Monday, 31 October 2011

Council digs deep at
but this time for money!

Once again, Boston Borough Council is poised to dig deep into its pockets to fund a project, despite telling all and sundry how hard up it is.
Having allocated almost £200,000 from the reserves to fund the Moulder Training Pool deal, followed last week by a call to spend up to £340,000 on solar panels, a new recommendation suggests spending £500,000 to refurbish equipment at Boston Crematorium by the end of next year to meet legal requirements – rather than “privatising” the service.
The proposal is on the agenda in a report by the Chief Executive for tomorrow’s cabinet – which as it always does as it is told, means that agreement is a foregone conclusion.
The recommendation follows a review of various options for the operation and maintenance of the borough’s bereavement services.
This included a “soft market” exercise in June and July to gauge the strength of any interest in the Boston service - against a backdrop requiring major investment  – which produced two “bids.”
However, despite the fact that profits this year are only likely to be about £139,000,
The recommendation is that no concession contract be awarded and that the council continues to run the service.
Officers are to be tasked with bringing in further performance improvements as soon as possible, and producing a detailed business plan for the next cabinet meeting at the end of this month.
As has become the norm these days, a considerable proportion of the papers relating to this discussion are what they call “exempt” - which means that we, the riff raff, and local journalists will be ordered out of the room whilst our much more important cabinet members peruse and discuss them.
Students of cabinet business will recall that when the Moulder training pool deal was agreed it was in a secret session.
Disquiet over this was so great that a successful move was made to “call in” that decision – to re-examine it and if necessary refer it back for discussion – on grounds including inadequate consultation before the decision was taken, lack of evidence for the decision and the highly reasonable, but nonetheless unheeded, suggestion that the scrutiny committee and full council should have been consulted.
But such is the committee structure that a Tory majority simply overruled the protest, and signalled the Tory run cabinet to carry on disregarding the opinions of anyone other than themselves.
They have taken this to heart for tomorrow’s meeting with three of the five appendices to the report being kept secret.
These include the minutes of a Joint Scrutiny Committee in August at which an updated report was given to members – who were not asked to make recommendations but allowed to ask about the bid process and rationale. A nod – or rather a finger at  the democratic process, perhaps?
Copies of that draft minute are included as an exempt appendix – as are staff comments and management responses and comparisons of the bids.
We don’t need to know anything about this, of course, as it is only our half-a-million-pounds that it being spent.
There are also risks involved – one is breaching the council’s 5% partial VAT exemption limit – although this is likely to be mitigated by leasing the equipment.
See ya later, rent-a-cremator!
The cost of future utility increases will remain with the council - and predictions are for significant price increases in the medium term – and as the crematorium uses gas, all the solar panels in the world aren’t going to be of any help. The most recently published gas bill, for instance was £2,168 - and charges are set to rise by almost 20% about now.
Overall, the report considers the value for money efficiency of the project – and notes that no savings can be found.

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Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Laird of Camster
is 66 years-old today

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Friday, 28 October 2011

Our Friday miscellany
of the week's
news and events

Until recently we were under the impression that Boston’s Haven Gallery - the big glass box of art and artefacts (ugh!) – had been mothballed by its owners and developers, Boston Borough Council, until next year. It closed a year ago and was expected to save the council £65,000 in the current financial year. Until recently, hoi-polloi visitors to the borough website were told that the gallery - which opened in 2005, and is valued at £450,000 - would reopen soon ... but now they are denied access to the Haven page. Whatever, a return of the gallery now no longer appears to be on the cards. For suddenly - as you will see from the advertisement below -  the building is available to lease for £38,000 a year – with scope for use as offices subject to planning permission.
click on photo to enlarge it
So, wave goodbye to Boston’s arts and cultural quarter. Chalk it up as another success for the council following the Princess Royal Sports Arena debacle. When it closed, it was announced that the Haven would continue to serve as a storage and maintenance facility for the borough’s museum collection, which now never sees the light of day. What will happen when a new owner appears, we wonder? And couldn’t the advertising have been placed with a locally-based agent?
Tuesday’s letter from Boston resident Mrs Carole Norton Do councillors live in real world?  brought a positive response from one Boston Borough councillor. Independent Carol Taylor e-mailed Boston Eye to say: “I would like to thank Mrs Norton for expressing her deep concerns with her councillors via Boston Eye. With regard to the proposed rise in allotment fees, it has not yet been decided. A Task and Finish group has been set up, of which I am a member, to scrutinise these plans, and I will be expressing strongly my disagreement with the proposed high increase in rents. I also wish to convey to Mrs Norton that the councillors on this committee will look very carefully into these proposals before any decisions are made. With regard to the impending car parking increases, I am unable to give accurately the increase, but recognise that it will almost certainly go ahead in the near future. On a good note, the fees proposed for parking outside your home will only apply if it is considered that a house has too many cars - and that there is not enough room to allow for all households to have equal rights to parking facilities outside their home. There are plans also to introduce robust measures to deal with illegal parking, which, as you know, is a considerable danger to the public - and also stop those dishonest people who choose to park their car without paying, whilst honest people continue to carry the burden. It is a very difficult time for all of us, with massive increases in utility bills, and the intimations that we are in for a severe winter, which will only add to the fear and worry for those who are unable to heat their homes to a level where they feel comfortable and safe. I am sorry that I am unable to help with this. I do agree that it is a waste of time to ‘switch’ suppliers, as it seems economical at first, but doesn't benefit in the long run. I hope that I live in the real world; I like to think that I do. I work full time, but if I had the choice I would love to work part time - but I cannot afford to. Like most people I have bills and a mortgage to pay and have not had a holiday for several years. Finally, I sincerely hope that Mrs Norton will understand that when we are elected, it really is to serve the people of Boston, and that we do try our very best to get it right. There is a cross-section of councillors representing the Boston people. Some are retired, whilst others work full time and fit in their commitments to the public around their work.”
Boston was represented at Monday’s lobbying of the House of Commons for the European referendum debate in the shape of UKIP activists Don Ransome and his wife Sue (pictured below) from Wyberton – where Mr Ransome is a parish councillor.
click on photo to enlarge it
But their hopes of a response from  local MP Mark Simmonds were dashed. Mr Ransome tells Boston Eye: “Monday saw a well organised, peaceful protest at the House of Commons involving my wife and I, which even involved some polite and comical banter with the police as opposed to some recent events. Mark Simmonds had the opportunity to vote that day the way he writes on European issues - as a real euro sceptic. Mark Simmonds MP FAILED to respond to my email via   requesting him to vote for the referendum. FAILED to respond to calls in the house to meet his constituents who had waited two hours in the queue to lobby him. FAILED to put his country before his career by voting against the motion. Some Euro sceptic!
Meanwhile, our MP is getting some more unwanted publicity in the current issue of the satirical magazine Private Eye in the satirical magazine’s HP Sauce feature (see below.)

