Monday, 19 February 2018

If Boston Borough councillors were so distressed at being called dummies why on earth did they spend so much time and taxpayers’ money proving they were exactly that at last week’s special meeting demanding the resignation of Mayor Brian Rush?
Councillor Rush was ordered to quit after being accused of posting offensive and political comments on his Facebook page.
The motion calling for him to go added that he had caused “significant personal distress to those named” and demeaned the great office that is The Worshipful the Mayor of Boston.
As is customary in kangaroo courts such as this, the Mayor was not in the chamber to hear the charges against him – having to leave the meeting that he would normally chair because of what Worst Street termed “a disclosable pecuniary interest.”
Reports of the meeting that followed can be found all over the place – in our local newspapers as well as local radio and television – so we won’t go through it all again.

***

Some wishy-washy allegations – several made when Councillor Rush was not even the Mayor and another ineptly deemed as possibly racist – set the crocodile tears flowing as the trial progressed.
Aggrieved councillors spoke of their hurt.
We never knew that some of them were such sensitive wallflowers.
And whilst the meeting was ostensibly public, attendees must have been baffled by the proceedings – especially as although little by way of evidence materialised to support the charges against Councillor Rush, the councillors had been presented with a sheaf of allegations for their eyes only.

***

One of the few voices of sanity was that of Councillor Barrie Pierpoint – who as deputy Mayor chaired the meeting in Councillor Rush’s enforced absence – but who stressed that he spoke as a councillor only.
The motion was proposed by the council leader, Michael Cooper, seconded by Conservative Councillor David Brown  with the required number  made up of Councillor Alison Austin, a so-called Independent, UKIP Councillor Sue Ransome, the Vice-Chairman of BTAC, and Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee, and deputy leader Councillor Aaron Spencer, who is also portfolio older for finance.
Councillor Pierpoint said that there was no supporting documentation in relation to the motion – and asked why this information wasn’t attached.
He said he had spoken to some councillors when the notice came out and most had no real idea what the reasoning was behind the motion.
“Firstly, I was told it was to do with Mr Rush criticising some Lincolnshire county councillors in Boston.
“It looks as though another item was added as an afterthought, to do with supposed racist comments.
“This is all very vague, hearsay and mixed messages.
“To me, this has been handled most unprofessionally and I would like to have seen the motion explained in detail.”

***

He asked why Councillor Rush wasn’t invited to a meeting with his accusers – adding: “These five clearly lack the guts to tackle Mr Rush directly on these issues, and I am fearful they may have had some other hidden agenda.”
He said that a Facebook article where Councillor Rush was very critical of county councillors being inactive on behalf of Boston borough appeared beneath his own name and not as a councillor, nor the Mayor, and added: “It looks as if the so-called racist item was added to the motion as an afterthought, considering the article was published in 2016, and Mr Rush re-sent it with his own views in the same year.
Why has it taken two years for this to be brought up now?
“Mr Rush was not the mayor at that time, and as far as I am aware nor did the item mention he was a councillor.”

***

His conclusion was damning.
“As for wasting taxpayer’s money, wasting officers’ time, wasting councillors’ time, wasting police time… and tarnishing the borough council and the role of Mayor, the actions of these five councillors have demeaned the role of Mayor, Boston borough council and its councillors.
Councillor Pierpoint added:  “In my opinion this is not a motion, this is a direct personal attack on Mr Rush.”
And at this point he said that he felt bound to do the “honourable” thing and resign immediately from the independent group and asked all councillors to consider their position, and examine their conscience carefully.

***

Why then, did it come as no surprise that 21 councillors voted for the motion, only two voted against and one abstained?
Because that’s the way the council works in Worst Street – forget democracy, forget wanting to see the background before you vote.
Just do as you’re told.

***

From the moment the meeting was called, Councillor Rush insisted that he had done nothing wrong, and that whilst the meeting could demand his resignation he was under no obligation to submit it.
But it was thanks to the wiliness of Councillor Richard ‘Dick Dastardly’ Austin that a mechanism was created to ensure Councillor Rush would still get a rough ride.
Austin proposed an addition to the motion, seconded by Aaron Spencer (what a loyal and trusty deputy that man is) to withdraw administrative support if the meeting agreed the Mayor should resign and he refused – which would leave him without  a wealth of essential help and make the job all but impossible.
Presumably, though the people who work for the Mayor will be put on  unpaid sabbatical if the idea comes to fruition and their services aren’t needed for a couple of months.

