Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Just because it's called a Cabinet doesn't mean it has to be made of wood!

Yesterday we mentioned the importance of quality rather than quantity when it comes to our elected representatives – and this has become more important than ever now that the council operates a cabinet model of leadership.
Although the council has far less impact on our daily lives that it used to – since it provides far less by way of service – it nonetheless spends millions of our hard earned cash, without it really mattering whether or not it is put to the best possible use.
And before anyone cries “foul” let’s not forget the empty shops project which saw tens of thousands of pounds of grant money wasted in a pointless exercise which was excused as being part of a learning curve.
The fact is that all the real decisions affecting Boston are now taken by just seven people – or six based on January’s meeting, when one sent an apology.
In decision-making terms, that must be one of the smallest groups to impinge on the lives of around 60,000 people. A company with as many employees would have a far more comprehensive and capable board of directors.
The Cabinet meets tomorrow, with three items on the agenda.
The first is hopefully to endorse the recommendations of a committee which has asked for a fairer fee scale for the borough’s allotments – one that is acceptable to the allotment holders themselves.
The second is to adopt a more streamlined markets policy - replacing two sets of documents with one, which hopefully will simplify the operation. However, as a report to the cabinet points out, the existing documents prohibit market traders from paying their rent in cash – even though more than half of them have been doing it for years! Such an admission immediately calls into question the worth of any new “rules.”
The final item on the agenda is a recommendation to use a £200,000-plus government new homes bonus to  return empty homes into use.
Despite the need to economise on staffing – and the borough’s Chief Executive has recently warned of “some very difficult times as we struggle to maintain services against a background of smaller resources,” the first £30,000 of this money to be spent will be on the funding of “a shared Empty Homes Officer for two years.” Would it not be possible to manage without one?
Each of these agenda items leaves us with a feeling that there are loose ends being left untied which ought to be better defined and addressed.
There is a growing sense that the cabinet itself is little more than a rubber stamping exercise for the thoughts and ideas of the senior officers who produce these reports - something which we know concerns many councillors outside the Bluelaw inner sanctum.
In three weeks’ time the Cabinet meets once again in a special session to approve the council’s budget for the coming year.
The thousands of words in the report include warnings that the risk of reduced income from government is high, as is the loss of matched funding from partners - and an increase in bad debts. There’s also a "medium" risk that efficiency targets will not be met - which would have a major impact on council performance, although we are assured that "robust efficiency plans, and a fully-scoped transformation programme ...."

Robots ... ? Transformers?
Isn't that some sort of kids' game?

The counterweight to these worrying trends mainly mostly seems to be to whack up car parking charges and to introduce them for disabled badge holders.
There seems to be one serious shortfall that no-one has yet mentioned – which is the need for some creative thinking when it comes to developing streams of income, something that involves more than just bumping up the charges inflicted on the “usual suspects.”

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Monday, 30 January 2012

It's not the width that matters - it's the quality!
It seems almost certain that Boston Borough Council will shrink in size by two members – from 32 to 30. The plan has been put forward by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, which wants to hear local voters’ opinions.
The Commission wants to deliver electoral equality, and make sure that each councillor represents roughly the same number of people.
Commission Chairman Max Caller says that at present, the position isn’t balanced – and points out as a for-instance that Boston’s Central ward has 26% fewer electors per councillor than the average in Boston, whereas Kirton ward has 24% more.
The council has already agreed that it can manage with fewer councillors
An review in 1996 saw numbers reduced from 34 to 32 - and a submission to the commission made last October says that now the council has a Leader/Cabinet model, other councillors have less involvement in decision-making - which means that it could stand another cut in members.
It’s not thought that the electorate will rise sharply in the coming years, but it is believed that that there is under-registration by voters in town wards - perhaps because they feel neglected and that there is not much point in bothering to vote..
The submission also paints a none-too-pretty picture of the way some councillors operate.
All 32 members were sent a questionnaire to gauge activity within their wards and the pressures and constraints that this places on their time.
Disappointingly, only 13 – that’s 40% -  bothered to reply.
The results showed that eight were retired, two in part-time employment and three were working full time.
If those ratios were applied across the council as a whole, it would show too high a proportion  of retirees - and show that efforts to make the council truly representative of the electorate have not succeeded.
Similarly, the means by which councillors keep in touch with their electors is none too impressive, with only four holding local “surgeries.” Others said they attended parish council meetings, issued newsletters, made ward visits, used the village magazine and various charities and committees. Only one mentioned a website – and  of those we’ve seen recently most have not been updated for months.
Of eleven members who responded to a question about roughly how many requests for advice or assistance they received each month – at the lower end, one claimed between two and four, whilst at the top end another claimed to have received more than nine.We feel certain that more voters would ask more questions if they had more encouragement and  better understanding of the system.
As we have said before, the introduction of the cabinet model of government has pulled the teeth of the council as a whole – which now meets only five or six times a year - usually to rubber stamp cabinet decisions.
And talking of decisions, well over 90% of planning committee decisions are now taken by officers, whilst the actual attendance of councillors averaged 75% - although three of the 13 members could only manage a 50% turnout.
Figures for the licensing committee showed similar results – with almost 100% of decisions being delegated to officers, and attendances of the 15 members in the last year falling as low as 33% for one meeting.
Two members in 2010-11 failed toattend any of the five meetings, whilst four others only managed  one meeting.
However, figures like this apparently were insufficient to prevent the full council voting to increase its historically low allowances from £2,378 to £4,400 a year over a three year period – although two members to their credit have refused the rise.
Cutting the number of councillors to 30 is based on allowing eight for the Cabinet, two for Mayoralty – which now costs around £60,000 a year - and 20 to ensure that regulatory, scrutiny and other committees have adequate representation and continued to function effectively.
The licensing committee membership would reduce from 15 to13, and planning from 13 to 11, whilst the scrutiny and audit committees would stay the same.
How much all this is costing is anyone’s guess – but one key point is overlooked entirely.
Whilst the thrust of the exercise is aimed at the quantity of councillors, nowhere does anyone discuss the quality.
Over the years we have formed opinions of many of our councillors, and are sure that their efficiency and abilities vary considerably.
But if we must have fewer councillors, we need also to ensure that we have councillors who are better.
Whilst it is difficult to judge from the sidelines, we can certainly comment on one occasion when we approached our own ward councillors with a long-standing problem.
All three responded – and two went immediately into action. The third clearly failed to understand the e-mail, with a reply that was not only misspelled but also not especially fluent.
However, a promise was made to investigate.
A follow up e-mail sent after six weeks’ silence was ignored, and another sent four weeks later produced a reply that was totally incomprehensible.
Our response was to say as much -  and to add that we would no longer burden this particular councillor any further – a reaction that also remained ignored.
See what we mean about quality? - and this member has three more years in office.
If we are to be served by fewer councillors, then we deserve to be served by the best we can get.
Local parties please take note.

