Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Coffin up for the borough budget: Crem costs could soar, parking will go through the car roof - and blue badge holders may not escape ... 
Yesterday it was the turn of Chancellor George Osborne to address the financial problems facing the nation.
Today it’s  a local affair, when Boston Borough Council’s Cabinet of Curiosities hears from the borough’s  Osborne equivalent - Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire, who is presenting a draft budget setting report.
Like the head honcho in Westminster, our local chancellor faces some big problems.
Financial aid from government has been cut from £6,107,626 to £5,320,953 – and that of course means higher charges.
As with national governments, who treat drinkers, drivers and smokers as cash cows to raise the lion’s share of their income, Boston Borough Council is launching an attack along the same lines.
We’ve already seen the first skirmishes with a plan to raise allotment fees by 465% over four years. The idea is to try to force plot holders to form their own associations - and save the borough money – but it has met considerable opposition, and is now being reviewed by another of those Task and Finish groups that seem to say much and achieve little.
Then – as we disclosed last week - Boston's 18 parishes are being asked either to accept responsibility for “footway” lighting or pay £68 a light to meet the cost  - which will force parish precepts up from ... at the lowest 13.6% in Wyberton to 105.2% in Frampton ...  and save the borough tens of thousands of pounds.
Given the narrow operational scope of borough councils, there seems little room for manoeuvre when it comes to increasing prices.
So, as with central government and its penalties on drinkers, drivers and smokers, the borough has to look at how to claw in more from the few services it provides.
Step forward the quick and the dead – users of cars and crems.
A pick and mix programme of parking  increases are being proposed that could yield £126,000 in 2012/13 and £166,000 in following years.
Perhaps the most controversial  would be charging disabled Blue Badge holders, but just what is planned is unclear.
On one hand the report says: “The council would not be able to charge disabled badge holders for parking in the on street car parks such as the Market Place and Wide Bargate, but could reduce their “free” parking period from three to two hours.”
But then it goes on to add: “The estimated income from charging disabled drivers would be between £60,000 and £100,000 (assumed £80,000) dependant upon what other measures are also introduced.”
Other possibilities include a general increase of 10p across all tariffs to bring in £72,000, and increasing coach parking from £2 to £3 a day to make a further £4,000.
Then there’s the suggestion of upping tariffs in town centre short stay car parks only. They are the most used  - and so less likely to lose custom if charges go up.
An extra 10p would bring in £31,000.
Raising prices in the cheapest all day car parks from £2.10 to £2.50 would generate another £11,000,  and removing the "60p for 30 minutes" tariff in town centre car parks – except for the Market Place – would pull in a further £25,000.
The final idea is to re-introduce evening parking charges, which could gross £22,500 – although that would fall to £15,000 because of the cost of enforcement.
Whilst the report discusses charges for cremation and burial fees averaging five per-cent, this is probably because the proposal is to leave many charges unchanged.
However, the suggested rise for an adult cremation fee is £100 – from £440 to £540 – which again puts prices well ahead of Alford's  crematorium, which has steadily eroded Boston’s income since it opened a few years ago.
Obviously, these are not all the proposals – but they are likely to be among the most heavily challenged.
Once finalised, the plan is to publish the budget on the council website for consultation by all stakeholders.
It seems that we are no longer ratepayers – which is probably why someone thinks that we can be charged so much.

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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Which bright spark thought that spending £35,000 on this
was value for money?

It’s fair to say that the Market Place was never going to look good this year no matter how hard anyone tried to dress it up for Christmas.
But are we alone in thinking that with £35,000 being thrown at this year’s Christmas lights we might have expected something a little better?
Even Councillor Derek Richmond, the borough’s town centre Czar, appeared to damn them with faint praise on BBC Radio Lincolnshire ahead of Thursday’s switch-on ceremony.
“I think they’re the best value we could get,” he said. “Even with the £10,000 extra from Boston BID (bringing the total spend to £35,000) we only had two companies that could come in within our budget.”
It’s not easy to fathom out just how the cost of the lights breaks down.
We understand that the council’s £25,000 covers all costs associated with the Christmas lights.
Presumably this includes the electricity – which last year cost  £2,060.
On top of that, Boston Business Improvement District is paying an extra £10,000 this year and next.
During negotiations, big discounts were offered to the council to extend the  planned three year contract to five years - and the council is never one to miss a good deal when they see one!
The borough (that's us, the ratepayers) will pay £25,000 for the five years of the contract.  Boston BID will contribute £20,000 in total - £10,000 this year and next - bringing the total to £145,000.
At the time of the new contract, we were told that some of the lights in use last year were as much as 40 years old – which suggested that they were owned by the council rather than hired … but if that was the case .... why was the annual cost so high?
Given that the new lights are available on a five year deal, does this mean that they are “rented” – in which case they work out very expensive.
The company which was awarded the contract – Festive Lighting – displays a selection of lights for different budgets on its website – which you can see below …
click on photo to see enlargement
The “large” budget examples are priced at £20,000-plus, and given that the borough is spending almost twice that amount, we would have expected to see quite a lot more for our money.
So would our readers.

My expectations may have been goaded to an unreasonable level by an ever enthusing Councillor Richmond over the airwaves of Radio Lincolnshire, but I'm afraid to say the new lighting scheme represents an expensive lack of imagination. An expensive lack of imagination which perfectly reflects that of our august council in just about every other area. A very effective visual aid, I have to say.
Very disappointing, but a perfect compliment to the already very drab and equally disappointing Market Place revamp. 

Amongst other things, I fail to see the point in decorating what is essentially a construction site (Market place) and a place most people go out of their way now to avoid, with Christmas lighting.

One of our readers sent in the following photos which perfectly illustrate the comments above.
click on photo to see enlargement
We accept that the predictable reaction of many of our readers will be to say that Boston Eye is simply criticising for its own sake -  but we wonder how many of our councillors could put their hands on their hearts and say that they are really pleased with this much-hyped display, and feel that it is good value for money?