It’s the second time in recent weeks that Mr Simmonds has found his advisory role with Circle Health worthy of mention, and unusual for a not-too-well-known MP from a low ranking constituency to get such frequent name checks.
This time last week we suggested that after its merger with Breckland and talks about a possible extension to Great Yarmouth, South Holland District Council had perhaps reached the limits of how far it could go with shared services. Not so, the council’s leader, Gary Porter tells us. “I am not convinced that it is,” he said in an e-mail to Boston Eye. “Two works really well and saves over £1 million. If we can do three and it works well, we will be looking for number four. Bearing in mind that Lincolnshire County Council covers the same area as seven districts, who is to say how many District/Borough councils can share the same management - and that's all that our plans are to do, unless other services are identified as areas where additional benefits (savings) can be achieved whilst still retaining the political sovereignty of each of the partners to allow us to set our own service specification. All that said, the real point is in relation to your closing comments that imply that all of this is based on a predatory attitude from South Holland. I need you to understand that it isn't, William (Nunn) who runs Breckland is as self confident as I am; both councils are sure that we are the masters of our own destiny (or at least in so far as central government allows us to be) and that neither of us is the dominant partner. It is true that Terry (Huggins) the Chief Executive used to be solely employed by SHDC, but it is also true that the majority of the staff in the next three levels used to be employed solely by Breckland. At the end of the day they are just staff, and are commissioned to provide the bureaucracy that services the councils. It’s the elected members who ARE the council.”
Meanwhile, it’s being suggested that a different sharing scheme involving South Holland is not proving quite so successful. This time the story involves Compass Point Business Services – a joint venture with East Lindsey District Council, which Boston came within a hairsbreadth of joining. Again, this week's Private Eye is the source… in its Rotten Boroughs feature.
click to enlarge picture
But  before we leave South Holland, we have to report an interesting page on the council's website which could well be copied here in Boston. It invites taxpayers who have what they think is a good idea, - big or small – to submit it to the council through the website to be shared with, commented on and rated by others. Ideas to date include suggestions on improving traffic flow in Spalding, a community toy library, and putting art in empty shops. It seems to us that an idea like this could replace Boston Borough Council’s web petitions page – which has never really taken off. Read more about the South Holland scheme by clicking here   An interesting point was raised in the letter we published on Tuesday, and which we mentioned earlier, when reader Carole Norton suggested “It may even be a good idea if the councillors went out and actually talked to their constituents, as if that is going to happen.”  We know that this does happen in some cases, as councillors who hold surgeries give details on the borough council website. However they total just eight of the council’s 32 members – merely a quarter, in the form of three Conservative, three Labour and two Independents. Does this mean the rest don’t bother? Not only are they not mentioned on the borough’s website, but we haven’t seen any advertising in the local papers either. If that’s true, then many of our councillors should be hanging their heads in shame
Whilst we have expressed concerns about the exclusion of non-Tory council group leaders from talks about the town’s immigration issues after next month’s planned protest march was postponed, one reader has concerns about whether the wider public will have much of a say. Robert Smith writes: “What I, and no doubt other regular folks, will want to know is: will the representatives of the Home Office actually deign to talk any normal people? By that, I mean average residents who have lost their jobs, and the great many more who might otherwise be justifiably totally brassed off with the situation we find ourselves in. My overriding suspicion is that they'll only speak with the likes of Mark Simmonds, assorted out-of-touch West Street ivory-tower dwellers, and greedy farmers’ representatives. Knowing how things work in politically correct Britain, you might say that my expectations are, of necessity, starting low.”
Meanwhile, Independent Councillor Richard Leggott, has e-mailed to say: “All those involved in the decision to call off the original protest march scheduled for 19th November should be commended for picking their way through a veritable minefield successfully - so far. There is still the Home Office visit to be dealt with. My hope for this is that neither Boston Borough Council nor the Government will use the occasion as a 'whitewash' exercise. Boston has valid points to make, which should be heard and accepted by both Home Office and Treasury departments. It is to be further hoped that others thinking of similar marches will consider the consequences before providing heaven-sent opportunities to those just interested in bringing strife to the town. “
The word “apprentice” is associated these days with the chance of winning fame and fortune on a tacky TV show. But it also applies to a job which includes training as a way to get a foot on the employment ladder. Whilst Boston is renowned as a lowly-paid area, it seems that the borough council has tried to undercut just about everyone with this advert on its website.
click on photo to enlarge it
Whilst no age for applicants is specified, the rate works out at £2.71p an hour - just 11p above the £2.60 for apprentices under 19, or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship. Whilst we accept that this is the going rate, we do think that the council could offer a slightly more generous example on the pay from than this.
Meanwhile, we note the ongoing spending on agency staff in the borough’s list of payments over £500 made last month. It totalled more than £30,000 - mostly for jobs in grounds maintenance, street cleaning and the like. Obviously, agency staff come cheaper than permanent employees, but we just feel that now the financial position is clearer, the borough should entertain the idea of helping more local people into work again.
A number of households in Boston have this week received letters from the Royal Mail telling them that the way their letters will be delivered in future is going to change. Sadly, the phrase “for the better” is not included – as postal deliveries in Boston have been declining for some time in many areas. The “good news” in the letter is that “we will continue to deliver in the morning” – although this is contradicted by the later statement that “many customers will continue to get their mail by lunchtime.” The letter goes on to say that the time mail is received will depend on where you live on the new delivery route and may be earlier – or later – than at present  And when mail volumes vary, delivery times and arrangements may change. Sorry, but all it really says it that Royal Mail will deliver the post pretty much how and when it feels like it. Situation normal, then. Still it was nice of Paul King, the delivery sector manager for the Boston area, to take the time to write. And where do you think such an important person with responsibility for Boston might be based? Peterborough, perhaps? Not quite, but it begins with a ‘P’ – Mr King actually works in Plymouth – 330 miles away!
Finally, we wonder what the point is of including the Business Target with our local Boston paper. This week’s 28-page offering contains 40 news stories, with none featuring Boston. The nearest we get is a piece about in-house awards to Marshalls of Butterwick –  and all of 25 lines! Is the Business Target saying that Boston has no business news to speak of, or is it  that it just can’t be bothered to find any? Surely, we deserve better than this.

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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Dash to spend cash at the speed of light

Later today Boston Borough Council’s Corporate and Community Committee makes a major decision on whether to switch from hot air to solar energy as a source of power.
It is being recommended to rush to spend an estimated £140,000  before the end of March on ordering and fitting solar photovoltaic systems for the roof of the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre – although the potential exists to use the system on the roof of the Municipal Buildings and Boston Crematorium as well … which would bring the costs to £338,000.
The deadline for the race to spend is due to Government incentives to invest in renewable energy and the over-turning the ban on councils selling green energy to the National Grid. It is necessary because a guaranteed payment for power generated ends on March 31st next year - after which payments will be reduced.
Rates have also been cut for big projects, so the recommendation is to come in under the cut off point of 50 kilowatts.
Although there is money to be saved and made through schemes like this, the speed at which everything has to be done is worrying.
In the best financial case, the profit for all three schemes over 25 years would be £3,910,000 and would pay back the investment in around seven and a half years. However, the more likely case estimate is for profits of £1,752,624 which would cover costs in around eight and a half years.
Before installation on any of the roofs, checks will have to be made to see if they would need re-covering. Quotations for that come to just over £35,000.
But initial assessments show that the roofs in question are in good condition and would have a life of at least 15 to 20 years.
“It is therefore debateable whether this investment is required,” says the report.
A “mini tender exercise” is currently in progress which will further inform the installation costs for each site.
If the signs are right, then the dash to spend cash begins.
The report recommends that the installation is fully financed by the council and completed within the current financial year, subject to satisfactory surveys and that, in view of the tight timetable, officers be authorised to prepare and submit planning applications for the preferred sites.
Again, because of the tight timetable the report says it might be considered “prudent” to concentrate on the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex, which would provide the greatest return.
However, sections of the roof there were built at different times – and the main pool roof might need replacing in 12 years, whist the building itself is said to have 25 years’ life left.
A worst case scenario involving replacement of the main pool roof in or around 2024, says removal and reinstallation solar panels would be a comparatively minor job - and the contract and subsidies would not be invalidated by a ‘break’ in generation.
However, a interesting line for observers of the Moulder complex’s chequered history adds: “If the council decided instead to demolish the facility and sell the site, it would not incur any financial penalties from the Government and by that time we would be circa three to four years beyond the payback period anyway.”
We don’t know about you, but there do seem to be an awful lot of ifs and buts attached to an idea that demands quick decisions to spend such large sums of money in such a short space of time, and we hope that if the recommendation that the cabinet and full council support the installation is approved, that some robust questions are not only asked by councillors – but that all answers are thoroughly challenged before any decision is taken.

