that after Mr Arundell’s resignation at 4-30pm, an e-mailed response to an official complaint was disclosed to Boston Eye that was sent on behalf of Chief Executive Phil Drury less than 20 minutes later.
The complaint was made after the October meeting of BTAC-ky and alleged that during an item concerning next year’s events “there were several failures in declaration of interest – in particular Councillor Arundell’s failure to speak and propose an item without declaring he was the relevant portfolio holder.”

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The reply stated: “I am satisfied that Councillor Arundell was at BTAC in his capacity as a member of the committee by virtue of being a ward member for the Skirbeck ward.  He sat at the table and participated as such. In this respect I do not see that there was any ‘interest’ which prevented him in engaging fully in any discussions on matters which, by coincidence, fell within the remit of his areas as Portfolio Holder. 
“Specifically, Cabinet members, who are also members of BTAC, should not be disadvantaged in representing their electorate. If and when any referrals from BTAC to the Executive which fall outside of the scope of the delegated decision-making process are considered, that will be the point at which members should consider making any declarations of interest.  In this case BTAC was not the decision maker and the recommendation will be considered by Cabinet on 23rd October.

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Which brings us on to that BTAC-ky meeting …

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Last week, we highlighted the news that because of the Boston May Fair, Worst Street would be unable to recognise the importance of the 75th anniversary of VE Day – even though the government has especially moved the day from Monday 4th to the weekend commencing Friday 8th May to encompass the anniversary date itself and the thousands of celebrations being organised.

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Despite impressions to the contrary, events in Boston borough are planned and organised and mostly financed by the town’s ‘parish council’ – otherwise known as BTAC-ky.

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The last meeting of the committee heard a report from Worst Street’s ‘Head of Place and Space’ (no, don’t laugh … imagine answering the question ‘so what do you do?) which gave an update on plans for the coming financial year.

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So ambitious have these become that the committee agreed to stump up an extra £27,000 over and above the £40,000 budget allocated for events.

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As he boasted in his blog, whilst he was still a councillor, Alistair Arundel was happy to support the plans, saying: “The public perception of this town can often be judged on its events. Whilst we’ve had great events in the past, they can often linger on and become a bit of a legacy. I encouraged all members to support me in offering an additional £27k to the events budget.”
At a later point, he added: “I’m keen to help the Boston Bike Night Committee to develop, by increasing their volunteer numbers to assist with stewarding.”
We can understand that, as in his register of pecuniary interests he lists his role in organising Boston Bike Night at ‘100%.’

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Among the events that will be new to the town are a ‘Teenage Market’ – something we first suggested as long ago as 2016.
Sometime after that it fell into the arthritic hands of the ‘Preposterous (they named it Prosperous) Boston’ committee and then there was talk of a crowdfunding appeal to to try to raise £1,000 to stage an event until eventually it was declared that the idea had no support here.
Now, after all this time, ‘working with Lincoln University’ and paying £1,000 for the privilege, an event is at last on the agenda.
But why are we paying Lincoln University when we have a thriving and ambitious college on our doorstep.
Anyone care to answer?

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A new item in the pipeline is something called ‘Boston Show including Through the Ages’ which is committed for 2020 and set to cost £18,000.00, and the resurrection of a ‘Party in the Park’ costing £12,000.

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The report by HOPAS (there’s an acronym for him!) explains that the Christmas market and lights switch-on event was fully funded through the Controlling Migration Fund programme, which comes to an end this financial year.
“This event will add cost to the programme going forward and if the current BTAC budget was to be maintained the programme would have to be reduced for the 2020/21 financial year.”
This means that next year’s Christmas Market/Lights Switch on and Illuminate Parade will be funded by BTAC-ky to the tune of £14,500 – even though it is still claimed to be the work of ‘volunteers.’
Thats a lot of jingle bells!

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The point has been made that no one on BTAC-ky questioned how the figures were reached – and that none of the councillors present bothered to ask.

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This prompted a Freedom of Information request asking for a breakdown of how the cost of each event was arrived at.

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The answer was jaw-dropping.
It simply said: “With the exception of a payment to Lincoln University for £750 for their provision in the teenage market (it says £1,000 in the budget) we do not hold a detailed breakdown of the information requested.
“The reason being, the figure reported at the BTAC meeting was based on 2019 spend and is therefore a prediction for 2020/21.