***

So what about Councillor Pierpoint’s suggestion that there were personal undertones to the move to unseat the Mayor?
We know that Councillor Rush has not been popular with many of his peers in the council chamber, and has also been something of a political chameleon – nor do we believe is he particularly liked by some officers.

***

You need a very long memory to recall the bad old days of the Boston Bypass Independents – but it is exactly ten years ago that our local “newspapers” reported on a night when ‘unseemly behaviour and personal insults filled the council chamber.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Councillor Rush was one of two BBI members to quit the party at that meeting sometime after being sacked from the cabinet after speaking out against the leadership.
The leader then was of course none other than ... Councillor Richard ‘Papa Dick’ Austin,
The number of defectors swelled to five during that year – and after that life for the BBI was a slippery downhill slope ending as an ignominious footnote in political history books.
Is it mere co-incidence that two of the most prominent councillors involved in Councillor Rush’s fall from grace are Alison and Richard Austin – and we can also think of another couple within the group who called on him to quit who would be pleased to see the Mayor bright to heel.
Certainly, Councillor Pierpoint has a peer point!

***

The man who proposed the original motion – council leader Michael Cooper – showed that he has a lot to learn when it comes to dealing with the media.
In an impressively inept radio interview with the BBC he abruptly concluded matters by demanding that the reporter left the room.
Her “crime” was to point out that there were people in Boston who are sleeping rough, and to ask why councillors weren’t as concerned about them as they were about entries on Facebook.
MC: I’m not answering that question because that’s not what we’re here to do.
BBC: I think it’s an honest question in the interests of the public. Do you want to go on record as saying you’re refusing to answer?
MC: No (asks reporter to leave sotto voce.)
BBC: Aren’t you playing into the public perception that this is incredibly petty?
MC: You can leave …

***

As a one-time radio journalist, I can say that there is nothing nicer than a jumped-up, arrogant, overweening individual who thinks he sits Dextera Domini and treats hacks as lowlife.
When a newspaper reporter is given no comment and asked to leave, the result is an unemotional paragraph.
But when that same interviewee does a Cooper on tape or film we get an entirely different picture – and in this case it wasnt a flattering one.
Cooper failed to realise that when you talk to a newspaper reporter, or a radio and television journalist, you are talking directly to the man/woman in the street – who in an instant can form a view of the sort of person you are.
And we weren't surprised at what most people who heard the BBC interview told us.
Time for some media training Mr Cooper.

***

An interesting take on last Monday’s meeting came from former Conservative Councillor Mike Gilbert – now the man behind the new Blue Revolution political party.
He described last week’s meeting as “a sad example of the power of party politics. 
“It allowed a range of party grandees to round in his absence on Councillor Brian Rush whose attitude towards his fellow councillors was considered too 21st century for his essentially 16th century council role as Mayor.
“As a ratepayer, I felt like I had financed what at times seemed like a “Kangaroo Court" rather than a council meeting.
“The evidence on the ‘indictment’ was non-existent with various comments relating to feelings of upset, the embarrassment of councillors or the making of inappropriate remarks on social media.
“At no point did councillors make a link with specific wrongdoing being committed whilst undertaking the duties of Mayor. 
“I am afraid in the 21st century with the widespread use of social media Mayoral duties have come to the end of their day.
“The Mayor should be judged only on his impartiality when robed or on ceremonial duty, the rest of the time should be considered his.
“Perhaps 16th century expectations are the problem in the 21st century.
“Finally, as a councillor in 2007, I remember the Conservative group objecting to a constitutional change that required the Mayor to be selected by council vote and not "Buggins turn" as was the tradition.
“The Boston Bypass Independents eventually introduced this change, only for the Conservative group to adopt "Buggins turn" again when they returned to power in 2011.
“The Austins were passionate advocates of the BBI approach and cited "the wrong kind of chap" getting to be Mayor under the traditional and Conservative approach.
“Rather than a retrospective attempt to unseat the Mayor or rather get the Mayor to unseat himself, a better debate would have been for the Austins to once again challenge the system of Mayoral selection.
“That would have required some serious, considered and thoughtful debate – and not the collective 'stick the boot in' of Monday 12th  February 2018.”

