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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