Friday, 28 September 2012



 Amidst the borough council’s financial  affairs, comes news that the cabinet recommended writing off £156,000 in business debts – including several which had ceased trading … among them £38,850 from the town’s Subway sandwich shop. In one fell swoop that pretty well wiped out the savings of up to £40,000 on the council’s  insurance contracts. We know that Subway is a franchise, but surely the parent company can be held to some sort of account – rather than just getting away with it.  And why was the debt allowed to get so large? When the shop closed back in May, a spokesman said: “We hope to relocate this store in Boston town centre in the near future.” We hope that if Subway has the cheek to try such a stunt after hitting local taxpayers so hard that the council is bold enough to refuse the application.
A difference of views has arisen over a candidate fighting the forthcoming election for the Frampton and Holme ward on Boston Borough Council – made vacant by the resignation of Brian Rush.  A reader writes to say that although candidate Maggie Peberdy is standing as an Independent, not so long ago Boston District Independent Councillor Richard Austin was claiming her as a candidate for the BDI. This was angrily denied by Councillor Austin, who says: “BDI is fielding no candidate and has never had any intention of doing so.  We have never even asked Mrs Peberdy or any other individual to stand as a BDI candidate. I would be interested to know who is spreading this rumour.”
Atter last week’s wireless interview in which Councillor Leader Peter (“Simply the Best”) Bedford attempted to justify his cabinet’s secrecy and poor handling of public relations regarding the sale of the Assembly Rooms, a reader writes to say: “The bit where he says the owner wants to keep everything underneath  (the Assembly Rooms) –  well, the public toilet block is underneath! With regard to the claim that councillors could have come to the cabinet meeting, he says he invited two – so why didn't he extend a personal invitation to all?  He is right about one thing, though. He is “simply the best, better than all the rest"   at misleading, back tracking, and being drunk with power with no thought for the people who elected him and his. … wait for it … Mugnificent Seven !!
Forgive us if we remain confused about the state of Boston’s weekly market. In the past couple of weeks, a clearly miffed portfolio holder Councillor Derek Richmond,  has angrily denied  claims that  there are fewer stalls than before the refurbishment   and has gone so far as to say that there is in fact a waiting list.  By contrast, the borough council’s annual report tells us: “Boston Market continues  to thrive,  with 88.95%  occupancy, compared to the target of 82%.”  This suggests that there is a deliberate policy of running the market at a lower capacity than is possible. But if so, why set a target of 82%, then let it to be exceeded by seven per-cent – when, assuming that there really is a waiting list, it would be possible to achieve 100% capacity – and be something to celebrate?
Allotment holders in the borough can be forgiven for feeling that their sense of irony is being tested with the news that the Broadfield Lane site might again welcome grow-it-yourselfers. Four years ago, the allotments were in the news when Boston Borough council issued eviction notices to tenants on behalf of a greedy local charity that wanted to make a huge profit from developing the site. The move more or less coincided with the economic slump and corresponding collapse of the housing market, so no building ever happened. If we were offered an allotment on that site now, we’d think twice – unless there were some strong assurances –   rather than risk being thrown off again when the housing market improved.  A further irony is that in 2008, while all this was going on –  the Boston Town Area Committee was urged to pay to clear the Broadfield Lane site and "to avoid any adverse or damaging publicity with regard to the state of the site" –  which had “an amount” of asbestos that required disposal. Four years on, last week’s BTAC meeting heard that asbestos abounds in old sheds on many council-run allotment sites around the borough.  Funny how this hazardous stuff can be expensive to remove unless the council doesn’t want to meet the cost  – when it’s apparently safe to  leave it alone.
If  ever proof was  needed that speed cameras are largely a joke, other than being a money-making exercise, then it comes with the news that Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership has taken down the cameras on John Adams Way. What makes the news so daft is the announcement that the cameras have been useless for the past two years, because they have not had  any film in them. Regular users of the road will testify that at certain times it is nothing more than a racetrack. Not only that, but the high incidence of drivers jumping red lights –  which one day will lead to a serious pedestrian casualty –  might well have been stemmed  if the cameras had been in use. Without any sense of irony, the Road Safety Partnership says speed on the road will continue to be monitored, and that the cameras could return if average speeds increase. But how will they know?