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Friday, 27 January 2012

Our Friday miscellany
of the week's
news and events
We have been roundly taken to task for our choice of words in Monday’s blog (Victory for Diggers?) about the Task and Finish group report on proposed fees for Boston’s allotments. Independent Councillor Carol Taylor writes to say: “To use the word 'Victory' suggests there was a battle. There was not. A decision has been reached which should be acceptable for both allotment holders and the council. The decision was through the use of quantitative methods over a significant period of time. The initial suggestion regarding fees was just that, a suggestion. It was through subsequent meetings with the Task and Finish group and more importantly the Allotment Holders to come to an amicable decision. The latest fees are an excellent reflection of those discussions between two groups through debate. When using percentage terminology, 400% always sounds very derogatory or terrific depending on where you are coming from. The reality of the situation is that the top fees proposed won't come into force for four years! I am sure that members of the public can identify with significant rises and when reflecting the cost of living four years ago, it is somewhat different now. This report was compiled through sheer hard work and dedication from Jenny Moore, who worked tirelessly and diligently to achieve the goals. Yes, it may have been her job to do this, but Jenny went well beyond the call of duty and is much admired by the allotment holders for her honesty and commitment to the project. Finally, you are absolutely correct in your summation that ' Bluelaw ' prevails, but I too hope they will see the report for what it is, a concise and accurate conclusion culminating in reduced taxpayers’ contributions through realistic charges.”
Removal of litter is quite rightly a priority task in Boston, and the latest news is that prisoners from North Sea Camp have cleared more than 65 tonnes of rubbish from 300 illegal dump sites around Boston as part of Operation Fly Swat. The removal of more than 600 tyres sounds especially impressive – even though it works out at only two per “site” -  and we were faintly amused by the suggestion that the exercise had allowed inmates to "give something back to the community."

We feel sure that – offered the choice – they would rather be doing one of the many and varied vocational and training opportunities on offer, and also feel that at a cost per prisoner place of around £30,000 a year this is an expensive way to clear litter. The people who dump it are the ones who should be clearing away the rubbish – and we hope that the powers that be bear this in mind if ever anyone is prosecuted.
Hats off to the hard workers at Boston Stump for obtaining £250,000 in funding to improve facilities which they hope will draw more visitors to what is already one of the county’s major tourist attractions. The project is the culmination of more than 20 years of planning – but we wonder how much earlier it might have been achieved if Boston Borough Council had not made life for the Stump so much more difficult than necessary. In recent years it has withdrawn a contribution towards the insurance of the nave and opposed a planning application by the parish to demolish the former Conway School and build housing on the site – on the grounds that it would cause “significant harm” to the Boston Conservation Area. We are sure that  one or two sensible modifications to the plans would have allowed the church to develop unwanted land and profit from it. But not only did the council remain intractable, it has since billed the parish for thousands of pounds in business rates on the empty property. And now it is even letting the church get on with the job of boosting tourism – another task delegated!
Talking of which … twice during the week, we mentioned Boston Borough Council’s plan to shrug off its responsibility for local “footway” lighting and pass it on to parish councils - which could increase their local precepts by between 13.6% and 105%. The mention produced an excellent suggestion from Wyberton Councillor Donald Ransome. “I think it is time that the scattered street lights that are the responsibility of Boston Borough Council should all be transferred to Lincolnshire County Council, so that maintaining and replacing the lights falls under one department thereby cutting costs and hopefully improving efficiency.” Why has no one else apparently thought of this?
We mention from time to time some of the differences between Boston and our neighbouring authority South Holland. The latest is the news that South Holland’s leader Councillor Gary Porter, is to meet one of the big six energy companies to press for fairer fuel prices for district residents. Ahead of the meeting he is calling on those who have not yet shown support for his idea of a district-wide cut-price fuel tariff to do so in order to ensure South Holland gets the best possible deal. A cut in tariffs of as much as 15% has been mentioned.  Whither Boston? Yes, doesn't it!
Our mention last week of a New Year’s Honour for Boston’s former Chief Executive Mark James reminded one reader of a chance meeting about five years ago. “I was on a family holiday in south Wales and had a day trip to Carmarthen. Having a coffee in M and S I couldn't help but overhear the conversation going on - in Welsh - at the next table and was quite surprised to hear the name 'Mark James' mentioned on more than one occasion. On leaving I stopped by the table, apologised for overhearing the conversation and explained I was interested in references to Mr James (pictured below left.)  
The gentleman leading the discussion asked where I was from, and when I said Boston, there was sudden excitement from all the others. It appeared they were the committee set up by a local opposition group to plans from Carmarthenshire County Council, and more particularly Mr James, to build a new stadium for the local rugby club so that a supermarket could buy the rugby ground. They had obviously done research, knew similar plans had already come to fruition in Boston, and asked if was right that our new facility was not costing the ratepayer any money, as apparently had been claimed by Mr James! They were quite interested in what I had to say, more especially that it was anticipated Boston would be paying anything up to £250k a year to keep it running. They were even more interested in the fact that it was the Boston rugby club, of which Mr James was then a leading light, which appeared to be the most beneficial recipient of the new facilities; they clamed Mr James was a leading light at their rugby club also. I spoke to them for about ten minutes and some time later happened to run into the same gentleman again, who thanked me for giving them details of what had happened in Boston as he claimed that similar comments by them to Mr James had resulted in complete denials from him. It would appear that Carmarthen ratepayers are suffering exactly the same as us - funny how one man can seem to do so much damage and yet get an award for 'services to local government'.”
Still on a sporting theme ... will Boston Borough Council face something of a dilemma now that local sprinter Bernice Wilson has received four year athletics ban for doping offences? Ms Wilson failed in an appeal after testing positive for steroids, and although the World Doping Agency suggests a standard two year ban, reports say that her offence has been described as a “very bad case” and that “far from admitting her guilt … she sought to blame other people.” How does this involve the council? Well, Ms Wilson, who has trained at the Princess Royal Sports Arena in Boston, appears on the borough’s Roll of Achievement – and we wonder whether consideration will be given to removing her entry.
Even though it is many months since Boston’s branch of the University of the Third Age compiled the history of many of the town’s street names – which also appears on the Roll of Achievement for some strange reason – it is only now that the Boston Standard has decided to produce a “special report” on their findings. And, in its own inimitable style, the paper that brought you the “bridal” path has given the feature a twist of its own.