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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Darron Abbot on his allotment -
pictured in Boston Borough
Council's July bulletin
BID critic digs in on allotment charges 

Two separate issues have combined to provide a new challenge to Boston Borough Council about the way it spends taxpayers’ money.
The questions are being asked by Darron Abbott, a local businessman who has been a fierce critic of the way the Boston Business Improvement District operates.
He is also an allotment holder – and as such has been angered by the proposal to raise rents by more than 400% over a four year period.
Looking through the council’s breakdown of costs allocated to the services it provides, he noted that on the BID schedule the amount recharged to BID is just £1869.72 once the recharge of computer software and maintenance was taken out of the figures.
However, the amount allocated to the allotments is £19,020 once routine maintenance, water rates and third party payments are removed.
In an e-mail to council leader Peter Bedford, Mr Abbott says: “I would be grateful if you could get someone to explain them to me.
“It appears that one or both are drastically wrong.
“These schedules suggest what I have suspected all the time - that BID is heavily subsidised by the council tax payer.
"Why are there no recharges of support services for BID as there are for the allotments?
“The one that stands out to me has to be accountancy of £4,250 …
“The officer time for BID seems very low compared to that of the allotments.”
He points out that Councillor Derek Richmond, the cabinet mastermind for Town Centre Development and Management, Car Parks, BID, Markets and Public Toilets “continually states that BID is a separate company and the council have no control or say in the running. Then why do the council not cover the true costs?
“Councillor Richmond also repeatedly states BID perform duties the council cannot afford to do. Perhaps if BID were charged in the same manner as the allotments, the council would be better off, and would not have to rely on BID to do its work for them and no longer have to breach the BID guidelines.”
He concludes: “Just looking at these two sets of costings makes me realise why the council is in such a state financially. If any of my clients were producing rubbish like this it would mean the end of their business.”
Councillor Bedford did indeed find someone to look at the figures for Mr Abbott – going straight to the top and asking the borough’s part-time Director of Resources, Rob Barlow, to respond.
Whilst his reply was not what we would consider polite, nor was it the “explanation” requested, it was at least short and to the point.
“Firstly I can confirm the costs we recharge to Boston BID covers the cost of the work we do for them. Secondly the costs of providing allotments is also correctly stated. We do recognise that the Borough Council operating allotments is not the most cost efficient way. Our proposals for this service very much hope that allotment groups will take over the running of the sites themselves.
“Finally your view of the Council’s finances differs significantly from that of the Audit Commission. I have included a copy of our recent Annual Governance Report which I hope you will find paints a very different picture.”
So there!
In response, Mr Abbott told Councillor Bedford Mr Barlow seemed to have missed the point - that it is unfair that services like the allotments get loaded with recharge costs such as accountancy and room hire and others such as BID do not.
“Surely Boston Borough Council has a duty ensure all are treated fairly,” he asks.
And he has also promised that, in the next few weeks, he will be trying to look further into the way the council recharge expenses to various services.
“I will attempt to bring it to the attention of the public how it is justified to increase charges for services provided by the council by loading expenses unfairly against them.”
Interesting times ahead, as they say.

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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Do councillors live in real world?
- reader’s challenge

Dear Sir

I do not usually write to people like your good self, but I felt obliged after reading your recent news in your blog.
I think it’s disgraceful that once again the people are being hit by the excessive rise in allotment rents. The cost of living is going through the roof at the moment, and the price of food rising almost daily, and now many people are losing the ability to grow their own food to cut the cost.
On top of that the council are talking of reviewing the parking charges and possibly charging people for parking outside their homes.
Have our councillors any idea that many people need a car to go to work and they are on limited income? If they have to pay for parking outside of their home, they may be forced to get rid of the car and in turn lose their jobs.
As it is I rarely go into Boston, and will do so even less if the parking charges are increased, which means there is a strong possibility others will feel the same and in turn more shops will close. Boston could well become a dying town, as if it isn’t already.
On top of this we are told that the Mayor’s allowances will be dropped to around a £1,000 per week. Pray tell me, what does the Mayor actually do other then be a ‘figurehead’ to warrant this type of cost?
Would it not be more economical to get rid of a Mayor and put the money saved into the council coffers rather than hitting ordinary people who are struggling at the best of times? You don’t hear of any councillors, Chief Executive or managers working for the council taking a sufficient cut in their salaries; indeed the councillors had an inflation busting increase just this year.
My husband, who works locally, is paid well under the national average and has not had a pay rise for three years.
Do our dear councillors live in the real world? Have they any idea what poverty is, or do they think that anyone who has less than three holidays a year are ‘poor’?
Have they ever had the choice of having to turn off the heating and live in a cold, damp and mouldy home so that they can feed themselves and family? Or do they believe, as most utility firms do, that turning off a light bulb here and there will save money. Oh, I wish it was so simple. My electricity bill per quarter never changes; I cook and have a shower, use a computer, television and have an occasional light on, so please tell me how I can decrease it from £130 per quarter. If anyone insults my intelligence by telling me to change suppliers I shall scream. Been there, done that and worn the T-shirt. Trust me they are all the same.
The ordinary working class are struggling, and perhaps our said councillors and people who rule our country should remember who put them in to office and not use every opportunity to screw us to the wall. It may even be a good idea if they went out and actually talked to their constituents - as if that is going to happen!
I know many people who will not go into Boston for a night out and would rather go out of town because of the problems that they meet and you can ‘feel’ the tension in the air. Boston is a tinderbox just waiting to catch light and the councillors putting such pressures on Boston is not going to help at all.
One just hopes that someone in authority has some commonsense and also knows what it’s like to live in the real world and to understand the needs of the ordinary Boston person.