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Monday, 28 November 2011

Don't let BID and borough council stall until time runs out

Last week we looked back at the minutes of September’s full council meeting  - and the persistent but fruitless attempts by Independent Councillor Richard Leggott to make some headway regarding the town’s useless Business Improvement District.
His questions then were rebuffed by the portfolio holder responsible for the BID, Councillor Derek Richmond – and the same has now happened at the most recent council meeting  a week ago today.
Councillor Leggott was one of the five members of the Task and Finish Group which met more than a year ago  - and concluded that the BID was guilty of lack of communication and management.
The other members of the group were fellow independent Councillor Brian Rush, and three Conservative councillors – although the Tories were not in power at the time – joint deputy leaders Michael Brookes and Raymond Singleton-McGuire and cabinet member Mike Gilbert.
Councillor Leggott says that one of the worrying aspects of the BID issue is “the present silence of some of the other members of that Task and Finish group who … identified the serious communication problem then existing within the BID project.
“Whether those members are, behind the scenes-within the confines of their cabinet office, making similar noises to myself I do not know. Not a peep to me from any of them on the matter.
“It would seem that Task and Finish is taken by some to mean Task and Forget.”
In response to questions, Councillor Richmond  has clung to the line that he has invited the BID manager to portfolio holder meetings on about a monthly basis.
This, he maintains, “ensures that both BID and the council are ensuring as far as possible that we are as coordinated in terms of town centre projects and related work and that we weren't being duplicating (sic) - and that this will continue to happen.
“But I didn’t, nor do I intend to have regular meetings with the BID board to discuss their business, that’s not for me to do.”
Later, he said: “I do not monitor BID, I do not believe that is within my remit, it wasn't done in the past and nowhere in the Task and Finish report does it state that I or anybody else should be doing this. As it should be, BID themselves will update the Scrutiny Committee in March.”
Councillor Leggott detects a discrepancy between the claims that Councillor Richmond - on the one hand invites the BID manager to approximately monthly meetings - whilst simultaneously claiming that he doesn’t intend to have regular meetings with the company.
Councillor Leggott has e-mailed all elected members to express concerns that there seems to be no interest in any ongoing monitoring of measures to improve the communication problems identified within Boston BID.
Turn it out to grass and assume it is improving seems to be the attitude,” he says.
“Having sat on the task and finish group and heard the differing of opinion from the BID board and some of the participating businesses as to the level of the problem and the damage the same problem was doing to the chances of participants wholly embracing the scheme (necessary for its success)  I believe that our leaders could, justifiably, be 'in there' watching (and perhaps praying) for signs of improvement before next spring.
“But, given Councillor Richmond’s reply, that looks unlikely to happen.”
Interestingly, Boston Borough Council’s attitude toward Boston BID contrasts sharply with that of Lincoln City Council and Lincoln BIG – the Business Improvement Group.
The council repeatedly uses the word partnership in discussion documents, and entrusts the BIG with major tasks.
Compare the situation in Boston, where the council sits idly by whilst the BID undertakes projects that were once its responsibility, thus saving it money.
But worse still, it seems never to check whether the job has been done properly.
Councillor Leggott is right to press for the BID to be called to account within the twelve months allocated by the Task and Finish group.
Indeed, we would have thought that the group had reasonably assumed BID would take steps to address the major flaws identified in its operation before the review date.
He is also right to question why the Tory members of the reporting group seem happy to let sleeping BIDs lie now that they are in power.

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Friday, 25 November 2011

Our Friday miscellany
of the week's
news and events

Boston Borough Council may have ambitious plans to generate its own electricity to save thousands of pounds, but the parish councils that it bills for what it calls “footway” lighting – to distinguish it from street lights, which are the responsibility of the county council, are in for an electric shock of their own. A “briefing document” to the parishes asks them either to accept responsibility for the lighting or else pay £68 a light to meet the cost. This will have the effect of raising parish precepts from – at the lowest 13.6% in Wyberton to 105.2% in Frampton. One parish councillor told us: “Whilst I can understand Boston Borough Council trying to sort out the financial hole it is in, I wonder what the response will be to parish councils who refuse ... or dim or turn off their lights during certain hours?
It’s exactly a month to Christmas Day – and our congratulations go to local businessman Darron Abbott for persuading a number of our borough councillors to form a choir to entertain visitors to the Christmas Market weekend on Sunday December 11th. Councillors volunteering so far are Carol Taylor, Derek Richmond, Paul Kenny, Paul Gleeson, Mike Gilbert and Judith Skinner – and we understand that joint deputy leader Michael Brookes has also agreed to take part. According to the publicity, Councillor Taylor may attend dressed as a Christmas pudding! We felt that not only did this lend an entirely different meaning to the phrase “Carol singing” – but it sent us to the drawing board for an artist’s impression  - see our picture on the left! As Mr Abbott  has invited all councillors to take part, we hope that more volunteers will be forthcoming – otherwise we’ll all know who the gloomy ones are!   He said: “It will give the councillors a chance to show the public they are up for a bit of fun and are prepared to muck in.  In these times of doom and gloom it will be nice to show Boston has community spirit.” How true – and may we add that we hope that seeing Tory, Labour, Independent and BDI councillors all singing from the same song sheet may be the shape of things to come.
Talking of singing from the same song sheet, we see that the group leaders on Boston Borough Council have written to local MP Mark Simmonds urging that he again asks Communities Secretary Eric Pickles for more money because of the pressure on services from the “rapid and significant” population change since 2004 caused by the influx of migrant workers. Does this mean that the council is losing faith in the likelihood of a result from the meetings that have taken place to date? And surely, Mr Simmonds shouldn’t need prompting to do his job … should he?
On the issue of Boston and immigration, we mentioned on Tuesday how the BBC locally had a field day this time last week with more than 15 minutes’ airtime across two radio shows and one TV programme to say absolutely nothing new about the matter. This didn’t stop them wheeling out two MEPs on Wednesday to react at length to the news that a Latvian living in Boston who killed another migrant whilst drink driving was a convicted murderer in his home country. The reason why he was able to come here could adequately be summarised in a single sentence. But it seems that the BBC likes any chance to drag Boston through the mire. And incidentally, was the introductory script  on BBC Radio Lincolnshire entirely accurate, when it said that the MEPs’ concern came  “… after a convicted killer from Latvia was allowed into Lincolnshire to kill again …”  How do you do that, then? Do you fill in an application form, or something similar?
They say that there’s nothing new under the sun, and we were entertained to note the strong resemblance between Boston BID’s long awaited 3D map and those produced 350 years ago by the celebrated artist Wenceslaus Hollar (see below)
click to enlarge
Given the obvious difficulties of the day, Hollar created his maps with no need for dozens of aerial photographs – and given that time was money in those days, we suspect he probably produced them much  quicker than the year or more it has taken Boston BID. Unfortunately the BID map uses the same information published on the recently refurbished  so-called tourist information boards – and that means that a number of items are wrong – including South Square being pictured as the Market Place. Again, because of the time factor, the police non-emergency number is now out of date, and we wonder how the town’s businesses feel about their hard earned money being spent to announce that the Springfields shopping outlet is just “a short drive away.” So it’s about par for the course for the BID, really. One final chapter in the saga … we hear that the £17,000 paid for this exercise apparently did not actually include a stock of maps - which have to be bought for an extra 50p each.
It can only be good news that another 6,000 properties in the Boston floodplain have been signed up to receive free flood warnings by telephone. The news came just in time to remind us to attend the last of the Environment Agency’s drop-in sessions on the planned Boston flood barrier. We came away not entirely convinced that the preferred location was the right one.  As is so often the case with projects such as this at all levels, it focussed on the town centre first and foremost, and means that considerable extra construction to raise river banks to protect areas presently not  considered at risk of flooding will be needed. We also asked why the Environment Agency flood risk maps are drawn up as if no protection of any kind existed.  We were told that it was a government idea – to emphasise the potential danger. Now we know who to blame next time our premiums go up with a jolt – or worse still if we are refused insurance entirely, as happens quite often in Boston.
It’s good to see that something is at last being done to address long-standing problems in Wormgate caused by traffic using the road as a rat run. We have always said that Wormgate is badly neglected and could have a  huge tourist impact  with a little cosmetic surgery. It does seem, though, that at least one problem need not exist at all. We hear that “when rain gathers in large puddles, where the road surface has dipped, the vehicles throw waves of water against the properties.” Then,  why is no-one levelling the road surface so that these puddles do not form? Presumably this is the job of Lincolnshire County Council, which is to investigate placing bollards in the road  - but at the same time warning that it could take six to nine months before they are in place. We wouldn’t mind betting that any such problem in Lincoln would be far more rapidly resolved. But we also think that an interim suggestion that extra police should be employed to “dissuade” people from using the road as a shortcut may well cause more trouble than it prevents. If no order to the contrary exists,  surely motorists can use the road as they wish.
On the one hand, Boston’s Giles Academy describes itself as “leading edge” – whilst in the same breath placing the advert below in our local papers.
click to enlarge
Wanna be …?” Presumably, the academy thinks that such an advert makes the place look “cool.” The word that springs to our mind is “naff.”
Finally, we mentioned that the last time the Business Target appeared in our local paper, out of 40 news stories, none featured Boston- and the nearest to the town  concerned in-house awards to Marshalls of Butterwick. Nothing much has changed with the current issue. Of roughly the same number of stories, again, none is from Boston – and co-incidentally the only nearby story again involves Butterwick … this time featuring a firm that has invented the “world’s first alcoholic foam.” It’s scarcely Nobel prize-winning stuff, and critics of Boston might detect a certain irony. But it begs a few questions. Firstly -   is the supplement based on enquiries by reporters?  If so, are they neglecting to make many calls to Boston? If not, then we must ask what Boston businesses are doing to promote themselves by providing information to local supplements such as this? Meanwhile, the Target  produces  a generously  paged publication  - when the reality is that trees are being felled in vain just to make it look good.

