Monday, 11 December 2017

After an outstanding debut there are worrying signs that the “civilian” group which made Boston’s Christmas lights such a success this year may lose key members and see its future under threat.
The group’s efforts this year saw Boston’s best-ever Christmas lighting display and event calendar – putting to shame previous efforts by Worst Street which brought Boston into ridicule last year, when the lack of lights made the town centre resemble one of Clownty Hall’s economy power cuts.
When the group was formed earlier in the year, it declared itself thus: “Christmas in Boston is a small committee formed entirely of volunteers to take on the Christmas lights in town.
“We’re using our resources together and making use of our contacts to make sure that Boston has Christmas lights to be proud of.
“By speaking to local businesses, we intend to produce a plan which has the full support of the local businesses.
“We are offering a variety of options for individuals and businesses to support us.
“While the first few years may be reliant on donations, we expect this to become an on-going annual project by the third year of operation, without donations required.”

***

The group was created last February as an independent satellite reporting to the Boston Town Area Committee – known to friends and foes alike as BTAC-ky – and was formed by community representatives “jointly with the Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses” … although their role somehow failed to materialise.
BTAC-KY agreed to match any money raised up to a maximum of £10,000 – a target that was quickly achieved and surpassed.

***

But in the aftermath of the event’s success, rifts are emerging that – instead of seeing the group going onwards and upwards to even greater things in 2018 – could well see the committee fall apart and have to start from scratch all over again.

***


At the end of last month, the group’s chairman Dylan Taylor – a director and presenter at Boston’s radio station Endeavour FM – polled his Twitter followers, telling them: “I joined a group as Chairman early in the year to complete a project. This is now complete but the group is split,” and asking what to do next.
During the debate that ensued he passed such comments as:

  • Clash of personalities and silly games from both sides. Not what I signed up for …
  • I've been getting texts and calls every bloody day trying to dictate my moves. I'm my own man. Always have been ...
  • There is now an attempt to power grab by various entities. I didn't sign up to this …
  • I don't like being made a fool. A report is to be submitted and I don't think anybody realises I will tell all.”

***

One report has already been circulated from the group’s treasurer, Darron Abbott – who is also not a happy man.
His report highlights several concerns – among them

  • The group was unlikely to get paid for one tree as it appears that one/some of the committee indicated that the tree would be free for the supply of goods in kind. “This has not been authorised by anyone on the committee including the chairman. As treasurer I am greatly concerned as the assets of group are being given away.”
  • “I have had complaints regarding the group failing to meet the commitments regarding the terms of sponsorship. One person had requested a full refund of £1,500, but after negotiations I have only had to refund £1,000. I wait to see if we have to refund any further amounts ...”
  • At present there is a surplus of £3,100, the majority of which it was could be carried over to next year’s event.
  • “But,” Mr Abbott adds, “the amount is dependent on the attitude of the team of electricians. In early September it was suggested that the predicted surplus be divided between the committee members for payment for their voluntary time. I was uncomfortable with this and explained that it would not look good when the accounts were produced that showed payment to Committee members. I have concerns that once again certain committee members may request payment for their services when taking down the lights.
  • Going forward it has already been declared some committee members will not give their time freely in 2018 and will require payment. “I see their point of view but I have real concerns over committee members setting their own remuneration. If payment is required, in my professional opinion those people cannot be active members of the committee but should quote and tender for the work. As a community group we have to have full openness and transparency. If the committee members insist on remuneration being paid, I will resign … at the AGM.”

***

It is sad to see two of the leading lights so disillusioned with events.
But we know from experience that there can be appalling teething troubles within newly created groups – especially when a local authority  such as Worst Street is involved.
The fact that Christmas in Boston succeeded as well as it did – beyond all expectations, we suspect – shows that despite all the internal wrangling, an outcome was achieved.
By the sound of things, the stumbling block going forward will be the inability of some members of the committee to distinguish between the definition of the word voluntarily and their inbred commercial reluctance to do something for nothing.
If they were to try to think of their voluntary gesture as a form of sponsorship, and made sure that their name was mentioned in that connection to their advantage, then the gift of time and materials would be a payment of its own.
We will keep our fingers crossed.

***

As a sidebar to recent Christmas light developments, we have been told that claims by Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce that the Boston Town Teams willingness to get involved were rebuffed, are incorrect.
An e-mail from Nathan Bryant, Creative Designer and Marketing Co-Ordinator for
Christmas in Boston, says: “I write to you as secretary of Christmas in Boston regarding your recent communication with Simon Beardsley from the Chamber of Commerce.
“As far as I’m aware, we have had no formal offer from any chamber member regarding the use of projectors, purchased last year.
“Throughout our meetings, no mention of the Chamber supporting Christmas in Boston has been mentioned by any committee member.
“Our team have had offers from Andy at Popcorn Media but at no point has the involvement of the chamber ever been mentioned, nor contact received.”