Meanwhile, we note that Boston police have “spoken out” about street drinking in the town – particularly around the Herbert Ingram Memorial. And guess what they said?  “If people don’t report incidents to us, we won’t know about them.” Amazing! Such “incidents” seem to run from dawn to dewy eve. Not only that, but the police claim that shrubbery was removed was to give the CCTV cameras a better view. What makes us so annoyed about this is that here we have a known problem which is happening virtually within view of the police station, and still the police will do anything rather than cross St Botolph’s footbridge to  patrol the area a few times a day.  Next year, of course, it will all be different, because  the bridge is being replaced, and the police will have the excuse that they won’t be able to cross the river for half of the year.
On a similar subject, we are sure that readers of our local newspapers were appalled by the photographs showing the Market Place in the early hours before the Battle of Britain Parade in Sunday 16th September. We join wholeheartedly in the praise of Boston Borough Council’s Fen Road staff for clearing the area between 4am and 9am.  What is sad is that they should need to turn out for  an expensive exercise, and one which ought not to have been necessary. Clearly the amount of filth and litter abandoned in the streets gives the lie to the claim that central Boston after dark  is a wholesome and peaceful place to be, as we are sure that this one Sunday morning was typical of many.  And our Tory leaders are welcoming the idea of yet another night club in the area!
Yesterday, we mentioned the bonus that will head Boston College’s way when its De Montfort campus is sold for £1,500,000. It’s on the market thanks to Boston Borough Council – which leased it the Peter Paine Sports Centre for a song, which also led to it picking up another cool million in improvement grants. But now we hear that the college closed the Sage Restaurant, in Spalding's Red Lion Quarter,  because it’s not commercially viable. The college recently bought the Red Lion Quarter from South Holland District Council for £2.4m, which at the time seemed a bargain as the project had cost around £6 million. We’ve said it before, but we preferred the good old days when colleges concentrated on education students and left business to the businessmen.
After all the fanfare surrounding the three year arts project in the Boston area funded with a £2.5 million grant from the Arts Council, we hear that although the programme has the active support of Boston Borough Council, that’s about as far as it goes. The bid was made by the South Holland and Boston “Creative People and Places Arts Consortium” to take art of all forms out to the community and into often isolated rural areas where access can be limited. At the time, Councillor Yvonne Gunter, portfolio holder for leisure services, described the grant we have received, as a fantastic achievement. She urged all involved in the arts locally, in whatever form, to embrace the opportunities becoming available. So why is everyone now so tepid about the idea?
We wonder how much attention will be paid to the views of local people after the announcement of a series of public meetings coming up in the town, where residents can air their views. The organiser of the meetings – Boston North West, County Councillor Andrea Jenkyns,  says that they will cover topics such as welfare, immigration, Europe, schools and health. “We will collate their views and ideas and send them back centrally, which then gets formulated into a full report and sent to the relevant minister,” she is quoted as saying. The first meeting – on welfare – will be at  Fenside Community Centre next Wednesday, and immigration will be on the agenda  on November 8th   … by which time we should all have had a chance to digest the recommendations of Boston Borough Council’s Task and Finish Group’s report on the impact of population change. The trouble is that – given the disinterest shown by our local “leadership” in the views of the people who elected them, we find it hard to believe that our views will cut any ice down in Whitehall.
It’s only last week that we commented on Boston Borough Council’s website prompting readers to support a non-council event - albeit a local one. So this week it was even more baffling to find an invitation to visit Gowrings Mobility Roadshow at the National Space Centre by ringing in advance for a free ticket.  The “award winning national space centre” –  then received a generous plug as a visitor attraction, and the company’s marketing director managed a quote as well.  As far as we can tell, Gowrings has no local connections – neither to Boston nor Lincolnshire – and we wonder whether there aren’t better, more local events that the council’s website could be telling us about.
 

