Monday, 18 March 2019

Worst Street – or
Waste Street? 

Last week’s Boston Eye reported concerns raised by Councillor Brian Rush about the decision by the ruling officer clique at Worst Street no longer to record what is said at meetings.
The Bostonian Independent Group member called the decision “a very large slap down for democracy which seems to have been done, without reason, explanation nor warning.”

***

A reason did subsequently emerge when the story found its way into our local ‘newspapers.’
A Worst Street spokesman reportedly said: the decision was due to operational and resource issues and would be reviewed in a year’s time to see if there had been any negative outcomes as a result.
The spokesman added that whilst the council does not have a legal duty to record public and elected members may do so if they wish and so “are not prejudiced in any way.

***

Operational and resource issues … Presumably this means the cost of someone simultaneously to depress the ‘play’ and ‘record’ button at the start of a meeting, and the ‘stop’ button at the end of it.

***

Boston’s retreat to the dark ages runs counter to the efforts by other councils to be as open and transparent as possible – something that Worst Street claims to be but isn’t.
Councils across the county record meetings and some such as East Lindsey make the audio available afterwards – whilst even more enlightened South Holland and West Lindsey webcast selected meetings so that residents can watch them without the need to attend.
Lincolnshire County Council streams of its full council meetings live and leaves a copy on its website for future viewing.

***

To make matters worse this decision to wind the clock back has resulted in a quite considerable waste of money.
It was only in February last year that more than £26,000 was taken from the council's capital reserves to invest in a shed-load of top of the range equipment to record meetings.


Ironically, these extensive… and expensive … purchases were made under the headline IT Investment Programme – even though it seems that they are now destined for the store cupboard whilst barely out of guarantee.
Someone needs to tell us why, early last year it was thought necessary to invest in more IT equipment, when a twelvemonth later someone else has decided that it wasn’t worth the candle.

***

In common with most public authorities, Worst Street subscribes to the Seven Principles of Public Life – drawn up 25 years ago by government committee on Standards in Public Life chaired by Lord Nolan, and tasked with making recommendations to improve standards of behaviour in public life.

***

They are summarised thus: 
Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
Integrity – Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
Objectivity – In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
Openness – Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
Honesty – Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
Leadership – Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

***

There guidelines apply to all in the public service – officers and councillors alike  and regular readers will quickly realise how badly this sensible advice has been ignored of late.

***

In fact, we wonder whether it is by accident or design that if one searches the internet for information on Nolan, the link below …


Results in the following information …


***

But it hasn’t always been like drawing teeth to get information from Boston Borough Council.



Interestingly, during the war years, the authority created an information committee (pictured above in the  British Council documentary Country Town filmed in Boston in 1943) which held regular public forums so that all manner of questions could be asked and answered.
More recently, Worst Street ran a series of ‘regular’ Ask the Cabinet sessions – again for taxpayers to try to seek information.
But like much of the hot air that billows out of Worst Street, it quickly ran out of steam.
Whilst time is made available for public questions at committee meetings – the meetings themselves are not publicised … even though there are ample outlets for this.
No – it seems that Boston Borough prefers operating in the shadows as much as possible – and keeping voters in the dark as well.

***

Moving on … and we were e-mailed by council Jefe Michael Cooper after our comments that monies from the £1million-plus Controlling Migration Fund saw huge sums spent to tart up the Moulder Leisure Centre and contribute to an already well-heeled project at Boston Stump.
He told us: “This fund was set up by the Government and all of the projects had to be fully costed and evidenced. The bid was then put to the government department dealing with it. Many organisations were eligible and did bid in to the fund from community groups to the stump and many more.
“Those that were successful have been and are still drawing down the monies from the fund. We as Boston Borough Council were lucky enough to receive the cash to be able to improve the GMLC and some other smaller projects.
“There have been a lot of miss conception (sic) around this fund but as you can see the money can only be spent on what is was bid and allocated for nothing else.
“The parameters for eligibility were quite rigid and as such only projects deemed to be within the remit of the original concept went forward and were funded.
“Boston Borough Council as the local government body was used as the local payment conduit only and not as a funding administrator.”

