Friday, 29 March 2013

Tuesday’s high-handed – or rather jack-booted – solution to protests by Boston Business “Improvement” District have cost that pathetic organisation a friend that it ought not to have lost. One of the founder director appointments comes from Boston Stump, whose representative was Carol Taylor – co-incidentally an Independent Boston Borough Councillor. But not a BID director any more.  In an e-mail to the BID Chairman “Obersturmbannführer” Alan Ellis, she condemns the decision to use police and town rangers to exclude protestor Darron Abbott from Tuesday’s annual meeting – calling it “abhorrent,” and something that should never have happened. “Mr Abbott should have been allowed to come in, and then if any disturbance had occurred we could have acted accordingly. You said to me that the decision to exclude him was made in the afternoon – but as usual you and Mr Armstrong (Niall Armstrong, the BID manager) made that decision without consulting other directors. I was also informed that this year's Xmas market will be on 29th November and 1st December. St Botolph's Xmas fayre is the following weekend. This should have been a team effort between the two, thus promoting a very festive few days which included St Botolph's. May I remind you that 'The Stump' is still the biggest tourist attraction for Boston?  The very poor attendance of other directors was unacceptable, and at least two of the absentees very rarely turn up for regular meetings either. I have discussed my decision with Father Hugh (Reverend Doctor Hugh Jones) and Graham Stewart-Smith (the Parish Administrator) and they are in agreement that there is no longer any point for representation of St Botolph's Church on the board of Boston BID.”
It seems that senior members of Boston Borough Council are falling all over themselves to bask in the glory to be had from apparently reducing incidents of anti-social drinking in the town. The council claims that a new policy of removing public seating from anti-social behaviour hot spots has seen complaints fall dramatically. Queuing up to offer their quotes are Councillor Mike Gilbert, portfolio holder for community development, who says that said reported incidents had reduced by half between August and  December in public areas where drinkers congregated were “targeted.”  Step forward council leader Pete Bedford, to add that there had also been a reduction in street drinking since the Ingram Memorial area was opened up to the Market Place. And last – and by all means least – Councillor Derek Richmond portfolio holder for the town centre, chipped in to say said there had also been increased police activity to deal with street drinking … with a number of  arrests. The decision to remove public seating was very much a smokescreen. More than twenty benches have been removed – purportedly after complaints –  but we know of  several where there was no consultation with local people as to whether problems occurred or not. What did benefit the council, though, was to get rid of benches that needed regular inspection,  painting, maintenance and all those other things one associates with street furniture. The result?  Perhaps a diminution of anti-social behaviour – but certainly a much larger saving of money for the cash-strapped council.
In the previous item we mentioned Councillor Derek Richmond – a man with more responsibilities than you can shake a stick at.  Another of these is car parking, and we note with interest that the man who is often so quick to blame any individuals or groups that he can find for problems rather than Boston Borough Council, has now locked his sights on people who park their cars – and don’t pay the council for the privilege. According to a local “newspaper” report he blames drivers who use private or free car parks for a projected loss of £91,000 from the council’s budget. Disability campaigners were singled out for a special mention, as their apparent selfishness in challenging the introduction of charges for blue badge holders delayed them for three months – losing the council income.  In the same way that the government feels we should share the pain by footing the bill for  the political incompetence that led to the collapse of the banks, and wrecked the housing market, Councillor Richmond is quoted as saying: “Thank goodness we increased charges and introduced blue badge charges; otherwise we would be way down.” Amen to that. From now on, we intend always to park in Boston Borough Council parks – and to make sure if there is one with a dearer tariff nearby that we use it in preference to a cheaper alternative.  We hope that the rest of our readers will do the same – apart from  any councillors or borough council staff who, of course, are allowed to park free of charge.
We note that UKIP leader Nigel Farage is to visit Boston next month and will tour the town ahead of a public meeting at Wyberton Sports and Social Club. Among the issues he plans to talk about is the effect of immigration on Boston. Although politics is a serious business, we were amused by the photograph on the Boston Standard website – where Mr Farage has what appears to be a disembodied hand on this shoulder. 