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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

 

Thursday, 27 September 2012




In a plaintive bleat to the local papers, Boston Borough Council Leader Peter Bedford praised the authority’s recently published annual report, which showed the council to be ahead or on track on most of its performance targets.
He said: “This is a good news story all around and I hope it’s produced as such in our local papers as much as the usual negatives.”
Ignoring the whiff of paranoia given off by the appeal, we have to say that good news is in the eye of the beholder, and that there are still serious flaws in the way the Tories run the council.
Not only that, but the report also cover the last days of Boston Bypass Independents’ administration – which had previously been blamed for all the borough’s ills – thus blurring the distinction between the BBI’s “good news” and that prior to last May’s elections.
The dominant features in the report seem to be sport related.
It says that the first phase of the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex has been completed and the next phase – refurbishment of the training pool – starts next month.
Spending on that project already seems to be higher than planned, in that – whilst £195,000 was allocated,  monitoring of the bills over the past year shows a current total approaching £260,000.
That money, by the way, came from the reserves – which in total  were pillaged to the tune of £1m to fund transport initiatives and the leisure training pool spending.
And let’s not forget that the main beneficiaries of the pool improvement are two select groups – the Witham Schools Federation and the Boston Amateur Swimming Club.
The report claims that the council’s handover of the Peter Paine Sports Centre to Boston College was” justified” as the college then accessed more than a million pounds for improvements.
Two things that went unmentioned amid all this was last year's report by veteran Boston Target columnist George Wheatman  that the trustees at Peter Paine were threatened that the centre would be closed if they didn’t spend £400,000 on refurbishment … or hand the lease back to the borough.
Nor does the report mention that the deal has now allowed the college to profit by selling its De Montfort campus for £1.5 million.
It also remains to be seen what use the public get from the facility, as they will only be allowed access outside of college hours.
Something else that we had thought was long off the agenda was the news that “a great deal of work has also taken place at the Princess Royal Sports Arena” – and we are looking forward to a successful conclusion to this in the next few months.”
So are we all!
The report tells us that at the start of the administrative year in March, 2011, coincided with the news that Boston had the biggest year on-year reduction in crime in Lincolnshire – although precisely how much credit the council can claim for that is anyone’s guess.
And the same is true of the £2 million project to revitalise the Market Place was announced – which was approved by the BBI.
Again, the claim that in May, 2011, the Improvement Board signed the council off- “satisfied with the advances it had made” –  marks the achievements of the previous regime, although the overall impression is that the present leadership deserved the credit for things that it has not initiated.
One thing that we do welcome is the news that the council signed a commitment to the councillor charter to support the development of elected members with an aim of securing charter status by December this year.
Charter status is recognition that a council has achieved best practice in the way it provides learning and development opportunities for its elected members.  This helps ensure that elected members have the skills and knowledge they need effectively to represent the community.
Given the recent performance of the Tories – led by the cabinet’s appalling example of secrecy and dismissive treatment of the electorate – we would like to hope that this will bring about some improvements.
But we shan’t be holding our breath!


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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

 

The full list of candidates for the election in the Frampton and Holme ward – caused by the resignation of Independent Councillor Brian Rush at the end of last month – has been published, and the poll will take place on Thursday, 18th October.
In the space of little more than a year, the ward has gone from being a place that few were interested in to a battle ground between five candidates – including a couple from the main political parties.
At last year’s elections, apart from Brian Rush, the seat was contested by candidates from the Boston Bypass Independents and UKIP – the United Kingdom Independence Party.
Now the big guns are out as well, with Labour and Conservative candidates joining two independents and a UKIP candidate.
The BBI – now the BDI … the Boston District Independents … have not put up a candidate.
There should just about be enough votes to go round, as Frampton and Holme is not the biggest of places – with 684 dwellings, and a population of 1,584 with an average age of 44.9 years.
The candidates are – in alphabetical order - for fairness:
Stuart Ashton,  of Willoughby Farm, Frampton Fen, standing as an Independent.  He runs a 1,000-acre farm and the company Willoughby Foods -  which provides meals to local schools and general catering.
Mr Ashton is hoping to continue an Independent dynasty begun by his mother Joan, in the same ward – she was a former deputy leader, and mayor of Boston Borough Council – and received an MBE in 2008 for services to Local Government and to the community in the East Midlands.
Maggie Peberdy, of Grosvenor Road, Frampton, is the second Independent seeking election, and is well known as the manager of Boston’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
Next comes UKIP veteran Sue Ransome, of Clarke Court, Wyberton.
Mrs Ransome, who is a Kirton parish councillor and listed as UKIP’s East Midlands Regional Office treasurer, once contested a  parliamentary seat – standing for Amber Valley in 2010.  She also stood in the Old Leake and Wrangle by-election, whilst her husband, Don, is UKIP East Midlands Regional Organiser and a Wyberton parish councillor.
Claire Rylott , of the idyllically named Sunnyside Farm, Kirton Holme, is the Conservative candidate, and another member of Kirton Parish Council.
Last of the five candidates is Mike Sheridan-Shinn, of Pen Street, in Boston, who is standing for Labour.
Last year, he contested Boston’s Pilgrim Ward for Labour, but is something of a political chameleon.  In a by-election for the same ward in 2009 he stood as a Liberal Democrat, and also that year stood for the Lib Dems in the Lincolnshire County Council elections for Boston North West.
So, electors in the ward are not spoilt for choice.
Traditionally, Frampton and Holme has returned Independents – but with two candidates flying that flag this time round, could a split in the vote open a door for one of the party candidates?
If so who can guess what might happen?
Nationally, the Conservatives are trailing Labour by 10% in the table of voting intentions. They are on 31% compared with Labour’s 41%.
The Lib Dems are on 14% - exactly the same as the “other parties” ” – which include UKIP.