***

Why this wasn’t made clearer at the time is anyone’s guess – but we would be most interested to know how many members of our European incomers have seized the opportunity to sign up with the Moulder gym as a result of its £95,000 refit.

***

A snapshot of the historic moment when Boston and South Holland district councils officially adopted the South East Lincolnshire Local Plan  has been appearing here there and everywhere.


Committee members on one side of the screened area and voters  graciously allowed to peer in.
No sense of ‘them and us’ there, eh?

***

Last week we brought you the first half of an account of the most recent  Boston Town Area Committee-hee – BTAC-ky – meeting.
Gird your loins for more – some of which we doubt will appear in the minutes – hence the need for a proper record of events.
When the committee discussed application under the BTAC grant Scheme, we are told: “Boston Stump had applied for rather a large sum of money – £20,000 to be precise, with  the largest item being £15,000 for a schools’ festival.
“This item caused concern with a majority of those present as the report contained very little detail.
“The matter was discussed at length and it was proposed that the two smaller amounts be approved, and further information requested for the Schools Festival.
“At this point one councillor, a well-known churchgoer, spoke out in favour of giving the grant, speaking of how The Stump is a vital part of the community and generally how wonderful it is.
“And speaking as if they were part of the application, made the following statement ‘perhaps we would accept a lower amount, say £5,000.’
“Having spoken to others present they are also under the impression the statement was made as if they were part of the application.
“Then another regular in the Stump congregation spoke out in favour, quite passionately saying the full amount should be granted – at one point even saying ‘we have plenty of money, let’s just give it to them.’
“Remarkably neither of the two that spoke out mentioned their regular attendance at the stump or declared an interest.
“Much to the annoyance of the two supporters it was passed that the Stump would receive £5,000 and further information would be requested.”

***

BTAC-hee-hee gives away small grants as well as considering these eye-watering attacks on our council tax.
Sensibly, the committee has cancelled th4th round of the 2018/19 small grant applications  and the applicants must now reapply after the May elections.
Surely, the same thing should be done with this £20,000 bid?

***

Further misconceptions about BTAC-ky and its money appear in a website piece published by Lincolnshire Live – the online version of the Lincolnshire Echo and Boston off-Target.
In a piece headlined ‘Why do so many people use Boston's streets as a TOILET?’ and subtitled ‘this article contains some images that people may find disgusting’ the report tells us: “Boston does have a significant issue with people going to the toilet in public places.”

***

The account – liberally illustrated with photos of people pissing against walls and of turds dumped in the street (if you’ll forgive the pun) will doubtless do little for Boston’s flagging image … and we are sure that the website feels justifiably proud that the bold decision to include vile photographs will make matters even worse.
Naïvely, the report suggests that public toilet opening hours may be at the root of the problem.
It says that the public conveniences in the Cattle Market, Central Park and Lincoln Lane all shut at 6pm on Monday to Saturday and 4pm on a Sunday – and that those in Oldrids, and Boston Stump also close fairly early whilst ASDA “some distance from the town centre” shuts at 7-30pm.
“So if anyone is caught short after the loos close, this perhaps increases the possibility of people going to the loo in the street,” the report suggests.
Believe that and you’ll believe anything.

***

The report goes on to quote Boston BiG leader Councillor Barrie Pierpoint as saying that the authorities could do more to tackle the issue.
“The County Council has let us down and so has the Boston Borough Council, most of all the police.
“I’m sick and tired of hearing about budget cuts - we need to tackle this issue.
“It’s a disgrace. How can we advertise our town as a desirable location when we have people drinking and doing this in the street?”