***

Some gloomy news as Christmas approaches for wage earners in Boston.
Official figures Tweeted by Independent/???/ Labour Councillor Paul Gleeson says that average full-time wages in Boston fell this year from £21,837 in 2016 to £21,092 – “which is only £252 more than the average wage in 2011 of £20,840, whereas average rents have gone up by nearly £900 a year.
The figures come from the Valuation Office Agency and the Office of National Statistics – and show that despite all the claims that business is moving into the area, it is the wrong sort of business in terms of the benefit to local people.
What can be done to address the problem is anyone’s guess – but clearly something must happen to address this anti-social problem for residents.

***

The figures have appeared as the announcement that the £100 million Boston flood barrier has been approved and will begin construction next year.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: "Not only is this fantastic news for the 14,000 home and business owners who will be better protected from flooding – Boston's new state of the art defences will help attract investment, benefitting the wider area.”
Her words were echoed by Worst Street leader Councillor Michael Cooper, who declared: “This is a truly massive investment in Boston, and a truly massive investment in confidence in Boston as a place to live, do business and grow families and businesses.
Whenever announcements such as this are made, so are comments such as those above.
In the past year or two, various new business announcements have been interpreted to be the first tottering steps on the road to a bigger, better and brighter Boston – but somehow, this never seems to happen.
Whilst the barrier is a big step forward for the safety of the town – its subtext for promotion says little more than “Come to Boston, where is doesn’t flood as badly as other places.”
What we need now is a marshalling of the costly resources in places such as Worst Street, Clownty Hall, and the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership to get their act together and seize on the barrier as a focus to promote Boston to the wider world.
Then, perhaps, we might see blather become business.

***

Another politician who was quick out of the traps after the announcement of the barrier’s approval was Councillor Martin Hill – leader of Lincolnshire County Council.
He tweeted: “Very pleased that the £11 million contribution from Lincolnshire CC has helped the scheme get approved. It will be great when the town is fully protected from floods.”
Erm, excuse us?
The £11 million “contribution” from Clownty Hall was committed as part of a water management scheme for the project.
This would have maintained high water levels so that “a safe and reliable non-tidal link” could be created to form phase 2 of the Fens Waterways Link – the biggest waterway enhancement project in Europe.
Joining the Fens Waterway Link was hailed as a potentialyly major economic and tourism boost for Boston – which would make it a stopping place on a route which connected the cathedrals at Lincoln, Peterborough and Ely.
However, this needed further appraisal work, and following a Lincolnshire County Council Executive decision in February 2015 and a Project Board confirmation in spring 2015 it was agreed that the work surrounding WLM should not delay the tidal flood defence project.
Water level management was removed from the the Boston Barrier project and the county council “separated” their £11million contribution.
The last report we could find said that Clownty Hall was “reviewing how best to invest the funding to maximise its regeneration impacts and to allow additional fund raising opportunities to be identified.”
Note the absence of any mention of Boston!

***

Part of the problem with trying to turn blather into business is that so many people talk the talk – and then do nothing further.

For instance, last weekend marked the fifth annual Small Business Saturday – “a grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to 'shop local' and support small businesses in their communities.”
The event was marked in various places around Lincolnshire – but nowhere could we find anything happening in Boston … despite claims that we thrive on the variety of our small specialist shops.
This is not the first time the event has passed unremarked in the town, and we think it high time that our powers that ba’int started some sort of diary so that we could stay on top of every chance to promote the town, however small.

***

It’s not as though we lack the resources.
Recently, WorstWeb – the council’s website told us of more funding for community events in Boston and extra cash for town centre maintenance.
The sum involved is £86,000  of existing spend plus  another £40,000 to include a new post of events assistant and £12,000 existing support plus £41,000 for two new posts for town centre maintenance.
Until recently, when Worst Street listed its departmental and management structure – it helpfully indicated the number of staff in each officer’s fiefdom.
Using the figures given the last time that this was done we estimate that four officers between them covered the sort of work that is now being enhanced – with a staff of more than 100 to carry out the necessary tasks.
And we really need more, do we?