Yours faithfully

Carole Norton [Mrs]

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Monday, 24 October 2011

Together we can do it ... Boston's problems are cross-party - not just a challenge for the Tories

Now that next month’s march to protest about the impact of immigration on Boston has been called off for the time being, we hope that everyone will start looking forward – to find a way to solve some of the town’s problems.
And, as we suggested briefly on Friday, any progress should involve a more inclusive approach by Boston’s Tory leadership.
Whilst receiving – and apparently ignoring – calls from the council’s Labour group for a task and finish group … including one made in early July … council leader Peter Bedford last week announced the setting up of just such a group – as though no-one else had mentioned it.
Similarly, the news of secret talks with the Home Office was announced with the claim: “We had not been able to say anything until now about the sensitive talks we were having with the Home Office over the past few months which have concluded only recently with the Home Office agreeing to come to Boston to speak to people here about issues around immigration.”
Really? Why not?
Especially as, in both instances, Councillor Bedford had already let the cat out of the bag.
After Peter Hitchens's feature in the Mail on Sunday on 18th September, Boston Eye reader Geoff Rylott e-mailed a copy to Councillor Bedford – among others – asking for comments. Councillor Bedford replied promptly – the only councillor to do so incidentally – and said “we are in the process of setting up a task and finish group to involve all aspects of this type of problem, not just in Boston but throughout Lincolnshire…”
That was a month ago, but nothing more was said until last week.
Similarly, a fortnight ago, Councillor Bedford told listeners to the Peter Levy Show on BBC Radio Lincolnshire: “We are in talks with the Home Office and trying to get Boston classed as a special case because of the amount (of migrants) that have arrived. Hopefully, we will be able to make some announcement shortly, but that is with the Home Office at this moment in time.”
Yet again, nothing more was said until last week - when the strong impression was given that the sensitivity of these talks effectively embargoed any mention of them.
We’re sure that they are all grown ups at the Home Office, and cannot imagine that – if the people of Boston had been told much earlier that talks were underway – the mandarins would have thrown a hissy fit and refused to help.
As the talks began “even before the explosion in an illegal distillery in the town” –  the selfsame wording used by Labour councillors when announcing their appeal for a task and finish group, incidentally –  is it not possible that the news might well have defused matters ... and that the call for the march might not have been made? After all, it did not come until after the Hitchens feature in September.
It seems to us that this obsession with political secrecy could well have created some of the pressures that its ending has now eradicated.
We note that last week’s meeting between the march organisers and Boston Borough Council was again a Tory political affair – involving the leader and his communities portfolio holder, Councillor Mike Gilbert.
It could be seen as yet another snub to Labour's call for a meeting between all council group leaders and the organisers of the protest march – which we are sure that the other group leaders would have endorsed.
As we said on Friday, some issues transcend party political lines – and with many of the problems now confronting Boston, the people most affected often live in wards that are not represented by Conservatives.
Could we ask what right the leadership has to deny  non-Tory ward councillors involvement in some of the biggest issues to confront them for decades?
We accept that some councillors consider themselves also to be politicians in a bigger sense, but consider that this idea is vain and unconstructive.
The issues arising from migration to Boston are something for the borough to come to terms with – not some Tory-specific conundrum to be solved.
No ruling group can be infallible - as Boston’s history has shown - and the time is long overdue for the current leadership to show political commonsense and acknowledge that a problem affecting everyone should be addressed by the council as a whole.
Meanwhile, one question that needs urgently addressing concerns other marches announced at the time of the one planned for  Boston .
We assume that any direct “counter” to something that has now been postponed would be called off.
But other groups announcing events included Lincoln and District TUC, which has called for “working people from all nationalities to come along and get involved, and to unite in the trade unions and anti-cuts groups behind a common programme of defence of jobs, pay and public services for all.”
To date, we have found nothing to say that this had been called off.

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Sunday, 23 October 2011

Hitchens pleased by march decision

Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens has welcomed the decision to postpone - not call off, as he apparently thinks - the march planned to protest at excessive levels of immigration in Boston.
In his column today, he writes:
"I am pleased to say that a planned march against immigration in Boston, Lincolnshire, has been called off. The organisers rightly feared that it would be taken over by sinister and creepy factions.
"It occurs to me - though of course it isn’t true - that if MI5 wanted to discredit any honest movement against mass immigration, the cleverest thing it could do would be to set up something called, say, the ‘British Patriotic Party’, and staff it with Jew-haters, racialists and Holocaust deniers.
"And then these people could latch on to every decent protest and wreck it.
"By contrast, look at what is happening in Switzerland. There, a mainstream political party isn’t ashamed to oppose mass immigration on perfectly civilised and reasonable grounds.
"The Swiss are on course for a referendum that will almost certainly vote to close their borders after a failed experiment with leaving them wide open."

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Friday, 21 October 2011

Our Friday miscellany
of the week's
news and events

It’s good  that common sense has prevailed, and a closer look is being taken at Boston Borough Council’s ludicrous plan to increase allotment charges over four years by a staggering 465.22% - which would see the cost of a 600 square yard plot rise from £46 to £260. Wednesday’s meeting of the council’s Environment and Performance Committee decided to set up another of those famous task and finish groups, and  promised  to consult allotment holders. Whilst any right-thinking person would expect a sensible result from this, we recall the task and finish group that addressed the problems of Boston BID, and came up with a wealth of good ideas to make it run more smoothly for the benefit of its members. None of them was adopted, and the council seems too scared of the BID to do anything about it..
On the same subject, we expected an organisation such as the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners to have a view on the council’s planned assault on the pockets of the borough’s allotment holders – but we were wrong. We e-mailed the society on Monday to seek their comments, but have not not received a reply. Strangely, for an organisation pledged to “protect, promote and preserve allotments for future generations to enjoy,” they were just as unhelpful four years ago when we asked for their views about the plans to close the Broadfield Lane allotments.
Talking of not answering - although we will have more to say next week about the council’s announcement of the cancellation of the Boston protest march - we understand that some councillors were surprised to get the news via a round robin e-mail with the borough’s press release attached. For some strange reason they imagined that such important news might come from the leader himself - and be shared with the media a little later. This was not the case, but it was not out of  character. Repeated requests  from Boston’s Labour councillors for a task and finish group to address the town's social tensions, also apparently went unanswered - which seems a strange way to do business. Some issues transcend party political lines – and with many of the problems now confronting Boston, the people most affected often live in wards that are not represented by Conservatives. We hope that the council’s leadership will strive to be more inclusive in future.
After years of long drawn out debates and consultations, the location for Boston’s £50 million flood barrier has at last been announced. We are told that all that needs to happen now is for national funding to be secured to that work can begin in 2016. Looking back, we were reminded that it was once claimed that the flood barrier could be up and running by 2014. Not only that, but when we visited one of the  Environment Agency consultations, we were assured that the funding was guaranteed. This was confirmed in Boston Borough Council's February bulletin, which said the project was among several set to share in a £521 million funding pot announced by Defra and the Environment agency. So why are we seeing back-tracking on both the date and the availability of money for the scheme? In June last year, we reported that Lord Smith, the chairman of the Environment Agency, said flood defence spending would be "cut in cash terms by about 27% - and that will happen immediately" Worse still, he added: "There will be communities that would  be starting flood defence work in a year or two years' time that will now be delayed." Powers that be, please take note. We need this flood protection - and it must not be allowed to fail at the last minute though lack of pressure by the great and the good of the town. We also need to start pressing the insurance industry now,  so that they will begin reducing premiums to a realistic level now the flood risk is being reduced.
Just when you thought it was safe … the roads are being dug up again! After the lengthy closure of Norfolk Street during the summer, the first of two closures affecting Fydell Street begins on Monday -when National Grid Gas move in until early December. Then they’ll be back again in the new year for some more of the same further along the street. Will there ever be a day when a major road in Boston is not is disrupted by diggers?
Boston has been getting more than its share of airtime on BBC Radio Lincolnshire in recent weeks, which has forced us to listen. We have been struck in particular by the performance of the lunchtime host Peter Levy – who is not only quite rude to his guests on occasion, but also seems over-timid when tackling some of the more contentious issues raised. Whilst not all presenters can be John Humphrys, can we hope for the chance of some improvement in the future? We hear that the BBC has some excellent training schemes!
Three day care centres in Boston are listed for closure by Lincolnshire County Council to cut £22 million from its social services budget. They include Scott House, - the former St John’s Workhouse on Skirbeck road (see picture below) – which, despite the unsuitability of the neighbouring site, was restored at great expense by Heritage Lincolnshire then handed over to the county … who now don’t want it.