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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Homelessness report has a much bigger story to tell

Christmas must be coming – because interest in homelessness is gathering momentum.
It's even on the agenda in Boston – at tonight’s meeting of the borough’s Corporate and Community Committee.
The committee asked for the discussion, and several speakers will ‘give evidence’  so members can discuss the issues and examine areas for future consideration - including Centrepoint Outreach, the Crime Reduction Initiative and Axiom Housing. A summary about homelessness from Boston Mayflower will also be presented.
The debate follows a row earlier this year between the council and Centrepoint, who accused the borough of refusing to recognise the "hidden" homeless.
The charity said they helped about 40 homeless people each month, but the council's official figures were no more than 12  - based on the government's definition of homelessness, which says “rough sleeping” is people sleeping out in the open.
Centrepoint said that many homeless people remained hidden at night for safety, and therefore eluded the count.
Certainly, there are plenty of figures to go at on tonight’s agenda – including many that are completely unrelated to homelessness – but which paint a worrying picture of Boston in the future.
These include projections that the number of married couples will decline by 800 between 2001 and 2033 – from 12,000 to 11,200 – whilst the number of couples living together will rise from 2,150 to 3,800, and the number of lone parent families will increase from 1,850 to 3,000.
Although this does not bear directly on homelessness, it shows the apparently irresistible decline in family life –  an issue which many people feel needs addressing independently.
There are a larger number of houses in multiple occupation than we would have thought – a total of 460 - and also a large number of vacant dwellings that might be used to ease homelessness … including 137 owned by social landlords and 48 belonging to other public sector organisations.
And again, a large number of the borough’s 28,237 houses are deemed to be not decent – 8,100 - or are thought to be hazardous - 5,650.
A total of 4,210 households are in fuel poverty - which exists if more than 10% of the occupants’ net household income needs to be spent to provide adequate warmth and hot water.
It’s calculated that over the next 20 years or so the borough will need between 220 and 255 new dwellings a year - of which at least half will need to be affordable.
When the report eventually gets to the issue of rough sleeping it says that the Crime Reduction Initiative had “reconnected” 80 migrant rough sleepers as at November 14th - and a multi agency meeting on November 8th agreed on a current figure of 18.
Between April 2010 and March 2011 the borough’s Housing Department helped  in 177 homelessness cases.
Oddly enough, for a report designed to help councillors address the issue of homelessness, the details have more to say about wider social problems facing Boston in the years ahead.
Whilst we are not denying that homelessness is an important issue that must be addressed, the decline of the borough’s social infrastructure, problems with existing housing, and the need for a high level of house building which also include a high level of affordability, almost demands a separate debate in itself.
If you want to read the report in full, you will find it by clicking here and then following the link to tonight’s Corporate and Community Committee agenda. Item 5.

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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Rulers'  September
 song was:
"You are wrong"

Once again, we find that some of the most enlightening information appears in the minutes of meetings – in particular the sections beyond the control of the Tory rulers – when questions can be put to portfolio holders by ordinary members.
So it was on the night of Monday’s council meeting that we perused the minutes of its last “proper” session in September.
It highlights an interesting attitude from the “leadership” towards anyone who dares to challenge their version of events.
It is a simple philosophy - “You are wrong.”
Independent Councillor Ossy Snell asked what the point was of spending £140,000 “renovating” the Hussey Tower, if - when it was finished – it would still not have a roof.
Council leader Peter Bedford said that even though water would still get in, it would not cause further deterioration.
In simple terms - a roof is not essential.”
Councillor Snell persisted.
“Even if we do finally put a roof on and floors in the Hussey Tower there will be no history in there. It will only be four walls, all the rest will be modern materials.”
But the leader was unmoved.
Showing a knowledge of more recent, as well as medieval history, he replied: “We all know that some 10 years ago it was nicknamed ‘Ossy Tower’ as you wanted to demolish it.”
And after a few more words, he concluded: “If you want to be a (sic) ‘historic vandal’ that is up to you, but I am for preserving our history and buildings.”
No flexible response was forthcoming either from Councillor Derek Richmond, portfolio holder with responsibility for Boston Business Improvement District among other things.
He more or less shrugged off a question from Independent Councillor Richard Leggott about what the BID was doing to improve communication with members, and when asked what monitoring took place on the effectiveness of measures to improve it, replied: “The only monitoring that takes place is if I ask and they tell me.”
Clearly a man who takes responsibility seriously.
Back to the leader, and another dismissive reply to a question from Boston District Independents’ Leader Councillor Helen Staples, about how knowledgeable his cabinet members were about their budgets.
Asked why the portfolio holder was unable to answer questions on the total amount allocated to the sport and leisure budgets, he said that budgets were detailed and complex - and the expectation that individual officers and members would be able to recite budget value without prior warning “is perhaps misplaced.”
We can understand that no-one can have every little number at their fingertips - but the question was apparently about the total budget figure, which we thought would be something a portfolio holder ought to know.
And as we have noted earlier, Councillor Bedford simply can’t resist a gratuitous and barbed snipe whenever the opportunity arises, ending this particular session with the totally irrelevant: “I should also mention that under the previous administration the Portfolio Holder for Revenues and Benefits visited that service area on only two occasions in a year, so don’t tell us we don’t understand”
At least he had the good grace to apologise after Councillor Alison Austin questioned why members of the council were not told of the first meeting of the South East Lincolnshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee, though he distanced himself as far as possible from responsibility.
Perhaps partly because this is a new venture and because meetings are administered by South Holland, there was an oversight on our part regarding the very first meeting.”
Another question - from Independent Councillor Brian Rush - about the Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens’s now famous feature, “Boston Lincolngrad” asked where, if Mr Hitchens accepted the leader’s invitation to revisit Boston, would he take him, to show what he had called ‘the Real Boston?’”
Out came the sniper’s rifle again.
“As you are aware there were many inaccuracies in the report written by Mr. Hitchin (sic) which I have raised with him and asked that he address in the interests of fairness, accuracy and balance.”
To write at such length about Boston without a word of recognition for the hard work done by committed staff and partner agencies was an insult that, as leader, he had to respond to.
“My invitation to Mr. Hitchin (sic) to revisit Boston is to demonstrate the work that is being undertaken with the migrant population by the council and other organisations … rather than a tour of buildings or areas within the town.
“However, such a tour could include a visit to Wrangle where between 240 and 250 migrant workers are accommodated by Staples Vegetables. They represent as much as ten per cent of the population of the village and are a good example of harmonious living and working arrangements in the borough by people from overseas.”
What is interesting about minutes like these is that they are accepted to be the “official record” of events.
In the case of the answers regarding Peter Hitchens, the allegation of inaccuracy now becomes a fact – as does the following line …
“Mr. Hitchin (sic) admitted he lifted some information in his article from another publication, which turned out to be incorrect.”
To set the record straight, Mr Hitchens acknowledged at the time that he lifted one item, not “some” items of information: “The explosion in the illegal distillery couldn’t be heard five miles away. Bang to rights! It’s a fair cop! I got it out of the ‘Independent’. The whole article collapses as a result. I have ‘invited’ him (Councillor Bedford) to read my article properly, as he doesn’t seem to have done it properly the first time.”
Another item of concern is the regular rejection of propositions at council meetings to suspend Procedure Rule 17.5 so that members can speak more than once during a debate.
Such applications are invariably followed by the sentence “On being put to the vote the proposition was lost.”
That, of course, is because the Conservative majority on the council apparently wishes to encourage brevity rather than debate.
This particular meeting began at 6-30pm and ended at 7-45pm, and from beginning to end covered 18 different items - not including supplementary questions from members - an average of just over four minutes an item.
It that really enough, or does it merely pay lip service to the idea of democratic local government?