For the benefit of those not in the know, “Grizzly” refers to a bear - Ursus arctos horribilis to be precise - one of a large race of the North American brown bear.
Grisly” on the other hand, is the word we use for inspiring repugnance - something gruesome. Never mind, it's only English!
Whilst none of us like to give away our secrets, it seems that Boston’s leaders both locally and at County Hall are making it especially difficult for taxpayers who wish to view members’ declarations of interests. The council’s Labour group has declared itself “surprised and amazed at Boston and Lincolnshire Conservative groups who, with the help of their officers from Lincolnshire Legal Services, are not prepared to embrace the internet when it comes to declarations of interest.” Labour points out that such information is readily available online about the Prime Minister, and our MP Mark Simmonds - plus many other senior politicians. “But when it comes to lonely little Boston and Lincolnshire, the gates are firmly closed to people using the internet …. What have they got to hide?” Labour points out that, ironically both authorities are calling for greater and speedier use of the internet across Lincolnshire. “Boston Labour Councillors have been putting the item on the agenda of the Leaders’ meetings at Boston Borough Council since we were elected, but all we keep being told is that Lincolnshire Legal Services say it can’t be done for legal reasons. The group concludes: “In this day and age you all have the right to have easy access to the interests of your councillors - and why should you have to go to the council offices at Boston and Lincoln to physically see them rather than at the click of a button in your own home …?”
It’s a good point, and at the end of the day it all has to do with openness and transparency – two words regularly misused by our local leaders.  One step that we thought was a move in the right direction was the publication of Boston borough councillors’ attendance at meetings, which started well enough, and seemed to be updated regularly. But when we looked again yesterday, we see that some of the details have not been updated since November. The road to hell, as they say ...
Not for the first time, a local business has closed citing the Market Place refurbishment scheme as a prime reason for lost custom. The latest casualty is in Wormgate, which has additional problems of its own. We were not surprised to hear the shop owner say that after Boston BID got involved, many of the problems seem to have got worse. But what truly beggars belief is the attitude of Lincolnshire County Council – whose senior development officer, Amanda Bond, is quoted as saying: “This is a challenging economic climate for any business, and it is unlikely that the ongoing Market Place improvements are solely responsible for the drop in trade. By carrying the refurbishment out now, traders can fully reap the benefits when the economy improves.” To quote John McEnroe – “you canNOT be serious.!”
More than one local commentator has now remarked on Boston’s slowness off the mark where celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June are concerned. Earlier this week the Boston Town Area Committee belatedly put the item on its agenda, and we hear that it has now set up an all Tory committee comprising town centre supremo Councillor Derek Richmond, Leisure and Cemeteries Portfolio holder Yvonne Gunter, Mayor Mary Wright, local historian Councillor Paul Mould and Pilgrim Ward Councillor Mark Baker. Rumour has it that they are going to organise a BBQ. Thank heaven that they didn't go for  a booze-up in a brewery!

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Is it too late
to rethink
Boston's plans
for crematorium?

Among the items mentioned in the borough’s three year plan (see yesterday’s blog Future imperfect) is Boston Crematorium – which gets the one-line pledge: “We will be investing in our crematorium to reduce emissions and provide a better service to you …”
Coincidentally, the crem was on the agenda of another meeting this week – with an update for councillors on plans for much needed improvements.
It comes after the council decided not to “privatise” its bereavement services but instead to continue to operate them in-house.
The biggest spend will be a compulsory £500,000 investment in mercury abatement cremators before the end of the year – and there is also a proposal to create a £50,000 annual improvement reserve to fund enhancements over the coming three years  ... including extra car parking, improved drainage and cosmetic works such as decoration,  plus changes to the public waiting area facilities for funeral directors and staff, spending on chapel furnishings and lighting, and the reinstatement of a water feature.
It is also proposed to set up a heritage fund to develop and protect the listed buildings, wildlife, and historic interest of the older cemetery – something that is long overdue.
Presumably, the decision not to farm the service out was due in part to the fact that it makes what is called a “modest” profit – expected to be around £140,000 in the current financial year.
However, the decision seems increasingly questionable.
Earlier discussions had acknowledged that the crematorium at Alford was having an impact on Boston’s business, which had seen a drop in use of almost 30% which reduced income by many thousands of pounds.
In ways that matter more than the actual distance travelled, Alford is more easily accessible than Boston -  and its fees are lower.
Aside from that, Boston’s cremation fees will rise to £540 in April and by “a modest” £10 a year thereafter, when the current cost at Alford is £460.
Whilst the idea of Alford being more accessible than Boston may sound a little daft, there is a still darker cloud on the horizon.
The council has had its attention drawn to plans by a private business to submit an application for a crematorium in Surfleet, near Spalding.
An extract from a local newspaper report has been accompanied by some nit-picking comments over the precise location - plus a couple of comparisons between the proposed new facility and our own, designed to show Boston in a comparable light.
But what seems to have been overlooked is the calculation that a crematorium in Surfleet would have a catchment area of 98,000 people, and could reduce local road miles by 350,000 as funeral corteges would have less distance to travel. - which is surely a great incentive if you own a fleet of gas-guzzling hearses.
This is calculated on the new facility taking 933 cremations away from Boston’s current total of around 1,800.
A Spalding funeral director is quoted as saying: “The majority of our funerals take place at Boston Crematorium. We have to allow nearly an hour to reach there and often encounter heavy traffic, which adds extra stress for the bereaved. People would like to see a more local facility.”
He’s quite clearly right, and we wonder whether there is still time rethink the wisdom of Boston Borough Council continuing to run its own bereavement services.
Clearly, another crematorium at Surfleet would have a considerable impact on Boston, although it might well see less business being “poached” by Alford.
If the decision remains unchanged there ought at least to be consideration of the way the place is approached.
The Robin Hood’s Road/Marian Road access is far from ideal, passing as it does a school and a fire station, after a heavy hack through the town’s traffic.
If funds can be found to enhance the old cemetery, there would seem to be a good case for reversing the traffic flow so that entry could be from Horncastle Road through the old lodge gates. If nothing else it would create an improved ambiance for mourners.
The whole business needs some more thought – otherwise Boston Crematorium could easily become a seldom used white elephant.

