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!

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1 comment:

  1. "The emphasis will be on provision of facilities for town area residents to make
    their own entertainment" Boston Bulletin 22 - in other words, "sort it out for yourselves - a creativity austerity measure"