***

And still keeping in touch from 375 miles away is former Boston Borough Councillor Carol Taylor, who said: “Please allow me to convey my best wishes to the worshipful the mayor councillor Brian Rush. I sincerely hope that he will show the good people of Boston just how vindictive, spiteful and nasty some councillors can be. (I was on the receiving end of this behaviour many times!)
“Councillor Alison Austin has always had a personal dislike of Brian Rush so her opinion is purely subjective.
“As for Aaron Spencer, what a great shame that this young councillor has been taken in by these old school councillors.
“When Councillor Spencer was elected back in 2011 as one of the youngest councillors in the country, Councillor Bedford recognised qualities in him that many of us didn't see and offered him tremendous opportunities to develop his political career. I always thought that Aaron would have been a future candidate for MP for Boston and Skegness.
“I am not so sure now.

***


Just a reminder that polling day for the Old Leake and Wrangle by-election is on Thursday.
The seat has become vacant through the departure of Conservative Maureen Dennis who shared electoral honours in 2015 with UKIP-cum-Unaligned-cum-Independent-cum-Unaligned Councillor Barrie Pierpoint. Four candidates fought the seat on that occasion – with the other two being Tory and UKIP.
This time around there are four candidates yet again – but from four different parties.
Local farmer Tom Ashton – who already sits on three other councils – is standing for the Conservatives; Joseph Pearson, also from Wrangle, represents Labour; Don Ransome of Boston is standing for UKIP and Richard Thornalley – also of Boston – represents the Blue Revolution Party.
  



You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   
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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com  

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston


Monday, 12 February 2018

The term “snowflake generation” is now recognised by Collins Dictionary as meaning “young adults viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations.”
But it seems that the term may not necessarily apply exclusively to the young.
We’re referring to the gang of five Worst Street councillors who are demanding the resignation of Mayor Brian Rush at an extraordinary council meeting tonight.
Their proposal declares:

This Council is deeply concerned with the actions of the Mayor in posting offensive and political comments on his Facebook page.
The Council believes the Mayor should reflect carefully on the words he has used.  He has caused significant personal distress to those named and demeaned the great office that is The Worshipful the Mayor of Boston.
The Mayor, who is the 483rd person to hold this position of historic office, has sullied the role of First Citizen and champion of the Borough with petty, political point scoring that is factually incorrect.
This Council calls for the Mayor’s resignation with immediate effect.

***

The photo at the top of the page was of a Facebook entry purportedly posted by Councillor Rush which appeared in a BBC Look North news item about the call for the Mayor to resign.
Does it appear to be offensive, distressing, petty or demeaning to the office of Mayor?
We don’t think so.
It appears to be reasonable comment on a matter of public interest – and although the Mayor is assumed to remain apolitical during his term in office, this is not written in stone.

***

After Boston Eye broke the story in last week’s blog, a Boston sub-Standard follow-up reported: “it is understood that in one of the comments he said he had no problem with the Muslim people of Britain, however called on ‘new entrants’ to undertake an oath of allegiance to Britain, its values and its population, adding that those who didn’t comply should be extradited. In another, he is understood to have criticised several councillors at borough and county level and the town’s MP.”
Also, according to the report, it is understood that Lincolnshire Police were made aware of the comments.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Well, that’s the question we asked after looking at accounts of a government-commissioned review of community cohesion and extremism by Dame Louise Casey – the findings of which were published in October 2016.
Key among the recommendations was that migrants should swear an oath of allegiance as soon as they arrive in the UK, along with the warning that that Muslims increasingly did not identify themselves as being British.

***

Whilst her report was deemed controversial, we don’t recall anyone going to the police about it or demanding her resignation.
You can read the reports yourself this one from the Daily Mail which also makes mention of Boston, and this from the Daily Telegraph 

***

So what about Councillor Rush’s other grave offence – criticising councillors at borough and county level and the town’s MP – which in some cases we understand were made before he became Mayor.
Many years ago, Worst Street’s former leader Peter Bedford told us: “Councillors do have to develop thick skins to deal with the slings and arrows of public criticism – that goes with the territory …
“ … No one entering public office expects an easy ride. Often it can be a thankless task, but one we voluntarily and willingly accept.
“And we all expect there to be criticism of what we do. In fact, we welcome constructive criticism and suggestions and ideas from any source. None of us pretends that we have all the answers.”
It seems that this is no longer the case – and that criticism now causes “significant” personal distress, which sends our Snowflake councillors bursting into floods of tears.

