Friday, 10 August 2012

It’s been a busy time for Boston’s Chief Executive Richard Harbord, who had to step in when the council leader Peter Bedford and his town centre portfoolio holder Derek Richmond were unable to answer questions concerning the council’s relationship to Boston Business “Improvement” District. He was back at the keyboard again a few days later after apparently putting Councillor Richmond on the naughty step over complaints by Boston Disability Forum concerning his comments comparing disabled people with “turkeys voting for Christmas.” Generally, this is regarded as a derogatory turn of phrase – but not, apparently in Mr Harbord’s book. “I have interviewed Councillor Richmond and received statements from others present at the meeting,” he said. “There is complete unanimity that the comments were specifically targeted at users of services being put in the position of voting to implement increases in charges to the services they use. I thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.” Mr Harbord ignored a request for a public apology.  He also adopted a dismissive line to a follow-up e-mail, which raised outstanding issues concerning the role of a council officer and a disputed statement from the Lincolnshire Association of People with Disabilities. To pour oil on troubled waters, Mr Harbord was invited to consider “peace talks” between the borough and the forum, to ease tensions and restore a positive working relationship. Forget that idea!  “I would like to confirm to you that I have nothing further to add to what was stated in my previous e-mail to you regarding this matter” replied Mr Harbord in a short and sour response. We guess that they pay their chief exec the thick end of a quarter of a million a year pro rata that our “leadership” will regard such discourtesy as value for money.
Not that Mr H is getting off the hook so easily. He has now received e-mails questioning “omissions” in the newly published register of councillors’ interests. In particular, they relate to the non-listing of Councillor Richmond’s directorship of Boston BID, and Councillor Yvonne Gunter’s role as a wedding planner for  a business run by joint deputy leader  Councillor Raymond Singleton-Mcguire – which again is not listed as an interest. But on present performance, we don't think that the author should hold his breath for a reply.
Meanwhile, the search for memorial plaques bearing names of other portfolio holders is proving difficult – despite Councillor Gunter’s insistence that “there are numerous plaques in the borough on council premises and at other sites where people representing projects are included.” It was her inclusion on the Jubilee fountain memorial plaque and the response that it was "protocol" for  the names of “dignitaries” to appear on such things that started a tide of indignation  - which shows no sign of abating. An insider tells us: “Even now all could be retrieved with an admission of an error in judgement or fact. The refusal to discuss things further is probably the more damaging to her reputation than other aspects of the affair, as it openly demonstrates to thinking people that Councillor Gunter is unable to substantiate her argument, and is taking her ball home. If that’s the way Councillor Gunter wishes to play it, then she will have to live with the resultant lack of credibility and respect in council circles in the future. I'm very surprised that advice from more experienced councillors to that effect has not been forthcoming; or if it has been tendered, not listened to.” 
Undeterred by all this, Councillor Gunter is planning something new to entertain us. The borough’s website reports: “Councillor Gunter said the search for the Olympians and Paralympians of the future starts in Boston now. She said: ‘Young people are being inspired by the Olympics and will be inspired by the efforts of our visiting Paralympians. I want to hear from anyone from Boston borough who is serious about training to represent their country at the next Olympics and Paralympics and beyond. "I also want to hear from anyone interested in taking part in a big Olympic-themed sports event in Boston that I am planning." We wait with bated breath following the dubious success of her last stunt - the first World Bowling Greens Championship -  a game of bowls played with Lincolnshire-grown cabbages instead of woods.
Meanwhile, the news that athletes from the Egyptian Paralympic squad are to train at Boston's Princess Royal Sports Arena ahead of their move into the athletes' village in London is celebrated on the Borough website. Sadly, whist the stadium is apparently fine for the athletes, the accommodation is not, as they will stay in Lincoln and bus into Boston daily. The borough council tells us “Boston and Egypt may appear to be worlds apart, but both areas have similar agricultural-based economies.” Presumably, diplomacy prevents the author from adding that the Egyptian leadership has operated as a dictatorship for longer than most people can remember! Dictatorship is defined as “absolute, imperious, or overbearing power or control.” Something else the borough has in common, then?