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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Newton Dunn - "we get cheaper vegetables"
mark over
Boston talks

For some strange reason last Friday’s news on both BBC local radio and television was dominated by Boston and immigration issues.
The peg for the story alternated between the visit by a Home Office team to hear from local people – something which had happened a full week before - and the fact that the protest march which was cancelled on October 18th – more than a month ago - was … er … still not going to happen.
Thin stuff indeed – but it gave BBC Radio Lincolnshire programme pieces for the breakfast and lunchtime shows, and provided Look North with the chance to say the same thing all over again on television that evening.
At breakfast, we heard short clips from the march organiser Dean Everitt and Councillor Mike Gilbert – portfolio holder for communities – followed by an interview with Labour group leader Councillor Paul Kenny during which the debate advanced little ... quite possibly because he had not met the Home Office team.
On to lunchtime, and a live interview this time with Dean Everitt, telling us why he called the march and why he postponed it – followed by a chat with one of our Euro MPs, Bill Newton Dunn … a former Tory turned Lib Dem.
Again, nothing he said was particularly enlightening – he’s a politician, isn’t he? – but he did feel that migrant workers accepting lower pay than local people was clearly not without benefits … “It’s a market place, I suppose, and if people are willing to work cheaper, then we get cheaper vegetables as a result.”
Later that day, it was the turn of Look North to keep the story going - ad nauseam.
There was a filmed report - again including Dean Everitt and Councillor Gilbert – and then another live interview with Bill Newton Dunn … you’ve got to get your money’s worth when there’s an MEP in town.
We’re not experts as far as body language is concerned, but we have to say we wondered why Mr Newton Dunn spoke with his eyes nearly closed for much of the interview. One of the many websites devoted to the subject suggests:” Closing the eyes shuts out the world. This can mean 'I do not want to see what is in front of me, it is so terrible.' Sometimes when people are talking they close their eyes. This is an equivalent to turning away so eye contact can be avoided.”
Whatever the reason, Mr Newton Dunn came up with another bon mot along the lines of the morning’s quote on wages – this time on pressures caused by immigration. “It’s a seasonal business in the Boston area, picking the fruit and vegetables, so its very hard to plan and it puts a great strain at peak times.”
Perhaps as well as keeping his eyes closed, he does not listen too closely as well.
He reminded us that we were “all Europeans together” and banged the same drum that he had earlier in the day - that the real problem was illegal immigration from countries like Africa.
All of this made Friday one of those days that we dislike.
A quiet news agenda for the BBC – it was Children in Need, so they all had more important things to think about – meant that the Boston story was an easy knock-off … even though there was no real news peg to speak of.
Perhaps understandably, people seem obliged to accept an invitation to broadcast – even if there is really nothing to say.
The result was around 15 minutes of air time dedicated – yet again - to a negative portrait of Boston.
A simple refusal  from those approached would have spared us from still more poor publicity.
“I’m sorry, there’s really nothing to add, so I hope you won’t mind if I don’t take part,” is the kind of answer that we had in mind – one that would have sent the newshounds from the BBC baying after another, more malleable victim.
Only one thing was of real interest in all of this.
At the end of the BBC Radio Lincolnshire breakfast show interviews, presenter Rod Whiting read out the following – almost by way of a disclaimer.

A statement by the UK Border Agency says that Home Office researchers recently visited Boston with the support of the council to listen to the views of public service providers, local residents and employers on migration. It’s part of a larger piece of work looking at the impact of migrants on public services in the UK and is not specific to Boston.”
We find it very strange that  someone felt the need to issue such a clarification  - and wonder why.
We also find the statement oddly contradictory when compared with the press release which quoted council leader Peter Bedford when the march was postponed.
“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. I hope this provides an answer to critics who have accused us of having our heads in the sand and doing nothing.”
If nothing else, the statement suggested by omission that the talks were “specific to Boston,” and to learn now that Boston was simply added to the route of a travelling sideshow is a great disappointment.
Perhaps some clarification might be helpful.