***

As for our MP – we hope that he was as surprised as we were to find the Feeble Five lining up in his corner to fight his battles for him.
He’s always struck us as the sort of bloke who can stand up for himself without the need of help from the bunch of ninnies behind this grubby plot to oust the Mayor.
Interestingly, one of these five once caused us grave offence with an unpleasant and totally untrue accusation – made privately, of course.
Did we do anything other than take it in our stride?
Of course not.

***

That leaves the issue of going to the police.
According to the newspaper account, a spokesman said: “We were made aware of a Facebook post which we were told caused concern to some individuals in the community.
“An investigation into this was initiated and found that no hate crime or any other criminal offence was committed.
“We have referred the incident back to the associated organisation as there will be no further police involvement.”
Yet still the Fatuous Five have persisted.
The only good news about this is that even if the vote is carried, Councillor Rush is entitled to ignore and carry on Mayoring until the end of his term – and he has already declared that this is what he will do.
***

At this point the planned extraordinary meeting says more about the five signatories than their complaint.
Council leader Michael Cooper proposed it, seconded by Tory Councillor David Brown with also-rans “Independent” Alison Austin, Sue Ransome from UKIP, and deputy leader Aaron Spencer.
Despite the flamboyant language of the motion, no details of the complaints have been produced – so unless the council delivers its usual rubber stamp tonight we would expect details to emerge at the meeting.
We do not think that either the leader or his deputy should have signed the motion. Their “rank” alone should have made them stay aloof and above this sort of thing.
However, all of them show a lack of political and diplomatic skills in that they shoot from the lip and air the council’s dirty linen in public instead of behaving like grown-ups and seeking negotiation rather than confrontation.

***

The BBC Look North report that we mentioned earlier raised one seriously important issue.
Whilst Councillor Rush stepped up to the plate to explain himself, NOT ONE of his five accusers was willing to specify the charges against him.
Will they remain silent at tonight’s meeting?
Have their allegations been circulated privately in the hope that they will be rubber stamped by the meeting without discussion?
We worry that the meeting might begin with a call for the Mayor to step aside as chairman for the night – but there is no reason why he should …
We also wonder whether the spineless critics who dare not show themselves will call for the meeting to be held with members of the public and press excluded under the
Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 which permits a meeting to be held in closed session “when publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest by reason of the confidential nature of the business to be transacted or for other special reasons stated in the resolution and arising from the nature of that business or of the proceedings.”
At this point, nothing would surprise us.
  
***

The numbers are in so now we can see what the powers that be want to tap us up for the coming year’s council tax.
Lincolnshire County Council wants 4.95% – made up of 2.95% general council tax, and a further 2.00% for authorities with adult social care responsibilities.
Boston Borough Council wants 2.98% and Lincolnshire Police have proposed a 5.8% increase.
Cumulatively everyone is keen to point out that these price hikes represent just a few pounds a year more.
But as always, the question has to be asked about how the money is being spent.
For example, the police budget of £118 million is reported to include nearly £1m for “victims’ services” – but is this an area that should be funded by the police or ought it to be met from some sort social funding budget? 
We are also told that the money from the increase will enable the force to retain its complement of 1,100 officers and up to 120 PCSOs – who as ever all remain conspicuous by their absence.

***

As far as Worst Street is concerned, we continue to be baffled by claims that whilst swingeing cuts of millions of pounds to budgets and services have been made, there has been scarcely any impact on staffing.
It should be axiomatic that if you cut services – or hand them over to volunteers, or private contractors – then fewer people would be needed on the Base Camp Worst Street payroll.
Not so.
In 2015, the council budget assumed that by 2018/19 the number of full-time equivalent staff would be 250.
It now stands at 263.
That’s an increase of thirteen after cuts galore have been made; promises about services have been broken and tasks such as environmental enforcement have been contracted  to third party organisations.
In 2013-2014, staffing levels were running at 99% – a figure that has stayed the same and is predicted to remain so for another TEN years.
What has changed are the amounts of money that top officers are being paid.
In recent years, we have seen several big money jobs coming in – for managers who are taking quite some time to show their worth.
Meanwhile, it seems that a lot of people are carrying on regardless – earning the same as before when there is nothing for them to do.
And interestingly, it is very difficult to discover the total cost of the Worst Street wages bill amidst the midden of paperwork issued by the council.