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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


Poor old Boston Borough Council. It never rains but what it pours.
By a cruel irony, as the full council met last night to discuss its housing strategy for the next five years, the national newspapers were awash with reports of a self-employed Latvian cleaner and mother-of-ten who lives in Boston, who gets £34,000 a year from the state – far more than the average UK salary of just over £26,000 before tax … and who is demanding a bigger house.
Whilst the borough council rightly points out that the situation is far from typical, it underlines a problem that it likely to get worse rather than better.
Councillor Mike Gilbert, Boston Borough Council’s housing portfolio holder, said that: “providing accommodation for a mother with 10 children is a fairly big ask in most areas, let alone Boston where that isn’t readily available.
“This is not typical or widespread.”
We agree that it isn’t – but it does serve to highlight how forward plans for subjects such as housing are often not worth the paper that they are printed on.
We assume that the last housing strategy report covered the five years from 2007 – and like last night’s effort contained ambitious targets that would see vast improvements taking place.
The fact that housing in Boston seems to be bereft in so many ways is a clear indication that previous plans have failed.
The aim for the coming five years is to provide more homes, and improve existing ones plus ambitions catchphrased “living safely in your home” and “facilitating access to your home.”
Councillor Gilbert has been quoted as saying that the plan will deal with overcrowded housing, but that the main need in the coming years will be for flats for single people and is asking people to rent out a spare room – i.e. doing the council’s job for it.
The council’s Labour opposition have accused the Tory leadership of not doing enough.
“Sadly within the housing strategy, there are no targets for future builds within our town. We are all aware of the predicted population growth in Boston, and we have seen over the last few years a 15.7% increase in the population. If our town is going to develop in the way it should, it will need to have some ambitious targets for private and affordable housing.”
The critique goes on: “The lack of targets for private and affordable housing in the future show that the present Tory administration have a sense of arrogance when running our civic affairs  … We are saddened by the lack of ambition that this Tory administration has to deal with the population change within Boston. When are the Boston Conservatives going to take their role of community leaders in a more enlightened way?  Let’s hope … that they set ambitious targets in their housing strategy similar to other authorities across the country.”
Again, the underlines our earlier point.
The plan before this one, obviously failed to take account of how Boston’s population would increase.
Presumably, the council now thinks that it has a handle on how this growth might continue during the next five years, and plans to address what it sees as the likely issues resulting from it.
We just hope that our leaders have noted the story in the national press earlier in the month which said that more than 100,000 Russian citizens could qualify for EU passports under a little-noticed law change in Latvia - which is to open its doors to ‘an unknown number’ of Siberians.
“The economically struggling Baltic state is to grant the right to citizenship to the children and grandchildren of all Latvians sent by Stalin and his Soviet successors into exile in Siberia,” says the report.
“Everyone with a Latvian passport is entitled to work and live in Britain and significant communities from the ex-Soviet state are now established in England in places such as Manchester, Peterborough and Boston.”
What is surprising about the current housing situation is the number of dwellings which are described as “non decent.”
All told, the current situation is bleak, and the outlook appears little better.
Boston has a growing elderly population, and the fashion to encourage them to “downsize” to fee up larger properties is simply not realistic in the borough where the lion’s share of housing is in band A for council tax purposes - which puts them in the lower end of the market.
And let’s not forget that this situation might have been less serious had Boston not disposed of its housing stock to Boston Mayflower in 1999.
It seems that  selling the borough’s family silver goes back longer than we thought.
One aside that tickled our fancy in the case of the Latvian mum was the way in which the council struggled to stay politically correct.
The least convincing line was the one which went: “The property is not a house in multiple occupation; we can confirm that it is in fact home to a single large family.”
So, eleven unrelated people occupying a three bedroomed house constitutes multiple occupation – but not if they comprise a mother and ten children.”
Laughable!


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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

 

