Monday, 24 December 2012





A very merry Christmas and thanks to all our readers for their loyalty, contributions, support and comment in the past year.
We wish you all the best for 2013, and look forward to the Lincolnshire County Council elections in May, and the hope of a few changes for the better.
We’re taking a break now, and will be back on Monday 7th January, refreshed and raring to go.
But don’t forget  that we’re still open for your e-mails throughout the holiday.


You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Friday, 21 December 2012

Welcome to Boston Eye's Christmas countdown



Traditionally, Christmas is a time when we remember those less fortunate than ourselves, and this year’s Boston Eye appeal is aimed at a small band of men and women who have struggled against the odds for little appreciation or reward.
Seven of them live huddled together in a cabinet, of all places, whilst the Mayor and his team have to make do with no more than a parlour to call home.
We want you to give generously to senior Boston councillors like these - a  number of whom are also Lincolnshire County Councillors -  striving  to make ends meet on combined allowances of around £20,000 a year. Some of them also have occupational and old age pensions to make life easier – but enough is never enough in these straitened days, is it?
So far, they have bravely grasped the nettle by giving themselves a 20% increase over the next two years.
But if you give to this year’s appeal, we hope to help them achieve their goal and elevate the borough council leader’s allowance from its current pitiful  £6,500 a year to equal that of his counterpart in South Holland – who gets  £19,300.
We urge you to ignore the fact that South Holland is bigger and better run than Boston.
After all, it’s only fair that our leader gets the same as theirs.
Isn’t it?
 
Join us on Monday for the annual Boston Eye Christmas card
You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Welcome to Boston Eye's Christmas countdown
your essential guide to unique and
unusual ideas for the festive season
No Christmas is complete without seasonal entertainment.
Last year saw Boston Borough councillors singing carols at the town's Christmas market.
This year, the Borough’s Cabinet has gone one step further, with its own version of the Muppets’ Christmas Carol.
We’re privileged to bring you a sneak preview from a full dress rehearsal, with the cast pictured with their puppetmaster -   Boston’s Chief Executive Richard Harbord.
Council Leader Pete Bedford is a  must as the front of house character Kermit the Frog.
We apologise to Councillor Yvonne Gunter in advance, but as there is only one woman star of the Muppets … and only one non-male member of the borough cabinet, the choice  of casting was out of our hands!

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.comYour e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


Welcome to Boston Eye's Christmas countdown

For your essential guide to unique and unusual ideas for the festive season
 click on the photo below to enlarge it
 As you will see, this game is unusual, as – apart from one move up a ladder after the election – the leadership has not made any clever moves since and therefore made no progress.
However, you will notice that every snake has been used, and in fact we would have had room for many more ….
Currently, we are working on a version more appropriate to the Boston Borough Council leadership.
It will be called Snakes and Snakes.

 
You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com


Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Welcome to Boston Eye's Christmas countdown

Your essential guide to unique and unusual ideas for the festive season

Monday, 17 December 2012


 Welcome to Boston Eye's Christmas countdown

For  your essential guide to unique and unusual ideas for the festive season, simply click on the photo below to enlarge it

 
  
You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com



Friday, 14 December 2012

 
When Boston’s million pound gift from the Big Lottery fund was announced earlier this week, everyone was at pains to stress that none of the local powers that be would have anything to do with it – and that the way the money will be spent will be entirely at the discretion of the public. Nevertheless, we have already seem reams of comment from the South Lincolnshire Community Voluntary Service – which is sending one of their officers and another from Boston Borough Council to Ipswich, to see how a successful grant scheme there has worked. Meanwhile, the council decided to get in on the act as well with the issue of a press release – which has not appeared on the borough website quoting Councillor Mike Gilbert, Boston Borough Council’s portfolio holder for communities, as saying: “The allocation of this funding is brilliant news for Boston. Wisely spent it will make Boston a great place to live.” Whilst Councillor Gilbert is one of the less rabid members of the cabinet, we do not think that anyone from the authority should be telling us how to spend money wisely. The borough’s track record on wasting cash is legendary …
Another aspect of the million pound grant is the repeated reference to Boston as a “forgotten” part of the country. In recent years, the town has benefitted from £2 million for the Market Place “refurbishment, ” around half a million to improve listed buildings in the town centre, and a multi-million pound traffic scheme  which is already showing signs of being overwhelmed by the growing number of cars using the roads since it was completed. So we are scarcely “forgotten.”  It is more a case, as Councillor Gilbert has already pointed out that whenever we are given money to spend, we make a sow’s ear rather than a silk purse of the works we undertake.
Two interesting items of heritage news caught our Eye this week.  One was the re-opening of  the Indian Queen’ pub in Dolphin Lane, which has undergone extensive refurbishment to recreate it as it would have been  in Victorian times – and renaming it  the Indian Queen and Three Kings.  There will be no pool tables, television, jukeboxes or fruit machines, but Victorian style pub games instead. Well done to local brewery Batemans for such a good idea, and let’s hope that others will follow suit.  By comparison, Boston planning councillors have been recommended to refuse an application for a cash machine and illuminated signs at the Halifax building society in the Market Place. Among the reasons given are that the property is a listed building in the Boston Conservation Area and within the setting of other listed buildings. A report continues: “The signs have no respect for the historic character of the façade and will, if allowed, seriously compromise the listed status of the building, thereby undermining the amenity of the area.” The proposed advertisements are apparently contrary to policies which “collectively seek to resist proposals which are damaging to the appearance of a listed building and harm the character of an area.” 

