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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