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Another of those documents that wishes us all we would wish ourselves is being discussed at tomorrow’s Corporate and Community Committee meeting.
In 1,100 words of optimism and ambition, the report presents the council plans for the next three years.
As always, we are struck by the way that documents like these manage to appear highly progressive, when closer analysis often dispels that idea.
On the top priority of “revitalising and promoting our town and rural borough,” the report declares: “We will immediately improve town centre facilities with schemes such as the market place project ...”
Of course you will – it’s happening here and now, before our very eyes - in fact stopping it would be a greater challenge …
So, too, with a pledge to “work with Lincolnshire County Council to offer joined up, accessible council services.” As we reported last week, Boston Borough Council is already well down the road towards letting County Hall take over a sizeable chunk of its West Street offices.
A promise to “help to maintain and develop rural communities by permitting development for housing and generating jobs wherever possible” is another statement of the obvious. If the council does not permit development whenever it is possible –ie not contrary to planning regulations – it would find itself constantly fighting planning appeals.
And so it goes on.
What we’re saying it that most of this plan is just a collection of words that look good and sound convincing, and in fact a lot of the pledges involve working with “partners” to achieve targets that are really the job of the partners rather than the council.
We had to smile at the promise to “work with our parish councils and BTAC to maintain essential services” – which appears to be to try to cajole the parishes into taking on the cost of their “footway” lighting from the borough – something that could force them to increase local precepts by between 13.6% and 105%.
More positively, the section on safe, secure homes and neighbourhoods does contain some new promises – and even goes so far as to mention the “M” word.
It pledges as an immediate priority to work with the government to better understand the impact of migration on our community, and among other things to deliver new homes that meet local needs, begin to revitalise neighbourhoods by targeting its homes bonus on returning empty houses back into use, and to continue to help people use, enjoy and remain in their homes by investing in a disabled facility grant programme.
The latter, of course, could be seen as another nod to the County Council, to support its cuts in the  social services budget – but hey, let’s be charitable for once.
The report’s final section – “Delivering better council services to you with less money,” is perhaps most interesting for what it doesn’t say, but implies.
“Our resources are limited and we are facing a continuing reduction in government grant. We have to allocate our scare (sic) resources to the most important areas including where we invest in equipment and infrastructure.
“We will be investing in our crematorium to reduce emissions and provide a better service to you; our refuse fleet to provide a more efficient, cost effective service and our car parks to improve the town centre for you.
“However many of our other services are vital to you and we recognise the importance of these.
“Where services are chargeable such as car parking or obtaining planning application advice for example we have to balance the need to retain affordable charges with the need to obtaining sufficient income to invest in improving the facilities on offer (our italics.)
“We also have to transform the way these services are delivered to make them affordable and sustainable in the future.”
Brace yourselves for higher charges!

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Where have
all the agenda
items gone?

Not for the first time, we find ourselves bemused by the goings on in BTAC – the Boston Town Area Committee.
The committee meets tonight - and according to the agenda will discuss just one item – “to consider proposals for an event to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, with discussion to be led by the chairman.”
This meeting was brought forward to replace one that was due to be held at the end of the month, but which was apparently postponed for some reason.
So, it would seem, is other business that was supposed to be discussed.
The minutes of the last meeting on December 14th said that the committee would receive the allotments report from the Environment and Performance Committee’s Task and Finish Group, which we discussed at some length yesterday.
Also on the agenda was something called the future of Ingelow playing field and a discussion on the request by a member for BTAC to ask the County Council to paint yellow lines along both sides of West Street, from the roundabout to the level crossing.
Whilst the reason for that is obvious, given the growing traffic problems in West Street, we believe that playing field debate concerns an idea to sell half of the field for social housing with the proceeds going towards a floodlit 3G football pitch, and moving the play park closer to the houses.
As if all that isn’t enough, we understand that other agenda items which were supposed to be discussed included a skate park project in Skirbeck, whose organisers are hoping for a £20,000 contribution from BTAC, and consideration of proposals put to parish councils that they should foot the bill for their local “footway” lighting  - letting the borough shed yet another role and save money by shifting the bills elsewhere.
Taken as a whole, these items would have provided a formidable agenda.
But instead, as we pointed out last week, BTAC is apparently only to discuss an item about which it can talk until the cows come home, but do very little else – certainly not spend money.
This is because the only things on which it is permitted spend money must be exclusively or mainly for the benefit of town residents. If it did more than talk about it, any serious plans to fund a Jubilee celebration would obviously attract visitors from a far wider area than just the town centre – making it a project that would have to be funded from the council’s budget.
A classic example of this restriction came at last month’s meeting, when an application by Boston Stroke Association for a £1,000 grant was denied in full on the grounds that not all association members lived in the town centre area. Instead – based on a calculation that there were 22 out of a total of 50 members - a grant of £440 pro rata was made.
So what do we have tonight?
A talking shop – whilst other major items of potential benefit to the badly neglected town centre and its residents appear to have vanished into thin air … even though it was apparently decided that they should be on the next agenda.
BTAC is a significant committee for many Boston residents. This year it will receive more than £80,000 for its budget, and it also has comfortable reserves.
Yet, looking at the minutes, some members seem not to have quite the grasp of the way it operates as they should have.
Not only that, but they also have the ability to drag out some items of business interminably.
We’re thinking in particular of the problems facing residents of Punchbowl Lane, whose lives are being made miserable by anti-social activity from users of a footpath giving access to Ingelow Avenue.
After months of to-ing and fro-ing over this issue, the latest position is to agree that officers “explore” setting up “a protocol” for the purchase of a CCTV system to hire out to the public.
That should be good for another six month delay at least!

