of the week's
news and events
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Part one of the Boston Market Place refurbishment is literally grinding to a close and as the barriers began to disappear, the new look pavement area has become visible (see our picture on the right.) We appreciate that memory is a funny old thing and can often be deceptive, but quite frankly, we are pushed to see much by way of a difference!
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Is Boston Borough Council attempting a little spin doctoring? The day after it agreed to extend Chief Executive Richard Harbord’s contract by 18 months, an announcement appeared on the council's website. It was followed by a second announcement from the man himself - trumpeting that the council had received a clean bill of health from the Audit Commission for its value for money and governance arrangements. In fact that information had been available some time earlier - in the commission’s annual governance report presented to the borough’s Audit Committee and published on the council's website. Granted, it had to be officially rubber stamped, but the headline news was the same, and it seems to us that the timing was just a little too convenient.
Meanwhile, we are told that Mr Harbord’s extended stay will allow time for future permanent chief executive arrangements to be made. Council leader Peter Bedford said that within six months the council will start looking for a new boss and added that it was clear it could no longer sustain a full-time post – so talks will be held with neighbouring authorities about sharing a chief executive. Bad news for the hangers-on at Worst Street, who may have hoped that things might go their way by default! Councillor Bedford also told cost conscious council taxpayers that, under Mr Harbord’s new contract, the bill would fall by three-and-a-half per cent. That’s all right then – his £600 a day fee for 15 days work a month will reduce by £21 a day - to a penurious £579 – plus, of course, some not inconsiderable expenses.
Mind you, even a pay packet such as that pales into insignificance beside the one handed to our local MP Mark Simmonds according to this week’s Private Eye.
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Back to the Chief Executive business - and we wonder which neighbouring local authority Boston might share the job with, as there are only two. Terry Huggins already has plenty on his plate with two councils to juggle with – South Holland and Breckland – which have things in common … unlike Boston. Mr Huggins is also a director of Compass Point Business Services, a joint South Holland and East Lindsey district council enterprise, which shares services and hires out its talents – although according to Private Eye, they have yet to secure a single contract. That leaves East Lindsey, which, with an area of 1,760 km², is the fifth largest district in England. Boston, at 360 km², is not only tiny, but has little in common with its bigger neighbour. Aside from that, Boston has already hired out its Section 151 officer ti East Lindsey on a job share - and we think that a further share might complicate things. Perhaps East Lindsey could just take us over? Without prejudging the issue, we expect that once again – given the principal players - it will all end in tears.
Tomorrow is Lincolnshire Day! What, we hear you cry? Well it’s the day when Lincolnshire celebrates its Lincolnshire-ness – brute and beastly shire, and all that sort of thing. But not in Boston, apparently. As far as we can tell no events are planned to mark the day - which we think is twice as many as last year!The latest fallout from the Mail on Sunday/Peter Hitchens report debate appears on one of our local Facebook pages - used by English Democrat Councillor Elliott Fountain ... who is campaigning for a referendum to vote on the idea of an elected Mayor for Boston. A supporter asks: “How many of you would and your friends would be willing to turn out to do a protest march through Boston town centre in protest at the mass immigration we have had to put up with and to show we’re sick of it? It's time to take action as we all moan about them, so would you be willing to do your bit if it was organised? Councillor Fountain has replied: “If the numbers are high enough and it can be guaranteed that it will be a peaceful protest organised in a good manner then I will consider helping and supporting it and getting people to join. Many people have been talking about this lately and people want to show they’re upset someway. I would want to see good numbers and a good show of support by a good number of people. I would like to see 2,000-plus.”
A separate group has also been set up – see photo (above) The Boston Protest March Group claims to have 1,641 supporters.
This week’s local newspapers report the graffiti vandals responsible for 100 separate incidents of defacement. Given that Boston has an elaborate, extensive and expensive CCTV system, we wonder how these people managed to slip through the net. Were the cameras too busy looking for people dropping litter, we wonder? And what about the painting of a building next to the anti-smoking campaign office in Strait Bargate? It’s claimed that it must have taken some time and involved up to three people. Now we hear that the police plan to hawk photos of the graffiti around local schools and colleges to try to identify the culprits. If they got out on the streets more, they might possibly catch these people red handed!
The issue of keeping electors informed through open and transparent local government was touched on in yesterday’s blog. In the minutes of July’s full council, Leader Peter Bedford explained that if it was necessary (ho, ho) to make a report exempt from publication, - which means throwing the public and press out of the room - a covering briefing note would be made available giving an overview of the subject and recommendations. We wonder if he can explain why this promise was not kept in regard to the item concerning the future role of the Chief Executive. This item was debated at last Monday’s full council meeting, having been exempted until a few hours before the meeting itself, when it was mysteriously released. The agenda was in the public domain for at least a week before that – without a covering note!
And as an aside, we wonder whether councillors could think twice before they refer to the people who put them into office – and whom they theoretically “serve” – as members of the public? In a guide to electors, Peterborough City Council sums up the situation succinctly when it tells visitors to its website “Councillors are members of the public who are elected to represent the views of the people …” In other words they are no different from the rest of us – even though we are sure that many of our local great and good would argue otherwise. Councillors are no more than members of the public who have successfully put themselves forward for service and have no more rights or privileges than we ordinary folk – though judging by the tidal wave of pomposity we have heard from some members of Boston Borough Council recently, a reminder or two might be timely.
We appreciate that feelings run high when local landmarks come under threat, but think that people got a little over-excited by the plans to demolish the Conway School in Boston and replace it with housing. The school was established in 1851 in George Street, and sometime between then and 1905 moved to Tunnard Street. We think that it was right to reject the plans in their present form but are also sure that a satisfactory alternative can be devised. Demolishing the school will only cause significant harm to the Boston Conservation Area and the Centenary Methodist Church if the wrong plans are approved. The fact is that the school building is neither particularly old, nor particularly attractive. Where is the harm if it were removed and replaced with a sympathetic development - perhaps incorporating some of the original building? And who can honestly say that the streetscape is currently enhanced by the view of the charity shop pictured below, left?
A couple of other things, whilst we’re banging on. To use the word sacrilegious to describe the idea of removing this building is rather over-egging the pudding. Sacrilege is defined as desecration, profanation, misuse, or theft of something sacred – which surely does not apply to the school – even though it is owned by the Parish of Boston. We also think that Councillor Brian Rush was misquoted by the Boston Target when he reportedly said: “I would be loathed to knock down such a beautiful building.” It may well be true, but we are sure that he probably said he would be loath to do such a thing. One other quote that did concern us was attributed to Boston town centre supremo Councillor Derek Richmond, who said: “We can’t afford to lose these buildings. It’s our heritage and that’s about all Boston has going for it at the moment. Such negativity from someone holding such an important position of authority beggars belief!
Finally, we see that the editor of the Boston Standard defends anonymity for the paper’s latest columnist – because it allows freedom of expression without fear of retribution. We think that so far the only retribution that this writer might be in danger of is from lovers of the English language, angered at seeing it mauled on a weekly basis. And if it is really necessary to have a Poetry Corner in the paper, then could that be checked by the sub editors (assuming there are any these days) as well?
No apostrophes. Baton instead of batten. Good grief, we’re starting to sound like their columnist!
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