***

Despite this, the report says that Councillor Pierpoint believes having more representatives of official organisations on the streets is one method that might help to reduce the problem - and that the funding is there.
“The Boston Town Area Committee has a pot of £600,000 and you’re telling me that we can't invest that into our town centre to get it back to a good standard?" he said. 
“We need someone monitoring these areas where people are defecating or street drinking, we know full well where they are, and we need to react instead of brushing it under the carpet.” Ooh er missus.
“I think the Boston Rangers would be a valuable addition to our streets, surely we can use some of the BTAC pot to actually make a difference to our town.”

***

Boston has of course played the Rangers game before – during the lamentable days of the town’s Business ‘Improvement’ District between 2008 and 2013.
Three Rangers cost £300,000 over the five years of the BID –  £20,000 apiece.
Whilst some small success was claimed from their presence, they were also well-known for mooching around places such as Pescod Square for a natter with their security staff.

***

The other thing is that is worth mentioning is that BTAC-ky’s ‘pot’ refers to its annual budget – which has already been spoken for.
To reshuffle the figures allocate £60,000 a year – that’s 10% of the budget – to an anti-poo squad would achieve nothing other than to pursue BTAC-ky’s policy of throwing taxpayers’ money around without anything much by way of thought.

***

Finally, we’re often critical about the slapdash  way that out so-called local ‘newspapers’ are produced these days – and if you think that we exaggerate, here’s a recent example.
When the Boston sub-Standard reported on the £1.8 million grant scheme to improve part of the historic town centre, the WorstWeb account was simply copied on to the newspaper page – but under a staff reporter by-line.
The only difference?
Just one of the four photos provided was reproduced – and captioned … probably by a sub editor located in the Shetland Islands – Dolphin STREET.
So much for centuries of history. 



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, 11 March 2019


Election fever in Boston seems to be little more than a sniffle so far – although at least some taxpayers turned up to a recent meeting to learn more about standing for office.
The seventeen pitched up at an “informative meeting” at Worst Street at which their enthusiasm was tested by the “premiere” of a 15-minute “unique film, prepared in-house at Boston Borough Council.”
Its woolly, acoustically poor narration was read in a way that made eating sand seem infinitely preferably to standing for civic office. 
But at least a timetable has now emerged for the run up to voting on Thursday 2nd May – which we’ve reduced to the interesting bits for voters and ditched the more technical waffle.
Delivery of nomination papers is between Monday 25th March and 4pm on Wednesda3rd April with a list of  nominees published  by 4pm the next day – which is when we will get our first full glimpse of who’s seeking to represent us.

***

A writer in one of our local ‘newspapers’ recently recalled that donkeys’ years ago  the list of nominees was also that of the great and the good of the borough – the people whose love of Boston and desire to work for its betterment shone like a beacon.
Sadly these days, we wonder why some of our current councillors bothered to seek election in the first place … but are sure that won’t stop quite a few from seeking a return to office.

***

Whatever the outcome of the elections – when the council resumes work after 2nd May it will by all accounts be under slacker rules as far as reliable reports of events are concerned.
Concerned Councillor Brian Rush has been in touch to tell us that Boston Borough Council in the shape of the officer cadre has, without warning, withdrawn recording facilities at all future meetings ...  something he describes as “a very large slap down for democracy which seems to have been done, without reason, explanation nor warning.”
He continued: “I am not in the least bit surprised by this; it is a prime example of what happens, when councillors get used to having their feet too far under the cabinet table.
“This is only one example, of elected members casually passing over too much control to paid officers!
“And I am told there is yet more to come...
“I am absolutely astounded by what seems to be a "unilateral" decision made it would appear by the Corporate Management Team.
“In case anyone is unaware this is yet another internal “quango” – a small, exclusive, panel of senior officers, who I have been told are considered to be a law unto themselves.”
More on this next week – as not only is it a slap in the face for voters, it turns out to be  a scandalous waste of money as well

***

After a week away it seems that little has changed.
More jobs are under threat – firstly Tulip Ltd has been unsuccessful with a major tender … ironically it exists solely to operate a Marks & Spencer contract, and their store in town is also closing soon. The lost contract affects 464 jobs.
And another food manufacturer that employs about 680 people is set to close a site in Holbeach St Marks – although it’s hoped that as many as 520 employees could be offered roles at other sites in the county.