It reminded us of a scene from that classic Hammer movie– “Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors” which saw Christopher Lee in a similar predicament! We agree that a helping hand is useful for a politician, but isn’t this taking thinks a little too far?
Talking of Boston and immigration, we note the latest figures in the national press this week. Among the reports, the Daily Mail said that nearly 120,000 Romanians and Bulgarians have already moved to Britain despite not yet being able to work freely in this country. Data from the 2011 census said that migration to Britain – at a rate equivalent to 30,000 a year – began as soon as the two countries joined the EU. “Census figures gave an official figure of 988,123 Eastern European citizens present in the country in March 2011 – including 588,082 Poles, 104,676 Lithuanians, and 73,208 Romanians. Around one and a half million people from the eight Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 are thought to have lived and worked in Britain at some stage. The census showed the highest concentration of Eastern European citizens in any town in Britain was in Boston, with 10.7 per cent of the population are Eastern European passport-holders.


But the figures that the Mail produced (above) Showed that Boston was not alone. Nearby Peterborough was 6th in the migration top ten on 7.5%, and neighbouring South Holland was tenth, with 5.9 per-cent.
We mentioned last week the pointlessness of petitions which either fail to attract many signatures, or which fall by the wayside due to insufficient promotion.  A long time ago, Boston Borough Council announced the introduction of online petitions, and what has happened since has scarcely set the town alight. Currently, there are no-active petitions. And here’s the score to date … 
click to enlarge photo

The page was last updated in July last year, and tests to see if it was working properly almost outnumber the petitions. Is it just a case that Bostonians don’t care? We hope not – as there is so much to care about.
One such thing is the development and regeneration of Boston.  Towns around us such as Bourne and Spalding seem to be forever improving – and now Sleaford looks set to join them.  Supermarket giant Tesco has confirmed that it is pressing ahead with plans for a new store, which could lead to £100 million pounds worth of redevelopment and up 1,000 new jobs. The proposal is part of wider regeneration plan to redevelop “The Maltings” - Europe's largest at risk heritage site – which already has planning permission and funding for 204 apartments, 24 houses – plus restaurants and shops. North Kesteven’s Chief Executive Ian Fytche said: “"Such a strong expression of investor confidence sends a strong message that Sleaford is somewhere to do business and gives us a boost in pushing forward with our broader regeneration vision.” Whither Boston? Or should that be wither Boston?  Around five years ago we were promised an £80 million development of the West Street area with plans for the a 60,000 sq. ft. department store, a food store, eight "major space units," 17 additional units of various sizes, a new "riverside restaurant quarter," a 700 space "gold standard" car park, more than 100 new "city-style apartments," an hotel and a new "iconic" pedestrian bridge linking to the town centre. Then the company planning it fell flat on its face. What do we have to look forward to now?  Unspecified plans to turn the Assembly Rooms into a “modern entertainment venue” which have just been put back for a third time since Boston Borough Council flogged it off after years of deliberate civic neglect rendered it too expensive for the public purse to repair. Other places have something to look forward to; the hope that things will improve and that better and more varied shops will enhance their towns.  But not, it seems, Boston.
Even the image of Boston as somewhere where there are interesting things to see and do is gradually diminishing. The latest edition of Lincolnshire County Council’s quarterly magazine lists what it calls “The essential guide to what’s on in Lincolnshire for Spring 2013. In Boston, this amounts to a “Where’s Wally” children’s activity on Boston Library on 10th April – but you’d better be quick, as it only lasts an hour! Never mind. On its front page, the Boston Standard promises a guide to “what to do during the Easter Holiday.” Most of it involves going elsewhere than Boston – but if you’re on the lookout for something really different, you can get hypnotised, hire a skip, buy some new double glazed windows, get your eyes tested, or visit a dentist. Not so much a guide, really as just a list of people daft enough to advertise for no particular reason.
Mention of Lincolnshire County Council brings us neatly to a new blog that has appeared in recent months. Because they’re a lot smarter that we are in Boston, it is called  Oculus Lindum  -  subtitle: “An eye on the goings on in Lincolnshire.” This translates as Lincoln Eye! It’s written by a gentleman named Peter Barton, a local government officer for the last 15 years of his working life, who dangles such interesting buzzwords as “self-interest, sleaze, corruption, and jobs for the boys” among the subject material. It’s worth a read and you can find it by clicking  here
Yesterday’s photographs of a Boston Town Ranger helping the BID keep unwanted visitors away from the company’s annual meeting struck a chord deep in the memory banks of some of our readers.