***

A blog or two ago, we observed that Worst Street would be well employed to report on some of the decisions taken by committees, rather than padding its website with irrelevant stuff that’s nothing to do with the council.
Oddly enough, this came to pass last week – but only by way of the council policy of treating its taxpayers as gullible idiots.
Beneath the headline Boston 'special rate': Less than 19p a day, we were told that
Boston Town Area Committee ward residents “may have to pay less than 19p a day” as their "parish" portion of their overall council tax bill for 2018/19 to fund the £648,327 needed to help pay for public toilets, Central Park, footway lights and open spaces.
Presumably this was deemed good news and a small price to pay.
BTAC-ky made a recommendation to increase its precept in line with inflation – three per cent, a £71.98 annual charge for a band D property.
Better still,  said Worst Street, “the majority of properties in the area are rated less than band D, so will pay less than this.”
Such good news must be greeted with delight – surely
But just look back a few years to 2015-16 – before BTAC-ky re-wrote its constitution to take on costs previously met by the council centrally – an exercise that let our leaders off the hook and enabled them to look good in financial terms, whilst shovelling expenses on to what was once a penny-ante do-nothing committee.


In those good old days, BTAC-ky rubbed by with a budget of £114,000, and a band D taxpayer paid just £12.72.
Next year’s charge is a mere 565 per-cent increase compared with two or three years ago.

***

By a quirky co-incidence this brings us to our Cheek of the Week award – which goes to Worst Street Councillor Stephen Woodliffe.
Mr Woodliffe is a member of the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel, which met last week to approve the previously mentioned council tax rise for our people in blue.
According to reports of the meeting, up popped Mr W to ask how our Police and Crime Commissioner expected “hard-pressed residents” to fund such a significant increase.
Spool back to July 2016 when BTAC-ky – of which Mr Woodliffe is a member – was ramping up its precept like there was no tomorrow.
We wrote to all members of BTAC to protest their breach of constitution and also the high charges being imposed on a poor area.
Back came the response: “I also take issue with your assertion that the extra precept charges will be imposed upon residents of the poorest wards in the town.  The precept depends upon the valuation of the property and not upon its location. Thus, the greatest charge falls on those living in the highest rated band H properties, who pay much more than that of a band A property ...
“Looking to the future, as a BTAC resident, it is my view that a charge of one pound a week on a band D property (£50 a year – ed) , and much less for a band A property, for BTAC would be a very reasonable charge to make to ensure that Boston remains an attractive pleasant place to live; and I hope that the public see the sense of such a proposal.”
It’s good to see that Councillor Woodliffe now seems to be developing a conscience – albeit a bit late in the say.

***

Better late than never, the Labour and  UKIP candidates for the  borough council by-election for the Old Leake and Wrangle Ward on 22nd February, have sent in pen portraits of themselves.
Labour’s Joseph Pearson says: “I attended Giles School until after my GCSEs in 2003.
“I have lived in both Old Leake and Wrangle for over half of my life and am proud to call Wrangle my home, this is where I grew up. I have worked in the NHS at Pilgrim Hospital for ten years, most as a portering supervisor.
“I know of the shortage of housing in the area, the state of the roads, and the ever reducing public services and want to work to make a difference.
“In the past I have volunteered at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Boston and assisted people with issues that matter to them.
“Perhaps the most important thing I learnt whilst volunteering is that what one person considers insignificant may be of the most importance to another.
“From my experience I know life can be challenging and that some need support in overcoming those challenges, that the schools and councils need to be held to account to support those who need it if they are to better themselves.”
UKIP candidate Don Ransome says: “I joined UKIP back in 1999 and a vote for me is a vote for UKIP.
 “I promise to stay a UKIP councillor.
“I have lived here for over 25 years, am ex-forces, self-employed and married with four children. 
“Vote UKIP If you want a Pro-Brexit Pro-Active Pro-Community Councillor instead of Tory voting fodder.”
We’re still awaiting a reply from the Conservative candidate – who is seeking a fourth councillor role – but now that a fortnight has passed since we asked  we will not be holding our breath.

