This coming Friday and Saturday sees Boston Borough Council’s first attempt at staging outdoor cinema in the town – with a screening of Mary Poppins on Friday night and Despicable Me the following evening.
We’ve already commented on the maladroit decision to run a licensed bar – especially in light of the fact that these are children’s films being shown, and would have hoped that mum and dad could have been asked to manage without booze for a couple of hours.
But this is Boston, isn’t it – and presumably Worst Street recognises the difficulties involved.
More light has been shed on the event thanks to a Freedom of Information request by a reader who asked for a breakdown of the costs involved.
A company called Popcorn Media is supplying and operating the equipment – and is no stranger to us locally.
The same company played a big part in the less than highly praised 2016 Christmas illuminations fiasco when it “facilitated” the purchase of Christmas lighting using the Boston Town Team’s £35,000 gift from the legendarily hopeless Boston Town Area Committee … the equally legendarily spendthrift BTAC-ky.
Incidentally, whatever happened to that £35k spend?
Incidentally, whatever happened to that £35k spend?
Popcorn Media is charging £600 plus 20% of the takings and got the job without any of the rigorous tendering one might expect.
Worst Street explained: “A Google search was completed for companies to provide a screen. The prices varied, (and the) cheapest found was £1,200 per day.”
And what luck that an old friend of Worst Street’s was on hand with an offer that couldn’t be refused.
In the unlikely event of a full house for both showings – the maximum capacity for the event is 500 people per night – and using mum and dad plus one child as a benchmark, the two days would generate just under £5,500.
Deduct around £1,100 for the Popcorn share, plus the £600 basic fee and the profit would be around £3,900.
However, there are then the ever-present administration charges – which come to almost £1,850 … leaving £2,000-ish
Security – £770
Officers’ time at event – £540
First Aid – £276.00
Wristbands – £140
Toilets – £ 67.24
And finally …
Characters – £50.00 We imagine this means some poor devil dressed up in a hired costume … for which no cost is quoted.
Whilst our estimates are ballpark, they are based on a full house over two days with 1,000 in the audience.
When the response to the FoI request – dated 4th August – arrived, it reported that just 14 tickets had been sold.
That’s something like £80 in income from an event which at the very least will cost £2,500 to stage – and with the best will in the world we cannot imagine ticket sales running into the hundreds.
What we find hard to follow is the list of Worst Street’s “expenses” when the event is said to be “Sponsored by Chattertons Solicitors and Wealth Management.”
The dictionary defines sponsorship as “the act of providing money for an activity in exchange for advertising.”
The advertising of this open air cinema is conspicuous by its absence – and are we really to believe that Chattertons is handing Boston Borough Council a cheque for the thick end of £2,000 for so little?
It’s the oddest definition of “wealth management” that we have encountered to date.
It seems that our so-called “newspapers” pitched up at the last meeting of the Boston Town Area Committee – BTAC-ky for short – which means that at least the wider taxpaying public managed to get a hint of what went on.
If you recall, we criticised the fact that every item on the agenda for 26th July was presented as a verbal report – so unless taxpayers attended in person they would have no idea of what the committee was up to.
Several items went unreported, but what we did learn made interesting reading.
For instance, the town’s community police inspector “reassured” councillors that street drinking was not being reported as often, saying it had been pushed away from the town centre … but acknowledging that it still existed.
This is precisely what many had predicted.
Making life uncomfortable for people drinking in the town centre – and nothing more than this has been achieved – has driven the district’s dipsos to where they won’t be bothered.
In the present circumstances, this means the town centre's satellite wards – where most of the BTAC-ky taxpayers live.
Boston Eye’s headquarters are in one of these areas – Skirbeck Ward.
Here we find littered streets, benches crammed with drinkers at all hours, and run down cars being sold from the roadside or drives with professionally produced marketing materials but clearly neither official nor oficially monitored.
The ward has three councillors, two of the Labour (that’s the entire party, by the way) and one unaligned former Ukipper, Stephen Ball – and as far as we can tell they are all quite content with the way things are … as we haven’t heard them say otherwise.
Whilst the Labour contingent manages reasonable attendance levels, Councillor Ball is listed as having missed nine out of the ten meetings where his attendance was anticipated since February – including every one of the eight BTAC-ky meetings so far this year, and going back still further, to November 2015.