Yes, quite a lot of you – like us, old enough to remember the Beano comic – were struck by the similarity between the star of the BID AGM and the much funnier cartoon character Wilfrid, one of the stars of the Bash Street Kids. Incidentally, now that Boston BID is struggling to find directors, could we offer a couple of nominees that they might wish to consider – local farmer Richard Tater known to his friends as Dick  and Boston shoe repairer  Jack Boot   after all the BID should get on well with a load of cobblers.

We’re off for a few days now. Have a great Easter. We’re back again on Wednesday 3rd April

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Thursday, 28 March 2013

With a heavy-lidded glare, a Boston town ranger bars the way to the town’s Business “Improvement” District annual meeting.
The ranger – together with a colleague and a Boston police inspector – were waiting outside the Blenkin Memorial Hall in Wormgate to prevent a former BID director going in to ask a series of questions which he had submitted in advance.
Local accountant Darron Abbott – who resigned in protest at the way the BID was operating – had earlier been told by the BID’s chairman that he would be barred from the meeting because he did not have a proxy to show that he was representing a local business – and his own company was not located in the BID area.
Unfortunately for all involved with this act of personal censorship, Mr Abbott had taken the prudent step of obtaining an appointment as a director of a local business within the BID territory and as such was entitled to admission.
But none of the people seeking to prevent his lawful entry to the meeting would look at the proof when it was offered.
The heavy handed treatment he received sparked protests from others who had gone into the meeting.
Local florist Maxine Hill told Boston Eye: “The rangers were actually pushing him, and I heard Darron saying ‘don’t touch me, don’t push me …’
“I can’t see who the hell they think they are to say people can’t come into a meeting – it’s  crazy
“It was commented in the meeting that it was disgusting that he wasn’t allowed to come in. My thoughts were that he should have been allowed to come in, and to be kicked out if he caused trouble …
“He does have a good input to the meetings normally, but they just weren’t having any of it. I did say to them, ‘if you actually look at the paperwork he has in his hand he should be allowed to come in’ – but they weren’t’ interested, and I just said ‘I think that you’ll find you have egg on your face  when you find out that you have illegally not allowed somebody to come to your meeting.’”
Ms Hill said that the meeting itself was “was much the same as always.”
She said she asked where all the directors were.
“There was basically Alan Ellis, the chairman,  Councillor Carol Taylor who represents Boston Stump, the accountant who’s not part of the board of directors and Niall Armstrong, the manager  – so there were two directors out of twelve there.
“Councillor Derek Richmond was there – but only for about an hour then got up and walked out.”
In terms of business … “It was already said that we were on track for the new Christmas craft fair, but I said aren’t you pre-empting that considering there a ballot  in October – are you going to pay for it out of your own pocket ...?
There were lots and lots of questions as always on the finances. Someone asked for it all to be broken down, because I know about the Boston Beat money (a free concert planned but cancelled two years in a row) that’s gone AWOL – it was asked why it was that the event was not actually insured against cancellation  it wasn’t – I think it’s a figure of around £14,000 plus that has been lost.
She asked if they were going to get the money – which comes from the compulsory levy on local businesses – back.
“They said they’re ‘trying.’ Six months down the line they still haven’t got it, so I think they’re obviously wasting their time … they’re not going to get it but they’re trying to fob us off saying they’re still trying, but I don’t believe that for one minute.”
Ms Hill said there was “quite a bit of discussion” about the ballot in October  which the BID is hoping will win it a second  five year term, … and if people who  threw their ballot papers away wouldn’t be counted as a ‘yes’ vote this time. 
“They disagreed that that was how it was done, but obviously it was because a lot of people did throw it away because they thought it was just a circular and didn’t bother to read it properly but were counted as in favour …”
“People are saying to me that BID is a successfully run thing. Well, maybe it is, but not in Boston, never.
“In five years all they’ve done, they’ve got the town rangers and so far they’ve lost £15,000 that I know of.
Have they lost any more in the past that we don’t know anything about?  We got the Mary Portas money. I asked what was happening with that – no, nothing, no answer to that one.
I really, really hope that the ballot goes the right way this year and Boston BID goes.”
Darron Abbott, meanwhile, has also questioned if the meeting was quorate – whether enough directors were there for the meeting to proceed under the BID’s constitution.
He said that only two founder members were present when three are required, and that no members of the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce members were there, when there should be at least one.
Mr Abbott has also filed a written complaint with Lincolnshire Police about the conduct of one officer, and second another who, he says, refused to take details of the complaint or let him report an allegation of assault.
We asked the following for a comment on the events of Tuesday night:-
Alan Ellis, Chairman of Boston BID
Councillor Derek Richmond, Boston Borough Council’s portfolio holder for the town centre and also a director of Boston BID.
Lincolnshire Police.
Not one of them had responded by the time this blog went to press.