***

Incidents such as these make brief headlines then get forgotten – but Boston seems to have been victim of a lot of job losses lately.
One apparent reaction to this is the news that the Assembly Rooms nightclub has closed – allegedly temporarily – with the owner reportedly blaming increases in violent crime and loss of employment.
Matt Clark was quoted as saying: “It is no secret that the town as a whole, and certainly the late night economy, has been in decline, making the last year extremely challenging.
“There is a clearly advertised increase in violent crime and, of recent months, loss of employment, which are bound to have impacted footfall to the town.”

***

Yet despite this employment fall-off, more and more people are moving to the borough and applying for National Insurance numbers.


The most recent figures from the Lincolnshire Research Observatory show that between 2,300 and 2,700 registrations for a NI number we processed last year as a result of inward migration to Boston.
Then – and for the past ten years at least – Boston has always been the bluest spot on the statistical map – with a minimum of around 18,000 registrations between 2010 and 2017.
The pressure that this must place on local services is unimaginable.

***

The matter of the Assembly Rooms arose at the full council meeting in a question from a councillor expressing concern at the apparent deterioration of the Grade II listed building.
How short the political memory is.
The building was sold in 2012 after successive Worst Street administrations deliberately avoided maintaining it for decades until finally putting it on the market after lamenting that it was then too expensive to repair.
At no point did Worst Street consider issuing itself with an enforcement notice to make the damage good. Well, it wouldn’t, would it?
So this piece of piety is even beyond irony.

***

Interestingly the question about the building – and a number of others from other councillors and the public appeared on the agenda of the full council meeting.

But there was no such luck on WorstWeb  the council's website –which could eassily have been updated to inform members of the public what was coming up on the night.
As we have said so often before, the rules demand that questions be submitted well in advance and making them available on the website was once done without any trouble.
Now though, it is just another example of Worst Street’s indifference to the public – along with the apparent decision not to record meetings ... anything that makes an officer's workload lighter!

***

The full council meeting followed last month’s BTAC-ky meeting – which by all accounts  played more like a farce at Blackfriars than a piece of taut political drama.
As is nearly always the case, neither of our local ‘newspapers’ attended – nor did they bother with the full council either.


***

But luckily for Boston Eye we were still able to obtain the details, which we will share with you over the next couple of editions.

***

In the long-standing Worst Street tradition of not bothering with appearances or thinking ahead, the meeting almost never happened.
In the general mutterings ahead of the 6-30pm start time a discussion began as to whether the meeting could go ahead as it appeared it was not going to be quorate.
But thankfully (!) at 6-31pm in tottered one councillor followed a minute later by another, meaning that the meeting could go ahead.
And as a bonus just as the preliminaries ended, another councillor arrived making his apologies and explaining his lateness was due to running an errand for his wife.

***

An early item on the agenda  concerned traffic speed monitoring and was listed as an update – which it has been claimed means it doesn’t require an advance document that can be digested days ahead of the meeting … even  though that was contradicted by other items on the same agenda that included helpful reports.
The officer who was due to update the committee arrived just bfore the meeting began and headed for the piece of equipment to be used for his update.
After a couple of minutes it was obvious something was wrong, and after a frantic search he announced the mouse was missing and so he would not be able do his update as planned.
Five minutes later he returned with half a dozen pages of A4 paper which he passed around the table.

***

The BTAC-ky meeting before this one featured complaints by members about the speed – or rather the lack of it – that officers ‘worked.’
Clearly, no lessons have been learned since then..

***

Next week: More from the meeting – including the context of the line from one member:  "we have plenty of money; let’s just give it to them"

***

Meanwhile, we’d like to think that some good news is on the horizon – with the government announcement of a £1.6 billion fund to boost growth and give communities a greater say in their future after Brexit – also known as the Brexit Bribe … depending on your political viewpoint.
According to Whitehall: “The Stronger Towns Fund will be targeted at places that have not shared in the proceeds of growth in the same way as more prosperous parts of the country.
“It will be used to create new jobs, help train local people and boost economic activity – with communities having a say on how the money is spent.”
The East Midlands is due for an allocation of £110 million – and given the size of the area the amount is not an encouraging one.
Nonetheless the news has fired up local MP Matt Warman – who seems to think that a few quid might be coming our way.