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This is known in the trade as budgeting on the back of a fag packet.
But what the reply fails to acknowledge is that as least two events – the Boston Show and the Party in the Park, which between them will guzzle up £30,000, or the entire ‘extra’ money needed for the full budget list – have not been staged before … and therefore have no financial history from which to ‘predict.’

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Once upon a time, BTAC-ky existed for the betterment of the mostly poor wards that it represented.
Then it developed big ideas and ramped up its share of the council tax wrung from those people to create an annual budget of £700,000 – of which events now account for almost 10%.
Interestingly in what might be considered the good old days for council taxpayers, the BTAC precept requirement five years ago was £114,000 – and now includes countless thousands paying for the work once covered by the central budget.

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Not only has BTAC-ky failed in its original constitutional pledge, but things look set to get worse.

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According to HOPAS: “BTAC policy set in 2017/18 determined that the events programme for the 2019/20 financial year be focused on BTAC residents and the corresponding programme to date has generally comprised of a mix of community-based events that provide families with opportunities that may not otherwise be easily affordable …
“… Members of BTAC at its 20th March 2019 [sic] suggested that going forward; the Committee should now try to take steps to hold major events in Boston that attract people from further afield.
“It was also reported that the current capacity within the Events Team was sufficient to deliver the 2019/20 programme; however, any ambition to expand the events programme further was likely to require additional resource …

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So, increasingly irrelevant spending now looks likely to end in at least one more expensive extra officer post – or perhaps more.


By a strange happenstance, dates are something of a feature this week …
A week ago, leader Aaron Spencer announced plans to meet his opposite number at Lincoln City Council to discuss problems cause by people urinating and defecating in the street.


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Barely had the ink dried on his tweet, when one of our local ‘news’ websites was trumpeting a cunning plan to tackle the problem.
Mr Spencer was quoted as saying that he was keen to find a permanent solution and has suggested open air urinals might be the best approach to tackle the problem.
He was quoted thus: “I know Paris has an issue with street urination in tourism hot spots and they've introduced a urinal in the street.
“The urinals have flowers on top of them so that they are somewhat discreet.”

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Councillor Spencer is a little adrift when it comes to the history of the pissoir.
Whilst he makes the Parisian solution sound to be relatively recent, the encyclopaedia tells us: “In the spring of 1830 the city government of Paris decided to install the first public urinals on the major boulevards.
“These structures served both as urinals and supports for posters and advertising. “They were put in place by the summer, but in July they were put to a completely different purpose; providing materials for street barricades during the French Revolution of 1830.”

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The idea has been tried over here – and among the councils to dabble in the pissoir business was Chester … which caused public outrage when these monstrosities were used experimentally some years ago.


Not only are they unsightly, but the idea attracted criticism from women – for obvious reasons.
Can you imagine a load of these dotted around the town centre?
No, nor can we.

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And a key point that Councillor Spencer is overlooking is that if people wont use the toilets when they’re open round-the-clock, why would they use metal monstrosities like the ones above?
And if they trashed the 24/7 loos – won’t they find a big zinc box standing in the street an easy item to overturn.

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In recent weeks we have seen Worst Street councillors approve more money for the Mayor – whilst the First Citizen himself has been banging on about the importance of the role and how it should have even more power that the none that it has already.

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In the circumstances, ought it not to have been the case that the annual Mayor’s Sunday on October 13th at Boston Stump should have been groaning at the pews beneath the combined weight of of the towns grate and good.

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But it seems that the date was unlucky for some – notably the mayor according to an account by Boston BiG spokesman Councillor Brian Rush.

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“There must have been a really, ‘big day’ somewhere in the Borough for Boston's 30 elected councillors,” he wrote on Facebook, “because this was 'The Mayor's Sunday', when Councillor. Anton Dani and his lovely wife Maria invited councillors, officers, and guests, to join him in respectful thanks and celebration, of his term of office, in our glorious St. Botolph's Church.
“Mayor’s Sunday is an established, annual part of the mayoral calendar, and is specifically local,” he reminded us before going on to say that just ten councillors joined the mayor for the event.
“No Leader, no Deputy Leader, and I believe only Councillor Martin Griggs as a cabinet member.
“I am bound to say that I was very disappointed, by how little support was shown by the majority of our elected members.
“Councillor Dani, in my view, bravely demonstrated a great level of respect for the historic traditions of our mayoralty, and our Borough, and is a credit to our administration.
“An official public apology is called for.”