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Our local MP Mark Simmonds has baffled members of a parish council with a request for a secret meeting – for which they should foot the bill and do all the donkeywork.
But the really confusing part is that the parish involved – East Kirkby, home of the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre – is not even in the constituency Mr Simmonds represents.
The matter came to light in an e-mail from a member of the council who was at the meeting last week when the request was made, and who writes:
“Our Clerk has received a letter from Mark Simmonds’ ‘people’ saying that he wishes to meet with our parish councillors, in a ‘closed’ meeting to discuss issues in and around our parish.
“It requests that we do all of the legwork for him and talk to the villagers about issues that are important to them and that we arrange, including pay for, a meeting place and presumably refreshments for him and his entourage.
“Now here is where my confusion comes in.
“Our parish is not even in his constituency; our MP is Sir Peter Tapsell not Mark Simmonds.
“I know that there is not much to choose between the two of them, but surely this is not a good use of money and time when he cannot even find time to meet with the people of Boston itself!
“I suppose that the people of Boston area should be grateful that he has managed to loosely locate Boston, even if it is in someone else’s constituency.
“It is also intriguing that he is looking to – even if discreetly –   rear his head at a time when a certain Tory Councillor Ayling has defected to UKIP.
“Needless to say, we have declined his invitation.
“If we meet with anyone it should be with Peter Tapsell and a meeting should be an open one, not closed; the public should have the opportunity to pose their own questions to these people.
“Come on Mark Simmonds, grow some balls and go and actually talk and listen to the people you are supposed to represent (and I don’t mean just secretly visiting the Boston councils ‘yes’ men.)
The people of Boston and its surrounding villages are crying out for help.
It is said that at least one other parish – Old Leake – received a similar.
At least this particular parish is in Boston.
“In regards to what issues Mark Simmonds wanted to discuss, it was very vague, just that he wanted us to go and speak to the residents of our parish and find out what concerns or issues they have so that we could pass them on to him.
“What purpose this exercise is for was also not stated.
“We declined the meeting as it seems a waste of our time and his when he is not actually our MP and for the fact that we would have to hire a meeting place and provide refreshments which we feel is not a good use of our very meagre precept.
“I am sure that his time could be much better spent dealing with the ever growing issues that he has within his own constituency or actually studying which parishes come under his wing.”
It will be interesting if someone could tell us the reason for the request – and why if such a meeting needs to be held at all that it should be done in secret.
But given the confidential way in which the request was apparently couched, we saw no point in asking Mr Simmonds – as his slowness to respond is becoming legendary.
Perhaps if our parish councils were located in Africa, the overseas territories (not Falklands, SBAs or Gibraltar) or the Caribbean (not including Dominican Republic, Haiti or Cuba) which is what he spends most of his time dealing with these days, we might have a better chance of knowing what’s going on