Money coming our way, perhaps? What on earth could there be to worry about?
Well, as regular readers will know, Worst Street has a somewhat patchy record where free dosh is concerned.
Whilst the government can promise community input, Worst Street always prefers to keep its grubby mitts on the strings that tie the money bag.
Witness a government grant of many tens of thousands to mitigate the eyesore of empty shops. Frittered away with no result and lamely declared a “learning curve.”
Witness the council involvement with the Boston “Improvement” District – a money pit that achieved nothing in its five-year existence and which was emphatically voted out of existence by local businesses at the first opportunity.
Witness the £1million-plus Controlling Migration Fund with huge sums diverted to tart up the Moulder Leisure Centre and an already well-heeled project at Boston Stump.
Witness the Boston Big Local project – in which the council has a pie finger – steadily working its way through £1 million with ideas such as building a massive cat litter tray in Central Park once a year and calling it a beach.

***

Rest assured that – should Boston get to benefit from this Stronger Towns Fund – the first thing that Worst Street will do is appoint an officer to administer it … or failing that form a committee.
Fate forefend that it should seek to involve Boston Big Local as an “experienced” administrator of this sort of thing.

***

Still with money – and the business of Boston and its borrowings gets more and more confusing month by month.
Regular readers will recall that one of Worst Street’s more recent cunning plans was to borrow £20 million over a 50 year term to invest at a higher return than the cost of the interest.
We all thought that this would be done using the Public Works Loans Board – a statutory executive agency of HM Treasury whose job is to lend money local authorities, and collect the repayments.
Then – towards the end of last year – as well as investments in established property funds, we found that we had temporary borrowed £4 million from Edinburgh City Council and repaid £5,500 interest twenty seconds later.

***

Fast forward to January’s spending and Worst Street borrowed £3 million from Vale of Glamorgan and shortly after paid £4,100 interest.
A similar arrangement with the Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s office saw £1,800 repaid on a short-term loan of £1.5 million.
We’ve asked before, and we’ll ask again – what the hell is going on?

***

Short straw award of the week goes to Councillor Anton Dani, who has been named as the borough’s next mayor – although he has to be re-elected in May, first.
At least he probably has a better chance now that he is in his third political incarnation – having started as a Kipper, then a BiGger but is now a Conservative.

***

We sampled the controversial parking system at the Pilgrim last week – and went from encouraged to zero in as long as it took to check into the hospital reception.
Signs in the disabled parking areas say that it is only necessary to register a holder’s blue badge once for it to be logged so that thereafter a £1.90 all day parking fee will automatically be charged.
No so, we were told.
Apparently, whilst they do this in Lincoln – the scheme has not been extended to Boston … and despite the inaccurate signs there is no suggest of whether it will be introduced or not.

***

Smile of the week comes courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council.
In the same breath as Clownty Hall announced spending £4.7m to ease rush-hour bottlenecks on two roundabouts on the A46 in Lincoln came news that  Woodville Road in Boston is to be “reconstructed …”
But it was the picture that made us laugh.


We know that Lincoln is stingy where Boston is concerned, but if that’s all the tarmac they’re using, don’t expect much of a result.


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


Sunday, 24 February 2019

It’s been an open secret for the past couple of weeks that Boston’s two independent parties – BiG and the Blue Revolution have been in talks on how best to approach the local elections on 2nd May.

***

There once was a time when both Boston Borough Council and Lincolnshire County Council had a good scattering of independents – with voters clearly believing that being represented by someone with a specific interest in their locality would be an improvement on being represented by councillors whose politics took priority over the people they claimed to serve.