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As one of our councillors might phrase it – you can’t have your cake and eat it – and it reeks of hypocrisy when councillors support a big pay rise for the mayor (presumably in the hope that one day their turn will come, as the role depends not on quality, but quantity of service) then can’t be bothered to support the traditions because it’s their day off.
Incidentally, whilst the event used to involve an element of public interaction, and the hoi-polloi would turn out to see a bit of a procession – not even the Worst Street website could be bothered to mention that it was going on.

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Ironically for Councillor Rush, he fell victim to the reverse situation during his mayoral year in 2017.
To try to cut down on the annual mayoral budget of £80,000 a year he staged a ‘Meet the Mayor’ event at the White Hart Hotel, and decided to foot the bill from his own pocket – rather than dump it on the council taxpayers.
Attendance was subject to pre-booking – and although 45 people asked to come along, 83 turned up!
As we said at the time, this perfectly demonstrated the ignorance and thoughtlessness of many of the self-styled great and good of Boston, who presumably thought that turning up unannounced didn’t matter as it was only the taxpaying punters who would have to take the hit.


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, 14 October 2019


Recent years have seen major anniversaries in Britain’s wartime history commemorated.
In 2014 we marked the centenary of the start of the First World war and a century after it ended hundreds turned out at Boston’s War Memorial last year.

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This year saw the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, and 6th June marked 75 years since D-Day.

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As last year showed – the ending of war attracts perhaps the greatest attention….  and 2020 will see the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

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The event that marked the end of the war in Europe has been deemed so significant that the government has moved the date of next year’s May bank holiday from Monday 4th to Friday 8th May.

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Further underlining this importance is the fact that the date of the May bank holiday has only been moved once before since it was created in 1978 – and the first time was in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of VE Day.

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Commemorative events planned  take place over the three-day weekend across the country include: the Nation’s Toast, where over 20,000 pubs will encourage patrons to raise a glass to the heroes of World War II; bagpipers playing the traditional Battle’s O’er at the top of the four highest peaks in the UK; bells in churches and cathedrals across the country joining forces in a special Ringing Out for Peace, and – it goes almost without saying – local street parties and celebrations.

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Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt has said: “As we’ve seen with the D-Day commemorations, the British people truly appreciate the sacrifice made by those who fought for our freedom throughout the Second World War. 
Moving next year’s Bank Holiday will give us the opportunity to come together to remember and honour those who gave so much to secure our freedom and liberty.”

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Bruno Peek, Pageant Master of VE Day 75 said: “This amazing event taking place on 8th- 10th May 2020 provides the perfect opportunity for the United Kingdom to come together to celebrate and commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. It will involve local communities, youth and voluntary organisations, faith groups and individuals paying tribute to the millions who sacrificed so much to secure the freedom we all enjoy today.”

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Sir Andrew Gregory, head of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, said: “It is our duty to keep the events of the past alive in collective memory, including future generations – this is how we ensure that such a conflict never happens again. It is our hope that the nation takes a moment to reflect on the significance of this date, as a milestone that changed the course of history for the whole world.

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We think that you will have got the message by now – but when Boston Borough Council recently published its list of events for 2020, people rightly assumed that VE Day would feature in a major way.

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Not so.
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Events planned for next year’s budget total around £60,000, and include all the usual here-we-go-again suspects – the outdoor cinema, the 1940s event, the beach event, the beer festival ... you can set your clock by them … though in these times of increasing austerity around £12,000 seems to have been set aide to resurrect the Party in the Park and £18,000 for a Boston Show.

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The conspicuous absence of anything to mark VE Day was noted by local political agitator Darron Abbott, who wrote on the Boston the people UK Facebook page “It appears the date has slipped their (Boston Borough Council’s) minds and they have no plans for any celebrations.
“Would there be an appetite for a celebration organised by the community? If so would you volunteer to help?
“What kind of event would you like to see?”

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The response was enthusiastic – and included an offer of £500 to print souvenir mugs to give to local children, and volunteer help if something were organised.

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Then came a reprimand from Kristina Willoughby – Worst Street’s Town Centre Services Manager.
“I can assure [you] it has not been forgotten,” she declared.
“However it is the same week as Boston May Fair so we are low on resources due to staffing this and of course [it] closes off much of town.
“More than happy to advise and guide volunteers wanting to put something on, but given the amount of national celebrations you would need to move pretty quick to secure equipment, traders, any infrastructure etc.
I have applied for a fly past over the Fair on that day as a mark of respect but we have not found out yet if we have been successful.”