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Monday, 21 November 2011

Cabinet's bright idea
lacked solar flair

At the beginning of the month, we expressed concern at the rush by Boston Borough Council’s cabinet of curiosities to spend a fortune on installing solar energy panels on the roof of the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex.
Our worry was that because of the tightness of the timetable, and despite a recommendation that the decision should be endorsed by the full council, reports of the meeting quoted council leader Peter Bedford as saying that “the mayor has agreed that such a decision should be treated as urgent” which we were told meant that the matter would not go before the full council after all.
The urgency was because of the need to benefit from a guaranteed rate of 32.9p for every kilowatt hour generated. But applications had to be in by December 12th to qualify for the payment – which would then be guaranteed until 31st March 2012 and protected for 25 years linked to the rate of inflation. Any later with the applications, and the payment would drop by about half.
Glittering figures were bandied about, with profits on a best case scenario of £3,914,068 with a payback time for the cost of less than eight years; a “likely case” where profits would be £1,752,624 and even in the worst case, £1,293,362.
But now, it seems tonight’s meeting of the full council will have its voice heard after all.
The indecent haste to rush things through by 12th December – which was the date for applications which guaranteed the higher rate of return – just one small point was overlooked … the time it would take to process the applications – which is between 45 and 60 days.
Obviously this means that the council will miss the deadline, and makes us wonder whether anything else might have been overlooked as well.
The 32.9p payment that the cabinet had hoped for will now fall to 15.2p - although the higher rate will still be paid until the end of March, and the link to inflation will be maintained.
A slightly different calculation is used in the report to this evening’s meeting from the one originally given to the cabinet.
It compares “export” profits and uses them to calculate a payback period.
So, with a 50% export and 50% usage, payback would take 14.45 years with profits of £90,943; 20% export would take 9.81 years and yield £192,902, and using all the power without any exports would take pay back 8.08 years with profits of £260,875.
As well as the solar panels, which will cost £105,167, there is another proposal – to spend £22,132 of capital on energy efficient lighting at the Moulder complex.
It is estimated that this proposal will generate average annual savings of £4,047 – about the cost of a year’s muzak at the centre – plus annual maintenance savings which are to be “clarified” – which is always a worrying word.
The report’s conclusion is that: “Based on a set of cautious assumptions, it is believed that investment in solar PV would still represent a worthwhile investment and also demonstrate community leadership on the environment.”
Given the way that things have gone so far, we hope that tonight’s meeting will look long and hard at the proposals - and ensure that there are no potentially nasty surprises lurking in the wings.

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Friday, 18 November 2011

Our Friday miscellany
of the week's
news and events

Wednesday’s publication of  Lincolnshire’s unemployment figures showed an increase in longer-term joblessness, and - compared with this time last year -  more than 1,000 people  claiming benefits. In Boston,  unemployment was  eight fewer than  last month – but year on year 10%  higher - with 137 more people seeking work. This placed Boston fourth on the list of the county’s 13 economic areas, and came against the backdrop of the news that 34 out of 55 staff at Pinguin Foods on the Marsh Lane Industrial Estate could be sacked – although the company hopes it might be less. The news underlines two things. Firstly - that what some of our leaders see as core employment in the area  ...  i.e. field and packhouse work ... is undergoing a steady decline; and secondly that more effort must be put into creating new, non-agricultural employment in Boston.
It’s now roughly 100 days since Boston’s Labour councillors launched a campaign on their website for local people to identify local “grot spots” - which would be drawn to the attention of Worst Street in the hope that something would be done about them. We said at the time that we were sure there would be no shortage of nominations. But as is so often the case - whether anything has been done about any of them is another matter entirely. Perhaps a progress report would help …
Interestingly, in the same week that we reported the launch of Labour’s campaign, we also noted the closure of the Maud Foster Tearooms, blamed on the totally pointless Spilsby Road roadworks that have done nothing at all to improve the way traffic flows through town. Even though we have mentioned the fate of the tearooms before, it has been ignored by people who should know better. This month’s issue of Lincolnshire Focus magazine carries the advert below.

click to enlarge the picture
Given that the advert is produced by Boston BID, it comes as no surprise that it is wrong in some respect. But Boston Borough Council is another culprit - telling readers of its website “Maud’s tearoom is a traditional tea shop serving morning coffees, lunches and afternoon teas,” whilst posting a link to the mill’s own site which quite clearly states “Maud's Tea Room has now closed.” More seriously, we think that the BID advert is also misleading. The photo of the Market Place - which of course is now a  building site  - makes no mention of the work currently being undertaken, nor that the site of the market has moved pro tem. Presumably, this was because the BID thought that such information might put people off visiting the town. But a carefully written piece, explaining what is going on,  and pointing out that the town ought soon to have one of the finest market places in the country, is surely far preferable to having people visit and feel cheated.
In yesterday’s blog, we reproduced figures from the Lincolnshire Observatory showing who does what in the world of work in the county – giving the lie to the idea that Boston is a place where most residents work in the fields. The same statistics showed Overall Household Recycling and Composting Rate (as a percentage of household waste) for local authority districts for 2010-11.
click to enlarge the picture
Perhaps the recent rush to recycle in Boston may have come too late, but the figures show the borough at the bottom of the compost heap with a meagre 29% - almost half that of the top recyclers West Lindsey, with 56% .
It seems that progress is taking place since the planned Boston march about immigration levels was postponed - with claims that police activity with regard to anti-social behaviour is increasing. We also hear that there should be some news of Boston Borough Council’s task and finish group by the end of the month. There is also to be a review of the current Designated Public Places Order, which might feature a total drinks ban for some areas – subject to changes in the law.
The Boston Protest March Facebook page, meanwhile, changes almost daily, but seems to be fragmenting, with many complaints from people about removal of their comments and the like. As recently as yesterday, chunks of older messages disappeared – prompting suggestions that the site had been hacked. The page has also prompted the following e-mail from an anonymous reader concerned that the public interest is being marginalised in the debate. He writes: “Following your blog on the stifling of free speech by Councillor Bedford, I was minded to pose another question. Since the announcement of a march in Boston on the subject of immigration, organised almost entirely on a popular social networking site, the "leadership" of this group seem to have been invited to meet with local councillors, the Home Office, the MP and others.  On what basis has the council decided that these are the only people that require consultation on the problems within Boston? Are the silent (or those not on Facebook) majority to be ignored in favour of those who call for action via the internet? In fact, how many members of this "group" are just viewing the posts and have no intention of marching? A lot of the comments come from people who don't even live in or have any connection to Boston. What worried me was the "public meeting" that seemed to be by invite only. Is there going to be no general consultation of the borough's citizens if the problems we face are that great? In the last few days there seems to be a great deal of infighting on their page and the "banning" of people who don't agree with the moderators of the group. I'm not sure this is the example of a democratic group challenging the council.”
We wonder what bright spark decided that last Sunday would be a good day to erect new road signage and undertake white lining on many of Boston’s main roads. Traffic through the town was gridlocked during the day, with not only John Adams Way, but many of its tributary roads, choked with traffic. In case the traffic managers at – presumably County Hall – had not noticed, Sunday was Remembrance Day. When we arrived to park shortly after 10am, much of The Green was already taken up by contractors’ vehicles, and as 11am approached,  parking problems for late arrivals were acute. This, on a day that is guaranteed to be one of the busiest in the calendar for town centre parking.
Apropos that, whilst we can understand that signs proclaiming a 60p charge for half an hour’s parking on The Green on Sunday is intended as a demonstration of generosity, we felt that it would have been more appropriate to remove them last weekend. The reasons? Firstly, half an hour isn’t long enough for attendees at the War Memorial service, and secondly the signs broadcast the impression that people were being warned to “pay up or else” rather than being made aware of reduced charges. A lesson for next year, perhaps?
Is it really true that this week is Boston Enterprise Week? We read of a couple of events on Wednesday under that heading on Boston Borough Council’s website comprising a Dragon’s Den event staged by Young Enterprise and a Junior Chamber International event on optimising your online business profile. Aside from that there is a  speed networking event  being staged next week. Try as we might, we can find no reference to the event on Boston Business Improvement District’s website, and the whole thing seems a little half hearted, to say the least. In the current economic climate we would have expected an “Enterprise Week” to be … well, enterprising – if nothing else!
On Wednesday, we mentioned the Boston Town Area Committee, and its budget surplus of £13,281. Despite having so much unspent cash, splashing out on some fencing to make life more liveable for residents of Punchbowl Lane was declared to be neither an “optimum, cost effective or proportionate solution.”   At the same meeting, the committee discussed an application by the South Lincolnshire Community Voluntary Service for financial help towards next year’s Boston Community Showcase. Apparently, in the real world the event would cost around £70,000 to stage – but by some miracle, the Showcase Partnership keeps it down to about £14,000. A letter asks if BTAC would be willing to “consider sponsoring” the event – which we hope does not mean footing the entire bill. It’s reported that SLCVS already gets around £100,000 a year from Boston Borough Council, plus the laughable community “hub” at a peppercorn rent, as well as a big chunk of the Placecheck monies. According to the Charity Commission, SLCVS had an income in 2010 of £794,433 - of which it carried forward a hefty chunk to the following year. It seem to us that the SLVCS considers Boston Borough Council a soft touch – and that the council should be asking more questions about where the money is going before it acts as the organisation’s sugar daddy.
Finally, no matter how arcane the language, we can usually make sense of most things that appear in the Boston Standard. But for once, we were baffled by the piece below which appeared in this week’s Memory Lane feature ...