click on picture to enlarge it
We don’t know about you, but we think that our clumsy attempt at a panorama (above) shows that such great damage has already been inflicted on the area that  a couple more signs and an ATM will make little if any difference to the “ambience.” Perhaps the idea is to atone for the large number of ancient and historic buildings that the council allowed to be demolished some fifty or more years ago – among them the Red Lion coaching inn that stood on Strait Bargate from the Middle Ages until it was demolished to make room for a branch of F W Woolworth. And of course the ancient Falcon pub which was trashed to make room for an Argos store.
Our mention of the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre yesterday reminded us of the fanfare when solar panels were attached to the roof earlier this year – with much hooting about the  money that would be saved on electricity as a result. However, as far as we can tell, the bills are running at much the same level as they have for years. Is Boston especially overcast, do you think?
There are times when it becomes very difficult to decide where the truth of a matter lies. Earlier this year, during the Task and Finish group “evidence” taking sessions concerning the impact of inward migration to Boston, the police were at great pains to play down claims that there was any great problem caused by drinking in public areas such as around the Ingram Memorial. The minutes – in March this year – reported: “The police have been slow to publicise their successes; there has been a steady decline in incidents since the Designated Public Places Order was introduced, with fewer than one call a day.” How does this jibe with reports that in October,  a “crackdown” on street drinking in  saw five arrests, people moved on more than 50 times and alcohol seized 32 times?
A similar problem presents itself this week with news of the population figures for Boston based on last year’s census. At its evidence taking session in June, Boston Borough Council dredged up retired Professor Gary Craig, an expert on social justice and slavery.   At the time, a senior council officer said of Professor Craig: “He will be able to answer with authority, backed by research and fact." And so he did. Among the “facts” provided was that in the working age population, migrant workers in Boston accounted for 4% or more - which is 5,000-6,000.   “I’ve done research that looks at the facts.”


click on picture to enlarge it
Although the figures released this week (see above) are not specifically about the working population, they are, however, heavily at odds with the good professor – showing as they do that Boston ranks  14th  in the  top 20 local or unitary authorities list of  population growth  caused by people born abroad by with a population surge  from 55,800 in 2001 to 64,600 last year – an  increase of 15.80%. The also show that Boston has the largest number of non-British EU passport holders outside of London – with 12.1% of Boston residents holding such passports. The Lincolnshire average was 3.5%.
We’re keeping our fingers crossed for better luck this time with the news of Boston Business “Improvement” District’s latest attempt to promote Boston outside the area. A note on the group’s Facebook page says that there is still time to advertise in the 2013 “Discover Boston” guide – which will be ready next month and will be distributed  “around the A1 corridor. The BID’s efforts at promotion have been pretty drab and often inaccurate so far. And quite what “the A1 corridor” comprises is a little vague – but research suggests that it could be anywhere between  Stevenage and Gateshead. We note that the BID is employing a Lincoln-based media consultancy to do the job. Surely, there was someone in Boston who might have done it?
Still with Boston BID – and back in September, we heard that the way the BID conducts its business with members was set to change “dramatically” with the introduction of bi-monthly drop-in sessions at larger stores in the town. The idea followed disappointing turnouts at many meetings – which included appearances by the directors themselves … and meetings were not been quorate on several occasions. When the news was given out, BID chairman Alan Ellis said that he did not know when the first event would be. Apparently, he still doesn’t – as  nothing further has been announced!
Meanwhile, as the BID blunders along, a rival organisation in Market Rasen seems to be going from strength to strength.  The town’s MR BIG organisation –   the acronym stands for Market Rasen Business Improvement District – won £100,000 from the Portas Pilot scheme with an imaginative bid that was everything that the one from Boston BID  wasn’t. Now it’s applying for a further £70,000 from the £1 million Future High Street X-Fund to sustain its work.
Regular readers will recall our frustrating attempts to take out a subscription to the Boston Standard, and save a few pence after its appalling price rise a few weeks ago. After considerable to-ing and fro-ing, we eventually received our vouchers – only to find that in the self-same week that we began using them the Standard was giving away a month’s worth of cut-price coupons which made our first  month’s subscription almost worthless. We complained – and after a patronising attempt to make us think that nothing was amiss, Johnston Press decided to do the decent thing and refund our first month’s vouchers costs. It may only be a couple of quid, but it’s better off in our pocket than in theirs. If you feel similarly roughed-up, why not have a go yourself?
click on picture to enlarge it
And still with newspapers – in days gone by typesetters were renowned for their skill at reading the mirror image of the words that had been set in hot metal … and now it seems that  the Standard would like you to see how difficult it was  … (see picture on the right.)
Did  you see the security guard’s cap badge? Have you spotted the wording on the packages? Oh,  for those good old days when newspapers were not only written, but sub-edited and proof-read in the same building rather than fifty miles away!
A couple of entries too late for last Friday’s feature …   One reader wrote to say “What a wonderful photo of Councillor Yvonne Gunter in the Standard (“Queen gives approval” Page 7.)  Poor old Kevin, having been instructed to write to the Queen and receiving a Royal reply, he could not stitch together enough rabbit skins to have his photo taken. To avoid confusion I think her Majesty is the one in the book.” A second – and far more irreverent comment – came from an occasional contributor, Bill Boston, who has animated last week’s photo of the fur-clad Councillor Gunter … and given her a voice. You can find it by clicking here  and selecting  “Our Reply by her MAD-Jest-Tea Cllr V Gunter !” Just make sure that you are not drinking your morning cuppa at the time!