We found it an interesting coincidence that on the very day we commented on the long overdue publication of Boston Borough Council’s members’ interests that all 32 councillors were e-mailed the guidance sheets on “Openness and transparency on personal interests” published by the Department for Communities and Local Government – “for information.” Given that a number of questions have  been raised regarding whether the declaration list is as open and transparent as it should be, we can’t help but feel that some councillors were being given a gentle nudge in the direction of submitting a revised version of their interests.
A new and highly personal approach to involve the punters in politics appears to have been adopted by Boston’s Conservatives. Earlier this week as we strolled into town along Main Ridge West to battle our way around the pedestrian unfriendly Market Place, a charming young lady, who had been standing with some colleagues outside the Conservative Club, dashed across the road, and invited us to join a session with our Euro-MP. We forgot to ask which one, but said we might drop by on our way back. This was just before 10am, and we were told that the session was going on until midday. Thoughtful as the idea was, we doubt that it can have been very productive. We noticed no advance advertising for the event, and even the club’s own website failed to mention it.
Could Health and Safety rules mean that public toilets will have to be maintained in the Market Place when the Assembly Rooms are sold? The question is raised by Boston Eye reader Michael Borrill, who says: “The sale of the Assembly Rooms is fast becoming another PRSA, BID, fountain and plaque, issue which is contaminating the council and putting democracy to one side in the town. Who advised the Mayor, if he did seek advice, not to allow a ‘call in’ and on what grounds? Property sales can be a difficult issue when transactions have to be secret until contracts have been exchanged, but this property ‘belongs’ to the people of Boston, and the elected members should have a say in the matter on behalf of the constituents - otherwise why have a council? I was under the impression that to allow food retailers to trade on the Wednesday and Saturday markets, there had to be adequate toilet facilities under Health and Safety regulations. If the toilets are to be sold and closed, surely there will then be a responsibility on the council to provide replacement facilities. Perhaps they have thought about this and have already made provision to make a plaque!”
We were interested to see that our Lincolnshire County Conservative Councillor for Boston South, Paul Skinner, is standing as a candidate for Wyberton Parish Council next Thursday.
We also noted that Councillor Skinner – who stood unsuccessfully for the borough council in the same ward last year as a Tory candidate -  is not affiliating himself with any political party this time around. In a slightly mischievous way, we e-mailed him to ask whether this might be because a declaration as a Conservative could be deemed counterproductive to the chance of success! We think we may have struck a nerve – as we have received no reply!
Just when we thought that Boston green waste collection service was shaping up nicely comes news that overloading of the brown wheelie bins has become a “slight” issue. The bin weight limit is 80 kilogrammes - and if they’re heavier than that they can be damaged when they are tipped by the collection lorry's hydraulic lift. Boston Borough Council tells us: “Green waste alone will not cause the bin's maximum weight to be exceeded, but the addition of soil may. Gardeners are asked not to include soil, knock it off the roots of weeds, plants and shrubs before they go in the brown bin and do not include lawn edgings.” Surely, lawn edgings can be included so long as they do not exceed the upper weight limit – or are we seeing the start of a selective policy on what may or may not be disposed of?  Either way, what a shame that once again a council project has been marred – presumably by using cheaper bins that are not now proving up to the task.
After our remark last week that we found it difficult to reconcile the word worshipful  - "feeling or showing reverence and adoration, entitled to honour or respect" -  with some of our mayoral office holders, we received an e-mail from Independent Councillor Richard Leggott telling us that “the French translation of our 'The Worshipful' is ‘L’adorable.’  I found this out in Laval, and don't know quite what this does to French thinking about those strange English and their strange customs!” To us it provides an even greater challenge of reconciliation!
Finally, after recent headlines about ongoing problems at Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital, a frisson of fear ran down our spine when we saw the latest in this week’s Boston Target.

If these cards are needed in the orthopaedic department – be afraid, be very afraid!

You can write to us at  Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.

Our former blog is archived at:

No comments:

Post a comment