Monday, 24 September 2012





 Tonight sees an extraordinary general meeting of Boston Borough Council – in which a band of feisty opposition councillors take on the might of the Secret Seven - comprising the council’s cabinet and the other Tory lackeys who do their bidding.
It’s all about the decision to sell Boston’s Assembly Rooms - and the secrecy surrounding it.
The issue got a last minute airing on  BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s Sue Taylor show on Saturday, when – in the white corner, Independent Councillor Carol Taylor had her say, followed … in the blue corner, by council leader Peter Bedford.
Whilst Councillor Taylor agreed that the Assembly Rooms needed to be sold because there wasn’t enough money in the council’s kitty to rejuvenate them … “the main issue that we are concerned about is that we were never consulted and we wanted more of a debate  – and we wanted to include the public on the sale of these rooms. We weren’t allowed to do that, which I think is fundamentally wrong.
“The cabinet of seven members decided for 63,000 people.
“We feel that we should have been able to debate the issue more, and ask the public what they think before it goes ahead.
“It’s going to be sold along with, unfortunately, the public toilet block.
Cue: Councillor Bedford.
Clearly he has been on a training course some long time in the past, when it was considered clever to smarm the programme presenter.
But Councillor Bedford took things a step further.
“Good morning Sue, how are you? I like the choice of music to begin with …”
The tune in question was Simply the Best, by Tina Turner.
Now, we never had Councillor Bedford pegged as a Tina Turner fan, and wonder if he had perhaps mistaken the title as a preface to his appearance and chosen to be flattered by it.
Not for the first time, Councillor Bedford’s responses begged more questions than they answered.
Firstly, when asked if he could reassure those who complained about not knowing what would happen to the building, he replied: “Obviously, we cannot predetermine what the planning application will be on the building; that would be against every planning law in this land. You cannot predetermine what people are going to actually want to do with the building.”
Say again?
Do you really mean to say that once a buyer came forward with an offer for the building, not one single person asked the obvious next question – what are you planning to do with it?
That’s not predetermination – it’s a logical question, and in no way illegal.
Then -  in the tedious political game of passing the buck - Councillor Bedford told the BBC:  “… the actual decision  (to sell the Assembly Rooms) was taken in 2006 at a cabinet meeting then, and it has never ever been rescinded, so the original decision in 2006 is the one that we are actually working on.”
This is another interesting point, as it has the effect of suggesting that responsibility for taking what has become an exceptionally unpopular decision is out of  the hands of the current Tory regime, but down to a previous administration which left the current commanders powerless to act.
Disappointingly no doubt for Councillor Bedford, this cannot be laid at the door of the Boston Bypass Independents - but it does  neatly smudge whose idea it was to sell.
In fact, in 2006, Boston Borough Council was under no overall control – although the Tories had the whip hand.
Not only that, but a condition attached to any sale then was that the premises could not be used for a nightclub.
Perhaps Councillor Bedford could remind us when that clause was rescinded.
However, he ploughed on: “What the ratepayers of Boston need to understand is that between 2006 and 2012 with the difference in the cost of the building to what it’s worth now to what it was then with property prices, the loss of revenue, work on the building, repairs and everything else, it’s cost the ratepayers of Boston over one million pound (sic) in six years, and it’s quite simply not sustainable anymore.”
Phew!
So what Councillor Bedford is saying is that for each of the past six years, the Assembly Rooms have cost – or lost - us £166,000 a year - even though just a few days ago he was quoted as saying: “I can’t say the figure, but it’s a substantial amount of money lost every week.”
It’s £3,205.
Now, he has owned up to an humongous loss, and we would be very interested to see a breakdown of the figures – as the cost of external redecoration of the building is less than one year’s deficit.
When asked about local concerns over future use of the Assembly Rooms and whether there could be restrictions on their use, he said: “Of course we can’t put restrictions like that on it. If we did the building would be totally worthless.
“When all’s said and done, if you think back to when the building was built (you’ll need a long memory, since it was built in 1822) there was (sic) always dances, dinners and everything else.
“It’s always been a place of entertainment from the day it was built, and whatever comes into it now, whatever form of planning restrictions or planning conditions and everything else will be affected to it.
“But it’s a Grade II listed building, and so there are a lot of things that cannot be done with it, and I understand that the present owner (which we thought was still Boston Borough Council until the deal was done) obviously wants to keep all the shops and everything else underneath, so that he has an income stream for the building”
In short: it’s going to become a nightclub.
And finally, in response to the charge that councillors had not been consulted … well, the silly so-and-so’s were clearly mistaken.
“Every councillor on Boston Borough Council could have got the papers if they’d so chosen. They could have also come to the cabinet meeting. Two councillors did come to the cabinet meeting. I invited either of them if they wanted to come to the table to take part in the debate, and they both refused.
“So every councillor on Boston Borough Council could have come to that cabinet meeting and had input but they chose not to do.”
And why bar the public and the press from tonight’s meeting?
“Quite simply, because everything is sensitive.
“If you was (sic) buying a building like that would you like it all addressed in public? Of course you wouldn’t if you were a businessperson - and it is obviously confidential, and that is the way it has to stay.”

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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

 