This is the last  week ending of 2012, as next week we go into our  traditional lighter-hearted Christmas mode. Look out for some gift ideas from the Boston Eye catalogue of Christmas novelties – inspired by Boston Borough Council!

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

 


Thursday, 13 December 2012


A few days ago, Boston Borough Council’s joint deputy leader and portfolio holder for finance was telling us how well the council was doing – how much it has saved in recent years, and how greatly improved it is.
Obviously, economies had to be made – if for no other reason than that the government has reduced the money it hands out to local authorities each year.
But what is equally interesting is to see what the council does spend our money on – as occasionally, some items raise questions concerning both cost, and value for money.
Once a month, the council lists its spending on items costing more than £250 – which covers just about everything of significance.
Top of the list every time is the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre.
It’s now more than a year since the council’s cabinet took another of those secret decisions to reopen the pool for the benefit of the Witham Schools’ Federation and Boston Amateur Swimming Club – using £195,000 from the council’s reserves to bring it up to scratch.
Last time we checked – using the council’s own returns – the cost of “improving” the pool since September 2011 had reached around £280,000 at the end of June.
Nothing was listed for July, but we have been looking at the returns for August, September and October.
In August, improvements at the Geoff Moulder Centre were listed at £2,820.
In September, “refurbishment” costs totalled more than £51,000, and in October new air conditioning cost £1,740, plus leisure pool services uniforms costing £775.
Also in October, there is an item “GMLP refurbishment GMLC interim no. 2 £211,303.”
What on earth does that mean?
Interestingly, whilst the report earlier this week mentioned historic concerns about the financial viability of the Princess Royal Sports Arena/Boston Sports Initiative, we note that three months ago, “revenue support” to Boston Sports Initiative totalled £27,000 for the period to the end of  last March.
Items where money might have been saved are also fairly common.
Under “Civic Hospitality” we note a payment of almost £5,000 for barriers and cones for the Olympic torch relay. Given that we know that they can be hired very cheaply, we assume that they were bought especially for the occasion, and are now most probably gathering dust in a council store somewhere.
A regular payment is to the Master Gardener programme – which in October received   £1,840. This  scheme was launched in July last year, when it received £2,347, and then another £5,461 in April this year.
Although local master gardeners are volunteers, their training is paid for by the council taxpayers.
In January, there were six such volunteers – and when we looked yesterday, there were … six such volunteers.
Surely, this is a very costly way to encourage people to grow their own veg?
From the Director of Community Services account, we funded a dinner for 38 members costing £475 – plus drinks for guests at £364.
In other areas, “Boston marketplace conservation” saw us pay the Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire £4,680.
A new boiler “at volunteer centre” set us back almost £4,000. Only two places are listed as volunteer centres in Boston. One is run by the Lincolnshire Community Volunteer Service – them again – at the Len Medlock Centre, while the “Boston Volunteer Centre Charity” –  is based in the former Sketchley shop in  Wide Bargate – another Boston Borough Council white elephant which squandered  tens of thousands of  pounds in government grants. Whichever of these organisations has had a new boiler on the taxpayers’ account, the question must be asked … why?
Small, but nonetheless interesting expenses, included an  iPad for the Boston Area Partnership   “to deliver food programme  costing  £485;  five hundred  hens on allotments leaflets” for  £270; and a polytunnel “for thistles” – a snip at £752.
Another expense that we particularly liked  was for two “Kettlecise (sic) courses” – at £330 – although whether this was per course or for both is unclear.
For those of you not in the know, Kettlercise is a brand new fitness craze that incorporates the use of kettlebell training in a friendly group atmosphere … and we are sure that it  is essential for today's council’s staff – well, two of them at least.
And finally, whilst we are all in favour of civic pride, was it necessary to film the Mayor-making ceremony at a cost of £349  plus another £350 to produce “the mayor's portrait and CD?”
Obviously many expenses are essential – but then again, many are not.
And it is insufficient merely to list where the money is going.
The cost of refurbishing the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre already far outweighs any possible benefits from increased attendances.
Not only that, but it is an ageing facility with a lifespan of around 25 more years.
We hope that someone is monitoring the totals, and also that someone, somewhere in the council, will consider raising the issue of these costs and asking how high they have to get before they stop.
When questions were first asked about the pool deal, the Boston District Independent group welcomed it , and insisted that their attempts to get it called in for further discussion were non-political, but were  “to protect council tax payers from another disastrous PRSA-type situation.”
As the costs continue to mount, we fear that these concerns may well be justified.

