Thursday, 21 February 2013

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What may well prove to be the opening salvo in a battle to block the re-election of the Boston Business “Improvement” District later this year have been sounded in an e-mail to a top county business figure.
The e-mail to Ursula Lidbetter – who chairs Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce, which effectively runs Boston BID – draws attention to a number of perceived shortcomings.
The points are being raised by local businessman Darron Abbott, who represents a number of businesses which are members of Boston BID, and who was a director of the company until he quit in protest at the way it was being run.
He has e-mailed Ms Lidbetter , who is the Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Co-operative and also chairs Lincoln’s Business Improvement Group
In the mailing, he writes: “I have tried to raise my concerns with the Manager (Niall Armstrong) the Chairman (Alan Ellis) and Simon Beardsley (the Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce.) All have ignored my e-mails and phone calls since last autumn.
“It all started last summer when the manager arranged and paid £10,000 for a company from Grantham to arrange a music event in Central Park in Boston. It is documented that his actions were not known to the chairman or the board.
“How does the manager pay out £10,000 without anyone knowing?
“The event was cancelled due to inclement weather and from the information I have obtained the manager had spent £3,000 in addition to the above amount, which has now been lost. I am really amazed any one could spend this kind of money without the board knowing! There is a total lack of control.
“The chairman and manager are making many decisions without consulting the rest of the directors and none are discussed at the board meetings.
“The board do not communicate with levy payers at all – they seem to think the money is theirs to do with what they want.”
Mr Abbott also raised concerns about conflict of interest in the case of one recently appointed director who has a contract to supply services to the BID.
He continues: “One of the conditions contained in BID legislation is they must not carry out services that the council should. Boston BID has two borough councillors on the board – surely this helps influence decision in favour of the council.
Boston Eye’s own researches show the appointment of two directors last month – both of whom have participated in board meetings prior to that date.
Regular readers will know of the almost constant criticism of Boston BID since it set up shop in January 2009.
There have been complaints of its failure to produce matched funding, and ties with Boston Borough Council that critics feel are too close.
The company is also accused of failing to keep its members informed of what’s going on – and despite a promise made months ago that there would be regular drop-in session in big stores for the directors to meet the levy payers, nothing has materialised.
At one point a Task and Finish Group was set up by Boston Borough Council to looking into the running of the BID.
It made a number of important recommendations – most of which have been ignored.
But this being Boston, once the council deems a job to be over, it never bothers to see whether anything has been done or not.
The business website Duedil paints a gloomy portrait of the BID finances (see top of the page) begging the question “where has all the money gone?”
The BID website speaks for itself – or rather it doesn’t!
The last entry in the “Latest News” section is dated October last year.
Turn to the “What’s On” area of the site, and it is full of last year’s Christmas Market.
The most recent note under “Projects” harks back to July 2012.
The last “quarterly” newsletter was issued in March 2012.
Members were promised summaries of board meetings.
The last to appear was for the meeting of February 2011 – two years ago.
The BID will soon be seeking re-election for another five years, but we can see no reason why it deserves to be re-appointed.
At the last election, there were protests that anyone who failed to return their ballot paper would be deemed to have voted in favour of forming the company.
If so, it was certainly a dicey interpretation of the electoral rules and regulations.
All the BID seems to have done to date, is part a lot of businesses from money that they can ill afford and spend it as they please.
This is not accountability – and any organisation that has failed as spectacularly as Boston BID has done is one that we can do without.

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