We appreciate that politicians have a duty to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear at every opportunity – but sometimes these things can be carried to extremes. The council’s portfolio holder for Boston town centre, Councillor Derek Richmond, is already famous for his suggestion that disabledblue badge holders would feel discriminated against unless they were force to pay to park – and that was something he was sure that they would most definitely not want. Now he’s applying the same quirky logic to a report for the BBC by Experian, which says Boston was the worst place for business growth in the East Midlands. Stand by for Councillor Richmond’s argument in rebuttal. The data does not distinguish between big companies and one-man operations. At 10%, the number of self-employed people in Boston is well above the national average – and many of the 117 businesses which went bust in the past two years may well be in this category. In Richmond-speak, according to the local papers, this means that far from being the worst area in the East Midlands for business ... "this higher than average entrepreneurial spirit demonstrated that Boston is a good place for business, with many brave people prepared to take the plunge to test their own business ideas.” It sounds great, until you realise that Boston is such a good place for business, that 117 of them have gone bust.
On the basis of the above argument, we suppose that the next line we will hear from Boston Borough Council's spinning wheel is how lucky we are where car parking charges are concerned following publication of the rates charged by NHS hospitals. More than a quarter of hospital trusts in England increased car parking charges for patients and visitors in the year to last April – and while some cut prices, others more than doubled them. The fees at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust - which includes the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston - jumped 112%, from an average of 67p an hour to £1.42. A patients' group branded the fees a "tax on the sick" and called for NHS parking to be free, as it is in most of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - , but the government says that free parking would take £100 million from the care budget. It seems wrong to us that the cost of parking should contribute to care. What next, a hire charge for bedside chairs used by visitors? We may live to regret making such a suggestion!
Car parking brings us to the matter of the former Kwik Save site off Rosegarth Street, which has apparently been closed by the owners Tesco Holdings - sparking rumours that a new business might be moving in. Boston Borough Council ran the car park for Kwik Save while it was open, and presumably has continued to do so since the supermarket closed down. But is there any truth in the story doing the rounds that Tesco has asked the borough council for the return around £175,000 which has been collected over time?
Tesco has come in for some stick from Councillor Richmond over its lack of communication regarding the Kwik Save site - claiming that its attitude runs counter to the spirit of the Portas Report which wants businesses, landlords and partners all singing from the same hymn sheet. To us it seems remarkable that when the council wants to keep something quiet, it is called commercial confidentiality, but when a company adopts the same procedure it gets hauled over the coals.
Speaking of the Portas project, there’s been still more tweaking to the submission during the week, with a redistribution of the £100,000 “prize money” should Boston be awarded it. The biggest spend would still be £40,000 - up from £30,000 - for trail markers, audio guides and signage, followed by £20,000 to establish a “coach driver facility.” After that, sums of £10,000 each are proposed for a part time project manager, farmers’ markets, street entertainment and static displays, a subsidy for empty shop usage and provision of activity equipment for a “youth area.” And if that didn’t prove enough, any additional funding would be sourced from local businesses and organisations that have “a vested interest in seeing the pilot succeed and Boston brought to the fore.” They will need to sell it well – since these sources are already paying business tax, and in many cases a levy to the useless Boston BID.
Never let it be said that Boston Borough councillors are short of good ideas when it comes to entertainment. The Boston Standard website tells us that one of the events planned for Central Park on Bank Holiday Monday to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will be the first World Bowling Greens Competition - devised by Councillor Mark Baker, which will be loosely based around a
traditional game of bowls, but with jacks and bowls replaced by Lincolnshire vegetables! The idea was tested by Councillor Yvonne Gunter and you can see it on video by clicking here . The only comment that we would be prepared to make was that we thought the Standard headline to be a little harsh! Others - less generous than Boston Eye - may suggest that a combination of Lincolnshire vegetables, and selected Boston borough councillors might prompt calls for a return of the once popular town stocks!
There’s been yet another bright idea from Boston Labour group councillors with a call for Boston to adopt a similar scheme to the council in Kirklees – where individuals publish an “annual” report on their activities. Labour says such a scheme would focus the minds of councillors and on the way the borough runs its services. We agree. Certainly, we think such a report would make interesting reading, as it would be possible to compare the promises of some candidates when they sought election, and the reality! It would certainly be a useful guide as to how to cast our votes next time around.
We learned this week that 17 torchbearers will run with the Olympic flame in Wrangle and Boston on Wednesday, June 27 – but that sadly only four will be from the borough. Does this mean that the council’s appeal for local Olympic champions fell on deaf ears? After all the hoo-hah, the first stage of the torch journey will last just 15 minutes. And the second one, through the town, will take only 37. Each of the 8,000 runners taking part nationally will cover an average of 300m, and a torch security team of 28 unarmed Metropolitan Police officers will guard the Olympic flame. After all the recent talk of unhealthy policemen, they’ll surely be as fit as the Olympic athletes themselves once it’s all over!
Next Wednesday’s Licensing Committee meeting of Boston Borough Council has a job on its hands by the looks of it, as it discusses an application for yet another off licence/food store – this time in Fydell Street. Objections range from problems of anti-social behaviour, litter and parking, to warnings from an unnamed councillor of the possibility of illegal alcohol and cigarette sales. What is the answer to all of this? It would be interesting if someone would tell us how many alcohol outlets there are in Boston now, compared with – say – three years ago. Then we could gauge the true level of the situation.
Boston is pigeonholed for many things. Over the years we’ve seen immigration, obesity, ill health and poverty – to name just a few. But if we’re not careful, we’re going to be branded by a self-inflicted title of the litter capital of Lincolnshire. If you’ll forgive the pun, Boston Borough Council’s website is littered with such stuff. We’re told that Boston's Operation Fly Swat team is just a couple of loads away from collecting more than 100 tonnes of illegally-dumped rubbish from more than 550 fly-tip sites. Then there’s the 5th annual Big Boston Clean Up - which over the last four years has seen 2,366 volunteers armed with litter pickers and bin bags have collect 57 tonnes of litter and fly tipping. Finally a gruesome report tells us more than we need to know about needles, human faeces, soiled mattresses and broken glass being cleared by a team which tidied up a rough-sleeping site off Spalding Road in Boston this time last week. As far as the latter is concerned, we are sure that things might not have been so bad had the authorities intervened earlier – and it sounds as though it could have been done. But it seems that almost every recent reference we come across depicts Boston as a haven for rubbish. Are we really as bad as all that?
As we predicted, there is no great enthusiasm for Boston Borough Council’s poorly cobbled together idea for collecting garden waste. Already, there are complaints that charging £20 for a third green waste bin takes no account of whether people can afford it or not. The suggestion that the less well off - or those with very small gardens - should share the cost is all well and good ... but we see it creating friction. Worse still is the scenario where people neither pay nor share – but simply hijack bins owned by others to dump their waste. Boston Eye was once unfairly accused of possibly inciting people to riot – but we think that the garden waste issue is far more likely to achieve such a thing.
Finally, we note with amusement a report that informed us: “A market in Boston was first recorded between 1125 and 1135.” It seems a lot of trouble to go to for just ten minutes!
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