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012



As people keep saying, Boston has just received the most amazing Christmas present in the form of a £1 million grant spread over the coming ten years – so why do we feel a little uneasy?
The award has been made by something called Big Local – which is to do with the National Lottery – and is “about bringing together all the local talent, ambitions, skills and energy from individuals, groups and organisations who want to make their area an even better place to live.”
We feel uneasy because of the constant emphasis that it will be entirely community led and controlled,  and that there will be no interference from any of the powers that be that usually crawl out of the woodwork when any free cash is on offer.
click to enlarge map
Announcing the grant on BBC Radio Lincolnshire on Monday was Mandy Exley, the South Lincolnshire Community Voluntary Service Community Development Officer.
The six most deprived wards in Boston are set to benefit – Staniland South, Pilgrim Ward, Skirbeck Ward, Boston Central, a small portion of Fenside,  and Witham Ward.
“There’s no government arm in Boston involved in any of this,” said Ms Exley. “It is totally community led. Myself and colleagues and partner agencies of the Lincolnshire Community Foundation –  the biggest grant making trust in Lincolnshire –  have a wealth of expertise in facilitating grant funding, and we’re all going to be working together to help the residents work very, very closely with the lottery so the residents are equipped to manage this funding. There will be extensive community consultation done right across Boston, so everybody will have a say.”
Ms Exley suggested that Boston had hit the ground running, via  the Placecheck scheme, which in recent years has managed five projects in conjunction with Boston Borough Council and the SLCVS.
Each area received £10,000 to spend, with an equal amount swallowed up by management and admin costs.
And amazingly – despite the fact that there were five quite disparate areas, the money went on very similar projects, many of which should already have been provided by the council  – such as litter collection, gardening projects for school kids, tarting up local community meeting places, bulb planting projects, sports equipment, and  more litter and dog waste bins.
Ms Exley continued: “We’ve now got five neighbourhood action groups  ... 75 community activists already in Boston, so in a way we’re ahead of the game. We’re already working at the grass roots level with some fantastic residents who have come forward who want to make a difference to their area and have made a difference, and the thing is this is just building on the success of Placecheck.
Forgive us if we feel that – whatever the residents wanted – there was a strong sense with Placecheck that the real hands on the tiller were those of the council and the SLCVS.
This week we have heard pledges such as “It’s down to the residents, and I can’t stress that enough. It is totally resident led and that’s the uniqueness of it…” and “This money will not be dictated by Boston Borough Council; it will not be dictated by our organisation, the CVS.  It will be total dictated by the local community. We are absolutely there to galvanise this community into action. It is their say where this money is spent …”
Such promises are all very fine, but it seems to us that the core administration of this lottery largesse is going to be through Placecheck members who were initially organised and to an extent led by Boston Borough Council and the SLCVS.
If this new project is truly to be run by residents, how will this be achieved?
It would be daft to think that a hard up borough council and a community organisation that is always begging for money – remember the £1,000 grant for chalking on the pavement? – will not be salivating at the thought of so much money sitting there waiting to be spent. And we are sure that Boston Business “Improvement” District would like to snaffle some of it as well.
You can almost hear the argument … what do those mere locals know about the needs of their wards when there are “professionals” out there to tell them?
We hope that it will be possible to deliver on the promise of independent, local people deciding what’s best to spend money on in the areas that they know better than anyone else.
But we can see a lot of obstacles in the path of such a goal.

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


Whilst some people collect stamps or old comics, the more fortunate  – like Boston Borough Council’s joint deputy leader Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire – collect luxury cars.
And now another side to our collecting councillor has emerged. He keeps “a vast and organised library of council reports and agendas at his home.”
We’re sure that it’s just the job on these dark and chilly winter nights to be able to curl up in front of a crackling log fire and lose oneself in a set of dusty old council minutes – although it’s certainly not our idea of a good time.
Nonetheless, the collection has enabled Councillor Singleton-McGuire to announce that Boston Borough Council is unrecognisable from the troubled authority it was just a few years ago.
The announcement on the council website came as Councillor Singleton-McGuire presented the council's quarterly performance report to the cabinet.
He said audit and governance committee papers from May 2009 showed many concerns about overspending, the financial viability of the Princess Royal Sports Arena/Boston Sports Initiative and publicity regarding Boston Area Regeneration Company.
"In fact, after reading this, it would be hard to believe we are talking about the same council after only two or three years."
In his paean of praise he says that the council has been turned around.
“We are operating now on £2 million a year less, but despite these difficulties Boston Borough Council continues to improve."
Among the triumphs reported was an £11,000 saving on the cost of a new mower as a result of "innovative" control of costs.
 "A much-needed mower has been purchased for £14,000 - value for money, given new mowers tend to retail at £25,000. We had a new mower on trial, which then made it ex-demo, so we purchased it at the reduced ex-demo cost!" he said.
We must remember that particular stunt when next we want to change our car!
Among other triumphs cited are above target waste recycling figures, increased occupancy at Boston Market and increased swimming pool admissions.  
The report ends with Councillor Singleton-McGuire claiming: "All in all it's a good news story".
It is and it isn’t.
As is so often the case with political claims, the information is somewhat selective.
There is no mention of the big allowance increases awarded over two consecutive years – first to all councillors and then to the top twenty with extra responsibilities.
Nor has the unpopular decision to raid the pockets of the disabled by charging them to park.
And somehow, the equally unpopular sale of the publicly owned Assembly Rooms – which has seen the closure of the only truly town centre public toilets – seems to have gone unnoticed.
“Concerns about overspending, the financial viability of the Princess Royal Sports Arena/Boston Sports Initiative” have not gone away, and the council is still paying into the white elephant fund – although with little by way of information being given out.
Many of the most unpopular decisions have been taken in secret – usually by the Cabinet of Curiosities – with even fellow councillors being left out of the loop.
As we’ve said many times before, we do so hate it when the ruling Tory group declaim their version of events as the truth,  and assume that we voters are stupid enough to take their word for it.
FOOTNOTE: At the end of October, the post of district auditor ceased to exist and external audits moved to the private sector, and Chief Executive Richard Harbord observed that on a practical note “we know very little of how our new auditors will work from November 1st  - but as soon as we do we will let people know.”
On the council website, Councillor Singleton-McGuire announced: “There has been a saving of £32,000 on the auditor's fee, brought about by robustness and careful control of Boston Borough Council's finances giving value for money and streamlining of work by our new auditors."
Who they then …?