Friday, 21 September 2012

Warnings about the lack of democratic practice meted out by the ruling Tory group on Boston Borough Council seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Independent Councillor Carol Taylor walked out of Wednesday’s Environment and Performance Committee after being presented with a fait accompli on arrival. The first item on the agenda was the election of a Chairman, following the resignation of Independent Councillor Brian Rush. Councillor Taylor reports on her blog: "The Vice Chairman (Councillor Mark Baker) quite rightly took on the rĂ´le of Chairman, and then invites another Councillor to be his Vice Chairman," she reported. "He chose to select another bluey (Councillor Mary Wright) instead of someone from another party - e.g. the BDI or the Labour group, which would have demonstrated fairness and democracy. I was also saddened that we hadn't been informed as a matter of courtesy prior to the meeting.* The only other member of the opposition was from the BDI, standing in for someone else, and the rest were blueys. I decided to leave because - as you are all now hearing with alarming regularity - there is no point in discussing anything which has more often than not been decided - despite it going to cabinet for consideration.”
We hear that the candidates standing for the vacant Boston Borough Council seat for Frampton and Holme - vacated by Brian Rush - will be announced next week. So far we understand that the Independent candidate will be Stuart Ashton, whose mother, Joan, is a former borough councillor, Deputy Leader, and Mayor - who was awarded an MBE in 2008 for services to Local Government and to the community in the East Midlands. The Conservatives are fielding Clare Rylott, and UKIP has Sue Ransome, a long-standing party activist.
Earlier this week we reported that three Conservative county councillors sent apologies for absence to last Friday’s County Council meeting – that’s half of Boston’s representation. Whilst we named no names and apportioned no blame, we were admonished by Councillor Andrea Jenkyns of Boston North West ward who e-mailed to say: “Just to let you know, sometimes family things such as funerals do stop you attending meetings. My Aunt died and I had to go to Yorkshire for her funeral.”
Boston MP, Mark Simmonds, has been a busy boy since his appointment as Parliamentary Under Secretary in the Foreign Office on 5th September. The website They Work for You shows that he has dealt with more than 20 questions in debates and written answers. His responsibilities include: Africa, overseas territories (but not the Falklands, sovereign base areas or Gibraltar,) conflict issues, climate change, international energy, consular, protocol, ministerial oversight for FCO services, and the Caribbean (but not including the Dominican Republic, Haiti or Cuba.) Although a visit to some of those territories is potentially a bit grim, Mr Simmonds managed a flying visit to Alicante on Wednesday – presumably under the “consular” umbrella – “to learn more about the issues faced by thousands of British nationals living in and visiting the region.” We just hope that he can still find time for Boston and all its troubles.
Apparently Boston’s green waste collection service is already having an impact in the county as a whole. County Councillor Lewis Strange, Lincolnshire’s portfolio holder for Waste Services and Green Issues, tells us that the Boston effect is expected to deliver an improvement of around 1.5% on recycling figures countywide, which will take Lincolnshire within 1.5% of the 55% target it has set for 2015. Given that the Boston service got off to a late start, it is still ahead of target, so hopefully the news can only get better. It would be nice, though it our local coffers could be the ones to benefit from the savings being made, rather than those of the county.
Boston’s County Hall near the Stump will be empty by the end of this month, with just the library left. The 3,339 sq.m. reduction in office space will save the County Council money, of course. All told, 176 staff will be affected. Whilst 23 have moved to the Boston Family Centre in Fenside, another 72 have moved to Boston Borough Council’s offices, and the registration staff will follow at the end of the month. From now on, if you see a crowd lurking on the pavement outside the Worst Street offices, don’t worry. They not having a crafty smoke –they’ve come out to breathe! Again, we hope that the county is paying us a decent rental for the space, and not just some token sum.
It seems that Boston’s Business “Improvement “District is trialling a novel way to deal with board directors who can’t be bothered to attend meetings. The BID didn’t meet in August because of holidays, and this week’s meeting was so sparsely attended that there wasn’t a quorum – which meant that no decisions could be made. Because there are several important issues to debate – including the Christmas Market – which is less than three months away – and a plan to extend the Town Ranger service, the BID’s big idea is to conduct the business by e-mail with directors reading reports and voting electronically. Their votes will be counted by the chairman who will then announce the result. Whilst it all sounds very high-tech and forward looking, we have to question whether it is either constitutional or ethical.
We wonder why Boston Borough Council its prompting visitors to its website to send nominations to the Boston Standard’sBusiness Awards competition. The Standard has been running this – along with several events – since Noah was a lad, and aside from being an easy way to fill the pages, it never seems to achieve much. Far better, we would have thought, for the council to invite the Standard on board in a joint promotion – after all, the council is supposed to have a role in the promotion of local business. Or is this yet another way of getting others to do its job?
The health of Boston’s market has been in the spotlight for several weeks now. Some say that there are fewer stalls than before – a suggestion that has been refuted with claims that there is in fact a waiting list. Boston town centre portfolio holder Councillor Derek Richmond, in a defensive letter to the Boston Standard, praises its rival publication the Boston Target for “declaring the reality” by publishing a press release from the council. We couldn’t possibly comment, but having produced many press releases in our time, can safely say that they do not necessarily include much in the way of “reality.” The revamped Market Place is now so vast that we can see no need to have a waiting list of applicants for stalls, as there is clearly much room for expansion. Why don’t we pull out all the stops, take all suitable applicants, and then promote Boston as the town with the biggest market in the East Midlands.
Having painted democracy into a corner it appears that the borough council’s leadership is now trying to play fast and loose with time. Among the items listed on the Environment and Performance Committee’s work programme for the year is the one below
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Annual update DPPO (or earlier if so req'd.)We always thought that annual meant once a year and was pretty well a fixture in the calendar. But not if you’re the Tories in charge at Boston, it seems.
Last week’s Lincolnshire County Council meeting was rather let down by the performance of the Chairman, Councillor Robert Palmer. He told the assembled throng that his civic duties included a visit to Boston where he met the Princess Royal during an official visit to St Bostoff’s Church to open the new visitor centre. When she asked how the weather had affected his farming enterprise he told her he was a turkey farmer, and got a laugh from his peers by reporting that she said: “eeeew.”Over the years, the Princess Royal has been a regular visitor to Boston and supported us well, so it is a shame that that a councillor who comes on a hit and run visit to the town should take the mickey. Still, there is a crumb of comfort to be had from his little speech – in that not only did he know much about Boston – but he also referred to Lincolnshire Cathedral, and Nettlesham rather than Nettleham. Time for some homework before the next meeting, Mr Chairman.
Finally, we liked this piece in the Boston Target.
 
