Friday, 7 September 2012

The mountain of so-called “evidence” gathered by the Boston Borough Council’s Social Impact of Population Change in Boston Task and Finish Group is available to read online, and we will, of course be browsing through it. But one item that has remained in our minds since the meeting at which it came up was the session with retired Professor Gary Craig, described by a senior council official as someone who could answer “with authority, backed by research and fact." As it happened, one of Professor Craig’s facts drew a sharp intake of breath, when he declared that “there are about 6,000 (immigrants in the borough.) I’ve done research that looks at the facts.” A few days ago, the Lincolnshire Observatory published figures for Migration Inward, National Insurance Numbers, Number of Registrations, 2011 – although in fact they can be monitored as far back as 2005. The figures were: 2011: 2,020, 2010: 2,560, 2009:  2,220, 2008:  2,020, 2007: 2,240,  2006:  2,120 and 2005:  2,240. According to our calculator, this totals 15,420. We wonder how the disparity between Professor Craig’s figures and those obtained by the county has come about.
We see that roof repairs to the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre training pool will take a week longer than first thought, and wonder whether this has anything to do with the rush to slap solar panels up there. Even if it doesn’t, it still sounds like an expensive job that will only drive the cost of improving the pool higher. By the end of April – using Boston Borough Council’s own figures – the cost of “improving” the pool since September last year had reached £258,000. When the improvement plan was announced, the spending  allocation was said to have been £195,000. Since April, another £12,000 has been spent on resurfacing the car park, plus £1,300 on marking it out; a refurbishment of the sauna has cost £2,000 and an incline bench another £6,000. That brings the total to the end of June to just short of £279,000. Will it ever end, we wonder?
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What a shame that the council couldn’t earn the sort of sporting benefits that have accrued since it handed over the Peter Paine Sports Centre to Boston College for a peppercorn rent on a 90-year lease.   Since then the college has picked up more than £1 million in grants, to improve the facility. Not only that, but the gift of the centre has made the college’s De Montfort campus surplus to requirements and it is now on the market for £1.5 million by posh peoples’ estate agent Savills .   Perhaps Boston Borough Council should think about upping the rent for Peter Paine!

It’s now more three months since we were left quaking in our boots by the return of the joint initiative between Boston Borough Council and the Boston Standard in which people caught on closed circuit television dropping litter in the town were named and shamed. If memory serves, after the first batch of photos, no more have appeared. Meanwhile,  there seems to be no shortage of litter – but a total absence of anyone appearing in court charged with offending.  No name, no shame. We’ve asked before in campaigns such as this – what is the point if you launch them merely as a publicity stunt, and then do nothing about it?
Talking of campaigns, we were amused to read that Tory councillors "across Lincolnshire" are set to engage in a big conversation with residents in which “key" members including leader Martin Hill and police and crime commissioner candidate Richard Davies "want to know what the public think about the future of council and police services in Lincolnshire.”  Stepping into the publicity breach locally is Conservative County Councillor for Boston North West, Andrea Jenkyns – who has apparently recently rediscovered the issue of drinking in public as a good one ahead of next year’s county council elections. She is reported as saying: “I am very pleased that key local politicians are coming to our area. Although I and neighbouring councillors work very hard to make sure local views are properly addressed at Lincoln, it is good for the leadership to hear, first hand, people’s views. I would really encourage local people to take advantage of this opportunity.”  There are eight meetings in all – and the one in Boston will be at the White Hart on 26th September.  But is a big conversation quite the right way to describe it?  The meeting starts at 7pm - and  whilst no finish time is given, we can’t believe that it will go on beyond 10pm. Less of a big conversation, perhaps, and more of a feeble gesture – something that’s not uncommon where County Hall is involved.
As the row over charging disabled blue badge holders to use the  Boston Borough Council’s car parks goes on, it appears that the council is already looking forward to the extra income.  An item in its list of spending on items costing more than £500 includes £747 for 180,000 car parking tickets - in anticipation of all the extra disabled people paying to park, perhaps?  Another row about parking is the on-going chaos in the Market Place -  where no one will take responsibility for explaining the new system to drivers.  The council’s answer has been to promise jam tomorrow when Lincolnshire County Council takes over parking enforcement.  BUT … the latest news is that this will not now happen this month as promised, but will be delayed until 1st December. Expect chaos in the run up to Christmas!
In a week when it can fairly be said that democracy died the death at Boston Borough Council, it’s interesting to note underlying developments. The first is that – even after the summer "recess" – committee meetings at Worst Street are already toppling like ninepins. As our photo shows, within days of the start of September the nine meetings scheduled for the month have shrunk to seven – the casualties being the Regulatory and Appeals and Planning Committees. How long, we wonder, before the only meeting left is the Cabinet – leaving the rest of the councillors sidelined.