Meanwhile, Heritage Lincolnshire has been hard at work repairing the derelict former Garfitt's bank building at 116 High Street Boston, which is soaking up hundreds of thousands of pounds. Apparently the aim is to create another "community hub" with various organisations occupying offices within the main building and new social enterprise units in the back yard. Perhaps someone should ensure that whoever the intended beneficiary of this project is,  assurances  can be given that it won’t be just another economically fine weather affair.
Although it’s been suggested that the role of Boston’s Chief Executive  once Richard Harbord  eventually departs might be shared with “neighbouring” authorities, options appear to be running out. South Holland District Council, which already shares a top team with Breckland District Council, is now looking to add Great Yarmouth Borough Council to the management mix. As that would probably be as far as South Holland’s empire could reasonably stretch, only East Lindsey - which is already plenty big enough, we would have thought - remains a possible partner. However, Boston already shares its Resources and Section 151 officer with the authority - which might make further sharing a problem. What will happen in the end, we wonder?
We note that Boston Borough Council has agreed that it can manage with two fewer councillors if a change in local government boundaries is approved. Oddly, we would have thought that with such a rapidly growing population, the borough might have needed more representatives rather than less. However - and without our usual generalisations - we could easily name double the number of councillors that it’s proposed we lose as being surplus to requirements. The reasons are failures at ward level, and regarding attending all lessons as sufficient qualification for the job.
It’s only a fortnight since we noted on this page that Lincolnshire County Council was taking no chances when it came to securing the bypass after next for Lincoln. Almost £4 million has been spent on houses and land to make way for Lincoln's southern bypass – which depends on a successful bid for money before an eastern bypass can be built. The latter would open by 2017 – and pave the way for a southern bypass in 2030 at the earliest. But County Hall is not letting the grass grow under its tarmac. It’s now been announced that a new £5 million scheme to ease traffic chaos around Lincoln  will include a bid for a new park and ride service, more public transport and better footpaths for pedestrians and cyclists. As we remarked two weeks ago – who says there’s one law for Lincoln and another for Boston?
Whilst other local publications are endlessly coming up with ideas for pet, baby, business, food competitions and the like, we have come up with one of our own. We’re looking for the place in Boston where you can spend the longest time in a queue waiting for so-called service. Our nominees for this week are Boston Post Office, where we spent more than 15 minutes in a queue, and the town’s Marks and Spencer store, where the wait was almost as long. Have you waited longer? Let us know and we’ll name and shame the culprits.
A report on a visit to Boston’s Guildhall by a group called Paranormal 13 declared themselves not too disappointed in their quest for supernatural happenings. We are told: “The Guildhall has a history of hauntings – from the grey lady who walks into the cells and never re-emerges to the creepy presences in the former council chamber which has sent some fleeing the building in terror.” Merely the former council chamber? From what we hear there are quite a few creepy presences in the current chamber at Worst Street!

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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Light at the end of the tunnel ...? or just another train on the way ...?

We have long held the view that some members of our ruling elite  see Boston as Lincolnshire’s  equivalent of the Big Rock Candy Mountain.**
And to cheer us even further, Boston Borough Council has announced its plans for a festive season to remember this year.
It will feature £35,000 worth of new Christmas lights, a marching bagpipe band, Santa with free sweets for a thousand children, a reindeer parade, music, and singing.
The lights will be switched on by the Mayor on November 24th, followed by a traditional Christmas Market on December 10th and 11th .
Boston Borough Council and Boston Business Improvement District are funding the lights between them – with the council chipping in its same old budget of £25,000  - and the BID topping it up with  £10,000 from the levy it imposes on the town’s hard-pressed businesses.
Boston Borough Council’s town centre panjandrum, Councillor Derek Richmond, said: “In extremely difficult circumstances we have pulled out all the stops to make the start of this year’s festive season as vibrant as we can.”
We?” ... “We?”
As far as we can tell, Boston Borough Council is spending the same as always, apart from chucking in at most an hour's worth of this year’s £80,000 mayoral budget for Councillor Mary Wright to press the switch.
We don’t know who’s paying for the reindeer and the clown (although clowns are plentiful and free in the Worst Street chamber) but the sweets have been donated by Dave Edwards, of the town's  Edwards Emporium sweet shop, and entertainment from the Scunthorpe and District Pipe Band during the two day traditional market is being sponsored by local businessman Darron Abbott.
At least it sounds as though this year’s event won’t reprise the 2010 fiasco, when a tacky switch-on ceremony was organised for the benefit of local radio,  after Boston took some stick for not having a proper event.
However, given that our council can be relied on to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory whenever possible, we trust that someone has already checked that there will be somewhere to hang the lights in the Market Place – where Lincolnshire County Council has promised conditions will be eased around the Christmas period.
Whilst supporting the project, Darron Abbott was critical because the BID agreed to pay £10,000 towards the lights without asking its members – something he debated with the BID “Manager” Niall Armstrong on Tuesday’s Peter Levy show on BBC Radio Lincolnshire.
Mr Armstrong was on his usual form. When confronted by Mr Abbott's charge that the BID guaranteed £10,000 of levy payers' money to the lighting project without consulting them,  he retorted: “This is an old gripe of Mr Abbott’s. I didn’t come on to talk about the rights and wrongs of what the BID is doing … Specifically we did not go out to members and ask them if we should spend £10,000 on the Christmas lights, but the way the BID is set up is that members have the right to appoint five directors on to the board the represent their interests, and clearly its not practical  ... to go out and consult with 600 individuals on business decisions ...
Stick that in your Christmas stocking liquorice pipe and smoke it!
Such a response came as no surprise to us,  but one thing that did cause a sharp intake of breath was Mr Abbott’s disclosure that last year the council paid  £20,000 for the erection of the lights – no wonder that its lighting budget is so high.
Anyway, all being well, we’ll have some better lights this year, a switch on ceremony and a clown.
But as Councillor Richmond reminded us: “Money is tight, the Market Place has been a construction site for months because of the long-awaited improvement project, and, nationally, trading conditions for businesses have been difficult. It’s been a year of challenge and pain for gain. Now let’s look forward to a good Christmas period and an even better New Year with the town centre looking its best and most inviting in 2012.”
Fine sentiments.
But when it's all over, the lights go off. The building site returns to life - until March at the  earliest – resuming the chaos that has already seen several business go under because of loss of trade. Meanwhile, Boston Borough Council has spent nothing over the odds, whilst struggling businesses have seen £10,000 of the money extorted from them by Boston BID used to shore up the council  - contrary to the BID's promises.
It's called the tunnel at the end of the light...