***

Well, that’s all right then.
Well. No, it isn’t.
What is it about the May Fair that demands so much from Boston Borough Council?

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The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain are responsible for the fairground, and last year Boston Borough Council paid a private company based in Spalding more than £16,000 to provide stewarding and security in the absence of the police.
So, what does that leave?
As far as we can think, mostly a bit of overnight litter collection – such as that which is done routinely for two days every week to tidy up after the market.

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So, if VE Day “has not been forgotten” then it is clear from that answer that Worst Street simply could not be bothered to make that bit of extra effort to give it the recognition that it so clearly deserves.
And to rub salt into the wound comes the suggestion that any event needs to be organised PDQ to avoid missing out.
A fly past?
We see them up the ying-yang in this part of the world when the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flies over Boston on a regular basis as it travels the country to events.
And a fly over during May Fair?
Most likely to pass unnoticed over all the noise of the rides and the crowds.
Better not to have bothered at all than to try to fob us off with such a lame and lazy excuse.

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An event of significantly less importance is the first 100 days in office of Worst Street leader Aaron Spencer, which falls due about now.
It’s become something of a political tradition to look back on these three-month periods to see what sort of mark a new leader has made – and in the case of Councillor Spencer, it won’t take too long.

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All that we can call to mind is the PE21 “regeneration” project, of which much has been said, except: how much it will cost, where is the money coming from and when might it  happen?
Our feeling is that it could end up so far in the future that it will look something like this


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The problem with big ideas like these is that they never seem to come to fruition.
Councillor Spencer’s cunning plan to tart up West Street in what has to be a multi-million pound scheme came exactly ten years after a similar £100 million plan to turn the area into something called Merchants Quay – an idea that fell flat on its face when the developers went bust.

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This latest idea doesn’t even have a proper developer or an “anchor store” to make it viable – which reminded us: whatever happened to approval almost 18 months ago of  plans for a new “shopping village” that would create 100 new jobs with the building of 14 new shops and 15 apartments on the current NCP car park area between Wide Bargate and Red Lion Street?
Probably they went the same way as the Fenside Marina, which was going to create hundreds of jobs and really put Boston “on the map.”

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The only other thing we can remember Councillor Spencer for to date is his arbitrary decision to open the council’s toilets 24 hours a day for three months to provide a more conventional temptation for those who use the streets to do their physiological business.
That idea lasted a month (and yes, we did raise a warning flag, Councillor Spencer) during which we saw vandalism running into thousands of pounds which has now forced the overnight closure of the toilets in the park once again, although those in Lincoln Lane and Wide Bargate will remain open until the end of the trial.

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What surprised us about this was that there has been no shortage of calls for the gates of Central Park to be locked again at night after the penny-pinching decision to leave them open to save what in the overall scheme of things is a footling amount.
Despite this, the council has clung to the view that leaving the park open to all and sundry is not a source of anti-social activity – although perhaps Councillor Spencer might now be prepared to reconsider.

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Somehow, we think this unlikely – as Mr Spencer and his regulatory portfolio holder Paul Skinner have been reported as trying to silence social media critics of street drinking and public urination by tarring them with the “racist” brush.
It’s reported that they “hit out” at social media contributors who “frighten people from coming into the town” by posting pictures to try to shame the perpetrators.
The report quoted Mr Spencer as saying: “At the moment everyone takes a picture which they put on social media and it perpetuates a problem because the same person could post a picture from six-months ago today, and anyone can go and pose a picture and claim it as one thing and not the other.”
“Those [Facebook] pages are actually quite racist. People who comment on those pages are really negative and quite harmful and anti-this-that-and-the-other.”
He reportedly said that social media groups were “dangerous, because you get an echo chamber of people who think one thing to be reality which is perpetuated by someone in public office and it can actually cause civil unrest, it could cause major issues.”

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So – even though the activities complained of are happening and are often photographed contemporaneously and genuinely – we are told that they should be ignored because it would frighten people away.
Aside from the fact that there is no evidence that this occurs, we wonder what other big ideas Messrs Spencer and Skinner might have up their sleeves …
Removal of ‘beware of the dog’ signs; an end to flying flags warning of dangerous bathing conditions, and the removal of all signs warning ‘danger, minefield’ might all feature on their list.
Joking aside – just because we have a high migrant population in Boston does not mean that the Facebook finger is necessarily being pointed at them in cases of anti-social behaviour.
To make the distasteful leap that describes people with valid concerns who want Boston to become a better place as racist as a means of trying to gag them is really quite deplorable.
Perhaps the council's S&S would share their thinking how how the equation they have created adds up ...
Concerned voter sees street drinking/urination/defecation + puts it on Facebook to shame offenders/authorities who do nothing to stop it = (possibly lying) Racist and starts riots.
The council’s preferred alternative is that we report all incidents direct to them to deal with.
Given that they want this sort of thing swept under the carpet to create a false impression of the town for outsiders, we are sure that this would happen.
Like the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984 they are seeking to control the image of the town into something that they would like it to be rather than what it really is.

