After last week’s piece about CCTV security on Boston’s Fenside estate Boston Eye can now confirm that almost all the cameras are being withdrawn – and that work started at the beginning of the month.
It follows a decision by the Mayflower Housing Association which told Worst Street in an e-mail: “After careful consideration at Corporate Management Team, a decision has been taken not to further financially support the CCTV cameras on Fenside estate from April 2018.
“This followed a review of the cost/benefits to Boston Mayflower and although we recognise the use that CCTV footage can be useful the monies saved would, in our opinion, be better utilised in other ways to maintain a settled and safe environment on the Fenside Estate.”
All but two of the ten cameras are being axed ... the survivors are cameras 18 and 46, and the £3,000 cost of removal will be sneaked into a "suitable budget."
As we reminded readers last week this saga goes back six years to a budget setting meeting to discuss cutting spending on CCTV.
Former Boston Borough Council leader, Peter Bedford singled out Mayflower as a ‘big user’ of the cameras but added that they had ‘never paid a fee’ to help with the upkeep – despite the benefits of surveillance on its properties in Fenside.
A council spokesman said at the time: “As part of our on-going efficiency programme, the council is considering the future of its CCTV coverage of the Fenside estate. Fenside has the highest level of CCTV coverage of any residential area in the borough which, as a consequence of our on-going review, has prompted us to question the value for money these cameras return.”
It seems that the question has been a long time in the answering … as it is only now that Mayflower has decided that CCTV isn’t worth the money.
The ten cameras covering the estate have been in place since 2000 – and ironically given that cost is at the root of the decision to remove them – they were not paid for by the council but funded from a successful bid to the Home Office to extend the system.
So Worst Street didn’t spend a penny on them at the time – though in fairness, it must be added that in 2013 a major refit saw an upgrading of the control room and cameras to utilise digital wireless transmission and high definition recordings.
Boston Borough Council has always been boastful of its CCTV coverage – and we find it hard to see why Worst Street should single out these eight cameras and point the finger of blame at Mayflower.
Until a few days ago, the cameras were in place and working, and it surely can’t cost much for someone in the control room to glance at them from time to time.
The bottom line is that it’s yet another blow for one of the most deprived wards in the country – let alone in Boston.
And residents are still smarting from the recent removal of many of their street lights – with 90% of respondents to a council survey giving a negative response to the decision.
We invited Fenside councillors Anton Dani and Nigel Welton to comment.
Councillor Dani told us: “The security and well-being of our community should be put first, and under no circumstances should the decision to take the CCTV down without consulting with the interested parties have been agreed and taken place.
“I was not aware of the issue until I had a short conversation with the Boston police Inspector Andy Morrice. Also I have not been informed by Boston Borough Council although I am a Fenside councillor.
“Councillor Nigel Welton had known about it, as he is a member of the Cabinet, Town centre portfolio holder and a BTAC Chairman, but unfortunately I didn't see any interest from him in this matter.”
Councillor Welton was unable to comment for professional reasons.
Word reaches us of a meeting to be held on Thursday – when the subject under consideration is said to be whether to borrow £20 million at around five per-cent and re-invest it at a rate of 10%.
If this piece of recklessness is true, we hope that someone at Worst Street remembers the bad old days of 2008 when more than 100 councils in England, Scotland and Wales had deposited £798.95m in Icelandic banks and were faced with the loss of the lot.
Boston wasn’t among them – but who can forget the loan that everyone has forgotten?
In 1991, someone at Worst Street borrowed £1 million over sixty years. We have no idea who the borrower was, or why the money was needed – but ever since then, one of the first payments from the borough’s accounts every year is £111,125 to the lender in interest.
That’s a total of £6,667,500 by the time it's all done and dusted.
Do we really want another loan fiasco like the Icelandic one?
And whether the money is invested on the stock market or in property, there are still huge risks to bear in mind.
Without any real sense of urgency, the campaign to snaffle £100 million from a government pot of £1 billion so that Boston can build its long-awaited by-pass/distributor road is moving about as fast as the town’s traffic on a busy day.
Last week saw a rather worrying photo of most of the council cabinet signing the Boston sub-Standard campaign.
Frankly, we would like to hear more about how Worst Street is making the running in this campaign – rather than playing second fiddle to a local “newspaper” publicity stunt that makes filling its pages even easier for a few weeks.
One thing which strikes us is the tepidness of all this.
Instead of a loud, forceful banging of the drum, something named Transport for Boston urges people to sign “to petition the government for a share of extra funding to reduce traffic congestion in Boston.”
Not exactly impressive, is it?
The government will announce this summer which schemes, have been selected for money from the National Roads Fund, and petition forms need to be returned to Worst Street by next Monday.
Council leader Michael Cooper is quoted as saying: “It is vital that we send the biggest, loudest message we can to Government that we deserve a share of this new money.