If anyone can explain from the information published how finding two bob ended up with a puffin in a cardboard box, we would be delighted to hear.

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Thursday, 17 November 2011

New figures give the lie to the cauli-cutting myth

In recent weeks we have been critical of our local “politicians” for their willingness to classify Boston as an area where the only place for people to work is in the fields and packhouses.
On a recent radio phone-in, our local MP Mark Simmonds was asked about the lack of jobs for local people, and responded: “I can meet some young people in Boston who say ‘Mark, when are you going to get all these migrants out of our town, and I say to them, ‘Well, when you’re prepared to go into the fields or the packhouses.”
Similarly, Boston Borough Council leader Peter Bedford – in another radio interview – offered this verdict on jobs: “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.”
Obviously, there are always people who for various reasons qualify only for jobs such as these – but we suspect that they are in a minority, and not what the great and the good of Boston would have us believe.
To suggest – as Mr Simmonds and Councillor Bedford have done – that the alternative to the fields and packhouses is the dole queue, is unfair … and derogatory of the people they claim to represent.
That is why it is interesting to see the latest break down of who-does-what in the county from the Lincolnshire Research Observatory.
It has produced sets of figures for 2010 showing – as a percentage of all employees – the proportion of people working within each broad industrial group.
Sources for the figures include the Office for National Statistics and DEFRA.
They show that far from being a society of cauli-cutters as our masters claim, we are very much a white-collar community.
The biggest employment area by far is public administration, education and health – which accounts for 26.6% of the borough’s workers.
This is followed by banking, finance and insurance, with 22.5% – and then
distribution, hotels and restaurants at 22.1%.
It is only then that we see then entry of agriculture and fishing  – at a comparatively meagre 5.7%.
After that, the list comprises: transport and communications 5.3%, “other services” 2.6%, construction 2.3% and energy and water at just 1%.
What this tells us is that despite the poor quality of education locally, Bostonians are achieving against the odds.
For this they should be credited, not categorised – and wrongly categorised at that.
What we need now is for our politicians to get to work for once, and make a case for better quality jobs to come to Boston, plus more by way of educational opportunities to help our citizens develop new skills
The borough needs new investment by modern industry, and with more financial support for broadband services promised, efforts should be made to ensure that we get our fair share of whatever is going.
Quality broadband will do much to reduce the impediments that have held Boston back for so long – in particular, the remoteness of the district and the poor road infrastructure.
What we are asking for is commitment and effort from those who hitherto have sat back and accepted the status quo.
We need imaginative and far-sighted leadership.
But where to find it is the next problem to solve.

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Sorry - things have to be much worse before we will help!

Back in September, we reported one of those issues where commonsense should prevail - but doesn’t.
It concerns residents in Punchbowl Lane, who are beset by anti-social behaviour from people using an access route from Ingelow Avenue, and who had appealed for help from Boston Borough Council.
The borough’s Policy and Projects Committee asked the Cabinet to consider doing something about the access - but the legal advice was that it was a public highway which the council couldn’t close – so the problem was sent to BTAC - the Boston Town Area Committee.
BTAC faced three choices.
• note the situation and do nothing.
• formally ask the County Council to put the access on its Definitive Map, which records public rights of way - which it may not agree to do, and which would still not make it possible to close it or to maintain it to a decent standard.
• use BTAC cash to improve security in the area.
Now, a report before tonight's BTAC meeting again highlights the stupidity of rules and regulations which seem designed to hinder peoples’ lives rather than to help them.
One option which has been investigated in more detail since the last meeting is creating a gating order – quite simply closing the access at certain times.
But that can’t be done – and guess why?
The amount of crime being committed is not enough.
“In the case of the footpath under scrutiny, although incidents of crime and anti-social behaviour have been formally reported, the number and nature do not indicate a ‘significant’ crime and anti-social behaviour issue with the access,” says a report to the committee.
And in little by way of consolation, it notes that this in no way intended to minimise the trauma and concern felt by those living immediately beside the access.
Apparently, no crime or anti-social behaviour has been reported to the council’s anti-social behaviour team since April. The last four incidents reported to the police were about bricks being thrown into a resident’s garden, and fencing being stolen in March; an alleged drug deal in the access route in May, and metal being banged in the alley and youths with lights in September.
The report adds that Lincolnshire Police have no current intention to press for a gating order, and the council’s own ASB team doesn’t have enough evidence to pursue one with the County Council alone.
This - as we pointed out last time - is the same anti-social behaviour team which posed larger than life for a poster campaign, with the apparently incorrect assertion that no one need suffer from anti-social behaviour.
The report therefore concludes that:  “It is questionable whether pursuing a gating order is actually a feasible option at the present time.”
Once a gating order is ruled out, the remaining options are to fence the access, or install CCTV.
Fencing would cost between £4,200 and £6,300 – depending on the type used.
As far as CCTV is concerned,  providing the sort of camera the council likes would be around £25,000 - plus running costs of between £5,000 and £6,000 a year.
And the final conclusion?
“Unfortunately there does not appear to be an optimum, cost effective and proportionate solution to the issues at hand. In determining what if any further action or recommendation(s) the committee takes, its members may wish to consider what if any precedence may be set by any option(s) or recommendations it determines to take.”
Ironically, another report to BTAC  says that committee is underspent for the financial year 2010/11 to the tune of £52,374. This is largely due to the ward improvement and Central Park budgets, being underspent by £13,781 and £19,500 - although the Central Park underspent is because a project started just before the end of the financial year.
The report concludes: “The biggest risk regarding whether there is a further underspend in 2011/12 remains the Ward Improvement budget. The Committee needs to develop a forward plan for the use of such reserves as part of its overall financial strategy.”
Members are urged to think about how they intend to use their remaining ward allocation of reserves of £13,281 for 2011/12 – i.e. spend it in the next four months.
As it seems there is nothing else to spend the money on at present, surely a special case could be made to use some of it without a queue forming of people wanting to cash in on the “precedent” established?
No, that would be too easy.