No-one seems to bat an eyelid at this – the rule is that if a councillor fails to attend meetings for six months he or she gets the old heave-ho and a by-election is called.
But attending just enough meetings to keep the allowances rolling in is apparently not considered in reprehensible – but is certainly an insult to the electorate who were promised better.
More on BTAC-ky attendances in our next blog.
More on BTAC-ky attendances in our next blog.
These days of course, BTA-ky has bigger fish to fry.
Its once humble role as a “parish” council for the in-town wards became history when it took over responsibility for areas such as Central Park and the town’s toilets – thus enabling the borough bigwigs to present a squeaky clean balance sheet by shifting their responsibilities away from the central accounting.
To fund all this, in 2016 BTAC-ky approved a council tax rise of 94.6%, followed by a rise for the current year of 185%.
This equates to an increased charge for a Band A taxpayer, who last year paid £8.48 to BTAC-ky, to £46.63 – a greedy and excessive sum.
To celebrate its self-aggrandisement the committee even splashed out the thick end of £500 to create its own logo – after all, when you become big league, you flaunt the fact.
At the time the 2016 rip-off was proposed we wrote to every member of the 14 strong committee to protest.
Only two had the politeness to reply – which again speaks volumes.
One of them was the mayor at the time, Stephen Woodliffe, who told us: “BTAC may have its powers and responsibilities extended and enhanced … personally, I hope it does, as the rural parishes have greater independence of decision-making than BTAC currently enjoys.”
One point that we raised was the inability of many residents to find the extra money needed, as several town centre wards are listed as among the most deprived in the borough.
Indeed, until Boston Big Local started throwing money here, there and everywhere as well, its remit was also to improve the quality of life for many of the self-same people dis-served so enthusiastically by BTAC-ky.
But this failed to strike a sympathetic chord with Councillor Woodliffe,
“I take issue with your assertion that the extra precept charges will be imposed upon residents of the poorest wards in the town. The precept depends upon the valuation of the property and not upon its location. Thus, the greatest charge falls on those living in the highest rated band H properties, who pay much more than that of a band A property …
“… it is my view that a charge of £1 a week on a band D property, and much less for a band A property for BTAC would be a very reasonable charge to make to ensure that Boston remains an attractive, pleasant place to live”
The definition of attractive and pleasant is one that requires serious consideration. As we said earlier, our home ward is home to litter, dirty streets, bins overflowing with empty drink cans and bottles – and that sinking feeling of being not quite safe as groups of boisterous drinkers bestride the footpaths … or as we saw the other day, a solo drunkard almost clawing his way along the street by clinging to gates, walls or anything else to make progress.
The failure to recognise what should be its real duty was well illustrated in another episode at the last BTAC-ky meeting
The same police inspector who delivered the mixed message about drinking told councillors that he plans to arrange a food market for locally-based restaurants following police participation in a stunt early last month when Eastern European shops and supermarkets helped “educate people from other nationalities” about the range of food that is available in Boston.
Immediately, Councillor Woodliffe whipped out the taxpayers’ wallet.
“Obviously you are trying to change culture and attitudes,” he is quoted as saying.
“My thing is that we as BTAC can help financially, what are the things we can do to support you and your wonderful work?”
Your guess as to quite what it is about this work that is “wonderful” rather than tokenistic is as good as ours – and we are not happy that Councillor Woodliffe feels that he has the right to offer money in this way for something that is little more than a back of a fag packet calculation at the moment.
It also assumes that local people want their “culture and attitudes” compulsorily changed.
The police and the Worst Street Wanderers should keep their sticky fingers off our attitudes.
George Orwell’s prescient novel 1984 highlighted the role of the Thought Police – which existed who discover and punish thoughtcrime – unapproved personal and political thoughts … which could be taken to mean unapproved “culture and attitudes” as seen from the Worst Street and Lincoln Lane viewpoints.
Meanwhile, BTAC-ky is adverting for ideas for more community events – especially ones that could develop into annual affairs.
Committee Chairman Councillor Nigel Welton said: “… we really want the public to take the lead on this. I'm hoping they will put forward ideas that we can then help turn into realities.”
We regard this as BTAC-ky’s final abdication of its “proper” role – and instead to turn itself into an entertainment committee.
Doubtless committee members will soon get a cap and bells allowance to replace the more traditional allowance that they have received to date.
It seems as though Worst Street has again taken the bait and helped one of our local newspapers make bricks without straw during the Silly Season.
