“While your analysis of the shortcomings of the borough council is always informative and often entertaining, I do find myself wondering what your ideas would be for improving the quality of governance in West Street,” he wrote.
“A complete change of councillors..? – as the BBP showed in 2007, sweeping out the old councillors doesn’t necessarily mean the new ones will perform better.
“Targeted training? Increased funding? Better administrative support? A restructuring of local government..?
“Or is it all a lost cause because no-one with real talent stays in Boston?
“Highlighting shortcomings and hypocrisy is an important role, but if you genuinely care for the local area then you ought to help come up with possible solutions as well. “If those who are concerned do nothing to try and improve it, how are things going to get better?”
Well … if Boston Borough Council was a ship, it would be becalmed – stuck in the doldrums … or perhaps stuck with dumb drolls!
It would be dead in the water, a phrase defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as meaning something has failed, and has no likelihood of being successful in the future.
Frankly, we think it is now too late for things to get better.
Worst Street is lacking on two levels.
Among the councillors themselves, there is an absence of quality debate.
Repeatedly, requests are made in full council meetings to suspend a rule which bars members from speaking more than once during a debate – but invariably, on being put to the vote, the motion is defeated.
This clearly stifles discussion, and is done simply to block UKIP – a move which has also seen the Labour group and so-called independents vote with the leadership … selling their principles for a mess of pottage.
Having said that, UKIP doesn't seem especially put out at being robbed of a voice.
Having said that, UKIP doesn't seem especially put out at being robbed of a voice.
Adoption of the cabinet system of governance was a dreadful mistake.
It was introduced by the By-pass Independents, because their majority gave them absolute control over decision making – a right that was frequently abused.
The succeeding Tory leadership was happy to continue the arrangement for the same reason – and we now have a situation where effectively just six people take the decisions ... many of whom have no real abilities or life experience to manage the portfolios that they have been given.
It creates a potential for mistakes to be made – and costly ones at that … as with the case of two major recent items of expenditure involving the provision of biomass boilers at the Moulder Pool and the PRSA.
In the first, the council had to approve a 64% rise in costs by from £456,000 to £749,000 – with a rejigged estimate of the so-called “profits” as a damage limitation exercise because of miscalculations.
Then, when asked who was paying for the fuel – whilst it was confirmed that we taxpayers were … we heard that the tendering process was “underway” – meaning that the boilers has been bought but with no idea of the cost of running them.
Our councillors are largely anonymous – unseen and unheard.
They need to communicate with us better – as does the council itself
In recent weeks we have heard more from former councillors Yvonne Gunter and Paul Kenny than we have from most of the “sitting tenants.”
But it’s not just the elected members – the council also has a team of officers.
It has been said for years that it’s they who take the decisions and the councillors who bend the knee – and this may well be true to some extent.
Many officers are long-serving – and we worry that this is synonymous with a lack of desire for change.
Boston is a nice quiet little backwater – one of the smallest local authorities in the country, where little ever gets done – and it may well be that this suits some people just fine.
One opportunity for change of direction was ignored when former Chief Executive Richard Harbord resigned, and was replaced by Phil Drury in an acting capacity.
Mr Drury began his career with the council in 1983 as a youth trainee, and aside from a brief departure has been there ever since – thirty three years.
He was shooed into the £95,000 a year post just over a year ago without the job being advertised or any other form of competitive process taking place – something that raised an eyebrow or two among a handful of councillors, whose thoughts were overruled by others more sympathetic.
Mr Drury may well be the best man for the job – but we will never know.
His length of service makes him senior to all the councillors … including the “leader” ‘Nipper’ Bedford who was first elected in 1991 – a mere quarter of a century ago.
Try as we might, we cannot warm to the idea of a council packed with long-serving, stuck-in-the-mud inflexible and unimaginative councillors and managed by officers who are similarly long in the tooth
As we have said before – Worst Street is now such a minnow in the local government pond that it budget is largely spent on paying its wage bill for collecting taxes for the county and police authorities, and little else.
A possible solution might be to merge Worst Street with neighbours South Holland and East Lindsey – saving millions in the process and introducing new blood which might at last see us moving forward.
This reminded us that even when Boston tried for some self-improvement; it fell at the first fence. Back in January, Worst Street advertised a newly-created £65,000 Head of Service: Economic Development and Growth – “a high profile appointment” … with responsibility for providing strategic, visionary and organisational leadership in all aspects of inward investment, growth and wider regeneration and economic development for the Borough.”