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Of course, one feature of Councillor Spencer’s reign that sticks out head and shoulders above the rest is – Councillor Spencer’s head and shoulders.
At a guess, we would say that his picture has appeared on our web pages more than any of the past few leaders combined.

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He has his own website which effervesces with news of how busy he is, and capturing his words and thoughts for us all to see and admire.

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He has also undergone an interesting makeover  …


… morphing from the young cabinet member who earned approbation for not wearing a tie to meetings, through a brief eccentric look to a three-piece ensemble that wouldn’t be out of place in a TV drama series.

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It should therefore have come as no surprise to learn that council Spencer employs a “PR manager” who by an interesting co-incidence is also marketing manager for Smartmove Boston, the lettings and hotel empire run by Worst Street’s portfolio holder for tourism, arts, culture and heritage, Alistair Arundell.
Mr Arundell also has his own website – and we now realise that having a shared mouthpiece goes someway to explaining why the pages read so similarly.

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Mr Arundell is a well-to-do local businessman with major interests in the town, so we can see why he might need a marketing manager.
By why a local district and county councillor needs front-of-the-house PR is harder to fathom.
We are particularly exercised by this as apart from “occasional band gigs Councillor Spencer’s declared income appears to come solely from his allowances as a councillor.
Between Lincolnshire County Council and Boston District council, we calculate them to be more than £30,000 a year.

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Its’s bad enough having to pay this sort of money to our “servants” in the first place – let alone to discover that we are also funding their egos.
And aren’t websites such as this little more than a political campaigning platform?
If so, should they really be funded by the public purse?

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Last week we quoted comments reportedly by Boston mayor Anton Dani which included calls for more power, a longer term in office and the reinstatement of a chauffeur driven mayoral limo.
Whilst serving councillors snoozed idly on, a former member – Carol Taylor, who represented Witham ward between 2011 and 2015 – was appalled.
She e-mailed Boston Eye to say: “I am astounded by the huge ego displayed by the current Mayor, Councillor Anton Dani.
 “Doesn't he realise that he is representing the people already, and that the office of Mayor is ceremonial?
“He talks of revolutionising and introducing four years of term of office ... unbelievable! This is not the USA where the president has a four-year term; now that's high office.
“This poor councillor is clearly mixed up with what he believes and what he puts in writing,
“Many councillors do things using their own money but they also get a decent allowance  as well as the Mayor getting extra.
“He says the Mayor role is a seven day job. So is any other councillor’s as they can be contacted at any time.
“Regarding wanting more power, the mayor role is not for him because he reduced his own power by becoming mayor and not being able to vote for the needs and concerns of his constituents.
“I do think he is doing really well though, getting himself out and about without a chauffeur – and on a final positive note …
“… Just think, the Mayor of Boston is a ceremonial office and therefore apolitical and our wonderful sovereign lady is a constitutional Queen and therefore apolitical as well! 
“Surely that's high office enough  having so much in common with HM Queen Elizabeth.
Boston deserves a Mayor who not only says he is proud to be in office but shows it. He has some wonderful mayors to follow, Richard Leggott, Mary Wright, Colin Brotherton, Brian Rush, Paul Goodale and Paul Kenny to name but a few.

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Our award for unintentional humour goes to Worst Street deputy leader Councillor Nigel Welton, who reportedly commented during the recent full council meeting that “there was such goodwill between the various groups Boston could show Parliament a thing or two.”
This of course was the meeting that voted to line the mayoral pockets with a few thousand more in allowances whilst ripping off the people who need their garden waste taking away by hiking the charge by 50% from £30 to £45.
In our view this is not “goodwill” between the various groups …

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... it is evidence of a spineless opposition that prefers to bend the knee to the ruling group rather than stand up as the “independents” that most of them claim to be (though many are closet Tories) and fight for the interests of the people who elected them, which they promised to do when they wanted to get elected.
In fact, the whole sorry affair summoned a picture to mind …




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