Wednesday, 21 September 2011

How could anyone think that Boston was 'difficult to get to, and perhaps not worth going to?'

Councillor Paul Skinner asks his question
After last Thursday’s chaotic  meeting in Boston to "discuss" the disastrous Market Place refurbishment scheme, the issue went under the spotlight again on Friday at Lincolnshire County Council’s September meeting, in a calmer and much more positive atmosphere.

Following the waffle and bluster from the "experts" paraded before last week's Boston audience, the matter was raised during the LCC question time session by Boston South  Conservative councillor  Paul Skinner.
Councillor Skinner asked Councillor Eddie Poll  Lincolnshire's supremo for economic development, which includes regeneration, tourism and cultural services: “Whereas the Market Place project in Boston is welcome, it has got off to a poor start. The perceived lack of organisation has put a message out that the town centre is closed - and it certainly isn’t. Times are hard enough at the moment for business, and this project and the way it has been run is adding to this stress. In fact the new game in town is spot the worker. 
"When the consultation on this project was initially done, the Christmas period also was supposed to be a work free zone as best possible.
"What is needed with this now is smart working to maximise the use of the space to the benefit of all. "Could we receive an assurance that this project will be put back on track, and would Councillor Poll also like to comment on the likelihood of the project being finished on or before time?”
Unfortunately for online spectators the webcast of this first meeting for almost four months was rendered largely inaudible for most of the question time session due to a fault in the audio system, but nontheless, we managed to work out most of what was said.
Councillor Poll agreed that the project had got off to “a bit of a slow start.”
He harped back to Boston’s road improvements and said he thought everyone would agree that the traffic flow had improved, but went on: “That brought about an embargo on other roadworks which now have to be done, so with the roadworks coupled with the Market Place, I can understand the impression could arise that Boston was difficult to get to, and perhaps not worth going to.
“As to the bit about not many people working on the various sites around town, some of the areas had to stop to enable us to protect the archaeological digs that were going on as part of the Boston Big Dig project, which has been very well supported, so in some of the compounds there’s not been much going on in the way of laying stone - but that’s been for other reasons.”
He said the contractors should be getting up to speed by the start of this week – “because by then they should have finished the stuff they’re doing here in Lincoln which is part of the public wealth improvements we’re undertaking, so on Monday I hope you would see increased activity and more progress on the project.”
As far as completing the project on time, he said that the contract was mutually beneficial, with a completion date of March next year and penalties if it was not finished on time - and he was sure that everyone would be doing their utmost to see that it was completed.
“We’ll do everything we can to ease things around the Christmas period particularly - but other than that,  progress is going on and I hope you enjoy the benefits when they arrive.”
After the meeting, we asked Councillor Skinner if he was happy with Councillor Poll’s response.
He told us: “I have had concerns both as a councillor and a resident at the manner this contract has been run to date. As my question stated, the present economic times are stressful on the businesses in town without the addition of the refurbishment. Long term, I believe the project will be of benefit to the town.
“When this project was originally put out to contract, the December period was to be handled in a way to minimise damage to business. I was concerned by the project manager’s responses at Thursday night’s meeting, which is why I requested clarification.
“Councillor Poll’s response, I believe, was genuine.”
Aside from Councillor Skinner’s question there was little of  local interest.
Boston Borough Council Leader Peter Bedford asked if any changes or additions were needed to the national policy framework to ensure that Lincolnshire in particular is allowed to develop in a sustainable way.
Councillor Ramonde Newell – Independent? BBI? BDI? – came up with an education question about a University College Union report ( see Boston Eye's  report of July 27th by clicking here ) which placed Boston 17th from the bottom of a list of 632 parliamentary constituencies where people aged 16-64 had no educational qualifications.  In Boston, 22% of the population was without any qualifications at all.
Councillor Newell demanded to know -  what was the council doing to reduce this figure?
Councillor Patricia Bradwell, executive councillor for Children's Services, said the figures were very complex so officers hadn’t been able to get something together but would send a full report in due course. So we have to wait and see.
Our other representatives remained mute – and two councillors sent apologies … Councillors Mike Gilbert and Raymond Singleton-McGuire.
Two absentees from seven represents almost 30% of Boston’s membership on Lincolnshire County Council, and after  such a long pause between meetings is rather disappointing, to say the least.

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