***

Sadly over the years the independent mindedness of voters has been diluted by a tendency to vote for a mainstream party – for reasons that make little sense.

***

Take Boston, for example.
When the electors empowered the Conservative group to run the place, were they really voting for a diminution of services, rising tax bills and a council that has run steadily down like a cheap watch and is now at the point where it has all but stopped?
Similarly, when the people seeking our vote made promises about how the place would improve, were they consciously telling porkies – in some cases it would appear so.

***

Certainly, some councillors now seem to be feeling that the time has come for a change – hence the arrival of the Blue Revolution Party and the Bostonian Independents Group.

***

The former is the elder of the two groups – and its founder, former Tory Boston and Lincolnshire councillor Mike Gilbert – contested the 2017 general election.
He told Boston Eye: “The town and indeed the nation's politics are now adversely affected by our two-party system and we need to be promoting a more independent brand of politics.
“Blue Revolution is essentially a brand for people who want to be part of a loosely affiliated group who share values of openness and respect for each other.
“Blue Revolution wants to get people into politics under any banner other than that of an established command and control, mainstream party which puts its ideology, membership and interests ahead of the interests of ordinary workers.
“In respect of Blue Revolution, there was no agreement with BiG other than to respect each other's independence, values of open debate and respect, and to try and avoid standing in the same wards.
“We will be standing candidates under the Blue Revolution banner. We have only three candidates so far and will stand in Station Ward and North West Ward, with one other yet to be confirmed.”

***

Councillor Brian Rush has had a bumpier ride down Independence Avenue – starting as a member of the Boston Bypass Independents, and then forming the Better Boston Group, before moving via UKIP to a stand-alone Independent role before BiG was established around this time last year.
He readily admits: “It is not the easiest of tasks, being a political Independent ... however as my political career, I think also proves, that neither am I a compliant apostle!
“It would be foolish of me to pretend that I have not been looking around, without much success, to find like-minded apostles who share at least some of my views.
“Of course humans are not only social animals, some are pack animals, and within any pack there will be those who are weak, and those who are strong. I think I sit somewhere about the middle.
“However what is more important is that our area is ready to react to our MP Matt Warman, and our Boston Conservative group, whose silence on the EU was a cowardly act of abandonment, for what was the biggest out vote, percentage wise, in Britain.
“We need to stop this blind political loyalty to our national party politics, and ask ourselves one long overdue and honest question, what have the Conservatives or Labour really done for our people and our borough – so maybe the time has really come!
“Now is the time to unroll the banner that says ‘Boston first and foremost!’
“So if you think that Boston really needs to change, then we all need to stand together and take it on.”
BiG currently has two councillors in Worst Street, with a third declared candidate who is very vocal on Facebook.
There are also Independents Alison and Richard Austin and former leader Peter Bedford – so if all these were to stand, almost a third of the council could face an independent challenge.
There are also six UKIP councillors who face the interesting dilemma of which way to jump at the forthcoming elections as it seems fair at least to say that the UKIP wave has crested since the last poll and the political tide is now well and truly out.

***

One thing is certain – there is a clear and definite need for councillors to do more than they are at present.
Contrary to popular belief, 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 must make with their constituents.
The only legal requirement is that a councillor must attend at least one meeting every six months or be automatically disqualified.

***

Having said that, the Local Government Association says that a councillor’s main job is to represent their ward 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, 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, and lead local campaigns on their behalf.
The LGA concludes: “Good communication and engagement is central to being an effective local representative.”
We wonder how many of our councillors can say – hand on heart – that they are doing their job according to these recommendations.

***

The council’s own figures for attendance at meetings show up those who do not.
The worst absentees include one councillor who has managed a meagre 14% attendance between the end of August last year and the end of January this year. Three others managed 25%, 40% and 50% respectively – and three of those four are members of BTAC … now a big spending and powerful committee, whose voters deserve a powerful voice.

***

It is to be hoped that where a member – or their party group – recognises serious shortcomings in representations, either the individual will stand down or the party will ensure that person is not allowed to seek re-election in May.