Worst Street appointed a high-powered recruitment firm to find the right candidate – but with the advert appearing so soon after Christmas, received no takers.
Undaunted, the council’s head hunters to sought a head with a smaller hat size – and produced three candidates who might do the job at a pinch.
After months of agonising, the chosen candidate changed his mind, leaving the council back at square zero.
Enter a new job advert for a lower grade post at a salary of £25,000 below the original – a paltry £40,000 …“to lead on economic development”
Closing date for applicants was midnight on 17th July – since when we have heard nothing.
But don’t worry – not everyone lost out – the recruitment company Veredus charged Worst Street more than £16,000 for advertising and its time.
Earlier, we mentioned the cost of the biomass project at the Moulder Pool and PRSA – and the longer this business drags on, the more confused we become.
In the list of council spending for July, we note “work re biomass plant room” costing £3,477 and £1,939, along with “supply of woodchip for PRSA” of £840 and £420 and “supply of woodchip to GMLC based on 2 del per week” of £840.
So, as this is a monthly statement, what sort of costs are we looking at for the Moulder Pool?
Is the supply costing based on two deliveries a week the monthly figure – or is it twice this, or something in between.
As this information is provided for purposes of “transparency” – could someone please make it less opaque?
Or is the intention to keep spending on the Moulder Pool and the PRSA (in particular) as ambiguous as possible?
Whilst Worst Street may be a heel dragger in the new blood department, not so Lincolnshire Police.
The announcement that the present Chief Constable is to retire next year was immediately followed by the statement from the publicity fond Police and Crime Commissioner, Marc Jones.
He said that he would be open to receiving applications from the best candidates for Lincolnshire – from near or far.
“Only the National Crime Agency has advertised internationally for a leader prior to this, but the regulations allow us to advertise in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for a Chief Constable replacement so we will be promoting the vacancy in those areas as well as the United Kingdom.”
Obviously this is just a publicity stunt – and hopefully we will not see a force with a multi-million pound black hole in the budget paying to fly candidates from around the world to Lincolnshire for an interview.
Although some interesting candidates spring to mind …
McCloud of TV fame, Sheriff Lyle 'Cottonmouth' Wallace from “Convoy,” Marshall Matt Dillon of “Gunsmoke” or perhaps even Wyatt Earp (see picture.)
More likely, though, we’d end up with “Hopalong” Cassidy.
Last week we mentioned Boston’s gold badge from the East Midlands in Bloom contest this year – and asked what benefits if any it might bring to the town.
The answer would appear to be – not a lot!
Many people are under the impression that Boston will now become a magnet for visitors coming to see the marvellous floral displays.
But a close look at the East Midlands results show more than 30 Lincolnshire towns, schools, pubs etc., gaining awards.
And in the large town category, Boston shared gold with Louth and Spalding, whilst Sleaford and Gainsborough merited a silver gilt award.
Fairly soon everyone will have a badge – and what will we do then?
Another earner for cash-strapped Worst Street looks to result from shoehorning staff currently at the Department of Work and Pensions into the West Street offices. It seems that the Treasury is willing to stump up a big wodge of cash for officer space.
But where are all these people going to sit?
A number of County Council staff are there already and the Boston Registration Office offers weddings in the council chamber as well as its other services.
At this rate, the Houses in Multiple Occupation – about which we read such toe-curling horror stories, will seem as luxury hotels by comparison.
Finally – do you remember Robin Hunter-Clark, the UKIP runner up for the Boston and Skegness Westminster parliamentary seat at last year’s general election?
Recently, we were told that UKIP spent more money trying to win our seat than any other in the country – almost £50,000.
Since then, the young man who hoped to be the country’s youngest MP. has gone west – and now works in Wales for Neil Hamilton, the UKIP Group Leader in the Welsh National Assembly.
How small the world of politics is …
Last year Mr Hamilton – still best known for his disgrace in the cash-for-questions affair – was being touted as the Boston candidate, before Mr Hunter-Clarke suddenly assumed the role … to no small amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth from other would-be contenders.
Mr H-C has previously insisted that he will be stand again for Boston and Skegness in 2020.
But earlier this week, he tweeted: “Very honoured to have been elected as the Chairman of the Vale of Glamorgan UKIP Branch this evening!”
We somehow doubt that we will see him back in another four years – and if he does throw his hat into the ring, who will remember him?
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