***

Finally – some comments from opponents of the football stadium development which is part of the Quadrant project at Wyberton.
An e-mail says: “No doubt you have now heard the news that the project known as the Quadrant has been awarded another dollop of taxpayers’ money to help Chestnut Homes Managing Director David Newton with his stadium to the tune of £3.5m. 
“Even in Mr Newton’s words, he says that it will be built but perhaps not in the original format.
“If this does not go back to Boston Borough Council as a completely new application there may be a wave of condemnation from the residents of Wyberton.  The money should be spent on infrastructure and community assets, not on just a few football supporters. 
“After all there were only 77 people who voted for the stadium plans back in 2014 when we held a referendum in Wyberton.
“Some have had their properties put on hold for long enough, whether to sell or not.
 “Mr Newton says he will build a stadium for less money – that means he should have to submit a new planning application to amend changes.”






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, 5 February 2018

In an astonishing and unprecedented attack, a group of Worst Street councillors have ganged together to try to force the resignation of Boston Borough Council’s 483rd Mayor, Councillor Brian Rush.
An extraordinary meeting of the council has been called for a week tonight after five fellow councillors signed a motion stating: 
That this Council is deeply concerned with the actions of the Mayor in posting offensive and political comments on his Facebook page.

The Council believes the Mayor should reflect carefully on the words he has used.  He has caused significant personal distress to those named and demeaned the great office that is The Worshipful the Mayor of Boston.
The Mayor, who is the 483rd person to hold this position of historic office, has sullied the role of First Citizen and champion of the Borough with petty, political point scoring that is factually incorrect.
This Council calls for the Mayor’s resignation with immediate effect.
There are five signatories to the motion.
The proposer is the Leader of the Council, Michael Cooper.
Seconder is Councillor David Brown, a Tory representative for Wyberton, who is Chairman of the Planning Committee – and ironically listed as a Facebook “friend” of the Mayor’s.
The rump of the group comprises Councillor Alison Austin, a so-called Independent councillor for St Thomas' Ward and herself a former Mayor.
Councillor Sue Ransome, UKIP member for the Station Ward, Vice-Chairman of BTAC, and Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee, and Councillor Aaron Spencer, the Tory representative for the Five Villages Ward, a deputy leader of the council and Portfolio Holder for Finance
Between them they have conjured up some tough talk – with phrases such a “significant personal distress” “demeaning” a great office and “sullying” the role of Mayor.
Sullying is a particularly hefty choice of word.
Synonyms include to taint, defile, soil, tarnish, stain, blemish, besmirch, befoul, contaminate, pollute, spoil, disgrace, dishonour, injure, damage – all apparently through a few entries on social media.
We‘ve taken a look at Brian Rush’s Facebook page.
It is quite clearly a personal document – and one which makes no reference to his role as Mayor of Boston.
Additionally, as far as we can see, there are few if any references to council business and we understand that any comments Councillor Rush may have made over time related to local councillors in their County rather than their Borough role.
We also understand that constitutionally, he cannot be made to resign or removed from office.
The only circumstances in which an enforced departure could be imposed would be in the event of a Mayor being handed a criminal conviction – and that is certainly not the case here.
Another question raised by this move to unseat the Mayor is why it was not approached in another way – perhaps through an informal discussion involving the Leader and the Chief Executive.
And if that was considered insufficient there is a long-established code of conduct which – whilst primarily available to members of the public – ought not to preclude one councillor who feels aggrieved by the behaviour of another from making a formal personal complaint – although none of those said to have been “distressed” have been named (unless they are the signatories, of course.)
Demanding a specially-called but very aptly named extraordinary meeting, the gang of five have landed the taxpayers with a totally unnecessary bill that will not achieve its purpose.
Instead the council is merely washing its dirty linen in public – and we cannot help but think that there is more by way of personal animosity towards Councillor Rush in this than there are fears for the reputation of the office of Mayor.
Another interesting point worth noting is that the agenda for the February 12th meeting appeared on the borough’s website last Thursday – well outside the usual week-in-advance time lag before such documents appear.

***

The position of Mayor of the borough of Boston dates back to 1545 with the incorporation of the borough by Henry VIII.
In its heyday, the role included chief magistrate, coroner and gaol keeper, but today is mainly ceremonial.
One irony of these latest events is that the mayor chairs the council meetings – which puts him in charge of the meeting calling for his resignation.
Don’t forget that this is a public meeting, which it might be interesting to attend to see “democracy” in action.