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Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Pilgrim's progress - and MP's involvement

Two letters to Boston Eye in as many days have raised issues regarding the town’s Pilgrim Hospital.
The first, from Independent Boston Borough Councillor Brian Rush, concerns the hospital, our MP Mark Simmonds, and his involvement with the private, stock exchange listed, Circle Health Care.
Circle is a so-called John Lewis-style partnership  - which has been appointed to manage the debt-ridden Hinchingbrooke hospital in Huntingdon.
It is the first time in NHS history that a private company has been given the right to deliver a full range of hospital services – re-igniting a debate about the use of business in the health sector.
Circle also employs Mr Simmonds - a former shadow minister for health - as a strategic adviser at £50,000 a year - paid in quarterly instalments of £12,500 ... each for ten hours’ work.
Councillor Rush writes:
“Am I right in suggesting that we may have now discovered that the truth behind MP Mark Simmonds sudden interest in the Pilgrim Hospital may be more to do with his business relationship with Circle Healthcare.
“I am not opposed to any initiative that will improve our health service, so long as users are well provided for, and the administration is well regulated and accountable.
“I confess, I was somewhat surprised recently when Mark Simmonds added his own condemnation to the criticism - reported by the media - regarding the level of care and service at Pilgrim Hospital.
“The charitable soul that I am, conceded that it may well have been due to his new local residential status, which might at last be allowing him to take more of an interest in his local electorate than he had previously.
“It would be disingenuous of me to try to defend substandard health care - if it is in fact true – but ... if we begin to discover that the true reason for Mr Simmonds’s observations over past weeks and months, was not because of a genuine concern for patients, but more to do with promoting and furthering the ambitions of a private company - in which he has a declared financial interest - then he should be absolutely ashamed of himself.
“I am hopeful that I have misunderstood the situation, and that his efforts are honourable.”
Our second letter is from regular reader Robin Smith
“What a mind boggling week of reports on Boston Eye regarding what is really going on in the dark recesses in the Rotten Borough of Boston,” he writes.
“It’s really mind blowing to see what antics our substandard governing representatives are actually up to - or not - as the case may be.
“Their total disregard for the views and opinions of the hard-working and law-abiding local and small businesspeople of the town seems to know no bounds.
“As is very obvious to all in the area, our once highly-esteemed Pilgrim Hospital and its very hard working and dedicated staff are still having to endure constant and ongoing denigration - despite the fact that none of these problems were created by them, but by the increase in demand caused by the elephant in the room that is the huge rapid and continuing increase in the town’s population - plus the simultaneous budget shortfall, and ongoing vast budget cuts yet to come - when what is required is a huge increase in budget to match the rise in numbers of our new residents.
“Of course, politics and the compulsory inferior management compound the situation.
“Our supposed member of parliament’s response to the very serious Pilgrim situation has had me quite puzzled for some time.
“I - along with many other locals - actually expected him to stand up and bang the drum vigorously - for what is, after all, the town’s and his constituency’s greatest asset and employer – but, of course, what you expect you rarely get.
“I was recently told by a reliable union source that the problems at Pilgrim are so serious that ward closures and redundancies of up to 800 staff have been proposed and are a real possibility in the near future.
Time will tell on that one.
“An ambulance service source informed me that it was not at all unusual at times to have 8-10 vehicles with patients waiting outside the grossly overworked A&E department, as there were often no trolleys or beds available in the entire hospital.
“Yes, I am a retired health service worker, and was proud to have worked for the service in the area for many years.
“The following snippets from a report in the Daily Torygraph regarding failing hospitals set my alarm bells ringing.
"’Hinchingbrooke Hospital will be handed over to Circle, one of Britain's most prominent health care providers.’
“The report also states that as part of the contract, Circle could earn up to £40 million in fees over the next decade.
“Around twenty other failing hospitals are out to tender.
“I wonder, could this possibly be what the future holds for Pilgrim Hospital - as sadly it still appears to be failing - and could a possible conflict of interest be on the horizon for someone.”

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Monday, 14 November 2011

Leader demands free speech - just as long as it is his!

Throughout history, the road to free speech has been littered with obstacles.
But who would have thought that in these enlightened days, none other than the leader of Boston borough council, Peter Bedford, would still be flying that obstructionist flag??
He sparked something of a war of words last Thursday with a spate of e-mails to Boston Eye after our blog of week a ago today headed Psst! - don't let on, but the Home Office has been and gone ...
If you missed it, you can read it by clicking here 
Just as popular myth has it that Prince Charles has a member of staff for every occasion, so Czar Peter does not dirty his hands by putting his fingers to the keyboard to e-mail the likes of Boston Eye.
Instead he delegated the task to his Communications Manager, Mr Andrew Malkin, who has the unenviable duty of relaying the leader's message along with the appropriate instructions.
Thus it was that this e-mail found its way into our inbox at 12-46 last Thursday …

click to enlarge
To say that we were surprised would be an understatement – particularly as more than one councillor had told us that the news of the Home Office visit reached them via Boston Eye.
In light of that – and some of Councillor Bedford’s other comments, we felt that a robust reply was called for …
click to enlarge
Clearly Councillor Bedford has no comprehension of just how rude it is to address deeply personal attacks via a third party – or perhaps he does.
Whatever the answer, he failed to respect our request – again leaving the task to poor Mr Malkin.

click to enlarge

We took the view that by this time,  Councillor Bedford had let the genie out of the bottle;  and that the inherent unfairness of demanding the right to attack - but  to expect his victim to sit idly by as a spectator whilst being accused of all kinds of unprofessional conduct,  was too much to demand ... and we told him so.

click to enlarge
The e-mail response above was posted to Councillor Bedford on Friday morning – since when nothing has been received by way of reply.
So Boston Eye reader, it’s for you to decide.
In almost half a century as a writer, this is only the second time that the editor of Boston Eye has been accused of inaccuracy or misinformation - let alone had allegations of possible criminality made against him.
Amazingly, both occasions have occurred within four months, and each time,  the complainant has been the Leader of the Council, Peter Bedford - which we feel says far more about the accuser than the accused.
Apart from last week’s episode, the other was the Case of the Hallaton Helmet  – which you can read by clicking here.
Of course, Councillor Bedford is correct when he says that mistakes should be rectified.
Regrettably, it is impossible to turn the clock back to  Thursday 5th May,  and  the local elections when voters made the greatest mistake of all - which saw an ill-prepared Tory party seize power.
But the leadership, of course,  is entirely another matter - and an area where correction can still be made.