***

A slap on the wrist for council leader David Cooper from UKIP Councillor Sue Ransome.
In last week’s Boston Eye, Councillor Cooper told us that at the last Corporate and Community meeting, not a single member of the opposition turned up and many didnt even give apologies – something he declared ‘amazing’ as the budget setting for next year was in the spotlight.
Councillor Ransome told us: “You have been given incorrect information, this time from Councillor Cooper regarding the last meeting of Corporate and Community which was held on 7th February.
“Of the opposition, myself, Councillors Paul Gleeson and Brian Rush were present.  Apologies were given by Councillor Elizabeth Ransome. 
“The only person of the committee not present at the start of the meeting was Councillor Richard Austin.
“I will take this up with Councillor Cooper and hope that you will amend next week’s issue of Boston Eye.”

***

On the same issue, a regular reader and One Who Knows writes: “Perhaps Councillor Cooper's comments on (non) attendance at various borough committees are understandable – but only from a person who does not recognise and appreciate the futility of such committee attendance where a local authority has a cabinet system of governance, such as Boston suffers from.
“Councillor Gleesons idea of a number of executive-powered working committees with a fall-back possibility of sending any committee decision to the full council – although not new –  has much to recommend it as a system where councillors can be seen to be acting for their wards and the borough.
“And such a committee structure allows all councillors to bring their knowledge and talents into the decision making process.
“And as a footnote to the matter of attendance, perhaps councillors should only be paid the percentage of their allowances in direct ratio to the percentage of their committee duties performed.
“Maybe your numpty of the week (18/2/19) could look into this as the savings would, it appears, be quite significant. 
“The study of this issue could well also keep his mind off other matters where, dangerously, he seems to consider himself to be the ‘bee’s knees.’”

***

It will be interesting to see how Worst Street intends to manage after its litter police – the environment enforcement company 3GS – pulled out of its deal with the council.
Pro tem a handful of staff will undertake the job while an alternative is sought.
3GS – which ironically styles itself ‘a reputable environmental enforcement company, providing support to the public and private sectors across the UK’ – pulled out of a similar arrangement with a council in Bradford where a councillor claimed that they found it unprofitable.
The big bonus for Worst Street was the service cost nothing as the company kept the fines.
So, weren’t they working had enough to keep their income rising?
We may never know – but one thing that can be said is that most of Boston is as dirty and litter-strewn as ever.

***

There’s always gold to be found in the foothills of Worst Street’s lists of monthly spending over £250 – even though it’s our gold and we seldom see an explanation of what it’s for.
Back at the beginning of February, we asked why a company called Bentley and Rowe was paid £16,500 for a ‘PRSA Valuation?’
The firm apparently works in the leisure industry on projects that closely resemble the recent £90,000 overhaul of the Moulder Leisure Centre gymnasium.
Now they’re on the list for “PRSA valuation 2 for works completed” with an eye-watering payment of £51,296.55.
It’s now three and a half years since Boston Borough Council signed a deal with a private company called 1life, and the borough website WorstWeb told us at the time “A new chapter in the life of Boston's Princess Royal Sports Arena has begun as 1Life takes on full responsibility for the centre.
It went on: “Following a contract signing with Boston Borough Council, 1Life now has the go-ahead to arrange repairs and improvements to bring the centre up to an improved handover condition – the final bill to be paid by the borough council.
“But these costs will be covered by savings made by energy efficiency improvements, some of which are already complete and providing a return.
The website explained that “a huge array of solar panels on the roof of the building is already meeting almost all the energy needs during summer days and biomass boilers are on the way, replacing costlier LPG – the site is not on mains gas.”
Turning back to the deal WorstWeb continued: “The sport, leisure and recreation experts will have a full repair and renew lease for the site, relieving borough council tax payers of any future financial responsibility.”
And later, it declared once again: “The longer-term future of the PRSA will be without on-going revenue support from the council.”
So will someone please tell us why at the end of last year we forked out so much money on something that is not our responsibility.
Not only that – could someone also explain why we paid almost £6,000 for electricity in November, and nearly £900 for biomass fuel – charges that are incurred on a monthly basis?

