Friday, 1 June 2012

Week ending: our Friday miscellany of news and events ...

The battle to protect the rights of disabled drivers in Boston may not apparently have yet been lost. A special council meeting on 28th June will consider objections received after “consultations” on an amendment to the present rules - issued as result of the proposal to introduce parking charges for disabled drivers to rip taxpayers off still further. The so-called “leadership” on the council has resorted to various stunts during the debate on all of this – ignoring e-mails of concern, arbitrarily creating extra “free” time for the disabled to hobble to and from the shops, and - most fatuously -suggesting that blue badge holders resent the “discrimination” of being allowed to park for nothing, when they are gagging to be charged. In the interim, the good news is that the proposed new charges cannot be introduced at least until after this meeting – in the same way that the tacky deal involving the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre had to be delayed after it was called in.

Some news that we heard a week or so ago has now been officially confirmed – the new group leader of the Boston District Independentson Boston Borough Council is Councillor David Witts, who takes over from Councillor Helen Staples. The new deputy group leader is Councillor Alison Austin, who takes over from Councillor Richard Austin – well, it gives the party something to do, we suppose! Incidentally, the rest of the rumour – yet to be confirmed … but you heard it here first - is that Councillor Staples will soon make another adjustment to her political career - in a rightwards direction to where we suspect is the true homeland of ex-BBI … now BDI members.
It’s that time of year when we have to resort to jumping up and down on the contents of our green wheelie bin to force in as much garden waste as possible – yet ironically … and like many others … we have several quid languishing in the Worst Street coffers, having paid up front for the new brown bins that are to be introduced. By all accounts, we’ll have to wait for another month at least until the new bins are delivered. But there has been a stony silence about how sales are going. At the end of last month, and within the space of about a week, we were told by the borough council that sales of bins were a feeble 37- only for that to surge dramatically to 2,000 just a few days later. Since then, nothing has been heard. What worries us is that perhaps too few people have ordered bins to make the proposed new system viable, and we think it is time for an update of the situation.
Boston Eye is just a few pages away from our 2,000th publication since we switched from a web format to a blog more than five years ago. We know that some of you have been reading our little effort since it began, and thank you for your patience and loyalty. The milestone prompted us to look at how other local blogs are performing, and the picture is a mixed one. Whilst the Labour group on Boston Borough Council manage a daily publication, it is often sustained by potboilers from head office - and the reaction of shadow ministers to some government pronouncement does not make the most exciting reading. Meanwhile, Independent Councillor Carol Taylor has been blogging weekly since February, and produces an interesting mixture of council news and ward issues …
But we said the picture was a mixed one, and it is. Boston’s Joint Deputy Leader and Conservative County Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire, was once without doubt the most prolific local political blogger of them all. But since last year’s elections he no longer appears to feel the need to share with voters. His most recent blog is dated 27th June last year on the thrilling subject of the annual appointments to external committees for 2011-2012 – which were superseded at the council’s annual meeting last week. But Councillor Singleton-McGuire is not alone. This weekend it will be a year since English Democrat Councillor David Owens’s last blog on his English Patriot page, whilst his party colleague Councillor Elliott Fountain – who is involved with a number of blogs – is also well behind the news. Conservative County Councillor Andrea Jenkyns, meanwhile, closed her blog at the end of December 2010, and now has a webpage which contains mostly personal stuff. Although items are undated, the last one of interest to voters seems to be about a year old. All of this is very disappointing – particularly from the Conservatives, who one might think they owe us something in the way of openness, transparency and information as the party that rules at both local and county level.
Talking of Councillor Singleton-McGuire, we learn that  his application to turn the front room of his house into a wedding chapel - with facilities to celebrate the event in his back garden - were turned down by the borough’s planning committee … despite a recommendation to approve the plans. Apparently, even though the Tories had a majority, one Conservative on the committee called for the idea to be refused and two others abstained from voting, whilst another declared an interest and left the meeting. One councillor who failed to impress our observer at the meeting was Paul Mould – who, we are told, “was convinced that people only got married on a Saturday and that Spilsby Road didn’t get a lot of traffic.” Our observer added: “He really was hilarious, Boston’s own Father Jack - if you ever watched “Father Ted.” This seemed a little harsh to us, so we sought out pictures of the two men –and as you can see (above, left) there are clearly no similarities ...
As the Jubilee celebration weekend looms, we wonder what happened to the plan for Boston to be "a blaze of red, white and blue for this summer's Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations” - as promised by Boston Borough Council at the start of the year. Then, the council's portfolio holder for leisure services, parks and cemeteries, Yvonne Gunter, declared: "We want to see the town a blaze of patriotic red, white and blue. We want to see all areas of the town pulling together to make this a really special time for Boston - it won't happen again so we want everyone to make the most of it." We don’t know about it not happening again, but readers who have recently visited the town centre report that it doesn’t appear to have happened for a first time. However, we did hear yesterday afternoon that businesses seeking news of their hanging baskets ordered from the legendarily incompetent Boston Business Improvement District have been told that they are due to arrive in about another week's time! It seems that the BID can't tell its Jubilee from its Boston in Bloom - but on this occasion things are not blooming marvellous!