** We had in mind the sanitised children’s version by Burl Ives - although critics of Boston might opt for the Harry McClintock original, and  argue that it shows the town in a more realistic light these days ...
“In the Big Rock Candy Mountains … the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night …
“In the Big Rock Candy Mountains … the little streams of alcohol come a-tricklin' down the rocks …
“In the Big Rock Candy Mountains the jails are made of tin. And you can walk right out again as soon as you are in …”

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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

+++ breaking news +++ breaking news +++

November protest
march called off
after talks
with council

The Boston protest march planned for 19th November has been called off after the organiser Dean Everitt had a  meeting with Boston Borough Council last night.
In a statement issued around 10am on the protest march Facebook page, he said ...
"Following a two hour meeting with Boston Borough Council,  and further meetings planned with the Home Office to sort these issues of Boston out, we have decided to postpone the march.
"These talks are important and will hopefully lead to a better Boston for us all
"I know some of you will not be happy with this decision but in the interest of public safety and the good of the town this is a better option.
"The march would have led to these talks, so really we've got there quicker by going straight in to talks with the council.
"I would however like to thank all of you for coming together and showing us so much support and I hope you will continue to do so as any points you wish to put across I shall be more than happy to bring up at this next meeting.
"Once again thank you for all the support."

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Parking mad!
But you'll pay anyway

Are we witnessing the first faltering steps towards a major shake-up of parking in Boston – which could see the borough lose a lucrative source of income – and find residents paying to park outside their own homes?
A report before today’s Environment and Performance Committee recommends backing a Civil Parking Enforcement  scheme (CPE) which will see Lincolnshire County Council ticketing “on street” traffic offences – a job currently done by the police, who apparently no longer have the resources to carry on.
The original idea was that district councils would take on the job, but they couldn’t agree a plan – so now the idea is for the county to do it.
As with yesterday’s report on the “benefits” of plans for a massive increase in allotment charges – saving money for the council tax payers – we are also told of the “benefits” to accrue from fining drivers.
“This would contribute to a reduction in traffic congestion within Boston town centre, which is currently exacerbated by illegally parked vehicles.”
If the scheme is approved, the county will take over “on street” parking enforcement and keep the income from the fines.
District authorities will retain responsibility for “off street” parking, and will keep the money from that - as well as all income from car parking charges.
Whilst it sounds like a licence to print money, it is anything but.
Our cash-strapped county council will have to fork out £800,000 to introduce CPE - which is expected to lose around £175,000 a year because the costs will exceed the income.
The idea is that the county will pay half the deficit, and the districts  the rest - pro rata, based on tickets issued.
It’s reckoned that this will cost Boston about £13,000 a year, and be capped at this sum for five years.
Now, here’s where it starts to get murky.
Boston Borough Council is unique in Lincolnshire because it operates five car parks classed as “on street.” The council is responsible for parking enforcement in these car parks, and retains the money from parking and ticket charges.
With the introduction of CPE, Lincolnshire County Council will take over parking enforcement in these five car parks and  receive the income from tickets issued - about £8,000 a year.
After CPE comes in, Boston will charge less for tickets than at present … losing about £7,000 a year – but because the county is dealing with on-street enforcement, should save about £5,000 a year.
Are you with us so far?
In areas where CPE is already operating, the evidence is that effective on street enforcement herds illegal parkers into legal car parks - which it's thought in Boston will earn an extra £9,500 a year.
Boston Borough Council currently pulls in £215,000 from its five on-street car parks– but they are owned by the county council and Boston operates them with their consent.
“LCC could decide to withdraw this consent at any time resulting in a loss of this income,” warns the report.
“Under the proposed model for the introduction of CPE, Boston Borough Council will retain this income for a two-year period following the introduction of CPE. After two years Boston Borough Council and Lincolnshire County Council would meet to decide upon the future of this income.”
Whilst it's far too early to say "we told you so" - in 2014, when the scheme will have been going for two years, and the county will be harder up than ever – how likely do you think is it that they will ignore the chance to move the thick end of a quarter of a million pounds from Boston’s coffers to their own?
Then there is the matter of residents’ parking schemes - which are so unpopular in so many other areas.
Boston Borough Council does not currently run any such schemes - because it can’t police them.
But CPE will provide on-street enforcement for any resident schemes the council “might” adopt – even though it would have to pay the set up costs and also pay County Hall for enforcement duties.
Over five years, the introduction of CPE in Boston will be £136,000 through direct costs and loss of existing income.  The extra income from increased use of council car parks and reduced enforcement costs will be £65,250 - leaving the borough out of pocket to the tune of £70,750.
It seems just the sort of plan that our leaders will embrace wholeheartedly – substantial losses coupled with the likelihood of charging residents to park on their doorsteps, and the looming threat of the council losing its lucrative cark park income – though  in fairness, that could happen at any time, regardless.
Fortunately, all seven district council have to accept this plan – and they have already failed to agree an operating model two years ago.
Let’s hope they disagree again – and keep on doing so – until something that sounds more sensible is produced.

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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Dig deep - allotment pirates plan raid on your plot!

Allotment holders in Boston may soon be hoping to unearth buried treasure along with the tates to help them continue their pastime - if huge rental price rises before Boston Borough Council are approved.
A report to tomorrow’s Environment and Performance Committee seeks comments on ramping up allotment charges over four years by a staggering 465.22% overall -  starting with a 117.4% increase in 2013, followed by annual rises of 54%, 35% and 25% .
Current annual allotment rents are £23 per year for 300 square yards and £46 per year for 600 square yards.
The report says the allotments service cannot be immune from current financial constraints, and there is room to eliminate or significantly reduce the present level of subsidy.
To recover all costs, rents would rise from £46 to £260 for 600 square yards and £23 to £130 for 300 square  yards - which, the report cleverly concludes, “represent a very substantial percentage increase” – which is why it is recommended that, if adopted, they are phased in.
Ironically, the proposals come at a time of an upsurge in demand for allotments. It’s reckoned that there could be up to 100,000 people on national waiting lists – and in Boston there is already a long queue of people wanting plots.
The benefit is not just cheap produce - there is growing evidence that digging-it-yourself produces significant personal health benefits - said to be greater than exercising in the gym.
Yet our health-obsessed council –  the one which blew a fortune on a barely-used non-smoking centre in the laughable "community hub" –  ignores the fact that increases like this will almost certainly drive people away.
Or perhaps that's the idea.
Even more ironic is a suggestion in the report that part of the former Broadfield Lane allotment site could revert to its former use. Readers will recall that allotment holders were evicted some years ago when a greedy local charity wanted to sell the site for development - a plan which subsequently foundered.  The land has lain fallow ever since, but has now been sold, and we are sure that development plans will soon be on the way.
The proposed allotment rent increases will make £35,750 and cover all costs ... with a slight surplus by 2017/18.  The report says that the extra income will contribute to the council’s savings target.
Concessions have been ruled out as they would create more administration and expense - and mean a large drop in income if groups such as pensioners were included ...  because the reduction would have to be clawed back from the other tenants.
At present, there are six allotment sites in the borough totalling 352 plots - and 53 people on the waiting list.
The report recommends that community ownership is strongly encouraged to establish independent associations to self-manage sites and set their own rents, which would, of course, let the council off the hook altogether.
This is “sexed-up” up in the sentence: “Increasing rents would mean that the burden on the council taxpayer will diminish and there will be a greater incentive for sites to transfer to self-management allowing tenants to manage their own affairs and set their own rents.”
So it’s for our own good after all.
What philanthropy!
However, there is a history of reluctance among many allotment sites to go independent.
The only example provided is where tenants at the Wyberton Low Road site agreed by a majority of 56% on a 51% turnout -  that's just 28% in real terms - to opt for association ... and then only because an incentive of three years’ free rent  was offered, followed by charges linked to agricultural rent values.
It’s not as though staffing the allotments service support is high.  It take slightly more than half a full-time post.
Contrast that with the recent decision to curb the Mayor’s budget by 18% against the 30% recommended – for an office which currently employs two officers each working 15 hours a week and 50% of the time of a Civic and Member Services Officer - and it is not difficult to see whose interests are closer to the council’s heart – assuming that it has one!