***

Meanwhile some good news for Granthamians  but not for Bostonians could be announced tomorrow when South Kesteven District Council is expected to approve a £100 million designer village just south of Grantham next to the proposed Grantham Southern Relief Road.
The 270,000 sq. ft. development will create 1,500 jobs and bring 130 luxury brand shops to the town.
The bad news is that the plan has been preferred over a rival scheme by Boston retailer Oldrids – which when announced was described as “a bid to protect the store’s future – and an existing 700 jobs.”
The move by Oldrids Downtown’s proposed a 220,435 sq ft scheme with 107 outlets, a purpose-built home and garden centre and an indoor leisure complex.
At the time a company executive was reported as saying: “We are part of Grantham, we are important to Grantham and Grantham is important to us.”
But now that things look to be taking a different direction, might the company perhaps consider a return to its roots and investment here in Boston where it started out  in 1804.
The worrying line in the report that caught our eye was that the Grantham development was needed  “to protect the store’s future – and an existing 700 jobs.”
The closure of two Oldrids stores in Lincoln and Gainsborough was announced earlier this year, so things are obviously not looking good, and the latest look at the retailer’s Companies House entries also paints an unhappy picture.
In the circumstances, a major investment in Boston would be unlikely – although it might help rescue the Quadrant project and provide a rival attraction to Springfields in Spalding.

***

A few issues ago, we reported the enthusiasm of various Worst Street councillors to throw money at Boston Stump.
Member of BTAC-ky declared themselves keen to hurl as much as £20,000 in the church’s direction, whilst the announcement of £1.39 million grant from the Government's Controlling Migration Fund, to promote “community cohesion” was declared to a chance to work with the Stump on their A Passion for People project' to help improve English language skills across the migrant community, as well as improving integration between the various communities who call Boston home."

***

So you may not be surprised to learn that we raised an Eyebrow at a BBC report last week that said: “The historic Boston Stump has been given an early Christmas present, with the National Churches Trust awarding the landmark building £40,000.
 “The grant to St Botolph's will be used for urgent repairs to the roof and clock and to refurbish the kitchen.
“It's thought the repairs will allow parts of the church, including areas of the tower, which are currently closed due to health and safety concerns, to re-open.”
Surely, there are a few problems here regarding priorities.
Whilst everyone has been falling over themselves to throw money at a tweely-named project, behind the scenes urgent repairs are needed to the roof whilst other parts of the building are unsafe in terms of public access.

***

Last week’s blog drew comment once again from former Boston Borough Councillor Carol Taylor, who remarked on a couple of items …
“Prime Minister’s Question Time is an opportunity for an MP to ask or clarify an issue for his/her constituents.
“How sad and embarrassing to see Matt Warman waste this valuable time by congratulating a councillor for joining the blueys as if it was some kind of achievement.
“This councillor could have worked just as well by continuing to be a Labour supporter and at the same time serve the people who elected him into office.
“This councillor has done this for his own personal gain. Thank goodness he wasn't in 'The House' when MW declared his admiration for him.
“Looking at the video, I thought MW was going to lick his boots.
“Brownie points for Mr Warman? I agree, from his nose of course!”
And if that wasn’t enough, Mrs Taylor also had a go at last week’s party allegiance swaps which saw veteran Labour man Councillor Paul Gleeson  announce as an independent to save his chairmanship of a key committee.
“Is it possible for someone to sell himself for 30 pieces of silver twice?” asked Mrs Taylor. “Councillor Gleeson is a very educated man and a great orator.
“How sad to see him join the Independents just to keep his chairmanship of a committee.
“Boston Borough Council and the good people of Boston have lost a great local politician – and for what?”

***

Which brings us seamlessly to another contribution from our Worst Street insider known as The Sorcerer.
After last week’s detailed and often withering analysis of the mixed bag that makes up out council, our columnist has turned the limelight on to the manoeuvrings by former Labour councillor Nigel Welton, who has switched to the Conservatives, and dyed in the wool Labour man Paul Gleeson, who has joined the so-called Independents to save his political skin.

I
f there is one thing I admire about Labour Councillor Paul Gleeson it is his loyalty to his politics.
Since his arrival at the Heart of Cabbage Land, he has maintained a highly dignified and effective presence.
Politically speaking, Councillor Gleeson might even be considered as the most effective Labour councillor that Boston has ever had – and I need no reminder of whom others might think more deserving.
But are we able to say the same for what many will consider the most disgraceful behaviour ever of ‘Labour’ Councillor, Nigel Welton?
Somehow I don't think so....
The people of Fenside should be out on the streets – banging their blue plastic wheelie bin lids and demanding his immediate resignation – and regardless of one’s politics they would be right.
Let’s face it; there is no way that enough Fenside electors would ever have voted for him had he stood as a Tory!
So let us not fool ourselves …
This is a blatant and disgraceful abandonment of the people of Fenside and their political principles.
The Fenside electors now have no Labour representation – which is unforgivable!
Fact: Conservative Party members are duty-bound to uphold and defend only Conservative policies and principles.
Fact: The Labour Party ought now to find ten residents who voted Labour at the last election to present a vote of no confidence in this ‘elected representative’ and demand a by-election.
Perhaps some historian would like to remind me of the last time a Tory actually won a Fenside seat.
There have of course been other jumpers and switchers – but I hazard that none have made such a wide and damaging leap as this.
From Labour to Conservatism is the widest political canyon!
It could also be argued now that Councillor Gleeson can no longer remain on any scrutiny or decision-making panels.
Right is right!
He should also have some awkward questions to answer given his merger with the so called happy couple of miscreant Bypassers, who themselves are loosely supplemented by one Councillor Pierpoint – a man who may well hold the record for the shortest-ever UKIP election victory.
Throughout all of this we are bound to question the desperation within the ruling group.
Are they no longer able to say no to some of the latest bunch of so called dumpers, jumpers, and grunters?
I hate to tell you that all of this is destructive to the borough, but highly suitable for officers – not council workers – just officers.
W
hy would they be in favour of taking back our Market Place ... given the cushy number they have secured for themselves?