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

 

Monday, 10 December 2012

 
Last week’s request by Boston Borough Council’s Independent group spokesman Councillor Richard Leggott for the council’s version of events at Boston Magistrates’ Court (see “Court napping …) has borne fruit. 
It follows a critical report of events in Boston Eye by local businessman Darron Abbott – who attended the hearings for non-payment of the Boston Business “Improvement” District levy to represent three local businesses who had been summonsed.
Although Councillor Leggott’s request was copied to all councillors and leader Pete Bedford, Mr Harbord’s reply has been sent to him alone, and copied to Councillor Bedford.
The report he has sent is prefaced with the sentence “The factual report attached is as amazing as the account in Boston Eye.”
Without wishing to seem pedantic, a report is just a report.
To call it “factual” is supportive of the staff who wrote it – as you might expect – but, we know that some of the content is already in dispute, so it may be too soon to be that precise.
The report says that council officer Graham Cooper attended  court with the intention of obtaining liability orders for non-payment of the Boston BID levy, and that when he arrived he was met by Mr Abbott “who claimed to be representing six other individuals who had been summoned to court for non-payment.” 
Mr Cooper claimed that Mr Abbott had “clearly fuelled these people” who were immediately angry and confrontational. 
“He found their actions to be rude, personal, intimidating and at times their behaviour almost got to the point of physical violence.
None of the defendants’ names appeared on the court list on public display, but the report says that despite this, “the Magistrates’ Court were well aware that the council’s intention was to obtain liability orders for non-payment … as they approve all summonses prior to issue.”
Although the council was acting on behalf of Boston BID, “nobody from Boston BID was in attendance at court, and although good practice, this is not necessary as Boston BID have sight of a list of defaulters prior to any summons being issued.”
The report then gave a detailed account of the outcome of the cases involving all six businesspeople in court.
What does emerge is that some people were clearly confused about the summonses issued.
In two cases, defendants had paid for the current year, whilst the summonses were issued for earlier years, and were correct.
In the case of a widow whose late husband was summonsed for non-payment of BID levy, the summons was withdrawn in the light that “we have incorrectly issued a summons to a deceased person” and arrangements have been made to change the account name. 
In defence, the council report argued that  the woman concerned had paid business rates demanded from her late husband for the last seven years, and that the council had no record of his widow informing them that her husband had passed away – despite  her claims that she had told the council and even provided copies of death certificates.
In another case, a defendant visited the council buildings to see an officer but was told that none was available. An appointment offered for another day was declined because the man concerned was too busy.
When Mr Abbott tried to illustrate his argument by ringing the West Street offices to speak to an officer, he got an answerphone because the officer concerned “had a face to face appointment with a business rates customer and was therefore unable to answer the phone.”
The report concludes: “Mr Abbott’s perception of the whole situation is totally incorrect.”
Mr Abbott challenges much of the content of the report, and has lodged a formal complaint about it.
All we would say is that it does appear that there was confusion regarding some of these summonses, and there certainly appear to be problems in contacting “real” members of staff in the council’s business rates department.
This is an area where “customers” often have  important concerns and worries, and it is essential that they should be able to discuss them  person-to-person on the phone, or face-to-face if they visit West Street – rather than to be told to come back again another day.
And we also think that in future, Boston BID should adopt the “good practice” referred to and have the politeness to turn up in court.

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

 