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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Once again, Bostonians are preparing to be griped (shouldn’t that be gripped – Ed?) by local elections – this time to decide who we want to represent us on Lincolnshire County Council for the next four years.
The elections will be held on Thursday 2nd May, and there looks to be a wide choice of candidates.
The tendency is to assume that the Tories are cock of the rock – but their hold on Boston’s seven seats has not been as impressive as you might think.
Our map shows the seats up for grabs – so let’s take a look at who’s standing where – that we know about.  We have a fairly comprehensive list of candidates, which we have gleaned from various sources.
The Tories were quick off the mark with a list of candidates in one of last week’s local “newspapers” – which comprises all the “usual suspects” from 2009 with one exception –  and in other cases, we asked local parties and individuals to tell.
Almost all were very helpful, although one or two decided not to say just yet – so the list may not be entirely complete, and we apologise in advance for any omissions.
Here goes then. The map above shows all the constituencies and the current political colours of the seat holders.
1:  Boston North West
The present incumbent, Andrea Jenkyns, is standing again for the Conservatives, along with Boston Borough Labour councillor Paul Goodale, Tiggs Keywood-Morris    for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Boston Borough Independent councillor Carol Taylor.
Councillor Jenkyns had an interesting political ride to win the seat.  At the election on 4th June 2009, she gained the seat for the Tories with 463 votes, followed by Colin Westcott, British National Party -374, Alison Austin, Boston Bypass Independents – 283, Richard Leggott, Independent – 279, Pam Kenny, Labour – 205, Paul Appleby, Liberal Democrat – 130 and Andrew Bakewell, Independent – 82.
The turnout, at 1,816, was the lowest of the seven county council Boston seats up for grabs at 27%.
However, Miss Jenkyns had to resign her seat after being told her job as a part-time music tutor for the county council-run Lincolnshire Music Service meant she was not eligible to stand.
But she was back on 15th October after a by-election with a reduced line-up and a change of candidates, when the result was: Andrea Jenkyns, - 597 David Owens, BNP – 581, Pamela Kenny, Labour – 204 and Michael Sheridan-Shinn, Liberal Democrat – 160.
The turnout that time was 1,543 an even poorer 21.3%.
2  Boston Fishtoft
Present councillor, Raymond Singleton-McGuire who is joint deputy leader of the Tory group on Boston Borough Council is standing for the Conservatives. Other candidates are: Mike Sheridan-Shinn, Labour, Lizzy Ransome, UKIP and Ossy Snell, Independent.
In 2009, the seat was another gain for the Tories. The full results were: Raymond Singleton-McGuire, 1,435, Ossy Snell, Lib Dem - 1,106, and Mick Gall, Labour – 277. The turnout was 2,818 (36%)
3 Boston Coastal
Candidates are Conservative sitting tenant and leader of Boston Borough Council Pete Bedford, plus Paul Gleeson, the Labour group leader on Boston Borough Council, and UKIP’s Felicity Ransome.
The results in 2009 were:  Pete Bedford  (Con) 1,142, Felicity Ransome (UKIP), Anthony Turner (BNP), 208 and Beth Gall (Labour) 202. Turnout was 36%.
4 Boston Rural
Candidates are: Michael Brookes, joint deputy leader of the Conservative group on Boston Borough Council and current county councillor for the division, Norman Hart, Labour and Jodie Sutton (UKIP.)
In 2009 the results were: Michael Brookes, Independent - 1,096, James Winder, Conservative - 1,094, Jodie Sutton UKIP – 69, and Liz Leonard, Labour – 251. Turnout was 34%.
This was an Independent gain from the Tories by just two votes – but not for long, as after a few months Councillor Brookes jumped ship and joined the Tory group at County Hall, telling Boston Eye that he had “worked closely with the Conservative Group at Boston Borough Council for the last 13 years, mostly as part of the administration,” and pointing out that after getting on to Lincolnshire County Council “I have found myself in an Independent Group including a BBI member which has formed a Shadow Cabinet as the official opposition to the Conservative Administration, who I consider are doing a good job running the council.”
5 Boston South
Candidates are: Paul Skinner for the Tories – another candidate seeking re-election, Jan Finch, Labour and Don Ransome (UKIP.)
The 2009 results were: Paul Skinner (Conservative) – 772, Richard Austin, Boston  Bypass Independents  - 721, Sue Ransome, UKIP – 461, and Norman Hart, Labour – 151. Turnout was 34%.
6 Boston West
Formerly Independent, this is the only seat where there is a new Tory face seeking election. Boston Borough Councillor Yvonne Gunter is standing against Labour’s Pam Kenny and UKIP’s  Bob McAuley – an active member of the Boston Protest March group.
In 2009. The seat was won with 525 votes by Boston Bypass Independent Ray Newell, who later joined the Independent group.  Other results were:  Paul Mould, Conservative - 514, Elizabeth Ransome (UKIP) - 353, Paul Goodale, Labour  - 297, and David Owens (BNP) - 233. Turnout was 34%.
Councillor Newell – who was far and away the most active Boston councillor when  questions  about the borough were asked at Lincolnshire County Councillor meetings, is not seeking re-election.
He told Boston Eye: “Though Boston born and bred, my wife and I intend to return to Formby, Merseyside, where we lived for nearly twenty years. Although I will not be standing for election, I will however, support the Boston Lincolnshire Independents' candidates.”
7 Boston East
Candidates are: Mike Gilbert (Conservative) who is also a Boston Borough Councillor, another Boston councillor, Paul Kenny (Labour) and Sue Ransome (UKIP.)
In 2009, the results were:  Mike Gilbert - 674 … a Tory gain … Paul Kenny - 426,  Gerry Clare, Boston  Bypass Independents - 406, Michael Sheridan-Shinn, Liberal Democrat  - 277. Turnout was 27%.
If the Tories are anticipating the same walkover that they enjoyed on Boston Borough Council in 2011, they may be disappointed.
Then, they were up against a discredited Boston Bypass Independent ruling group.
But in the County Council elections in 2009 they were seeking election against a backdrop of an electorate which has become disenchanted with the Labour Government.
Now the boot is on the other foot – with the  Coalition the political naughty step and the Tories trailing Labour by a considerable margin..
Just look back to the County Council election before 2009 to see what we mean.
In 2005, the results were rather different.
Boston Coastal was held by a Tory,   Boston East held by Labour, Boston Fishtoft was a Lib Dem gain from the Conservatives, Boston North West was held by Labour, Boston Rural was held by the Tories, Boston South was an Independent gain from the Conservatives, and Boston West was held by Labour.
Two Tories out of seven candidates – and it could well happen again.