   
***

Finally – a note about some seasonal publication changes.
Next week we will be publishing our annual Christmas card, and that will be the last blog for this year as we take an extended break.
Our first publication of the New Year will be on Monday 22nd January and we look forward to you joining us then.
Obviously, in the event of something startling happening between those dates, we’ll let you know – and remember we’re available via e-mail throughout that time.



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, 4 December 2017

Although we have often said that party politics should play no part in the workings of penny-ante councils such as ours in Boston, we find ourselves more than a little perplexed by the most recent goings-on.
Last week, we reported the decision by one (of the then only two) Labour councillors to convert to Conservatism.
Councillor Nigel Welton was the man who made the switch – which was done in a straightforward way by changing party allegiances, but which left his former leader (he was his deputy) Paul Gleeson alone in the Labour fold.
Because of the way that Worst Street works(?)  the definition of a group – unsurprisingly – requires it to have more than one member.
So Councillor Gleeson’s lone role for Labour would have had one major implication – it would have robbed him of his important place on a couple of committees – most prominently, the chairmanship of the Corporate and Community Committee which has a responsibility for oversight and scrutiny.
So – according to the Boston sub-Standard – Councillor Gleeson has joined the Independents on the council.  
Even so, he was quoted as saying: “I’m still a member of the Labour party; however, the Independents have kindly agreed to let me join them for the purposes of seat allocation.”
We take “seat allocation” to mean “clinging on to a chairmanship via a grubby deal.”

***

Ironically, two of the so-called “independents” who have greased the way for Councillor Gleeson were founders of the Boston Bypass Independent party, which swept the board and took control of Worst Street in 2007 – Boston’s political equivalent of Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson ... Richard and Alison Austin.
After several years of demonstrable failure, the BBI was routed by the Conservatives, who gained the council’s first overall majority at the 2011 election and the four BBI survivors renamed themselves Boston District Independents.
However, come 2015, the Tories were themselves given a drubbing – emerging neck and neck with UKIP on 13 seats apiece, plus the two former Labour councillors and the Austins … now styling themselves as Independent.
Even then, such political chameleonism was not enough, and in the collective frenzy to deny UKIP any voice in the borough, despite their clear approval from and popularity with the voters, the Austins threw in their lot with the Tories – as did Labour – to give the Conservatives the majority they needed to run the council.

***

Interestingly, Worst Street is very opaque when it comes to the way councillors’ political leanings are defined.
Whilst the Austins, the deputy mayor Councillor Barrie Pierpoint – and now Councillor Gleeson – are described as Independent, three others, Councillors Stephen Ball, the former Conservative leader Peter Bedford, and the Mayor Brian Rush are classified as Unaligned
The dictionary defines this as “not allied with or giving support to a particular organization or cause” – which in our book means that they are independent … although for reasons of its own, Worst Street doesn’t want to give them the more respectable title ... thus making the role played by the Austins seem more significant.

***

We think that another relevant dictionary definition is that of the word shambolic which lexicographers say means: chaotic, disorganized, muddled, confused, in (total) disarray, at sixes and sevens, unsystematic, haphazard, hit-or-miss, scrappy, fragmented and inefficient – any or all of which words fit snugly with many of our current self-serving, self-interested councillors.

***

We suspect that the last thing that Councillor Welton expected when he changed party allegiance was a pat on the back during Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons.
But he earned one regardless last Wednesday through a grovelling question from local MP Matt Warman which was answered by Cabinet office secretary Damian Green, who was standing in for Theresa ‘Daisy’ May.
Mr Warman said: “This week one of Labour’s last two remaining councillors in Boston crossed the floor to join the Conservative party. He said that he did not want to see the country go back to 1973.
“Will the First Secretary join me in welcoming this new member to the Conservative party, and does he agree that an open, optimistic Britain deserves better than reheated Marxism and Labour’s bankrupt economy?”
Damian Green replied: “I am very happy to agree with my hon. friend, and, indeed, with the wisdom of the Labour councillor who has joined the Conservative party.
“My hon. friend is quite right. What we hear from Labour members shows that a Labour Government would lose control of public finances and hike taxes to their highest ever peacetime level.
“I have discovered a new quotation – the shadow Chancellor called business “the enemy”. That is what the modern Labour party is about.
“Let me also point out that the local councillor may just have moved in anticipation. I understand that moderate councillors are being deselected by the hard left of the Labour party.”
Brownie points for Mr Warman, who seems to spring up at PMQs like Zebedee in the Magic Roundabout.
Surely, there can be no other reason for asking the question.