***

Councillor Rush was appointed Mayor of Boston in May last year.
He was born and raised in Omagh, Northern Ireland, but the Boston area has been home for most of his life.
He joined the RAF at 18 and when he settled in Boston formed his own company, Boston Signs in 1980, and ran it for about 30 years.
He served as an elected member from 2007-2013 representing Frampton and Holme Ward and was re-elected in 2015 to represent Staniland Ward.
During his time in office he has had a chequered political history.
He was first elected as a member of the Boston Bypass Independents. He later left the party and co-founded the Better Boston Group.
He was re-elected for UKIP and united the party as leader after the now familiar internal wrangling before leaving and is now associated with no political party in particular.

***


Election fever is again griping Boston (shouldn’t that be gripping? – Ed. No – author.)
Just 17 days from now, on Thursday 22nd February, the eyes of the world will be focussed on Old Leake and Wrangle and a by-election created by the sudden and inexplicable departure of veteran Tory Maureen Dennis who had represented the ward since 2003.

***

Four candidates are contesting the seat:  Local farmer Tom Ashton is standing for the Conservatives; Joseph Pearson, also from Wrangle, represents Labour; Don Ransome of Boston is standing for UKIP and Richard Thornalley – also of Boston – represents the recently formed Blue Revolution Party.

***

Statistics for the ward estimate a population of about 3,360 with 2,730 of voting age.
At the 2015 election the seat was contested by two Tory and two UKIP candidates. Maureen Dennis won for the Conservatives, and Barrie Pierpoint was elected for UKIP.
However, he quit the party that same evening and was styled as unaligned until a year ago when he threw in his lot with the so-called Independents Alison and Richard Austin.
At the 2011 election aside from Mrs Dennis, another Tory claimed the seat from the Boston Bypass Independents in a three cornered contest between the Tories, UKIP and the BBI.
And at the 2007 election­ – in a similar three corned fight between the same three parties, the BBI candidate ousted one of the two Tories.
Before that it was a two-Tory ward after the 2004 election.

***

There is a forbidding feeling that the result is most likely cut and dried and that we may well see a return to the days of 2004.
Certainly the Tory candidate Tom Ashton couldn’t be keener.
His is already a well-known party activist.
According to the local party website he has been the East Lindsey District Councillor for Sibsey and Stickney since 2015.
He was elected to the Lincolnshire County Council Tattershall Castle ward in 2017, and along with these jobs is also chairman of the Boston and Skegness Conservative Association. 
Oh, and he’s a parish councillor as well.
In fact in 2015, we noted that his enthusiasm to serve was so great that as well as standing in Sibsey and Stickney for a seat in East Lindsey,  he campaigned alongside former Boston Borough Council leader Peter Bedford in Worst Street’s Coastal Ward as well – falling to a UKIP candidate.
Some might question his ability to serve so many areas, and think that adding yet another political notch on his gun might be biting off more than he can chew.
We couldn’t possibly comment.

***

So what of the other candidates?
We asked either the candidates or their local group leaders to send us a pen portrait – but by the time this issue went to bed last night, only one had been received. The other three ignored our request, which speak volumes about their attitide.
The response that came was from the Blue Revolution Party, and told us: “Richard Thornalley is a local man and attended local schools.
“He is a taxi driver for a Boston-based company and as a result of his occupation understands the challenges confronted by local road users and the importance of stimulating the local economy.
“He hears a lot of comments from people he meets who have strong views about Boston and the surrounding areas so whilst not a resident of Old Leake and Wrangle he has knowledge of the area and local people's concerns.
“If elected he would bring an ordinary person’s point of view to the business of Boston Borough Council. 
“Richard is a down to earth individual and wants to be the ordinary voter's voice on Boston Council.
“Like all supporters of Blue Revolution Richard thinks the two-party system and the way we are governed nationally and locally are out of date and need reform to better reflect the concerns of ordinary people.”

***

We hear that a solution has been found to the problem of the Christmas in Boston accounts.
Regular readers will recall that the group’s treasurer was sacked after he raised concerns about the way that some assets had been used. 
This left the committee with the problem of having to submit a set of accounts to BTAC-ky – which provided match funding for the project – whilst airbrushing out the report’s criticisms.
We are told that the solution is along the lines that we predicted last week.
The accounts alone are being sent to an independent auditor for verification.
As they have already been professionally compiled, they will certainly be in order.
But what the auditors won’t see is the criticism that accompanied the figures.
Pretty neat, eh?