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"Now is time to plant your bluebells” trumpeted the gardening page, with a delightful photo captioned: “Bee patient: Bluebells take a while to settle in but you will reap the reward eventually” The feature also asked if readers have a question for the paper’s gardening expert, Michael Clark. We have. Michael, can’t you tell the difference between bluebells and grape hyacinths?
* Councillor Taylor told Boston Eye that Councillor Wright's council name plaque was in the space of Vice Chairman and the procedure would have been for Councillor Baker to invite her as his Vice Chairman and then she would take her seat which had already been reserved. "The potential selection of a vice chair from one of the opposition groups would have been a small but significant good will gesture to help heal the growing rift between the administration and the opposition groups," she added.

 
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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com
 
 

Thursday, 20 September 2012



It’s an old joke, but we’ll tell it anyway …
Q: How can you tell when the leadership of Boston Borough council are lying?
A: Their lips are moving.
On Monday a full meeting of the council starts at 6-30pm with just a couple of items to fill a token hour to make it worthwhile for grass roots members who have turned up. It will then segue seamlessly into an Extraordinary meeting requested by members after the proposed sale of the Assembly Rooms was rubber-stamped by the cabinet and barred from being “called in” by the Mayor – a procedure which would have allowed decent debate and full discussion, and possibly a vote on the matter.
Fortunately, the council’s constitution anticipates just such chicanery, which is why members are allowed to request an extraordinary meeting to circumvent such a crime against free speech.
The meeting is “to discuss issues relating to the sale of the Assembly Rooms and lack of opportunity for members to debate or scrutinise the decision.”
And, as we might expect from a leadership that pledged in its manifesto to “bring an end to ‘behind closed door’ policies,” and that “all councillors and the Boston Borough Council Executive to be open and accountable to YOU the tax payer,” the meeting will immediately go into closed session with the public and the press expelled from the council chamber.
Councillors will then hear a report by Chief Executive Richard Harbord on “Issues relating to the sale of the Assembly Rooms.”
The issues are quite straightforward.
The council advertised the publicly-owned Assembly Rooms – which are a dominant feature of the townscape and appear in almost every photo used to promote Boston as a destination – for sale at £445,000, and found a buyer.
The building is on the market because successive administrations have over the years failed properly to maintain it – with the result that it is not only an eyesore which condemns those guilty councils, but disgraces the town, and now needs an unaffordable amount spending on it – including £150,000 for the outside alone.
Because the building is listed, there are strict guidelines as to its use and how its appearance may be altered – and some years ago, when it was last put on sale a condition was that it would not be used as a nightclub.
The word on the street is that this rule is no longer being applied – which itself is a strong indication that turning it into a nightclub is the most likely option.
As we have said before, a major problem with this is that it advances Boston’s clubland frontier from behind the town scenes and into the Market Place.
We have heard from council leader Peter Bedford before on the issue of trouble in the town centre. Almost a year ago he said in a BBC local radio interview that talk about people not being able to go out at night in the town depended on your outlook.
“I walked through town with my wife on Saturday night after a concert in Boston Stump and everybody was well behaved. We never saw an issue at all. So it’s how you want to look at things,” he said
Talk to others, though, and they will tell nightmare tales about what goes on as the clubs chuck out – even though there are seldom any arrests.
Perhaps Boston’s cabinet thinks of nightclubs as they once were – smiling young boys and girls strolling hand-in-hand after a night out. The boys all have brilliantined hair with a centre parting running straight as a die - like a ploughed furrow in a chalk field.
The girls, meanwhile, have made Friday night Amami Wave Set Night  and -  after nothing more than a glass or two of Bass Shandy or (whew) a Babycham  - are heading for home before midnight to meet dad’s curfew.
If that is what the cabinet thinks, then it’s time to grow up.
Still another issue is the identity of the buyer of the Assembly Rooms.
Our open and transparent leaders have moved heaven and earth to keep it secret, and have rebuffed efforts by the Boston Standard  - which requested a record of the decision as outlined by the Local Government Act – claiming that it was defined as exempt.
“Until the contracts are signed and exchanged we can’t say any more,” Councillor Bedford told the paper.
“As it stands at the moment you have got to take into consideration the amount of money that that’s costing ratepayers of Boston every week.
“I can’t say the figure, but it’s a substantial amount of money lost every week.”
Well, does he know or doesn’t he?
By the sound of it, he does – which means that “can’t say” means “won’t say.”
He has also suggested that the feared loss of the Assembly Rooms’ public toilets could be offset by using some of the proceeds of the sale on the Cattle Market toilets and “probably” the bus station - which fails to address the fact that there will still be no toilets in the Market Place.
The cloak and dagger nonsense about the buyer is simply that. A name reached our ears ages ago – and if it finds its way to Boston Eye, then it’s common knowledge around the town.  But if the Standard really does not know, all they have to do it to e-mail us and ask.
We think that if members of the Conservative group searched their hearts, many would find good reason to oppose the sale of the Assembly Rooms in this manner when they meet on Monday.
But sadly, we have no doubt that they will bend the knee to orders from above and do as their cabinet masters instruct.

