The resignation of Boston’s Independent Councillor Richard Leggott as Chairman of the council’s Audit and Governance Committee because he could no longer accept the leadership’s cavalier approach towards non-executive councillors chairing such committees, is still echoing down the threadbare corridors of Worst Street. Among the latest to comment is Labour deputy leader Councillor Paul Gleeson, who says: “Richard was an effective, even-handed chairman. But, what is more important, he treated the position with the seriousness it deserved and always was fully on top of his brief, which meant his meetings were very workmanlike. Audit and Governance is a very technical committee – you can’t just turn up without having fully read and researched the papers you will be considering, and Richard was always on top of this. It will be interesting to see how the declaration of interest issue will be handled next Monday. I find it a bit rich that I am having to persuade the Tories to play fair and introduce their own Government’s legislation properly. I am having a similar struggle with notices of private meetings.”Meanwhile, with no hint of irony, the council leader, Pete Bedford, says he is “sorry” that Councillor Leggott has stepped down. An indication of the depth of his grief is in the statement issued to one of our local “newspapers.” It reads: “I’m sorry that Councillor Leggott is going down the lane he’s going down. I thought he had far, far more about him than at the first obstacle, to revert back into the olden days was rejected, and his resignation was forthcoming accordingly. Richard and myself (sic) have been friends for many, many years and I’m sure that will continue both inside and outside the council, but playing political games is not good in any way for the people of Boston.” Whilst some might call that damning with faint praise, to us it reads like a calculated insult. And to accuse someone of Councillor Leggott’s obvious integrity of “playing political games” is so impudent when you consider the source – or should that be sauce?
Back now to Councillor Gleeson, and another issue in his e-mail – the Boston Town Area Committee’s knife-edge decision to take over the running of Garfits Lane playing fields – thus easing the leadership’s overall financial problems. “I also read (English Democrat) Councillor Elliott Fountain’s report on my attempt to kick Garfits Lane into the long grass (or should I say very expensively cut short grass,) and one point that has been missed is that this will increase the “town” element of the council tax by 41%, – so contrary to the announced freeze, people living in the town will pay more. Ok, this is only about £4 a year more, but that is to pay for something we are already paying (well over the odds) for. On a slightly churlish note, had (fellow English Democrat) Councillor David Owens attended BTAC which he rarely does, the ‘opposition’ could have won the vote.”
Whilst most of us sit and shiver in the current icy spell, a certain irony has not escaped Don Ransome, the Wyberton based East Midlands Regional Organiser for UKIP. He notes two written answers from Boston MP Mark Simmonds in parliament on Wednesday. In the first, he informs a questioner:” I was fortunate enough to attend the inauguration of President Mahama in Accra about two weeks ago …” whilst in the second answer he declares … “I will travel tomorrow to the African Union summit in Addis Ababa …” As Mr Ransome wryly comments: “Ah well, at least he is keeping warm!”
All this essential globetrotting ensures that Mr Simmonds could not have had time to attend the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration in the House of Commons on Wednesday – that's if he ever had the inclination, of course. One person who was there was Boston’s Labour group leader Councillor Paul Kenny, who chaired last year’s Borough Council's task and finish group looking at the impact of population change. Sadly, we learned little about what went on from Councillor Kenny on the BBC’s Look North programme. Asked how one suggestion – limiting off licence premises in the town – would help Boston’s problems, Councillor Kenny did as he has so often done … which is to talk himself out of time. “One of the points that was raised during our enquiry was the number of off licences that we had in certain streets. One of the points that was raised to us was that some streets, or one particular street, where we had a large number. This issue has also been brought up in other towns within the country, and more recently there was an MP in Peterborough who had a similar issue …” At this point, host Peter Levy woke up and intervened to try to get an answer, and as a result it was lost entirely … and the remainder of the interview descended into a ramble as well. These windows of opportunity are so small that they have to be seized with precision and brevity if they are to get a point across. So much time has now been spent on this important issue with so little result, we cannot help wonder where the whole thing was worth it in the first place.
A refreshing piece of candour came from Independent Councillor Carol Taylor in her blog this week. She confessed to difficultly understanding the council’s financial structure, which made her think that she could not contribute effectively when it came to this complex subject. And we wonder how many of her colleagues were honest enough to agree when she added: “I am not alone and when I look round the table I am not too sure whether many other councillors do either … It does, however, raise some serious questions – including ‘are we serving our communities effectively?’ Somehow I just don't think so.”
Given the complexities of the borough’s balances it, comes as no consolation to see a photo of the leader and his deputies stifling smirks in the local press as they murmur darkly about the council’s own “fiscal cliff” – who until now we thought was a Welsh accountant. It is not enough to describe a problem through the means of solving it – which inevitably involves upping parking charges as the most common solution. We need to be told more clearly the nature. What the council spends and where it spends it remains as much a mystery today as it did before our leadership became so “open and transparent.”
One way that we can learn more is if our elected councillors decide to talk to us – and at the moment, apart from a couple of blogs, most of them treat their electorate as if they were invisible. Before the election in May 2011, one of the most prolific bloggers was joint deputy leader Raymond Singleton-McGuire – but since then his communications have remained frozen in time. This is particularly ironic as he is the councillor “in charge” of the finance portfolio. Last week a voter got in touch with Boston Borough Council to suggest that the time had some to consider updating the councillor’s blog, and was told “it was up to the individual councillors to update any details.” Subsequently, he was told that Councillor Singleton-McGuire would not remove the links as he felt they were “still useful.” So, if you are thirsting to know the holders of annual appointments to external bodies as at 27th May 2011, then http://www.smgblog.co.uk/ is the site to visit.
Still with matters financial, we wonder how long it will be before our leaders in the blue star chamber at Worst Street use the excuse that “they’re doing it in Lincoln” to start charging to remove green waste. Garden rubbish is easy to identify since district councils introduced brown bins to cart it away. Now, Lincoln City Council has upped the ante with a move to “save” – which means “charge” – £1 million by demanding £25 a year for the service. Generously, this is described as an “opt-in” service, which means that if you don’t your bin won’t be emptied. Interestingly, other savings considered by the city council– but included raising parking charges and closing public toilets both were rejected.
The arrival of a new Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire co-incides with a “Policing Plan” to cover 2012 until 2015 which proclaims: “More action, less crime – it all adds up” Boston gets just one name check in the entire 6,000 word report. “We will start a process of replacing worn out custody facilities across the force, initially at Boston police station.” Boston is again top of the list … for all the wrong reasons!
With so many issues concerning the fight for decent democratic behaviour within Boston Borough Council, it is especially disappointing to learn that a meeting of “Opposition” councillors to discuss common issues was attended by three Independent councillors, and two Labour members. Missing in inaction … one Labour, the entire Boston District “Independents” and the English Democrats
Finally … Boston Eye’s annual ski break in Saint Moritz means that we will not now be back until Monday 4th February. But please keep in touch between now and then by e-mail …
You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com