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Another casualty appears to be an easy-to-find link to the list of council expenditure exceeding £500, which was once available at the bottom of the list pictured here,
and labelled Transparency.   Of course, you can still find the figures – by using the website search facility … so long as you know what word to search  for. It's  not quite so transparent, then, is it?
Meanwhile, although the election  for a parish councillor in Bicker on 5th July  has been and gone and been announced, and one in Wrangle is due to take place on 20th September if more than one candidate applies, the piggy in the middle is Wyberton, where four candidates stood for election on 16th August - but for which no announcement of the result has been made.  Did no-one turn up, or has the borough council simply forgotten all about it? You will know our guess!
News about this year’s 50th anniversary of Lincolnshire’s Best Kept Village and Small Town Competition masks yet another disappointment for Boston borough.  Whilst Butterwick and Frieston make it into the final round,  they do so only as automatic qualifiers who were previous winners – which means that other villages in the borough failed to make it to the finals of the five classes. Increasingly, we sense a mounting lack of interest in our part of the world for eventslike this, and wonder if the broader lack of pride being shown by residents has anything to do with our lacklustre council leadership.
A successful local businessman who recently e-mailed several Boston borough councillors was probably not expecting much by way of response when he made a number of suggestions which he thought might improve the town’s prosperity.  He received one “positive” reply, and  one other – which took him rather by surprise – judged him not by his suggestions … but by his success in the property market. The e-mail – which he thinks was copied to him by mistake - was an exchange between two senior cabinet members  ... and read: “His property has been up for sale for about two years now. If he was so bloody good he would have sold it by now …” How gratifying to learn that our “leaders” regard input from the public in much the same way as that from opposition councillors. And how amateur and indiscreet of them not to ensure that their snide exchange  was not sent to the person who believed that they would consider his ideas.
Whose side are we on here? A fanfare on Boston Borough Council’s website proclaims: “By popular demand, a smash-hit heritage event returns to Lincoln this September - and this year it's bigger and better than ever.” It then goes on to trumpet an event known as “1,000 Years of Traditional Crafts” at Lincoln Castle and the Museum of Lincolnshire Life. Nothing is too much trouble to print – including a full price list including discounted advance bookings. A bit of a giveaway is the inclusion of a line saying “(see Notes to Editor for prices) – which suggests that the report was from a press release. Boston Borough Council used to publish a list of local events on its website – even though the calendar was usually blank. If it still does, we are unable to find it. But we do think it ironic that the borough will give space to a Lincoln event when it doesn't bother to single out some of our own local attractions. We’ve protested before about the Lincoln influence and its effect on Boston – but this seems to be taking things a little too far.
The cancellation of the Boston Beat free concert in Central Park “due to the bad weather” raised a number of so far unanswered questions about whether the organisers of the event – Boston Business “Improvement” District – were likely to get much of their £10,000 investment back. When we say their investment, we mean, of course,  the money screwed out of the levy payers – those unfortunate businesses  who, due an accident of geography, find themselves in the BID area and therefore legally compelled to pay whether they want to or not. At a recent  discussion about the cancellation of Boston Beat, board members were told of concern that going ahead with the event “could result in the park being closed for the rest of the summer whilst repair works were undertaken.” It sounded a trifle exaggerated.  And on the matter of recovering any monies, it was agreed that the  BID manager would  liaise with the event organiser” to see what, if anything, can be salvaged from the cancellation.” Does that sound ominous, or what?

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1 comment:

  1. Wyberton Parish Council election 16th August 2012.
    I had to go in to the Council Offices to read the notice, yes I think there was pressure not to publish the result!