 
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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

 
Boston Borough Council now has two members standing for the newly created role of  Police and Crime Commissioner, for which elections will be held on 15th November.
At the beginning of the week it was announced that the Labour Deputy Leader and councillor for Skirbeck Ward had been selected to replace Phil Dilks as the party candidate for Lincolnshire after he stood down because of a past criminal offence.
The second candidate from Boston is English Democrat group leader Elliott Fountain, who announced his candidacy some time ago, and who represents Fenside.
It’s just 56 days to the elections for the post - and so far it seems to have been one of the best kept secrets in the county.
Many people are questioning why our 41 forces need a “civilian” Police Commissioner – and also why the job is being targeted by the main political parties.
The PCCs, as they will be known, will have the job scrutinising their force and holding it to account. They will also be able to hire and fire the chief constable and set the force budget.
They will be paid between £65,000 - £100,000 depending on the size of the force, and are supposed to empower local people into having a say about how crime is tackled in their area.
The final list of candidates will be announced on 19th October.
Lincolnshire Police covers an area of more than 2,280 square miles, serving a population of about 646,000 -   and the first job for the new commissioner will be to decide whether to pursue a planned deal with the firm G4S – of the Olympics security fiasco fame  -  to build and part-run a police station near Lincoln.  Two-thirds of the force’s civilian staff were transferred to G4S in April as part of a £200 million ten-year outsourcing contract.
However, financial restraints – Lincolnshire Police has to find savings of £20m by 2015 –  and strong opposition to the idea,  may make the decision academic, as it is thought that postponing the decision will make it unaffordable for  in the long term.
And according to HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Lincolnshire is one of three police forces which may not be able to provide a "sufficiently efficient or effective service" in the future.
The candidates so far are:
Mervyn Barrett  –  Independent  (http://www.mervynbarrettobe.co.uk/– who has spent 30 years working for a crime reduction charity and is a former editor of Safer Society, a journal for debating practical measures to create a safer, more just and humane society. He has backed the force's decision to contract some services to G4S, and says he hopes the role of PCC will make the force more "democratically accountable" to the people it serves.
David Bowles  – Independent  (http://davidbowles.org.uk/  –  is a former chief executive of Lincolnshire County Council, and was also chairman of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust. He said his first priority would be to look at the funding of the force and work to ensure it is sustainable going forward.
Richard Davies – Conservative (http://www.votedavies.co.uk/ – was born and raised in Lincolnshire and in 2009 was elected as a Lincolnshire county councillor and soon afterwards joined Lincolnshire Police Authority. He said he believed his "no-nonsense approach" would help prevent crime, reduce people's fear of lawlessness and "offer the public genuine reassurance about the way their communities are policed".
Elliott Fountain – English Democrats (no website) – has said that being the youngest candidate gives him an edge over his rivals as he could relate to young people.
The 33-year-old has run his own businesses since leaving school. He has pledged to reduce crime in the county by targeting drug offences and also said he would try to find ways of making the force "tougher."
Paul Gleeson – Labour (no website) – was until recently responsible for arranging and giving legal advice to tribunals in four counties. He said he believed the main role of the commissioner was to highlight the day-to-day concerns of the public to the police.  “Crime and disorder, anti-social behaviour, fly tipping and low morale are public priorities. I’ve seen first-hand where the system is failing and what needs to be done to change it.”
You can find out more about the candidates and compare one with another by visiting http://www.policeelections.com/candidates/lincolnshire/

 
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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com