***

We have received another column from our pseudonymous  insider The Sorcerer – who has weighed our council in the balance … and found many of the  members wanting (the order of the boot, apparently.) 
 
D
id you think it remarkable that Project Xmas Boston went without a hitch last week?
Whilst that might well be stretching the truth a little, there is no doubt that the afternoon was brilliant and successful.
Added to which we can all be extra pleased that Councillor Paul Skinner, the town centre portfolio holder, was largely excommunicated from this year’s event.
It wasn’t really surprising given last year’s blunderbuster – and although he remains in denial we all know who to blame.
So, forget last year; what of this year?
Well, so far has been so good, but Mr Phillip Drury, the Chief Executive, should be very careful about the direction of travel these relatively new bunch of councillors are embarking upon.
They may not be quite as malleable as he thinks they are.
The New Leader – if that’s what we might still call him – is, I believe, a bit sharper than some people think.
He seems to me to be a man with his eye on the main goal, which will I think be setting higher challenges and standards for our chief executive.
Is he capable, I hear you ask?
I think he will be.
I don't think he is a man to be messed with, and his scruffiness is no reflection of his determination.
Take it from me; I think he will ring some changes in January, or the latest February.
This man knows he has to make his mark ... and already he has begun re-crafting the Cabinet, because I don’t think he has any time for bluffers.
Meanwhile, we have the  old, past their sell-by date stagers like Bedford, Brookes, Brotherton, Dennis, Rush, Ransome, Ransome, and Ransome, Austin Mr, and Mrs.
It really is time for Boston to turn the page. 
UKIP have been well and truly kippered by the Remainers, and it’s well past time for the Austins to be by-passed.
Those two 'cling-on Tories,' Brotherton and Dennis, were already yester-year’s news, whilst the Ransomes,  like the Three Amigos, are an overspent force.
The best of the rest, I would say, are Michael Cooper, Paul Gleeson, Aaron Spencer, Barry Pierpoint, Anton Dani, Martin Griggs, Judith Skinner, Claire Rylott, Gordon (rarely shows) Gregory, Jonathan Noble, David Brown, Paul Skinner, then maybe, just maybe, Yvonne Stephens, Nigel Welton, then really just maybe James Edwards, followed by Stephen (rarely shows) Raven.
M
ind you, with all the infighting that's going on, I wonder how many of these will survive at all! 


***
  
Fortunately, this year’s Christmas lighting events overshadowed the Illuminate dog-hanging rather than the other way around – but this year the truly notable thing was the number of such festivals that have sprung up around the country
Aside from Boston, events have been held in Austerfield, (Doncaster,) Dartmouth, Gainsborough, Harwich in Essex, Immingham, Leiden in Holland, Plymouth, Scrooby & Babworth,  Southwark,  Southampton and Worcestershire.
Thirteen in all – so who’s the unlucky odd man out?

t.

Yes, it’s Boston, whose links with the Pilgrim Fathers hover between the vague and the virtually non-existent.
An ancient but authoritative tome – called The romantic story of the Puritan fathers and their founding of new Boston and the Massachusetts Bay colony, by Albert C Addison and published in 1912 – all but glosses over the Pilgrim Fathers’ “connections” with Boston.
The book names William Brewster of Scrooby and William Bradford as the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ arrested near Boston as they tried to flee to Holland in 1607.
Eventually, they achieved their goal and remained in Leiden for the following eleven years before sailing from Plymouth on their historic voyage.
So the link with Boston marks nothing more than a betrayal by a sea captain, being stripped and robbed and then thrown into prison for a month before mooching around in Europe for a further decade and then sailing to America thirteen years after their run-in at Boston.
It was a further ten years after that when a group of our Bostonians were instrumental in founding a settlement of the same name in what was to become Massachusetts – and this is the target on which our sights should be set.

***

Whilst you might think that our Boston would be trying to find funding for the eventual celebration of this event, it seems that opportunities are passing by at speed.
Recently, Lincoln was announced as one of 12 historic cities which have secured a £1 million investment from Discover England for a new project to encourage more US visitors to explore regional England.
The money will be used to “bring history to life” by telling stories “via enhanced augmented reality and will feature itineraries that link the cities by rail, making it easy to plan and book a multi-destination trip.”
Although Lincoln has some links with the USA, there are many more towns and villages across the county with better ties, and which have nothing to do with the city – and we hope that Lincoln will not try to hog all the cash for its own benefit.