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Monday, 23 January 2012

For a change, it seems that common sense may have triumphed over greed in the matter of the proposal to hike charges for Boston allotment holders by a ludicrous and laughable (had it not been serious) 465.22% over four years.
The plan would have seen the £23 a year fee for a 300 square yard plot rise by 117.4% in 2013, followed by further annual increases of 54%, 35% and 25% - culminating in a charge of £130 by 2016-17.
Part of the cunning plan by whomever drew up this grasping, insensitive, antisocial proposal - which would have turned Shakespeare’s Shylock green with envy – was to encourage allotment holders to form independent associations which set their own charges - and thus relive the council of yet another tiresome responsibility.
Why on earth they didn’t suggest this in the first place is beyond us.
Now, as a first step towards reversing the Great Fees Robbery, a Task and Finish review group has recommended that the borough’s Environment and Performance committee increase the charges for a 300 square yard plot from its current £23.00 a year to £68 in four years’ time – and not the £130 proposed. Other plot sizes would be charged pro rata.
The Task and Finish group comprised seven councillors – led by Boston District Independent Alison Austin – and met on five occasions. As part of its review it heard from nine allotment holders on six different sites.
It was generally accepted by most of the representatives that an increase was necessary, and they also agreed in principal that allotment sizes could be reduced to allow for ‘starter plots’ - with the largest 600 plots being sub-divided.
This would bring a number of benefits – including cutting waiting lists, giving people more manageable plots, and creating “starter plots” for people who were not experienced in allotment gardening.
Financial benefits for the council from the group’s recommendations would cut its costs over the next four years from £22,740 to £9,756 – so it’s not exactly losing out.
If all sites became self managed the indirect costs to the council would be £9,980.
The report also reminds us that “to supplement allotments provision, free support and advice is available to residents and particularly disadvantaged communities, through the community growing spaces/home growing initiative and volunteer Lincolnshire Master Gardeners operated by Garden Organic.”
Garden Organic, a national charity for organic growing – as you might surmise - has been working with Boston and East Lindsey district councils to support community growing spaces - including one in Central Park.
It recruits local volunteers and trains them as  Master Gardeners to pass on their expertise to other locals. Last time we checked, there were 17 - of which only six were in Boston.
Another two-day “foundation training” will be held in March at Woodland Farm, Boston, to try to boost numbers.
So far so good – but despite use of the word “free”  - between March and June last year, the borough paid Garden Organic £5,462 – although in other areas the schemes operate with lottery funding.
All that remains now is for the Environment and Performance Committee to agree with the Task and Finish group and for the Cabinet to agree it as well.
The former ought not to be too difficult, as five of the eleven members of Environment and Performance - which will discuss the report on Wednesday - were also members of the Task and Finish group.
As always, the stumbling block will be the Cabinet.
There’s also a political dimension:
There were only two Tories on the task and Finish group, and there are six on the Environment committee.
If the committee votes in favour of the report, the Cabinet is cantankerous enough to reject it just to show who’s boss and reimpose Bluelaw across the kingdom of Boston!

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Friday, 20 January 2012

Our Friday miscellany
of the week's
news and events

Tonight’s Mayor’s Charity Ball has been cancelled due to lack of support. We’re told: “Ticket sales have been slow, perhaps a victim of the time of year (so soon after the expensive Christmas and New Year period) and the times – we are all feeling the pinch. Various charity events have been cancelled over the years when tickets have not sold, which is to be expected in times of austerity.” That being said, perhaps it might have been advisable to have advertised it a bit more, and set the sights a little lower than a black tie affair costing £30 quid a ticket – although that might have let the riff-raff in. We would also question the Assembly Rooms as a venue these days. The good news is that the Mayor’s chosen charities - the Veterans’ Memorial Plaque Committee and the Boston branch of the Royal British Legion – will benefit from other fundraising efforts by the Mayor and her team during her year in office. And it’s also nice to contemplate a headline “Ball’s off” in connection with the borough council - rather than the usual one which springs to mind …!
Boston’s explanation as to why the borough is bottom of the county recycling league is interesting – but baffling. The borough went from being one of the best recyclers in the country when fortnightly collections were introduced nine years ago, to one of the worst. But the good news is, the council knows why! “The only garden waste collection service we’ve offered over the last few years was the Saturday service where people bring garden waste to the lorries,” the head of environmental operations is quoted as saying. “While this is very well received by hundreds of our residents, many thousands still put their garden waste, or elements of it, into their bins. As a consequence, our recycling performance is worse than all the districts who collect garden waste separately, and is also behind that of South Holland District Council who don’t collect it at all, as a large volume of our garden waste counts towards the landfill total rather than recycling or composting.” Whilst last year’s green waste trial improved matters markedly it does seem an odd form of consolation for Boston’s poor rating …
And speaking of poor ratings, a report this week disclosed that Boston’s “in year” council tax and business rate collection is currently is 2-3% lower than all the other Lincolnshire authorities, and slid below the national average in recent years. If that’s the bad news, then the good news is that Boston eventually collects about 99% in the longer term - after six years. Recently the council wrote off large sums of unpaid tax, and we cannot help but wonder whether some of this might have been collected if it worked a little quicker. It’s now reckoned that between the improvements needed that have been identified in the report, and legislative changes currently taking place, collection rates will improve over the next 12 months. But it’s yet another example - like the Task and Finish report into Boston BID – where we will wait a year to discover whether things have improved instead of checking sooner.
There’s been lots of fanfare about the planned replacement for St Botolph’s Footbridge, which will take the form of a bowstring design. The county’s principal engineer for structures tells us: “We were pleased that so many local people took the time to share their thoughts with us,” but the fact is that only 137 people bothered to complete a questionnaire indicating their preferred choice of design – despite an exhibition of the options.

Of these, 44% supported the Bowstring design above, 39% backed a traditional design and the rest liked a low bowstring truss – unless they confused it with a fashion accessory. As often happens in elections, overall, fewer people voted for the winner than for the other competing options. As we said at the time, one concern we had was that was that the bridge was not illustrated in any proper context – with a largely blank waterside and a huge black hangar-like building which presumably represents the Stump – only shorter! Surely, amidst all the ballyhoo about the Market Place refurbishment, the traditional design pictured below