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Monday, 25 March 2013

If the board of Boston Business “Improvement” District is expecting a cosy rubber stamping session at tomorrow’s Annual General Meeting, then they could be in for a bit of a shock.
A long-standing critic of the BID will be there to pose a question or ten on behalf of  a number of member businesses.
Boston accountant Darron Abbott – who was briefly a director of the BID before he quit in protest at the way it was being run – has questions on issues ranging from the BID’s use of levy payers’ money to the apparent absence of key information from the minutes, and a declaration of secrecy at the most recent board meeting.
Mr Abbott’s first question concerns a concert planned in Boston’s Central Park, which was cancelled for a second year – this time with poor weather being blamed.
His question concerns the financing of the event, and asks: “How was it possible to for the manager to arrange this event and pay £10,000 out of the bank account without authorisation of the board or without anyone else knowing?” He also wants to know whether this money was recovered from the event organisers – a Grantham based company called Infodex – and whether any other costs incurred were lost when the event was cancelled.
Another financial question concerns the fate of an award of £10,000 made under the Portas Pilot scheme.
All unsuccessful applicants for one of the £100,000 main awards received a token £10,000 runners up prize. The award was made in October last year, but so far there has been no news of what has been done with the money.
An important question concerns the matter of secrecy.
The BID has long been accused of failing to keep its levy payers – who are not members voluntarily, and who are prosecuted by Boston Borough Council if they fail to pay 1% of their business rate – in touch with what it is doing
Despite promises to keep members informed – the most recent being made around six – months ago, nothing has ever been done, but Mr Abbott feels that a recent development is a step too far.
“One of the complaints levelled at BID has been the lack of communication.” He says.
“Why are the board so secretive regarding its actions?
“The minutes from the latest board meeting state:-
All the directors present agreed that any discussions that took place within a board meeting were confidential and information should not be released to the public until such time as plans had been fully formulated and the board had agreed to release the information.