Meanwhile as plans press ahead for what sounds like a glorified school sports day this coming Monday - and it would certainly pass for 1952 if everyone could be persuaded to wear grey – the Boston Standard is helping to push the party line when it comes to the £5,000 donated by the Boston Town Area Committee to fund the event. As we have pointed out, BTAC funding is supposed only to cover events involving town centre wards – otherwise the money should be forthcoming from the council’s main budget. Clearly, this event cannot be exclusive to Boston ward residents - which we presume is why this cumbersome wording (above, right) has been applied…
The council may find it necessary to dress up its financial “ingenuity” in this way – but why the Standard goes along with it baffles us completely.
Someone else who is baffled this week is a Boston resident who has noticed that the rules concerning wheelie bin collections are being relaxed for his neighbours. A couple, who have no apparent physical disability, put their bin out– but after it is emptied, the bin crew return it up the drive. The council’s rules on assisted collections are quite specific. They say: “We provide an assisted collection to residents who are disabled or infirm in some way, which would make it difficult for the occupier to pull their bin in and out for collection. If you require this service please call us … and … we can fill an application form out or arrange a visit." Enquires with a council officer revealed the “residents had requested that although they can wheel the bin down to the footpath, there are reasons why they would like it wheeled back”and that the bin crews are given permission to decide whether or not they make arrangements with households. When asked, he said he didn't know how many households received this extra help. Given the current delicate relationship between Boston Borough Council and its disabled residents, we feel that the situation should be clarified.
The other week we mused on why Sainsbury’s seems to open stores anywhere in Lincolnshire other than in Boston. Couple that with that the news that Boston’s former Kwik Save store is to be taken on by budget chain B and M Bargains – yet another such store to join the list of QD, Poundstretcher, Poundland, Home Bargains – and then other local versions. Although we have said before that these stores target the population, the only way to improve Boston's appeal is to try to get something better to come to town.
Finally, we note that Boston BID is undeterred by its justified failure to win its bid to be a Portas Pilot. Its enthusiastically lacklustre effort - coupled with an irrepressibly dull video - ensured that it failed to make the grade. Now, the view seems to be that Boston has been so fortunate in recent years, that the prizes have been won by those towns that were not so lucky in the past. Sorry, but that concept is rubbish. Boston lost out because it sent in a lousy bid – and the idea that a “tweaked” re-application might do better only underlines how out of touch we are with reality.
That’s it for this week – and next. Given the extended Bank Holiday, we have decided not to return until Monday 11th June. It doesn’t mean that we are away- you can e-mail us at any time, and in the event of important news, we will be back straight away ...

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