would have been more suitable – and we would even go so far as to suggest that as it came so close, it should still be chosen. After all, our councils have a history of ignoring taxpayers’ wishes, so why change the habits of a lifetime?
A sharp-eyed reader notes that two councillors make a regular habit of ignoring double yellow lines around the town. One is a regular in West Street despite having a parking pass for use at the rear of the Municipal Buildings. The other – and we’re told an even more frequent parker – “seems to totally ignore the time limit in place to mere mortals of two hours around the Central Park on the occasion he manages to not park on the double yellows. Perhaps their awareness of lack of any parking enforcement in the town leads to this behaviour. One would hope they may change their ways if the council eventually takes over parking issues and tries to turn the issue into a money maker, and that they will be dealt with without any exemption.”
Proof that there’s life after death came in the New Year Honours list - and the award of a CBE to former Boston Borough Council Chief Executive Mark James. Mr James, who left Boston in 2002 to take over at Carmarthenshire County Council, will long be associated with the Boston’s Princess Royal Sports Arena - which he famously promised “won't cost the taxpayer a penny.” In an echo of that, a rugby stadium built for Llanelli Rugby Club, with huge investment of public money from the council, saw serious concerns emerge about the club’s finances after accounts published in 2010 fell short of profit expectations by more than £4m, and revealed losses of more than £3.3m. Plus ca change, etc etc. One thing that may excite some Boston Eye readers, though, was Mr James’s willingness to call the police and see a local blogger arrested for filming a council meeting on her mobile phone.
During our absence, one letter in the local newspapers struck us as the most preposterous excuse to date to justify Into Town buses using Strait Bargate as a rat run. It came from former councillor Sheila Newell who said: “To walk from the Market Place to Wide Bargate is easy and enjoyable for most of us, but clutching bags of shopping, in the snow and the rain with ice underfoot and the bitter wind blowing through Strait Bargate may make those with mobility difficulties, the disabled and the elderly suffer!” Although that sort of weather occurs from time to time, the description makes Boston sound like some Siberian outpost. As far as we are aware, shoppers managed to cover the few yards now travelled by the buses without complaint for several centuries. Using Mrs Newell’s argument, all elderly or disabled people should get a door-to-door pick up to spare any possible suffering. The buses are noisy, intrusive, polluting, and are damaging the surface of the precinct. There is no justification for them to use Strait Bargate other than the fact that it’s easier for the bus company, and that Boston’s “leaders” have kowtowed to Lincolnshire County Council – for a change!
Still looking back – a reader tells us that even though Boxing Day is known to be one of the busiest shopping days of the year, the borough-run public conveniences were closed. Please tell us that it wasn’t so!
We hope that the expectations of the Boston Protest March group concerning the Task and Finish Group due to meet on January 31st are not being raised too high. An entry on their Facebook page reported a meeting to sort out the group and how it will work. ”Meeting went well and we’re looking at the first meeting being held end of January and hopefully fortnightly thereafter. I’ve got five seats on this group and members have been contacted to attend so we’re all set for the first meeting.” Since then there have been suggestions that without an acceptable result, the march could be on again. And if the council felt that the recent talks with Housing and Local Government Minister Grant Shapps would reassure people, it seems that the reverse is the case. Protest group leader Dean Everitt told his Facebook followers: “Love the way the council are trying to cash in on our misery. Let’s make Boston more inviting so we can attract even more migrants to an already over populated town. Well done Mark Simmonds and Peter Bedford GREAT WORK. What muppets.”
With no little sense of pride, the Boston Standard relates how its report about the green “figure” replacing the green “man” on pedestrian controlled crossings appeared on local TV and in the national papers. What it neglects to tells us is that the reports invariably were critical of Boston for excessive political correctness. Thanks, Bos-pratt, we can always use a little more negative publicity around the place. Worse still, when the material is republished out of context, it can make us look even dafter. In the Standard, the comment below from one councillor was quite correct in pointing out the silliness of it all.

But by the time it reached Rod Liddle’s Sunday Times column, the comment had taken on a different emphasis entirely.

Still with the Standard, we wonder at what point a newspaper’s duty to advertisers to publish what they submit clashes with its responsibility not to make the advertiser – and indeed the newspaper - look stupid. The paper which recently brought us the entertaining concept of a bridal rather than a bridle path, this week devoted an entire page to advertising Blackfriars Theatre. A reader drew our attention to the fact that there were now fewer than twenty spelling errors in the large type display – including “monthley, Februaly, wonderfull and escence.” Surely there comes a time when a newspaper must proof read correct what it is sent to publish if for no other reason than its reputation is tarnished if it does not.
We mentioned political correctness earlier – which we think is perfectly captured by the advertisement below, which recently appeared as a Public Notice.

An “end of life, vehicle de-pollution, dismantling and storage facility….”
Would that be what Harold and Albert Steptoe would describe as a scrap yard?

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Thursday, 19 January 2012

There were ten in the bed and  the little one said  ... roll over ...

There was understandable consternation and concern after Lincolnshire County Council’s leader, Martin Hill, appeared on BBC’s Look North late one night before Christmas (a good time to bury bad news perhaps?) to declare that that the county should take over the running of Lincolnshire from the current district authorities.
Apparently, this works in Cornwall, where six former authorities have been subsumed at a projected saving of £25 million a year – which seemed to be enough by way of justification for Councillor Hill.
Local commentators have warned that should such a proposal ever get the go-ahead, areas such as Boston would most probably end up with poorer, rather than improved, services.
They were also quick to point out that whenever County Hall says jump, our local Conservative “leaders” at Worst Street simply ask  - how high?
There are also obvious implications with the concept of a single authority  as far as representation is concerned.  Lincolnshire County council has 77 councillors, of whom just seven look after Boston’s interests – when they turn up, which some haven’t done too often in recent months.
Boston Borough, on the other hand, has 32 councillors. which implies a good chance of decent representation at ward level ...  theoretically at any rate - as we have noted to our disappointment..
Viewed as a councillor to voter ratio, county councillors each have an average of 9,129 of Lincolnshire’s 703,000 residents under their wing, whilst Boston’s 32 councillors each represent an average of 1,844 residents.
Clearly, if Lincolnshire County Council took on the running of the entire shebang, we would be unlikely to get any more local councillors, which is reason enough to conclude that such a merger would not be a good idea.
But how realistic is it?
Until recently, we would have said that the odds were fairly long – until we heard of plans to bring more county staff to work out of the borough council offices.
In an e-mail to staff, Boston’s Head of Housing, Property and Communities -  Andy Fisher - tells them to be prepared to breathe in a bit to make room for new arrivals from Lincoln.
He tells them: “As part of our Transformation Programme, I have been working with colleagues internally and externally to see how we can use the Municipal Buildings as a real asset for the Council. In conjunction with the Leader, we have had numerous discussions with the County Council about the potential of hosting more of their staff here and creating a more effective one stop shop and public service centre for our customers.
“Although no deal has been signed and sealed, we are working up a model which could see LCC occupy all of the first and second floors of our COOP building.
“Achieving this would obviously mean moving some of our own teams around but the additional income we could generate and the reduction in utility costs we could achieve would be significant given our current financial position.
“The full details of where the teams who will obviously be affected would go are still being worked on and other teams may also have to change or shrink their existing accommodation take to help facilitate such major moves. As soon as all practical options have been evaluated, the proposals of where people may go will be sent out for everyone’s consideration.
“This is a great opportunity for us to look more closely at how we use our entire office resources and what other options there may be for us to become more effective and efficient; home working, touch down desks*, shared resource rooms and so on.”
What we don’t understand is why  -in an age when the need for face-to-face transactions is reducing -Boston is thinking of bringing what sounds like vast numbers of county staff to Worst Street.
Not only that. The tone of the e-mail suggests that there will not be enough room for the new arrivals.
And is it fair to inconvenience loyal, local, existing staff simply in the name of cash generation? Many local government jobs are bad enough, without having to endure cramped conditions or degraded facilities.
And on the business of income, will the County Council pay a going rate? Usually, deals  between local authorities are done at token costs.
Where will all these people park?
The list of questions is endless – but one thing is sure.
It is certain to fuel speculation that Boston Borough Council is piloting a scheme that one day might see County Hall take over the district.

*touch down desks  ...  Nothing to do with rugby. Touchdown spaces are simple workspaces with a few basics needed for doing business, which may include a 'phone and some type of internet access. A desk, chair and overhead lighting may also be provided.
Sounds ideal.

