Friday, 30 November 2012

So few voters bother to attend meetings of Boston Borough Council, that it was refreshing to note a letter in our local papers this week from Tom Ashton of Wrangle commenting on the debate about increasing allowances for the council's elite members which he “was privileged to observe as a member of the public.” He had some harsh words about the opposition groups who argued against the 20% increase on “narrow minded and populist grounds.” He then went on with facts and figures comparing Boston with South Holland District Council and argued for the rights of the citizenry for payment to offset to cost of council work. It’s so nice to see a well-informed member of the public taking the time to attend. Having said that, the name Tom Ashton rang a bell with us. Of course, there may be two people of that name living in Wrangle, but the one that we know is the chairman of Lincolnshire Conservative First, where he is described as “an assured Conservative supporter since his earliest political memories.”  He is a parish councillor in Wrangle  – which co-incidentally is in the ward represented by Boston Conservative leader Pete Bedford on Lincolnshire County Council. According to Conservative First he is also secretary of the Boston branch, and a co-opted representative on the Boston and Skegness Association executive. If this is the writer of the letter, then he is less of a “member of the public” and more representative of that group of Tories who regard voters as idiots who will believe everything that they are told.
The meeting that discussed the allowance hike also rejected a call to withdraw free computer and internet facilities from councillors to partly cover the cost.  We’ve gone on record as saying that in this age of hi-tech communication, we felt that all councillors should be given such a facility.  So did the meeting. Whilst voting in the allowances rise, they rejected losing their computers –  so the money for the rises will have to be found elsewhere. Whilst keeping their computers is the right thing to do, we have to smile at the way that our leadership is never willing to concede anything that might see them getting less in the way of money and perks, rather than more.
Combining the sale of the Assembly Rooms with council perks proved irresistible for one contributor to the Boston Protest March Facebook page …

Perhaps that’s one story that the leader and his officers would rather not have been told in a picture!
As you might expect, there are a number of loose ends surrounding the sale of the Assembly Rooms, so here’s an update.  The day of the sale coincided with a regular blood donor session – but unfortunately when staff arrived the lift was out of use, and as the equipment couldn't be carried up the stairs, the session was cancelled and moved to the Princess Royal Sports Arena. Despite the problems, 47 units of blood were collected. The good news is that the new owner of the Assembly Rooms has said the blood donor sessions will continue and anyone who wants to help, can book an appointment to give blood in the Boston area via or by calling 0300 123 23 23.
Meanwhile, the debate over the closure of the public toilets goes on. Boston District Independent Councillor Alison Austin reports a suggestion from a 97 year-old  member of her South Ward, who asks whether Boston Borough Council has considered renting the now closed public conveniences from the new owner of the Assembly Rooms in the same manner as the shops are leased? Councillor Austin has passed the suggestion on to the leader – but we do not anticipate a positive response.
In fact the leader excelled even himself with some political posturing on the wireless the other day. Asked by breakfast show presenter Rod Whiting whether there were any plans to provide more toilets in the town, the conversation ran thus: PB: Not within the town centre. We have three sets of toilets on the park at the cattle market and down at the bus station and I would then have to turn round and say probably to you – you tell me in the centre of Lincoln how many sets of toilets there are there. RW: Are you asking me?  PB: Yes of course I’m asking you. RW: Well, I’ve no idea. PB: Well, there isn’t any, is there? (sic)  RW:  I did try and use one the other day and then saw it had gone. PB: Precisely. What a smooth talker our leader is! But what on earth was the point he was trying to make?
Incidentally, now that the Assembly Rooms have been sold, what of the future for the Haven Gallery?  A year ago it was advertised at an annual rent of £38,000 a year for a five to ten year period, and in July we were told  that a lease on the gallery had “moved forward with terms being agreed.” Why is it that Boston Borough Council takes so long to get things done?
We’re told that joint deputy leader Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire was less than pleased with Boston Eye’s piece about the billing mistakes which have resulted in – among other things – someone who has been dead for the past seven years being summonsed to court. Apparently Councillor Singleton-McGuire was concerned that the report painted “his” staff in a bad light. As Boston Borough Council issues payment demands to BID members and follows them up with summonses if they are not settled, we wonder if there is any other kind of light in which this cock-up could be painted.
Interestingly, soon after that item appeared, a reader wrote to tell us of a visit to one of the town’s shops on a Christmas present buying spree. Whilst he was chatting with one of the staff, someone turned up to install the shop’s Christmas tree on the front of the premises. “I asked whether the borough was doing that, to which she replied, ‘you won't believe this, but last week our accountant was in doing our books and he asked me to sign a cheque payable to Boston Borough Council for the Christmas tree two years ago.’ Now, how much money does this council have still outstanding and not even billed …?"  Why is it that Boston Borough Council takes so long to get things done?
We hear that there has been an element of swagger shown by the new Civil Parking Enforcement Squad as they set about putting motorists to rights over where they can park in the Market Place and where they cannot. But little seems to have changed as a result. A reader reports: “I look at Boston Market Place with a different eye now. The area was full of traffic this afternoon, cars parked all around the edge, and  not many taxis as it was school leaving time. I noticed no hazards with the Into Town bus – but one white van unloading for some reason in the middle of the area … and lots of bicycles! I felt quite uncomfortable, so many young men around, not English, by the accents, but only one drinking on the street. However, there so much spitting going on that I had an awful thought that I was probably walking on it. Yuk!”  Meanwhile town centre portfolio holder Councillor Derek Richmond has announced the arrival of colour coded signs to make it easier to show drivers where to park. We hate to say we told you so, but Boston Eye suggested something similar several months ago. Had our suggestion been followed at the time, a lot of unpleasantness might have easily been avoided. Why is it that Boston Borough Council takes so long to get things done?
Boston’s Christmas shopping guide – produced in conjunction with the Boston Standard –  is like the curate’s egg ... good in parts. We can forgive the odd spelling mistakes – but why Endeavour Radio should want to “compare” the events of two different days tends to elude us. What we can’t forgive is the cover photo