Friday, 7 December 2012



Earlier this week, we reported how a number of BID members had received summonses to Boston Magistrates’ Court for non-payment of their compulsory levy  and the problems that reportedly  ensued. Since then, the council’s Independent group spokesman Councillor Richard Leggott has sent an e-mail to Chief Executive Richard Harbord and Leader Pete Bedford copied to all 31 other council members. In it, he says:  “I am aware that there are usually two sides to every (council) story. Has anyone got the 'other side story' on this occasion? The Boston Eye version leaves Boston Borough Council, its systems and/or its employees in very bad light. Has any investigation into events – as described – been instigated?  I, and no doubt many other councillors, await enlightenment; hopefully!” Well, enlightment has been forthcoming, and we will be reporting in more detail next week.
But, given the BID's progress to date, we are wondering whether at long last the powers that be are starting to consider some action. A little bird tells us that the BID Chairman and Manager have both been summoned themselves – to attend a meeting with senior figures at Worst Street this morning. Oh to be a fly on the wall … rather than merely one in the ointment.
An interesting sidebar to the way BID bills the businesses unlucky enough to dwell in its area has also emerged. The levy charge is 1% of the business rate payable. However, the rateable value threshold for small business rate relief is £6,000 – and businesses paying less than that qualify for 100% relief.  This covers a large number of small firms in the BID area. Yet whilst they are paying nothing by way of business rates, they are billed as if they were.
Boston Borough Council’s website is cheerfully announcing the success of a 25-year campaign to stop unauthorised traffic using the town’s historic Wormgate as a rat run – with the installation of bollards to stop vehicles getting through. One of the campaigners, Jo Christmas, offered “a big thank you from all in Wormgate to Councillor Carol Taylor – we are all of the opinion that we wouldn't have got here without her." Independent Councillor Taylor was only elected  last May, yet seems able to have helped solve a problem that started 23½ years earlier. Therefore, the real question is why all those previous councillors for the ward sat and twiddled  their thumbs for so long?
As we predicted, everyone is jumping up and down to celebrate last week’s Boston Christmas Market. As far as it went, it wasn’t a bad first effort. But we hear that local businesses are saying that it did nothing to boost their sales – which we thought was part of the idea. We also hear that the mini fairground promised for the bus station car park got no further than its overnight parking space at the Princess Royal Sports Arena. Apparently, the diesel in the vehicles froze in the wee small hours, and so the event had to be abandoned.  But its good to see the PRSA earning its keep, isn’t it?
A couple of other Christmassy items …  It is true that an after switch-on knees up was staged for councillors to meet the Emmerdale “stars?” We’ve heard suggestions of a £500 bash, and if so, wonder who will foot the bill. And we also noted that hot chestnuts were being sold on the night by a gentleman named Doug Harbord, who we imagine is no relation to our revered and rewarded Chief Executive.
Meanwhile, we’re still at a bit of a loss as to  whether we’re getting full value for the Christmas lights around the town. Certainly, the Market Place display (one of which is shown on the right) was pretty feeble – when we would have expected it to be the focal point of any showcase. Given that the lights this year have again cost £35,000,  we wonder whether the rest of them are still in the box in the Worst Street cupboard under the stairs.
A reader echoes some of our recent concerns about how much time local MP Mark Simmonds has for Boston since he won his fancy Foreign Office job that seems to take him here, there and everywhere.  After highlighting a written Commons answer in which Mr Simmonds mentions visiting Rwanda, the democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda between 21st and 23rd November to discuss the crisis in Goma, our correspondent comments: “This must explain why I did not see him on Remembrance Sunday, Boston Protest Sunday or the switching on of Boston Christmas lights! Affairs of state and we are just forgotten!
No doubt Boston will feature increasingly in Mr Simmonds’s awareness as the 2015 elections approach. But someone for whom the deadline is a little closer is one of our five MEPs – Bill Newton-Dunn, who has taken the unusual step of snail-mailing thousands of local households to offer regular e-mail reports as “sending millions of paper letters with stamps is impossibly expensive and wasteful.” We wonder  – with an election looming next year – whether Mr BND is worried. After initially being elected as a Conservative, he decided that the Tories were doomed, and switched allegiance to the Lib-Dems. Talk about jumping out of the frying pan into the fire …
It seems that the 20% boost in special responsibility allowances is as good as money in the bank –  at least  for one senior councillor, who has just taken delivery of a shiny new car.  If the other nineteen who are entitled to this ludicrous pay rise follow suit, the Worst Street car park will soon resemble an outdoor version of the Motor Show!
The divide between Lincoln and Boston seems to grow ever wider. The latest issue of the county council’s “Culture Talk” mentions “a heart-warming performance of the nativity story” at Lincoln Castle, followed by a Victorian Christmas at  the Museum of Lincolnshire Life in Lincoln, then Lincoln Christmas Market, the Heritage Skills Centre in the grounds of Lincoln Castle and OPEM 2, The Collection’s second open exhibition in … guess where? …Lincoln. According to the county council, Culture Talk is “your guide to cultural events and exhibitions happening across Lincolnshire.”  Perhaps someone from Boston could define the word Lincolnshire for the benefit of County Hall.
Finally, we note the heart-warming tale on Boston Borough Council’s website of the humble groundsman who wrote to Her Majesty the Queen to tell her of Boston’s Jubilee Gardens and fountain in Central Park – and to credit Councillor Yvonne Gunter with the initiative. Never one to shun the credit   whether or not it is due Councillor Gunter duly donned her mink coat and matching headwear to pose with the reply that he received. She is quoted thus: “We are ecstatic to have had such a response back from her. What better acknowledgement of effort and duty could you receive than that from Her Majesty herself?"  The first thing that we should point out is that whenever one writes to the sovereign, a reply is always received. The detail of the response depends on the amount of information supplied. Buckingham Palace is just doing what it does, and the letter in no way reflects an “acknowledgement of effort and duty.” The second thing that crossed our minds is how nice it would have been if Councillor Gunter had opted to include the writer who won her so much credit in the picture. The third thing is to say that for once we were left lost for words. Our reaction is best summed up below … click the arrow to play the video ..  

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

 