***

But, confusingly, since that announcement was made more than a month ago, last week saw Clownty Hall give news of a £500,000 grant from VisitEngland, “along with funding from Lincolnshire County Council and other partners” for a “collaborative” project to attract US tourists.
This is the same thing that was announced in October – only minus half-a-million pounds, apparently.
Councillor Colin Davie, executive member for tourism, was quoted as saying: “We want to tap into the Americans’ fascination with the many connections between England and the US – our shared history, language, culture and ancestry.
“Our aim is to inspire as many visitors as possible to discover their roots and the authenticity of local English culture.
“Not only is Lincolnshire the home of Magna Carta (cue sound FX of the truth being stretched)  and an important part of the Mayflower story, it’s also the birthplace of John Smith, the founder of Jamestown – we’re an obvious destination for US visitors.
“And we’ll be working closely with our partners to make sure our American cousins know all about the fantastic experiences we have to offer.”

***

Whilst it’s no easy matter to draw up a league table of important connections between Lincolnshire and America, we would have thought that Boston’s role in the formation of what has become one the largest cities in the US might have featured on Councillor Davie’s radar.

***

Having said that, it’s par for the course as far as Lincoln’s attitude towards Boston is concerned.
The winter/spring edition of the council’s County News chortles loud and long about “The road ahead in 2018” telling us of Lincoln’s umpteenth bypass as well as works in Bourne, Gainsborough, Bilsby, Grantham, Spilsby “and many other places.”
Conspicuous by its absence is Boston – where progress toward a distributor road could take 30 years and must rely on developers building big housing estates with roads that will connect jigsaw-like to form a haphazard route around part of the town.
And to add insult to injury – Clownty Hall has created a graphic to illustrate what lies ahead in the world of road improvement for 2018.


Boston – never heard of it!

***

But now we think that we know the reason.
We suspect that Lincoln’s map featuring Boston is modelled on the famed Angliae Figura of 1537 – but a version which like many of its day carried health warnings for the benefit of travellers … 


Will someone tell head office in Lincoln that the monsters have gone – and it’s safe to build roads in the area?

***

Last week we mentioned the conspicuous inactivity of the Boston Town Team  – (mission statement: “Working to enhance the vitality of Boston to ensure it reaches its full potential via the promotion, support and delivery of key initiatives as part of Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce")  – in connection with this year’s Christmas lighting extravaganza.
The Town Team appeared to have accepted £35,000 from Boston Borough Council in 2016 and blown the lot on a tepid display whilst not coming up with the on-going activities promised.
After last week’s blog we e-mailed a prominent member of the Town Team as well as the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce to ask what was going on.
The local man ignored us, but chamber Chief Executive Simon Beardsley replied:
“The Town Team in Boston is still in existence. 
Regarding the contract to provide Christmas lighting, it is our understanding that the group who organised this year’s celebrations were offered use of the outstanding provision and declined the offer.

“We also understand that this provision remains on offer for future years.”

***

Finally  – the following Tweet by Lincolnshire Police caught our eye.


More than a century ago our grandfather was a policeman locally.
We are less than certain that he would have applauded this contribution by Derbyshire Police that was "liked" by our local strapping Dixons of Dock  Green, and we believe that many of our readers might well share that view – notwithstanding that 24th November to 3rd  December was designated Rainbow Laces Week. ​
Why do Lincolnshire Police feel obliged to follow such politically correct nonsense?



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, 27 November 2017

Tongues will be wagging in Worst Street this morning after a major political volte face by former Labour Councillor and deputy group leader Nigel Welton – who has quit the party and applied to join the Conservatives.
Councillor Welton represents Fenside ward – which he won in 2015 – and is Chairman of the Boston Town Area Committee and Vice-Chairman of Environment and Performance Committee.
There were four candidates for the two Fenside seats, and he won the ballot by just one vote – 443 against 442 collected by a Conservative rival.

***

In one sense, this change of horses in midstream should make little difference in political terms.
Councillor Welton told Boston Eye: “I’m in the middle of both parties anyway – I’m on the right of the Labour Party and probably on the left of the Tory party, so it doesn’t really matter which badge I’ve got on so long as I do the job.”
He was a Labour councillor in Hull in the mid-1990s then left around 1998 and only re-joined the party just before the last elections on May 2015.
So is he worried about any political backlash from Worst Street council chamber colleagues?
“I’m not really bothered what people say, to be honest, I’ve got a job to do. It’s about getting on with the work, the things that need doing, need doing … and politically, they can say what they like, but I’m a politician so have got a thick skin.”
What if his change of parties led to calls for his resignation and a by-election?
“They can do what they want; I’m not all that bothered to be honest. I’ve got an agenda and know what I need to do, and I just want to get on with it really.”
Of  his role on BTAC, he added: “We’ve got until April to try to get as much going and doing as we can then it’s up to the committee to decide whether they want me to stay or not.
“They can put a motion of no confidence, they can do what they want – at the end of the day it doesn’t affect what I do. I think that the more people that shout at me, the more determined I am to make it happen!”