He goes on to raise questions about board issues, and asks: “Why is there no declaration of interest from Mr Derek Taylor considering he is a director of Taylor Made Security who supply the rangers to BID.
“Mr Taylor's business address is outside the BID area.  I was told last year I had to be associated with a business inside the BID area to be able to be a director.
“It appears Boston BID have changed their accountant.  Please could you let me know at which board meeting this was decided as it is not mentioned in any of the minutes?
“Please could you tell me the date the accounts were approved by the board as the copies I have do not contain any dates or signatures. There is no mention of them being approved in any of the minutes from board meetings.”
Mr Abbott also raises the issue of the BID taking on activities that are not permitted.
“Having read the prospectus for Boston BID, a part of page 15 reads:-
“Baseline Services. A BID does not pay for services that are already covered by your existing business rates”
It then went on to define existing services for which current rates were paid – and which included festivals and events.
Mr Abbott says: “It appears from this list that in going alone with the Christmas market, Boston BID may have stepped outside its permitted guidelines.”
The answers to these questions will be interesting … to say the least.
Assuming that any are forthcoming.


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Friday, 22 March 2013

The almost forgotten plan by the Royal Mail to look for alternative premises – possibly in an existing shop – so that it can economise by closing the Wide Bargate main Post Office,  was dragged back into the limelight this week.  The Boston Standard launched a petition when the news was announced, and proudly told us that it had garnered “more than 150 signatures.”  Hmmm.  Last time the Standard played the petition game was when Boston Borough Council announced its intention to charge disabled blue badge holders to park.  Without even a blush of embarrassment, a reporter presented just 27 – yes, 27 – protest coupons from readers … and if that wasn’t bad enough, three were from readers outside the borough - including one from as far away as Kent. There is a time to hand in petitions, and there is a time not to. And when the best a borough with a population of 65,000 can come up with is a meagre 150 votes against the post office plan, the better thing to do is to keep stum. Such a poor level of opposition to the post office proposal  sends a simple and plain message; go ahead with the closure, the locals don’t give a monkey's.

If you’re a busy man in the world of politics, it’s sometimes easy perhaps to lose track.  So we can understand if voters in Fishtoft do a double-take at an item of campaign literature