***

Something else we mentioned in recent blogs was the amount of money being steered into the coffers of Boston Stump’s Inclusive Boston Project.
December’s accounts showed a further £14,309 towards ‘delivery’ of  the project paid to something called ‘Bringing Learning Into Communities’ which operates from the Len Medlock Voluntary Centre in Boston.
BLIC offers courses such as:  active listening, communication skills, managing difficult situations, and time management.
All these are skills that we would expect candidates to have when they signed up – rather than spending time training people to meet the requirements of what they are expected to do.
What an old fashioned idea.

***

Just one more from the list and then we’ll move on …
Our eye was caught by a charge of £900 for 12 ‘psychotherapeutic appointments’ with a local company called Total Therapeutics.
They help people with problems such as depression, panic attacks, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, bulimia and eating disorders, social anxiety, specific phobias, health anxiety and addictions.
Certainly, we’d have health anxiety if we had the rest of the stuff on the list.
But joking aside, why is Worst Street trying to tackle what we assume are individual staff problems such as these – or are we looking at the start of a series of courses for all 320 employees … which would come to a cool £24,000?
This is what we mean when we say that it is no good publishing spending figures without explaining what the money is being used for.

***

Lincolnshire Police continue to confound us with their attitude to money.
On one hand Chief Constable Bill Skelly says that up to 155 posts, including 40 police officers and 85 PCSOs, could go in 2019-20 because of a £3.2million budget gap.
On the other Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones is reported as saying the Chief Constable's statement is setting a tone of pessimism which I don't share.
He said that a special grants application asking the Home Office to top up its 2019/20 grant to Lincolnshire of nearly £60million will be sent in, possibly protecting the jobs Mr Skelly warned were at risk.

***

Whatever the outcome, we do know is that we will be paying an extra 11% council tax for what may become a diminished service – which many people have been critical of.
Unless, that is, you work for Lincolnshire Live – website of the Lincolnshire Echo and Boston off-Target.


Yet despite the force being so seriously stretched, Mr Jones’s most recent stunt was to call a ‘special summit’ involving all seven of the county’s district and city authorities, the county council, Lincolnshire Police, the Environment Agency, several drainage boards, the NFU and the County Land and Business Association to investigate what can be done to tackle problems caused by fly-tipping
Mr Jones will now assess the information given by the various agencies before drawing up a list of actions.
He has committed to creating a “hot spot” map – showing the locations across the county most used by fly tippers – as a first step in an intelligence gathering process.
Representatives from all agencies, including the Chief Constable, have also signed a pledge to seek ways to work together to tackle fly tipping.
“Today is very much the first step in gathering information, good practice and experiences,” said Mr Jones.
“But it is clear, already, that this is a huge problem for all our communities and it’s having a significant impact on resident’s (sic) quality of life.
“Clearly partnership working will be crucial so I am keen to analyse the information we have gathered, find examples of positive steps taken around the UK and then see what projects we can create and launch that will begin to make a difference.”
Fly tipping is and always has been a responsibility of local councils – and we are not sure how pleased our cash-strapped chief constable is at the idea that his force should now be dealing with it as well.

***

There’s a postscript to the 11% council rise for the police, which some might see as better news.  
Whilst a report by Mr Jones to the meeting that set the tax said that £1 million of reserves and £3.2 million budget savings will still be required to start addressing a potential gap of £6.9 million by 2022/23 – he added that  that he would currently be targeting a 2% rise next year.
Is this clairvoyance from someone who knows what next year’s financial needs will be, we wonder?
Or might it be that – unusually – the local Conservative group has re-selected Marc Jones to run again for the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner role in 2020.
And a low tax promise could prove a useful election bargaining chip come Thursday 7th May next year.

***

We’re away next week, so our next blog will appear on Monday 11th March – just 52 days before the elections.


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