“We tick so many boxes – an opportunity to deal with traffic congestion, a plan for that already at an advanced stage, better transportation in an area vital to the nation's food security, a boost to economic development and job creation, more much-needed housing and a chance to address long-standing air quality issues. It's my ambition that every single resident makes their the leader’s words, the message that appears to be on the way is more on the lines of: “a nice new road would be jolly good if you can spare the money” – which doesn’t sound likely to get much tarmac laid.
Meanwhile, Boston MP Matt Warman joined the fray with one of those mutual grooming questions that parliamentarians love to ask each other.
Note that Mr Warman asks the minister if he agrees that the Standard campaign
“bolsters an already compelling case for an application to be made to his bypass fund for this road in due course?”
Note, too, that the ministerial response in no way answers the question, nor offers any hint of a positive response. He doesn’t even acknowledge that Boston has problems.
Worrying too are the choices of phrase chosen by both men – Mr Warman employing the words “in due course.”
Mr Grayling responds in like mode – talking of “opportunities to build bypasses in the not-too-distant future.”
Which reminds us – we must buy some jam tomorrow.
Having said all that, we wonder whether it is possible that Boston is at last showing signs of moving in the right direction.
A confident-sounding report updating events since the Prosperous Boston task and finish review offers several teaspoons of jam tomorrow.
Among the goodies listed by the group – which first met almost 2½ years ago – is the potential redevelopment of the old post office on Wide Bargate by a London developer who wants to convert the first and second floors into residential accommodation with shops on the ground floor.
A couple of potential occupiers have apparently already shown interest.
This will be good news if and when it materialises – as will other discussions on planned retail development sites.
But hand in glove with all this is that things can go awry.
For instance, for six months Worst Street has been working with the firm that wants to convert the former Clarks shoe shop into the town's 93rd coffee shop – “to ensure that work is on schedule to be completed by 31st March 2018.”
But this has been delayed by unforeseen works and is now in a “ready when it’s ready” situation.
A large section of the report favours the idea of “saying it with flowers” – with blooms springing up here, there and everywhere – and a proposal of which we wholeheartedly approve to fill the bricked up windows along Petticoat Lane with mosaic displays.
The idea is one we suggested 6½ years ago – and while we think that mosaics would be ok, we still prefer the idea of historic photographs which appeared in our original proposal.
With less than 250 days to go Boston Borough Council is at last thinking about Christmas.
This time last year, plans for the highly successful civilian event were already trundling along smoothly – and it’s to be hoped that this year’s plans will be able to catch up.
Worst Street is looking for expressions of interest from individuals, community groups and businesses and – to drag things out still further – has set a deadline of 14th May for them to reach the town centre services department.
It sounds as if events will be far more heavily regulated this time around as well – with cautions that people will need a minimum of £5 million pounds worth of public liability insurance, and that risk assessments and method statements will be required before any lights or displays are erected.
And don’t be confused – Pen Street has only one ‘N’ not two!
A couple of issues ago we were on the receiving end of an e-mail from the ever-diplomatic Worst Street leader Michael Cooper … who challenged our interpretation of the council tax demands on local taxpayers.
Never a man to mince his words the leader said: “Just to put the record straight just in case you should happen to be interested in the truth.
“If you look at your council tax bill the BBB (sic) rise is not what you stated and remember that the drainage board put their rate up by 2% wiping out half of the borough increase – for every £1,000 of council tax collected BBC receives £48, the remainder being passed to other official bodies.”
It now appears that the leader’s interpretation may not quite have been on target – as someone who does seem to understand wrote to explain.
“The effect of internal drainage boards’ increased requirements to be collected and handed on by Boston Borough Council has, under capping regulations, to be taken into account when calculating local authority council tax total increases.
“Boston has in the past been very much involved in protest against such accounting requirements as it put them at a disadvantage compared to the local authorities who do not collect, and pass on, such IDB monies.
“The internal drainage boards seriously affecting Boston Borough Council in this respect are Black Sluice and Witham Fourth.
“Both boards’ requirements are not far from each other in monetary terms – so 50/50.
“And both together add up to approximately half of the Boston Borough Council’s total collection of council tax/drainage rates – so 50/50 again.
“This year only Witham Fourth has had to put up their rate – by 2%. Black Sluice has stood still this year – but watch this space.
“Therefore the total internal drainage board increase requirement could be expressed as 1% of the 2.9% increase mentioned by the council leader. And again, if we do our sums, as this 1% is only applicable to the IDB, then 50% it should therefore be seen as a .5% increase of the Boston Borough Council/IDB collection.
So, Boston Borough Council has the possibility of a 2.4% increase over the remaining 50% of collection and, to paraphrase Nigel Molesworth, any fule kno that this 2.4%, when applied to the council’s 50%, could be, and is in fact, a 4.8% increase on BBC requirements in order to take the overall rise to the declared 2.9%.”
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