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Friday, 11 November 2011

Our Friday miscellany
of the week's
news and events

We wondered what the Boston Borough Council tent was doing pitched on Fish Hill during Wednesday’s market day – and thanks to Independent Councillor Richard Leggott, we now know. He tells us: “After a stint on Boston Borough Council consultation team on Fish Hill, Wednesday 9th November, I would like to report, through your blog, my observations.
1: It’s difficult to interest younger people in the exercise of consultation by tick box. It was generally the middle-aged to older members of the public who took away the form and s.a.e.
2: It was further evident that there were many of the younger passers-by whose first language was not English.
3: General satisfaction levels in council service delivery ranged from 'very happy' to ‘c--p.’ (I'm telling it as it is here).
Singular and recurring observations and questions included the following.
I'm quite happy except for --.
What on earth is the point of ripping up our Market Place to lose so many parking spaces --absolutely crazy!
Look at that tattered flag flying above the Assembly Rooms.
Is it right the Market Place will not be finished until next July?
Here come those buses again; look how they struggle to turn round.
Why can't we have a bus coming in from ---------?
Where is the Tourist Information Centre?
I'm not from Boston, thank you.
Dyznite przcoiiankovic-- or something similar.
Who do I need to contact about a rude stallholder?
Before I ticket these cars parked on Fish Hill, do any of them belong to any of you?
There was also a comment which I cannot repeat about the management of BID. Presumably, from the knowledge displayed, a 'reluctant member' of that scheme.
My final comments.
Well done Boston Borough Council staff. You were a model of tact and diplomacy, sometimes in the face of strong criticism. I was pleased to see other councillors doing a stint to help you. And what happened to those chocolates ?
A final note from us - what a shame that the event was not better publicised.
We note that the Boston District Independents’ (formerly BBI) leader Councillor Helen Staples had a complaint against her upheld by the borough council’s Consideration and Hearings sub committee. The allegation was that she failed to declare a personal interest in the consideration of a planning application. The details appeared in the public notice announcements in the Boston Standard – but we couldn’t find it in the Boston Target. Unfortunately, although a reference number  for the application was given in the notice, no trace of it could be found in a search of planning applications. The committee decided that Councillor Staples had a "close association" with one of the objectors to the application, which she failed to declare, and which was a breach of the council’s code of conduct. There was a time when such announcements appeared in the council’s own notices on its website, but this had not happened as we went to press. Frankly we wonder what the point of all this is. Councillor Staples’s punishment is to be censured by the sub committee –  which means ... what, exactly? Perhaps it’s the political equivalent of a yellow card in sport. But does it carry any weight? Is it regarded as a serious matter? Somehow, we think not.
Our MP Mark Simmonds has announced a meeting with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, because he says the government needs to understand the pressures that the rise in Boston’s population has put on our community. He said: "We need to make sure that those who are in the Boston area legally and legitimately and are making a contribution are welcomed and those who are not are sent back from whence they came.” We are sure that the government already understands the issues – but simply chooses to do nothing about them. We are equally sure that 99.9% of people live in the area legitimately, and therefore – whether they make a contribution or not, cannot be sent anywhere at all ...  which makes Mr Simmonds’s words seem rather hollow . He is also meeting Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to ask for more financial support to cope with the rise in population. Critics will say that he still doesn’t get it. The issue is one of numbers – not integration or payment for the extra bodies. Throughout the recent debates, protesters have made this clear – they are saying that Boston simply has too high a proportion of migrants and that this is changing the face of the town.
Speaking of Mr Simmonds, we note that just days after his announcement that he was pressing the Olympic torch committee to include his constituency among the areas to be visited, that Wrangle and Boston are listed among the thousand or so places that it will pass through. It would be unkind to suggest that when his announcement was made that the route had almost certainly been decided, but we are sure that if Boston had not been on it, then changes would have been made between the middle of last week and Monday of this to ensure that we received a visit!
This of course means that joy will be unconfined. The borough’s portfolio holder for leisure services, Councillor Yvonne Gunter, has already declared that being part of the torch relay is fantastic and “something really positive for Boston.” We may be getting old – we are getting old! – but we fail to see what, if anything it will do for us. Wrangle councillor Maureen Dennis also calls the news exciting and claims that it “will form a real attachment for many with the Olympics.” Meanwhile games organising committee chairman Sebastian (Lord) Coe is even more ecstatic. “We are thrilled to confirm that Boston and Wrangle will act as host locations for the Olympic flame…” he shrills.  We can imagine the scene around the committee table. “Hey! Boston and Wrangle are on the list. Oh, wow!” Or something like that.
Clearly the news has prompted Boston to push the boat out in no uncertain fashion. Four 2012 projects in the area have already received funding for Olympic projects. They include a grant of £150 to Boston’s Central Park Community Gardens - for painting five tractor tyres to replicate the Olympic rings which then be planted with colourful flowers and plants. A Turner prize winner if ever we heard of one!
On a drive into Boston down Spilsby Road, we noted a line of banners hanging from the street lights proclaiming that despite the chaotic “improvement” work in Boston Market Place, business was going on as usual. The wording on the banners is so small that we almost hit a lamppost trying to read it – but stopping would have meant blocking the road. Presumably these banners are displayed on other roads into Boston, but we can’t quite see the point. By the time you read the message, you are so close to town that you will complete your journey in any case. The fact that Boston remains open for business needs to be issued in places from where people are expected to pay us a visit. We are sure that the news of the refurbishment work has spread far and wide – and the message needs to be as well.
Never mind, soon the Christmas lights will be blazing away – and there was some unexpected news for the press-ganged levy payers of Boston Business Improvement District, who contributed £10,000 to the costs. Not only are they chipping in this year, but they are paying another £10k towards next year’s illuminations as well. Although it has been claimed that this double dip into the funds of our hard-pressed local businesses has been “previously publicised” this is the first time that we have heard of the deal. And by the sound of it, even more money could have been forthcoming had the BID not been up for re-election in 2013. And let’s not forget that next year the BID has high hopes of part funding a free concert in Central Park to the tune of a further £10,000. How easy it is to be generous with other people’s money. But will someone please tell us how this is “mproving life for our local businesses?
In a little publicised move, Lincolnshire police have introduced a new 101 number for non-emergency calls. The service will be used to report crimes such as stolen cars or damaged property, but does not replace 999 for emergency calls. The calls will be handled round the clock by specially trained staff. A police spokesman said: “We have probably missed out on calls from some members of the public who in the past have not known the number to ring, and don't want to tie up 999. Over time we hope the 101 number will become common knowledge across the county." We talked last week about two-tier policing – and now it seems we are getting two-tier crime management as well. To suggest that things such as the theft of your car is “non-emergency” implies that it is also unimportant - which is probably true as far as the police are concerned. Not only that, but the calls will certainly be handled by a centre far away from Boston – and will also cost you 15p. What a shame that we can’t bring back the days when our local police station was in the phone book, and you could ring and speak to someone who understood who and where you were  and was interested in what you were talking about.
We note that the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership has been given almost £6.5m by the government to kick-start stalled housing and commercial developments. Reports say that the money is aimed at bringing forward “infrastructure” projects, such as transport improvements or flood defences. From what little we have read about the activities of this organisation, our impression is that – as is so often the case – investment benefiting Lincoln is at the top of its list. We hope that Boston Borough Council quickly draws up a shopping list and puts in a bid for funds – before the same things happens again.
Finally, we received an e-mail last week from someone who was at the South Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service awards where members of the public and charity groups were honoured for their work in the community. The e-mail told us: "Each award was presented by geographical area and each had a representative for their local council present an award. When it came to the East Lindsey and Boston (is this a prophetic word to come) the awards were presented by John Medler from ELDC. As Peter Bedford was in attendance, would he not have been more suitable to present the Boston awards -  very few were nominated?  It just seemed very wrong that our leader could not muster a word to honour those within his own community. All said and done the event was very well attended  - although very few groups from the Boston area were nominated "

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