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

No medals yet
for Boston's tatty
Jubilee plans
We often wonder why  Boston Borough Council  takes such a laid back approach to business as the lengthy Christmas break extends into January – with meeting cancellations due to “lack of business.”
Obviously, things slow down at this time of year – but should January almost be written off in business terms?
It seems to us that a fallow month in the calendar could be an excellent time to get ahead of the jobs that need doing, rather than just taking it easy.
However, one meeting that has been brought forward, is that of the Boston Town Area Committee.
On January 24th BTAC meets with just one item on the agenda – “To consider proposals for an event to celebrate The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, with discussion to be led by the Chairman.”
This gives a mere four and a half months to cobble something together, and so far all that seems to have happened is a lot of talk and little else.
According to the borough council, “Plans are being hatched for Boston to be a blaze of red, white and blue for this summer’s Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations” … and  “It is hoped the big event will also include a special one-day event to be staged in the town’s Central Park.”
Now, it seems it is down to the meeting on the 24th to put some flesh on these very bony ambitions.
Things might have got underway a little sooner, had not other plans by Independent Councillor Carol Taylor been thwarted.
She had assembled an organising committee, and applied to book the town’s Central Park for June 4th for an event.
To say that the idea was cold-shouldered by key Tory figures on the council would be a huge understatement, but Councillor Taylor was still pressing ahead when she was abruptly informed that – by an amazing and hitherto unknown co-incidence – the date she wanted had already been booked!
So, it now seems down to the lacklustre BTAC - which could well find itself in something of a dilemma as one thing it cannot do is to fund a Jubilee celebration.
BTAC is what is name says; it is the Boston TOWN area Committee – a parish council for the town wards – comprising 16 members with seats in town wards.
Under the rules, the only things on which it can legally spend money must be exclusively or mainly for the benefit of town residents.
As a Jubilee celebration will draw visitors from across the borough – and beyond –any BTAC funding would be questionable.
The announcement has also been made that Boston Business Improvement District - the BID - will lend “a helping hand” - and if it took the form of money, it could solve  BTAC’s dilemma.
Already, two portfolio holders  - with responsibilities for leisure services and the town centre  - have gone on record ahead of the BTAC meeting.
Councillor Yvonne Gunter wants to see the town “a blaze of patriotic red, white and blue,” with “all areas of the town pulling together to make this a really special time for Boston.”
Councillor Derek Richmond has been less specific, content at this stage hat we should “make it a right royal ‘borough’ in 2012.”
However, one thing that is emerging is that the council looks like it will be doing little apart from getting others to take on the organisation and sponsorship of any celebrations.
As well as appealing for sponsorship, it has announced a “competition” for householders in Boston, with prizes for the best frontage displays of red, white and blue.
The event in Central Park – the date of which has not been confirmed, despite what Councillor Taylor was told – will also include the launch of a Victorian garden and the official unveiling of its central water fountain, “dedicated” to the Queen.
A Victorian garden to mark Queen  Elizabeth’s Jubilee - that’s Boston Borough Council for you!
And the Olympics get “into the mix” with a special Olympic rings flower display in Central Park - which we recall will involve the use of inspirationally painted tractor tyres.
The other thing that baffles us is the idea of concentrating the Jubilee celebration on Central Park.
The date will be around the time of the re-opening of the  "restored" Market Place  – and what better opportunity to tell the world than to include it in the Jubilee plans?
All around the country, people will be flocking to town and city squares to celebrate – but not, apparently, in Boston.
We’re off to the park and an event organised by .... who knows? ... and when?
Why are we dedicating a fountain in the park to the Queen – when with a little imagination, we could incorporate a feature into the Market Place as it is reborn in the Jubilee year?
And we don’t mean renaming the proposed Five Lamps bus stop as the  “Lizzie lights!”
Sadly, once again, it seems that no-one really seems to know what they are doing to mark the jubilee - nor do they care very much.
Noises are being made, and that is about all.
We wonder whether Boston Borough Council is the right organisation to be dealing with this – surely, a combined citizen/council committee would be a better way forward?
It could also be an excellent testing ground for the “town team” so favoured by Mary Portas and council officers.

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com    Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Do we have the quality
for Portas report's proposed
High Street teams?
As we totter into the New Year, we’re hearing the usual noises about Boston town centre and a “vision” for its future – a word which makes its speaker sound more like an eremite trying to glimpse the day after tomorrow than a realistic seeker of what our options might be.
Spurred on by the Portas review, council officers have asked businesses and organisations to pull together and are particularly enamoured of the suggestion that “town teams” be set up and Business Improvement Districts given more power.
The borough’s Head of Planning and Strategy, Steve Lumb, and Ian Martin, Boston’s Town Centre Services Officer who, who is also a director of Boston BID, have been quoted as saying Town Teams and the BID may end up being a single organisation and have asked people who have “grumbles” to support Boston BID by providing constructive criticism or even by becoming directors.
Mr Lumb reportedly said: “We are Boston PLC and we need to make sure that all of us support Boston PLC.
“It’s about making sure that BID can work successfully and making sure the right directors are on there.”
Aside from the fact that the strong implication of that is that the BID is not working successfully, and that it lacks the right directors, we have to put Mr Lumb right on one of his claims.
We are not “Boston PLC.” A PLC is a limited company with shares that are traded on the Stock Exchange – an organisation which has to sing for its supper in terms of making profits and performing efficiently.
Far from faintly achieving this, the borough council extracts money from its citizens by compulsion, spends it how it pleases and is under no obligation to satisfy them in any way, shape or form.
Similarly, Boston BID extorts money from businesses regardless of whether they wish to be members of the organisation, and if they choose not to pay the so-called “levy” Boston Borough Council will cheerfully step in and drag them through the courts to force them.
The Portas review is specific in its use of language when it makes recommendations.
Recommendation number one is “Put in place a ‘Town Team’: a visionary, strategic and strong operational management team for high streets. We wonder who Mr Lumb and Mr Martin might nominate  to provide such an impressive sounding array of talent?
The “Queen of Shops” goes on to recommend: “Empower successful Business Improvement Districts to take on more responsibilities and powers and become “Super-BIDs”
We doubt whether Mr Lumb or Mr Martin would dream of calling Boston BID “successful” – and it is patently not.
For a second year running, we hear that Boston BID failed to file its accounts on time with Companies House, which means that it – or rather its levy payers - will have to foot the bill for a fine.
The organisation is well overdue for an AGM – if you are pedantic enough to regard such things in terms of general meetings held once a year. But the BID says that private companies that are not traded companies need not hold annual general meetings - and that the only requirement is for an AGM “in each period of twelve months beginning with the day following its accounting reference date.”
This means that it could be as late as March 31st.
Ironically, these latest ideas involving the BID come at a time when the borough council is trying to persuade us that its scrutiny committees can really make a difference.
Last year, one such committee made major recommendations about how Boston BID could improve its performance, and gave it a year to get its act together. That was in March, and to save time, we can tell councillors that not only has the BID done nothing at all – it has actually cut back on its communication with members.
In fact councillors know this already, and to their credit one or two have tried to get action on the issue – but without success.
Meanwhile, for a council that claims little by way of relationship with the BID – which is after all an independent company – the cosiness continues.
After getting the BID to chip in £10,000 towards the Christmas lights this year and next, the council has now spent £2,500 to buy 5,000 of the 3d maps produced with much fanfare after taking an age to produce. It’s not a bad buy, as at 50p, the maps are a snip considering they cost £1.70 to produce.
But it’s worth remembering that they contain a number of inaccuracies, and that in some cases are not easy to read.  Take a look at the picture on the right… and imagine that you're a visiting soccer fan trying to find Boston United’s York Street ground. You might well have trouble, as it appears to be located on Spayne Road.
Now we learn that the BID has been roped in to lend a “helping hand” with the Jubilee celebrations.
Presumably this will mean spending more of the hapless levy payers’ money, and given the BID’s track record to date, we are not hopeful.
Interestingly, although Boston Borough Council seems to like much of the Portas report, it is strangely silent on the call for local areas to implement free controlled parking schemes.
Could that be because the council is considering the exact opposite, by using motorists as a cash cow by hiking parking charges and introducing fees for Blue Badge holders.
Of course it could.