Thursday, 6 December 2012


It seems that Wrangle farmer Tom Ashton misunderstood that great epigram of Abraham Lincoln’s* which is often wrongly attributed to P T Barnum and thought that it was possible to fool all of the people all of the time.
Not so.
In a letter to last week’s local papers  he spoke of how he was “privileged to observe as a member of the public” the debate on bumping up elite councillors’ allowances to the tune  of 20% over two years – and went on to roast  non-Conservative councillors who opposed the plan on “narrow minded and populist grounds.”
As we said last week, Mr Ashton conveniently overlooked the fact that whilst – yes, he is a member of the public – he is also chairman of Lincolnshire branch of Conservative First, where he is described as “an assured Conservative supporter since his earliest political memories.”  He is a parish councillor in Wrangle – which is in the ward represented by Boston Conservative leader Pete Bedford on Lincolnshire County Council. According to Conservative First Mr Ashton is also secretary of the Boston Tory party branch, and sits on the Boston and Skegness Association executive.
Fortunately, his glittering blue credentials were also spotted by two members of the opposition that he tried to maul so badly.
Independent group spokesman Councillor Richard Leggott criticised Mr Ashton for his lack of political experience, and said he looked forward to seeing him campaign either for the County Council next year or the borough Council in 2015 – “when, I feel sure, the electorate will tell him exactly what they think of his liking for large pay increases for borough councillors.
The public are not fools. They will have noted Mr Ashton’s silence on this issue in the past, right up to the time the Conservatives would be the biggest beneficiary of such profligate distribution of their council tax.
It is, however, possible for members to forego any part of their differing allowances.
I am hoping that many of those select councillors awarded these latest 10%  plus10% increases will choose to do so.  We shall see!”
Fellow Independent Councillor Carol Taylor also had harsh words for Mr Ashton for “stating among other things that the opposition – which  includes me – are  a disgrace and ‘utterly betraying every hard working man and woman in regular employment who might ever seek to become a councillor.”
Councillor Taylor points out that she works full time and on her two days off deals with ward issues and people who may need help.
Her allowance for this is £203 a month, which pays for petrol, broadband use,  and computer supplies.
I chose to become a councillor in order to serve the public and it is here where the word ‘privilege’ comes in to play. There are several other very hard working councillors who have day time jobs and they manage to attend many of the evening meetings as well as working for their ward members.
“A few of our Borough Councillors are County Councillors, so two lots of pay – and quite right too. A few of them are also in well-paid jobs and/or successful businessmen. A few are retired and financially comfortable, as you would expect with a long work history. So a combination of financial security and time on their hands allows them to lead a very comfortable life. These are the people asking for even more money!
Councillor Taylor adds: “This pay rise was awarded at a time when so many people are suffering financially through job losses and pay freezes and the churches in Boston are having to assemble food parcels for those who are struggling to make ends meet and unable to feed their families.
“We have heard the following so many times before – ‘We don't get as much as South Holland or Lincoln’ ' or ‘they haven't got this or that in Lincoln. We don't care about other places........We are BOSTON.”
“This pay rise is a result of greed!”
Hopefully these responses may dissuade Mr Ashton and his ilk from trying to pull the wool over our eyes in the future by proclaiming himself just an ordinary Joe as a beard for a hidden political agenda.
And one other interesting point. The big beneficiaries of the 20% pay rise are members of Boston Borough Council’s seven strong cabinet.
Of these four are also county councillors.
In the case of Boston Leader Pete Bedford,  his allowance for the job will rise to a maximum of £7,322 next year and £8,054 with another 10%  increase the year after – not far off £9,000. At the current year’s allowance rates for Lincolnshire County Council, Boston’s councillors each receive £8,184.
In Councillor Bedford’s case he receives an extra £1,683 for special responsibilities at county level – plus of course, travel and subsistence.
Ignoring the latter, his county pay is almost £10,000 a year – and with an extra £9,000 to come from the day job in West Street fairly soon.
And for doing exactly ….what?
Average full time pay in Boston last year was £20,840 – which makes a part timer  earning £19,000, and who probably has a pension or two as well – seem pretty well off already as far as we are concerned.
*You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.


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

 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

 
Last week, Boston Eye highlighted the farce surrounding the summonses issued by Boston Borough Council on behalf of the Boston “Improvement" District – which saw people ordered to attend court after being double billed for their compulsory “levy” … billed even though they had already paid … and in one case summonsed even though the alleged “defaulter” had been dead for seven years. On Monday afternoon, the victims turned up at Boston Magistrates’ Court - only to find that the farce was to enter a second act. Local businessman Darron Abbott – a former BID director who was asked to represent some of the wronged businessmen and women – t akes up the story …
What regular observers of Boston BID and Boston Borough Council have expected at the Magistrates’ court on Monday afternoon when the two powers flexed their muscles in to bullying those business that were trying to make a stand against them?
Yes –they would have been correct – a complete and utter shambles.
I had been authorised by a number of businesses to speak on their behalf, and others had asked me to be there for support and assistance.
As everyone arrived and tried to book in with the court staff,  it rapidly became apparent that they were not expecting us, which was confirmed in the listings (see right, and click on the photo to enlarge it) for the afternoon session. Not one name for non-payment of the BID levy was included.
In hindsight, we should all have walked out at this point.
It was clear that the council and BID had not expected any one to attend  –  and for it be simply a matter of rubber stamping the paperwork and the bailiff being employed.
No one from BID was in attendance it appears.
The manager, Niall Armstrong, was most likely taking a hard earned rest after the weekend’s Christmas market (strange, I know, considering the Chairman Alan Mr Ellis's,  comments) and according to Mrs Ellis, Mr Ellis had a business to run.
The proceedings were left down to a rather nervous and sheepish Mr Graham Cooper (Senior Revenues Officer) from Boston Borough Council – whom, if he was not an employee of Boston Borough Council, may have deserved a little sympathy for being put in the position.
From the group that was gathered it appeared that there were a number of reasons why people had attended to fight their corners.
The widow of the deceased person of seven years attended and made her apologies for her late husband.
Mr Cooper was remorseless in his efforts – firstly stating that she should have let the council know beforehand – and when she replied she had told the council and even provided copies of death certificates.  Mr Cooper became very aloof until she asked him how many times should she have to tell the council before in the end you give up.
Mr Cooper then said she should take the matter up with BID.
And three people attended who had receipts in hand from Boston Borough Council for the payment of the levy.
Mr Cooper turned very sharply on them stating they should not be there and should run off to the council to sort it out.
When it was explained that they had rung the council and left a message on the business rates answer machine, but no one had ever returned the call, Mr Cooper started to get very frustrated, and told them they should have attended the Municipal Buildings.
The response was that they hadbut were turned away because no one was available to speak to them and were told they could make an appointment at a later date.
By this time Mr Cooper seemed to be getting a little angry.
He stated that: "Margaret was at the council right now, and if they wanted they should contact her."
Can you imagine the look on his face when I rang the council and asked to speak to Margaret and got the answer phone?
I then rang the council again and was told she was not there as she was only part-time.
After considerable and eventually heated discussion, the time was approaching 2.45pm and the summons stipulated a 1-30pm attendance.
People were becoming frustrated, as I am sure they all had businesses to run (thanks, Mrs Ellis, I will have to use that one more often.)
Mr Cooper was led off to the court to discuss the matter with the magistrates – along with the documents, apparently.
After quite a while the attendees were called into court.
I was told I could not speak for those I had letters for and– that I would not be allowed into the court with the others, as Mr Cooper had complained that I had intimidated him. When I questioned why I could not assist these people,  the magistrate said that it was because I was not a qualified solicitor –although I am not sure if this is correct.
The magistrates were not interested at all in what anyone had to say – merely in handing down judgements.
They did, however, withdraw the demand from the deceased person, but Mr Cooper simply stated they would re-bill the amount in his widow's name … and did not even offer an apology.
People were astounded that the British judicial system did not allow a right of reply or to be able to state why they were withholding payment.
So all of those listed yesterday now have a judgement against them and are expected to pay.
Let’s hope BID choose to spend this ill-gotten gain a little more wisely than they have done in the past.
And one final request to both organisations.
Could they get their acts together and a least one take responsibility rather than referring people backwards and forwards?
One thing to come out of this seems to have been the NO campaign will now gather momentum for next year’s ballot on BID’s future.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