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Monday, 17 October 2011

Council's Labour
group wants
action on town's
troubles ...
Boston Borough Council’s Labour group is stepping up the pressure on the Conservative leadership with a call for action to tackle the town’s ills.
They want a council “task and finish” group to be set up - to include representatives from the police, county council, housing organisations, health, voluntary sector and local businesses … and local people as well.
Labour says that such a wide ranging group could address issues like social tension, better integration, planning and provision of services, and help better to understand “the changing face of Boston.”
The call came in an e-mail to council leader Peter Bedford and Chief Executive Richard Harbord on 5th October – almost three weeks ago. It followed an earlier plea to the Chief Executive on 6th July - before the Broadfield Lane industrial estate explosion and the Peter Hitchens article in the Mail on Sunday about immigration in Boston.
The party is also urging council leader Peter Bedford to call a meeting between all council group leaders and the organisers of the Boston Protest March – so that the council can try to address their concerns.
“We hope he will take our request seriously, as we also believe it would enhance the reputation of Boston Borough Council as a listening council and give us some credibility that we are taking the issues that affect our town seriously,” said a Labour statement.
“The Home Office are considering offering some resources to Boston, but before this … we need to be clear from our local residents what kind of services and resources are required ...”
Boston Labour councillors say they’ve been involved in a year long “conversation” with local communities. “We believe this review of key services such as overcrowding, homelessness, antisocial behaviour, drinking on our streets, noisy neighbours, litter problems are just all endemic issues that Boston has been suffering from over the last few years and this proposed review could go a long way to addressing these issues.”
Interestingly, whilst Councillor Bedford is reticent about talking to Bostonians about this – adopting his local MP as role model, perhaps – he did tell a member of the public some weeks ago that: “On the migrant front we are in the process of setting up a task and finish group to involve all aspects of this type of problem, not just in Boston, but throughout Lincolnshire, as it is a big problem in all our areas. We feel that this can be a model for further investigations looking at the whole problem, but we will need county and government help to do this.”
So far, no other mention of this has emerged.
Councillor Bedford also decided to share the news with listeners to the Peter Levy Show that: “We are in talks with the Home Office and trying to get Boston classed as a special case because of the amount that have arrived. Hopefully, we will be able to make some announcement shortly, but that is with the Home Office at this moment in time.”
We have also heard that Lincolnshire’s Chief Constable met councillors last week – but again no information has been forthcoming.
Equally “hopefully” we trust that Councillor Bedford will soon shrug off his Secret Squirrel costume and share things with the people who elected him, and depend on him to get their town back on track.
After Labour’s request for talks with the protest marchers, their organiser, Dean Everitt, told the group’s Facebook page on Saturday morning : “Just had some really good news … This week we are going to be meeting with Peter Bedford and two other members of Boston Borough Council, to discuss what we feel are the main problems regarding immigration and all other relevant matters that are connected to this.”
We can only speculate who the other two councillors might be, but would expect one to be Councillor Mike Gilbert, who holds the borough portfolio for communities.
One thing is obvious – with only three attendees, the meeting cannot possibly include other group leaders - which is disappointing, as any approach to the march and the wider problems is clearly one for the council as a whole, and not just the Tory elite.
Another fear voiced by many is that any Home Office cash will be for a Lincolnshire-wide approach and be given to Lincolnshire County Council for disbursement.
In that case, Boston will almost certainly lose out, as – even though the borough has so often been short changed by the county - the current administration will bend the knee to its demands.
Meanwhile, Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens - whose special feature on Boston and immigration four weeks ago helped stoke an already smouldering bonfire of resentment - has called for next month's protest march to be cancelled.
See yesterday’s blog for more details.

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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Mail on Sunday's
Hitchens urges
protest marchers
to call it off

Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens - whose special feature on Boston and immigration four weeks ago helped stoke an already smouldering bonfire of resentment - has called for next month's protest march to be cancelled.
Writing in today's paper, he says:
"Street demonstrations are usually a waste of time at best. But they can also be dangerous or harmful. "And I must appeal to any readers I have in Boston in Lincolnshire to stay away from a march against immigration planned to take place there next month. I also appeal to the organisers of the march to call it off. And I’m hoping for sleet, and a strong east wind off the Wash, on that day. Let me explain.
"Some weeks ago I described the damage that stupid Government policies have done to Boston, which now has a huge migrant population mainly from Eastern Europe.
"I did not blame the migrants, whose enterprise I admire, or those who employed them. I hoped to illustrate the wrongness of our open borders, and of the EU membership that forces us to keep them open. I also wanted to assail the terrible schools, the dim welfare policies and the family breakdown that have left so many British-born young people unemployable.
"Some concrete-headed councillor in Boston chose to attack what I had written, and cast doubt on its truth, reasonably angering many Bostonians who knew that what I had said was correct.
"But a demonstration in such a place can do no good, and may well cause tension and bring undesirable political chancers to the town. Already, an outfit called ‘Unite Against Fascism’ (what ‘fascism’, by the way?) is planning a counter- demonstration on the same day. Just imagine the stupidities that could lead to.
"If there is trouble, it will only damage the cause of those who want common sense to prevail in this country again. Call it off."

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Read more:

Friday, 14 October 2011

Our Friday miscellany
of the week's
news and events

Here’s an excerpt from the Policy and Projects Committee minutes of 20 July: “The public would not be satisfied if the costs of the Mayoral role did not reflect the 30-40% reduction in Government grants. A 30% reduction of the Mayoral Budget would save £16,500 and this had to be done.” The real cut agreed - 18 per centphased in over three years. The recent increase in councillors’ allowances is  - 85 per-cent over three years. By contrast, a report to next week’s Environment and Performance Committee asks for comment on the proposal to increase rents for local allotment plots over a four-year period “to cover all costs.” The total increase proposed is 465.22%. More about this next week – what a disgrace!
We were delighted to hear that Boston’s ageing Christmas illuminations are being replaced with dynamic, bright, modern lights which will use less electricity. Can we now hope for a proper switching on ceremony on Thursday November 24th – and not a repeat of last year’s clowning around which left Boston with egg all over its face? By way of an idea, could we suggest that one of the stars of the Boston pantomime is asked to carry out the task - perhaps Councillor Peter Bedford - if he is not too busy.
With £35,000 to throw at the lights - £25,000 from the borough council and £10,000 from Boston Business "Improvement" District - we would hope to see something really impressive. But an example given by the Festive Lighting Company for schemes with a budget of £20,000-plus is pictured below.