***


Boston MP Matt Warman was all a-Twitter last week at the news that the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund had stumped up £3.5m towards Boston’s Quadrant housing, bypass and stadium project.
It follows a £4.75 million grant a couple of years ago from the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, which it was said “will enable the first phase of the Quadrant scheme in Boston to be delivered” The project completion date was given as “March 2017.”
The full cost of the project was given as £23.1 million  so the developer, Chestnut Homes, seems well on the way to getting its profits from public funding.
By an interesting co-incidence last week also saw the Quadrant development officially launched with the opening of four new show homes. 
The first phase will include 147 homes with 100 under construction already and 22 already sold to a local housing association.
However, it seems that everything is not yet plain sailing.
The Boston sub-Standard told us that Chestnut Homes Managing Director David Newton said funding was still an issue for the Quadrant Stadium, with an increase in costs and the project being turned down for grant funding from Sport England, but said he had fingers crossed for further help.
“He admitted that he regretted saying the stadium would start last year, but promised he would. (sic)
“’We will start building this year, we've said that, I know I said that last year but that was when, you know I don't normally say something I can't back up but last year we were 99.9% and I said we would build and I regret that because we weren't able to do that but this year we will start building.(sic)
 “’Where we're at is, if we don't get the funding in place we've got seven or eight million and we will build the stadium for that amount of money.’”
What we find hard to understand is how so much grant money finds its way into a scheme planned by a private developer and clearly designed to make a massive profit.
Or does the developer plan to hand some of the profit back to the taxpayers who are building the project?

***

Remember our words of worry last week about Worst Street’s contract with 3GS – a private company that manages its environmental enforcement … i.e. issues tickets to litterers, fly tippers and the like.
We raised an EYE-brow at the news that Worst Street issued only seven fixed penalty notices for environmental crime offences in 2016/17 – whilst 3GS handed out 514 between April and December 2017.
“What does this tell us?” we asked.
“Either that Boston Borough Council failed dismally in its task, or that very few offences were committed.
“Or that 3GS – if nothing else – is being over-enthusiastic where the reporting of offences is concerned.”

***

Scarcely had our comments appeared when we read reports in a national newspaper about a woman living in the Brighton and Hove council area who was caught putting a single piece of rubbish into a communal recycling container after 3GS went through the rubbish – and fined £600.
She called for an end for what she called intimidating tactics employed by 3GS, who told her over the phone that she could be taken to court and face a £2,500 fine or a prison sentence. 
The story appeared after a Daily Telegraph investigation found that the number of councils employing "litter police" to issue fixed penalty notices for a range of minor offences has tripled in three years. 
The newspaper said: “Members of the public are 20 times more likely to be hit with a fine in one of the 39 areas which contract out the work to private enforcers, in some cases allowing them to keep 100% of the fine as payment in a system which critics say acts as an “incentive” to hand out tickets.  
"Brighton and Hove issued no fixed penalty notices in 2014 or 2015, but this rose to 2,133 in 2016 after 3GS were employed.

***

This week’s shooting yourself in the foot award goes – not surprisingly – to Boston Borough Council.
Last year, a Worst Street cock-up saw thousands of garden waste stickers valued at £30 each for a year’s collection sent out in error due to a “purely human error, compounded by a complicated computerised process”
This year – perhaps by way of making amends – users of the service paying by direct debit received an e-mail asking: “Want to be in with a chance of winning your garden waste service for free?
“Simply reply to this email with the answer to the following question:
“How many tonnes of garden waste were collected in 2016/17?”
But within hours, the a second message followed the initial e-mail.
“Dear Garden Waste Customer,
“There was an error in relation to the competition question in the email that we sent today about your garden waste. Please accept our apologies and see the correct information below. If you are happy with your answer you do not need to do anything, however, should you wish to change your answer please reply to this email….”
“ … Want to be in with a chance of winning your garden waste service for free?
“Simply reply to this email with the answer to the following question:
“How many tonnes of garden waste were collected in 2016/17?
 A)    5,000
B)     9,000
C)     15,000
“Not sure, take a look at our website for the answer ...”
After all this nonsense, we wonder whether Worst Street actually knows what the answer to the question is!




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