The recent debate over councillors and their allowances raise a number of questions – not least about value for money … what exactly what do our councillors do?
Now a partial answer has emerged after members of the Labour group published “annual reports” on their web page.
It follows a successful campaign that saw councillors’ attendances at meetings published – and showed that some of them never make an effort to attend.
On the website, Labour says: “It seems to us that councillors are extremely embarrassed to talk about what they do for their wards,  or they are embarrassed because they haven’t got a lot to report.
“We know when it comes to meetings that some councillors just sit there and don’t say anything, or put up their hands to vote because they have been told they must, or worse don’t turn up at all.
“In this day and age you, the electorate, have the right to an annual report from your local councillor. We know the conservative group on the council and other councillors from other groups are silent on this issue.
“We will keep campaigning over the next couple of years to see more information about your local councillors being readily available for all to read … We think it is important that you can see what your councillors are doing for you.”
In  his report, Labour group leader Councillor Paul Kenny covers a wide range of issues – including his frustration at seeing more and more off  licences being granted licences as there is no way to stop it.
He also provides and interesting insight to the workings of the Boston Town Area Committee … complaining  of an absence of structure and spending outside their remit – on projects which really should be funded by Boston Borough Council. “Hopefully in the coming year this committee will improve and we will move away from scenarios where councillors are voting as they walk out the door.”
Councillor Kenny’s deputy, Paul Gleeson, expresses his concerns at the lack of a real vision for Boston in the future.
“Whilst I recognise that the swingeing cuts the government are inflicting on local authorities means that an awful lot of effort has to be put into just keeping the most basic of services going, it is still imperative that we are working towards developing the Borough.
“For example there is no real work at all being carried out to improve economic development.
“The changes the government are proposing in local authority funding, where any growth in income will only be seen from new development, will mean that better located areas which have been up to now development averse will start to allow new development, this in turn will make it even harder to encourage businesses to move to Boston.
“The other concern is the lack of openness. As a council we should not be frightened of allowing the citizens of Boston from knowing what is happening, what the options are and the reasons behind the decisions we have taken. As councillors we should be open our interests, about what involvement we have with other organisations etc.
“An example of this is in declarations of interest. Under the new Localism Act a council can decide what interests have to be declared.  Boston Borough has interpreted the new legislation (in my view wrongly) so that they have the most limited declaration of interest. What are they frightened of?”
Similar issues are highlighted by Labour’s third councillor, Paul Goodale.
Of  BTAC, he says: “I think that the town would be better off with a Town Council rather than a committee that – although made up of town members – only the Conservative administration are deciding the way forward and how much we can spend at their group meetings …  which consist of mainly rural members.”
And on Boston’s future, he reports: “I raised concerns that there was no forward planning past 2015 – but was voted down by the other members.”
These reports paint an unflattering picture of Boston Borough Council behind closed doors – where attempts at constructive criticism are smothered by a smug ruling group.
From our knowledge of certain of the controlling group’s members, we understand why they are anxious to avoid reporting their activities across a year – although a blank piece of paper comes in handy from time to time if you want to draw up a shopping list.
The Labour group is right to demand more accountability – and we suspect that many other opposition councillors would be happy to follow suit, as we know how hard some of them work.
The leadership’s resistance to giving such basic information to the people who voted them into power is yet another example of their contempt – and shows that they care more for the trappings of power than the democratic use of it.

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com