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Monday, 16 January 2012

A"whirlwind" of change
 ... or just a puff
of hot air ...?
Hello again ...
We hope that you enjoyed a delightful Christmas and New Year - and are now looking forward to a better Boston in 2012 ...
The New Year got off to a wordy political start with a mountain of messages.
Boston Borough Council Leader Peter Bedford  had one in both local papers, as well as the borough website.
There were also messages in the newspapers  from the local Labour group and another from County Councillor Ramonde Newell (remember him?)
Sadly neither offered much by way of hope.
Councillor Bedford apparently had a dry run with his message – following as it did an earlier and unannounced effort tucked away on the borough’s website.
We stumbled on it as we were trawling the site in the vain hope of finding something resembling a Christmas greeting to the taxpayers.
It was undated, but appeared to cover a period between early November and a point somewhere before the Christmas lights switch-on ceremony on the 24th.
In fact it appeared to be something of a “first 200 days” message.
It celebrated the cancellation of the immigration protest march with some serious I’ trouble …
“A planned march … was called off by the organiser, after I met with him …
“… I agreed to seek a meeting …
I also offered …
“… with whom I also had a meeting …
I know it will be a relief to many ….
I am pleased that the town will now be allowed to go about its normal business …”
Hitherto, we had always imagined that leadership was something of an egalitarian affair which might involve others - rather than being a political one man band.
But still …
Having listed these achievements and ensuring no doubt as to the achiever, our leader moved on to look back on “a whirlwind of activity” with “some satisfaction.”
Whilst monopoly is clearly one of his skills, we would not recommend that the leader turns his hand to meteorology, since his “whirlwind is rather more of a light breeze, with an occasional puff …
Councillor Bedford cited the reopening of the training pool at the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre, and the unsurprising surge in membership that it generated.
Littering – which the council regularly recognises as a concern whilst doing nothing much about it – is still being tackled by getting anyone other than those paid to do the job to deal with it.
Improvements to the Market Place “are beginning to show” and the council had received some positive comments about the look and the quality of materials and work.
So what else comprised this whirlwind?
Despite difficult trading conditions, the economy, and the Market Place works, “the council” had been determined to make this Christmas special.
How? By spending its £25,000 Christmas lights budget – unchanged for years - on new lights for the festive season and getting Boston BID to throw in another £10,000 – whilst largely leaving the “organisation” to the BID – and individual citizens who contributed from their own pockets.
The garden waste kerbside collection trial saw a third more waste diverted from landfill; admissions to the Guildhall Museum increased four-fold; two new healthy walks were introduced, and the “Victorian” garden is being developed in Central Park – a construction which to us looks more like the courtyard at Vlad “the Impaler” Tepes’ castle than anything else.
Pictured (left) the Victorian Garden  (right) Vlad Tepes's courtyard
The leader’s self congratulatory prose concluded with a mention that the council had been praised for developing a Babies’ Memorial Garden at the crematorium, and that “our advances” have been officially recognised by the Audit Commission whose most recent report gave the council a clean bill of health.
For those who might have missed this message, Councillor Bedford covered most of the ground again in the local papers, telling us that Boston will be “a better place to live, work, shop and visit.”
Splendid stuff, and if we appear in the next few lines to be knocking the achievements to date – that isn’t the case.
What we are critical of is the popular political tendency to claim great strides forward when small steps have been made.
It is also the case that at least two of the major claimed achievements in the undated piece have nothing to do with the current council or its leader – namely the Audit Commission’s” clean bill,” which was announced so soon after last May’s election that credit for it must be given to the former Boston Bypass Independents leadership – and the Market Place refurbishment, which … if you’ll excuse the bad pun … was set in stone well before the elections.
So what does that leave?
The Moulder pool deal raised some eyebrows when it was steamrollered through, and there are many who are nervous that it might simply fall apart at some time …
Littering remains a problem that needs addressing aggressively.
The Christmas celebrations were badly flawed, and if nothing else should be used as a starter for ten from which to try to make improvements this year.
The garden waste experiment was an undoubted success – but whilst it is good news for the council, we are not sure that the average ratepayer is especially excited by the improved recycling rate. But what is exercising many is the likelihood that in future, they will have to put recyclable materials in plastic bags rather than their blue bin – which the experiment used for green waste.
As admission charges for the Guildhall Museum were abolished last year, who can be surprised that more people are going there?
And the Babies' Memorial Garden might well have been less essential had efforts been made to reduce the high rate of Boston’s infant mortalities - which only recently have begun to decline.
Sensibly, the Leader does not mention plans to increase allotment rental charges by more than 400%.
Nor does he mention the plans to hike car parking fees and charge blue badge holders to park.
He tells us that the Market Place will be put to “best use” in 2012.
We would expect it to be – and not just in 2012, either.
Councillor Bedford’s “whirlwind” year has left us fairly unruffled.
And whilst he tells us to “watch this space” – we can only comment that there is plenty of space to watch.

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com  Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Boston Eye is back
On Monday
16th January
(unless anything big happens
between now and then)

Meanwhile, you can keep in touch by e-mail.
You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com