We are using a promotional photo rather than the artist’s impression which appears in  our local “newspapers” as it was dominated by an empty shop with a prominently displayed  to let sign, which we felt was rather unseasonal. We also wonder how exhaustively Boston Borough Council sought a contractor for the Christmas lights project, as the Festive Lighting Company is a member of the Association of Town Centre Management - a quango which numbers the council and Boston BID among its members. Would a wider search have achieved better value for money?
Boston College has wasted no time in cashing in on its sweetheart deal to take over the Peter Paine sports centre at a peppercorn rent from Boston Borough Council. News came this week that it is selling its De Montfort campus, and moving to a new £1.7 million building at the end of the year on its Rochford site, which is expected to be finished by Christmas. Luckily for the college, it seems unlikely to be asked to chip in any of what may turn out to be a big profit from any sale towards the debts of another venture in which it is involved – the £6.5 million Red Lion food centre in Spalding, in which the college reportedly invested £2 million. To the anger of many local traders, South Holland District Council is to bail out the heavily indebted centre to the tune of more than £400,000 of taxpayers’ cash. We preferred it when colleges stuck to education, rather than trying to operate as businesses.
Speaking of education, we think it a pity that nowhere in his lengthy radio interview on the Boston protest march on BBC Radio Lincolnshire did council leader Peter Bedford suggest that local people deserved better educational opportunities. His argument over jobs was that “It’s the fact that our population have got to get used to the fact of starting to apply for such jobs (in the packhouses) again.” Can we hope for a wider view of the choices for our residents in the future?  Three months ago, the University and College Union rated the 632 parliamentary constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales according to the percentage of working age people between 16 and 64 who had no qualifications – and placed Boston and Skegness 17th in the bottom twenty – with 22 per-cent having no qualifications. If Boston is to have the vibrant future that everyone wants for it, then this appalling situation must be addressed.
It seems that the world and his wife want a say in the forthcoming protest at the level of inward migration to Boston, and it’s high time to see if we can make some sort of sense of it all. First there is the original protest – set for Saturday 19th November. Whilst it is being referred to as a march, there are now reports that it may instead take place in Boston’s Central Park as a static demonstration. Meanwhile, a counter demonstration has been announced by Unite Against Fascism, who are to follow a route along Sleaford Road and West Street. Whether that march is in any way connected with another protest announced by Lincoln and District TUC who plan to assemble at noon at the “Sleaford Road park” is not clear. Amidst all of this, Boston BID has awoken from its slumbers and announced that “whilst not wishing to be seen as scaremongering and at the same time recognising the right of free speech we do have concerns over the potential impact that this march may have on our members businesses.” First time for everything! We also note a report on the Casuals United blog (see below) whose views are slightly more pointed …

The way things are shaping up, we are forming the view that there will probably be no protest. The organiser of the original event has said he will cancel it if there is any threat of violence – and that is beginning to seem unavoidable with so many disparate factions having their three penn’orth.
When we said it seemed that the world and his wife wanted a say about the protest, we did not, of course, include our Tory MP, Mark Simmonds. Mr Simmonds, who, over the years, has been what for him passes as outspoken on immigration issues, was asked to comment by the Boston Standard – but a his office declined. “This is an extremely sensitive issue, and Mr Simmonds is in conversations with both Boston Borough Council and Lincolnshire Police.” But not, apparently, with the people who voted for him. Is, then, our member’s new policy to keep stum on anything  sensitive.  If so, he might as well become a trappist monk in this volatile political age. Perhaps the approach for comment came at a bad time – possibly during the two-and-a-half hours a week devoted to the needs of Circle Healthcare, who pay just over £1,000 for those few minutes of  our MP’s expertise. Whatever the reason, you can’t get much blander or more indifferent than that, can you?
Apparently you can. After what was described as “a small protest” outside the Boston Standard’s office on Tuesday, editor Stephen Stray told the “newspaper’s” website: “Voltaire once said: ‘you may not like what some people have to say, but we should defend their right to say it.’ The Standard holds this maxim close to its heart.” Really? What Voltaire is actually quoted as saying is slightly less fluffy. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Diluting the quote to a point where the famed philosopher might have been asking for a half of shandy instead of a pint of Bateman’s XXXB, might not have been so sad if Mr Stray had at least got the quote right – but unfortunately, on top of all that, Voltaire is thought never to have said these words at all. They were apparently penned in 1906 by Evelyn Beatrice Hall – writing under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre - in her biography The Friends of Voltaire. The author did not attribute the words to Voltaire, but used them to sum up his attitude.
One aspect of the current debate on Boston’s troubles concerns drinking in the street, so it is timely to learn that Boston’s Labour councillors have declared that existing Designated Public Place Orders – DPPOs – should be reviewed. They have written to council leader Peter Bedford calling for a “state of the area debate” on how DPPOs are run. “DPPOs are sometimes misleadingly referred to as Alcohol Free Zones, Drinking Control Areas and Drinking/Alcohol Ban Areas,” says a Labour spokesman. “This can be confusing to the people of Boston, as the purpose of the legislation is not to ban alcohol in a public area, but to give police the powers to deal with anti-social drinking.” Whilst there is no statutory requirement to review a DPPO, Home Office advice is that it would be good practice to do so at least every two years - to see if the DPPO has had an impact on alcohol-related problems. “This debate will give the opportunity for members of Boston Borough Council, local residents, local residents groups and the police the chance to have a proper debate and to have a DPPO in Boston that is effective and understood by all residents of Boston.” Not if the leader refuses to allow it, it won’t.
On the issue  of alcohol, we note that the council’s licensing sub-committee brushed aside local fears that an Eastern European off-licence in Boston’s Main Ridge East might add to existing anti social behaviour such as violence, public urination and littering which were said to already be a major problem in the area. More than 100 people signed a petition to reject the application -  a significant number in such a small neighbourhood. Although this information was in the public domain, a petition supporting the application was handed in - but a copy was not given to reporters, nor were we told how many signatures it contained. It took just 45 minutes for Councillors Colin Brotherton. Yvonne Gunter and Stephen Woodliffe - none of whom live anywhere near the area - to nod the plan through.  Locals can  now look forward to having three booze outlets within about half a mile of each other – all serving more than 12 hours a day. It’s enough to drive you to drink!
One of our regular readers has sent in the following political parable, which we reproduce for your delectation and delight … “Once upon a time there was a group of hunter/gatherers who lived in a harmonious group. Their experiences over the centuries led to the perceived need to accept one of their community as a leader in many of their joint efforts aimed at community survival. Following many eons of such community leaders' successful direction, it was noted that: 1 – the population, being well fed, had expanded, and 2 - there was less to hunt than there had been. These developments led to decisions by communities to become hunter/farmer societies with all that entailed. As human population again increased and hunting opportunities diminished, more emphasis was placed upon the farming aspect of community efforts. This change of emphasis apparently did nothing to diminish the need for a guiding hand of leadership in society. Leaders still flourished - and as resentment of such persons mounted from time to time - found it advisable to ally themselves with one another. History shows that such alliances were the primary example of larger leadership councils - national governments. The need for leadership in the face of possible challenge led to such coalitions (Parties) of interests not necessarily being the union of the wisest, but more likely the strongest. And so we come to today where the strongest party, democratically, apparently, within our society, are the leaders. Obviously such leadership is not going to publicly challenge its own actions. That would weaken the Party - the present equivalent of the ancient warlord within our democratic system. But - thank goodness - there are some members of local government who are not supporters of Political Parties. And here comes the fairytale. One day all electors will say 'enough of this political, self-serving system. Let's start electing independent people who will speak up for their electors instead of a party.' And now I must move on before those men in white coats catch up with me.”
Finally, are some stories apparently so good that there appears to be only one way to tell them? They must be. How else is it possible to explain the recent appearance of a number of reports in one in our local “newspapers” that - whilst by-lined - enjoyed an previous appearance on Boston Borough Council's website or electronic bulletin?

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