Beneath the headline 'Stop slagging off Boston, it's a great place to live! followed by a tag which reads Officials have hit back against scathing online reviews of the town the Boston off-Target – aka Lincolnshire Live – tells us…
“Politicians have poured scorn on scathing and ‘unfair’ reviews of Boston which label the town a ‘hot bed of degenerates’.
“Described as a ‘chav stronghold’ where ‘petty crime is rife’ and local people have ‘failed to evolve’, the town has been subjected to a glut of highly negative online reviews.
“Disgruntled homeowners and visitors have attacked Boston on the notorious ‘iLiveHere' UK website which gives people the chance to sound off about the state of places they live and travel to.”
The story goes on to quote some of the more colourful comments before reporting a response from council leader Michael Cooper, who “has told the haters to buck up their ideas and stop running down the town.
“Stuff like this is no help at all – it is not fair – we have got such a bad deal.
“A lot of the reviews are very inaccurate and should be taken down.
“Some of these people need to go out and look at some other towns if they think Boston is a bad, I travel to places all the time where half the high street is boarded up.
“There are more and more employment opportunities coming up, businesses being built and houses on the way.
“Boston is a great place to live.”
If only Councillor Cooper had taken a closer look at the offending website he could have told the Target to stick its head up a bear’s bum and possibly killed the story at birth rather than fighting a rearguard action.
The latest undated piece in question is just one of 10 posted anonymously over a very, very long time – and by its very nature, comments made on the site are bigoted and uncomplimentary.
Whilst the subject of the report may have been posted fairly recently, most of them go back over years – in one case the oldest dates from 2004 – thirteen years ago
That’s not a story.
Why on earth the Target dredged this up is anyone’s guess – and it really should be ashamed.
But it has already achieved what we assume was the general idea.rubbish that was written almost at the end of the last century.
Unfortunately, Councillor Cooper’s comments that: “There are more and more employment opportunities coming up, businesses being built and houses on the way” come at an inauspicious time.
Local reports say that Asda has confirmed that 175 of its 381 Boston staff are being talked to about their future – and that 10% of the staff in the process could lose their jobs...
Meanwhile, we read that almost 4,000 staff at Wilko nationwide are at risk as part of a major overhaul to boost profits.
And to rub salt into the wound, Oldrids – established in Boston more than 200 years ago and a lynchpin of the town – is reported to have announced a £125 million superstore proposal including 107 outlets, a leisure complex and business hub … IN GRANTHAM.
Downtown Grantham is taking on another company in a fight to be the chosen location for the town’s designer outlet village to open in 2019 and which would create 1,700 jobs
Managing director Richard Broadhead is reported as saying: “We’re confident that this is great news for Grantham. We believe in this – we are serious and we’re going to deliver it.
“We are part of Grantham, we are important to Grantham and Grantham is important to us ..
“ … this is an opportunity to create something special. This is a vote of confidence in Grantham.”
Reports say that the Downtown board believes there is scope for a railway station to be built on the nearby Nottingham-Skegness line and that Network Rail, supports the idea.
Current bus links between the town and store could be increased to promote travel into the town centre, while a ‘park and ride’ scheme is also a possibility.
As the boss says – it’s great news for Grantham.
Can we ever hope for some for Boston?
Here, meanwhile, Worst Street continues its policy of staying behind the times with the announcement of a “New website to open Borough up to the world” – a visitor website to you and me.
Predictably, our councillors are slapping each other on the back for what is – whilst a quite presentable piece of work – a pretty bog standard website.
Top of the quotes comes from Councillor Claire Rylott – hailed as the “champion” of the site – for the line: “Marketing is paramount to success.”
Worryingly whilst Worst Street will host the site and update some parts of it, we are told that it will be community owned.
This sounds as though Worst Street, having started the ball rolling now wants as little to do with it as possible – and we fear that it will go the way of the borough’s Roll of Achievement … never very interesting and dead in the water for donkey’s years.
With websites like this the matter of detail is very important.
Visitors drawn to the town might look up at Boston Stump and speculate whether some architectural disaster has overtaken it.
The Stump has a tower.
Not a spire.
Finally, another of those headlines that make us smile – this time courtesy of the Boston sub-Standard.
Thanks for the warning – we’ll just have some birthday cake if it’s ok with you and skip the toast!
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