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Superficially, it’s a charming picture of Boston Stump in the snow – but on closer inspection you will note that it is a rare snap taken in 2005, when the tower was sheathed in scaffolding. Would it not have been better to use a photo of the pride of the town that showed it in a better light – even if it was without the snow …?  
Talking of the Stump, we are delighted to learn that Wednesday’s meeting of the Boston Town Area Committee approved an appeal by Independent Councillor Carol Taylor for a contribution towards lighting the church during the most important religious festival periods such as Easter and Christmas.   Councillor Taylor had requested   £1,500 , but BTAC has offered up to £1,000 to sponsor the illumination from the 10th December through to January 3rd and then at Easter. To ensure that the Stump is lit for the Christmas Market weekend, Councillor Taylor and friends are  sponsoring tonight's lights  and Sunday's and a sponsor is being sought for tomorrow. Why hadn't Boston BID thought of the lights? Voting at he BTAC meeting squeaked through by six votes to three – with two abstentions. Sadly the “no” votes reflected the animosity towards Councillor Taylor from certain parties. As the lights go on tonight, we hope that the gainsayers will seize the moment to reflect on the beam that is in their own eye rather than beholding the mote that they perceive in another’s.
Having spent six weeks trying to arrange a subscription to the Boston Standard, our vouchers arrived in time to buy this week’s issue.  Imagine our feelings when the paper ncluded an “early gift” of four weeks of coupons to buy it for 50p rather than the 65p cover price –  and just 2p more than the subscription offer. Do we feel cheated? You bet your life we do! What’s more concerning is that this might be a prelude to a cut in the cover price, back to something more sensible – but which either way treats subscribers with contempt.
And finally … We know that demands on the Mayor’s time are always considerable, and wonder whether Boston Borough Council has decided to take a leaf from our local PCSOs to field a cardboard cut-out, as they do in the town’s ASDA store…

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The three  photos above were taken at the Boston Standard’s Business Awards – and the ASDA cut-out is included. Has the Mayor moved between photos? Has he changed expression? This could be a money saving winner for the future. Alternate Mayors and Mayoresses, mounted with sticky backed plastic on a piece of cardboard to replace the often unreal thing! Who knows? People may not notice the difference!

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