***

Whilst there will doubtless be noises for a resignation – simply because there always are – we think there is nothing much to fear, given that such calls have frequently been made in the past, as long ago as the days of the By-pass Independents, and always gone unheeded.
Frankly, it’s heartening to find a councillor who puts his ambitions to make Boston a better place ahead of politics – which is a fault of so many of his colleagues.

***

Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid has said that ‘non-mayoral combined authorities’ in rural areas might be allowed as part of a new devolution framework.
At the same time that we read this, we saw another local report which said that authorities responsible for things like planning applications and bin collections  – which in Lincolnshire means Boston and the six other district councils  should be abolished or merged with the county council.
Think tank ResPublica said the reform would create improvements for business, house-building and public services that are essential to avoid two-tier counties such as Lincolnshire being left-behind
Phillip Blond, director of ResPublica, was quoted as saying: “Single councils at the county scale are the future and we call on the Government to move rapidly to encourage them.”
This served to remind us that early in the year, Lincolnshire County Council called off plans for a referendum at the county council elections in May.
The idea was scuppered after chief executives of district authorities – doubtless fearful of losing their fat-cat salaries – sought legal advice.
However, at the time, it was said that there would still be a testing of the waters “later in the year” when residents’ views would be sought through options said to include a postal ballot, opinion poll or consultation through the council’s website or County News freesheet.
Cough, cough – the year will soon be over.
Has the idea been abandoned after all?

***

We mentioned the other week about the review of mayoral costs and the tightrope that some councillors are walking to try to save money whilst maintaining the “dignity” of the office.
As far as we are concerned, dignity is an individual talent, and over the years we have seen some mayors with more of it, some with less and some with none at all.
But here’s an idea …
It’s been said that the hoi polloi don’t have much understanding of the role of the first citizen; so why doesn’t Worst Street take a leaf from other authorities’ books – and publish a list of mayoral engagements on its website, which  would have the added benefit  replacing an irrelevant story in its so-called newsletter with something that is actually relevant to Boston Borough Council.
Then taxpayers could see for themselves what the mayor does and perhaps gain a better appreciation of the job.

***

Some interesting observations from former councillor Mike Gilbert and founder of the  Blue Revolution Party on last week’s piece about the metal fish sculptures adorning Irby Street, and our earlier comments on the  possibility of the council funding developments at Boston Stump.
He wrote: “I really don't understand the point of the fish.
“I walk past them every day and they have been placed on a wall that is generally in a poor state of repair.
“The scale of the fish is also a problem; they are too small, there is no context or story and there is a mix of sea and freshwater fish – one of which has its tail snapped off.  “Someone told me that the project cost the thick end of £10K which as a local resident I find it hard to believe.
“Anything on the Irby Place path has a scale issue  being flanked by the Stump and the police station … both in their own unique way impressive buildings. 
“There are also the Assembly Rooms and White Hart to contend with – so a few small silver fish lose relevance.
“I have said that the raised bed behind the police station could be used to excellent effect to tell a big Boston story – but there have been no takers.”
“The Stump is my local place of worship, so I have to declare an interest.
“However, I think the church, in general, has to define what it does in a way that makes sense to funding authorities and the public.
“A building will never be a substitute for personal action and contact.
“I have, as a local politician, gone out and knocked doors and talked to people.
“The church seems to avoid this approach to community cohesion.
“People don't come to buildings, even when invited, so activists have to go to them.
 “I'm afraid funding a building or institution and engaging with community cohesion are rather different activities.”

***

Another former councillor – Carol Taylor – wrote from her new base in the West Country to say: “I continue reading your blog which as always is amazing. 
"The latest blog talks about Matt Warman and his question about a teaching hospital in Lincolnshire.
“In the days of my blog, I talked about this on several occasions including the idea that Lincoln County and Pilgrim become satellite hospitals.
“This is what happened in Nottingham, when Queen’s Medical Centre became the main hospital and City and Nottingham General became those satellite hospitals specialising in area such as Orthopaedics for example.
With regard to the Worst Street calendar, which we mentioned last week, and which was the brainchild of Mrs Taylor and another former councillor, we were told: “We had to have all photos etc. in by the end of August to make print for November.
“I know this is the print way, but an online calendar will not work.
“It is just a case of lazy councillors etc. doing things at the last minute to attempt to show that they care about Boston.
But all it does is highlight their incompetence.

***

At last, a decent Christmas lighting event has materialised in Boston – thanks to the enthusiasm and tireless efforts of a “civilian” band of volunteers.
Here’s how the Christmas in Boston group summarised this year’s offer …


Aside from demonstrating the hopelessness of Worst Street’s feeble attempts in recent years, it bursts the bubble named “councillors know best” – which is the image that they most like to see projected.

***
And talking of projections …
Talk of Christmas returns us yet again to the question of what remains of the £35,000 gifted by BTAC-ky last year to the Boston Town Team.
The lion’s share of the cost apparently went on projecting Christmassy pictures on to a few buildings around the town.
Boston Town Team – for those of you who might recall the name but forget the details – claims to be “Working to enhance the vitality of Boston to ensure it reaches its full potential via the promotion, support and delivery of key initiatives as part of Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce."  
It achieves beneath a blanket of secrecy by doing and saying nothing – its last Tweet was posted in August 2016, and its website invited members and non-members along to the team’s annual general meeting in September of that same year.
Since then … nothing.
The Town Team presumably delivered the £35k to its masters in Lincoln – and it wasn’t until one of our local “newspapers” filed a Freedom of Information request that we learned that the organisers had spent £18,500 on just one projection scheme in the town.
A further £6,000 was spent on the second one.
The costlier of  the two stunts used the former Exchange Buildings as its background, and included £14,400 for the projection, £1,350 for the lenses, £750 for the playback, £1,500 for the content creation and £500 to be installed.
An unanswered question remains:  Were the two projectors bought or hired – and if they were bought (which at a combined cost of £25k seems more likely) – then who owns them, and where are they?
Certainly there has been no mention that they might be used this year – although annual “on-costs” were mentioned by the town team on one occasion, plus claims that costs would reduce to £13,860 this year and still further in the following two years – so we really need to find out which black hole is now home to such a large sum of taxpayers’ cash or equipment.
The issue of the projectors found its way on to social media after Thursdays's lights switch-on, and as as result one reader e-mailed us to say that the projectors used last year were back in service that night – to project on to the Stump … this time with Transported footing the bill.
So … who were they hired from?
How much did Transported pay?
A lot of questions need answering here.

***

Still with the theme of where our money is going, we were rather taken aback to see that Worst Street council taxpayers apparently stumped up £5,650 towards  the cost of the recent beach event in Central Park – including  £4,800 to create the sandpit.


Repeatedly, we have been told that Boston Big Local – which has £1m of lottery funding to make the poorer parts of Boston a better place – was funding the event …supported” by partner agencies, listed as Mayflower Housing, Boston Children's Centre, Transported Arts and Boston United in the Community.
So we asked Boston Big Local to explain –  and  Plan Co-ordinator Rachel Lauberts told us: “Boston Big Local did sponsor the Beach Event 2017 in Central Park to the tune of £7,800.
“Boston Borough Council pay all of the bills up front and then invoice Boston Big Local for the total amount, which is why the individual items show up on the borough's accounts.
“Many other organisations along with the Borough Council make contributions to the event, both financially and in kind.”
Whilst this answers the question, it raises another – why does Worst Street act as banker for a separate, unconnected and independently funded organisation?
We understand it performs a similar function for Boston in Bloom.
Any answers from Worst Street, please?

***

As well as the Christmas lights switch-on in Boston, last week also saw the third Illuminate knees-up, where Boston Borough Council celebrates the arrival of the first settlers to America – known as the Pilgrim Fathers.
Even though our own Christmas celebrations should be the focus, they are overshadowed as the lights go on when they do it because the chosen date is US Thanksgiving Day.
And a yo-ho-ho to you too.
This year, £2,000 towards Illuminate came from Worst Street as part of a bid to run a project costing £24,000 – even though an appeal to another organisation  was turned down … and a second bid for Arts Council funding towards £8,000 for a “digital commission” to be projected on to Boston Stump was mentioned at the same time.
This would not now appear to be happening – but if the organisers want to try to rescue it, we suggestion that Boston Town Team might be able to tell them where they could lay hands on a projector.


With all this money sloshing around we were saddened to read the following tweet from BBC Radio Lincolnshire 


Whilst Worst Street has contributed to Christmas celebrations through BTAC-ky, we wonder why the simple gesture of doing away with parking charges proved to be beyond their grasp.
Three years ago, Worst Street Central made a big deal about abandoning charges for the Christmas switch on, when the then portfolio holder for the town centre proclaimed: “This represents a Christmas present from the council to Boston.
“The town has a tremendous varied shopping offer – from small family-owned traditional retailers through to main multi-nationals. With free parking located conveniently close there should be no reason to want to go anywhere else.”
OK, the parking is still free but no thanks to the popwers that bain't – but what a fine gesture and excellent piece of PR for the people if the council had decided not to adopt such a miserly attitude this year.
Humbug!




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