from Conservative councillor and joint deputy borough council leader Raymond Singleton-McGuire  –  see  picture below
click on the photograph to enlarge it
Councillor Singleton-McGuire – who  is also  the Lincolnshire Council Councillor for Fishtoft,  as well as being the parish council chairman, has mailed stay-at-home voters to tell them that they will shortly be receiving their postal ballot paper “for the local Boston Borough Council elections on May 2nd.” Come again, Councillor? Unless you know something we don’t know, Boston Borough Council won’t be up for re-election until 7th May 2015.  Whilst it’s good to hit the ground running at election time, it’s also helpful to know in which direction you’re travelling. Isn’t it?
And talking of elections, we note the announcement of the vacancy for the  Staniland South seat on Boston Borough Council, which became vacant on the death of Conservative borough Councillor Paul Mould last month. To glean this information, you have to visit the “public notices” section of the Boston Borough Council website to be told: “To call an election a request must be made in writing to the Returning Officer at the address below by TWO electors within the principal local authority area.” No closing dates are given for this. In fact we know that this has been done, because at least one candidate has come forward, and we are sure that there will be more – but it seems almost as though the council would have liked it to slip by unnoticed.  No date has yet been announced for the election but the odds are that it will coincide with the County Council elections on Thursday 2nd May – principally because it’s cheaper that way. It’s impossible to say whether or not this is a good move. A local council contest in isolation might not draw much interest – but if more people are minded to pitch up for the county council event, it may improve the turn-out.
Perhaps it’s because an election is in the air, but have you noticed that in this week’s local “newspapers” there are more letters from our local councillors than you can shake a stick at. The Boston Standard has letters from 21 local councillors – if you count one from the 17 strong “Conservative Group” and another  from the three “Boston Labour Councillors” – whilst the Boston Target has letters from another six councillors. The Tories seem particularly anxious at this time to let us all know how unafraid they are, and what amazing achievements they have accomplished. Wethinks the Tories doth protest too much, to paraphrase Hamlet – although there is much that is hammy about their performance. More on elections next week.
Last time we wrote about the lack of surgeries held by our Boston Borough Councillors, we mentioned the decline of the roving surgeries staged by Labour group members of the council. However, we’re told that the last one was held in January, and the next will be tomorrow. You can buttonhole your councillors in Staniland North Ward between 10am 11am when they will be touring Fydell Street, Ellen Close, Granville Street, and Bartol Crescent. And they will be in Skirbeck ward from 11am until noon, covering Kings Crescent, Kings Avenue, Church Road, Kitwood Close.
A couple of weeks ago we mentioned the poor turnout at a meeting arranged in a Stickford pub to discuss the European Union. It was organised by East Lindsey District Councillor Victoria Ayling, with Bostonians especially in mind. Clearly, although no one else was much bothered about the subject under discussion, Councillor Ayling,  who was East Lindsey’s portfolio holder for Corporate Affairs, - and who came within  714 votes of ousting veteran MP Austin Mitchell at the 2010 general election battle for Grimsby –  has much stronger views that perhaps some people thought.  Last week, she jumped ship from the Tories to UKIP, saying she could no longer serve Lincolnshire residents under David Cameron as leader.
We’ve mentioned Boston Business “Improvement” District a couple of times this week, and will have more to report ahead of their annual meeting next Tuesday. In the meantime, we were interested to note the following announcement at last month’s BID board meeting: “The decision was taken that BID would run the 2013 Christmas market and the Chairman was already looking to attract an A list celebrity to switch on the Christmas lights.” This strikes us not only as a tad presumptuous as others had a say in last year’s event – but potentially risky. An event such as a Christmas market needs a lot of money spending up front … particularly if star names are involved. What if the BID does not win the September ballot for a second five year term in office?  It’s possible that it could have splashed out several thousand that might not be refundable, and therefore end up coming out of the pockets of local businesses. The only way to avoid such a potential calamity would be to wait until the result of the ballot. In that event it would be far too late in the day to arrange anything very special, as most stallholders would have booked elsewhere, as would the cast of Emmerdale Farm. Yet again, the BID looks guilty of not thinking things through properly.
Some good news for Boston for once in terms of winning back a service that was to have been taken away. In July last year East Midlands Ambulance Service proposed the closure and sale of dozens of ambulance stations to improve its performance times, which were among the worst in the country.  The idea was to replace the region's 66 current ambulance stations replaced with 13 larger "hub stations" and more than 118 "tactical deployment points." And, as is so often the case these days, there were no plans to include Boston as one of the hubs. However, in a revised plan announced earlier this week, the new idea is for 16 hubs and 108 smaller community ambulance stations – and with Boston being included among the hubs. Let’s hope that this new recognition of Boston as somewhere worth serving is set to continue.
We mentioned the Boston Standard earlier in the blog, and we have to congratulate them on an ingenious way to win an award. The paper devoted a third of its front page – and the sole report on page 11 – to tell readers that it had scooped three press awards. It won “Title of the Year,” “Best use of digital platforms” and Small weekly title of the year” at an awards ceremony in Peterborough. The event?  The inaugural Johnston Press Awards – organised by Johnston Press for newspaper members of … you’ve guessed it … the Johnston Press Group. Not too hard to succeed somewhere there, we imagine. Perhaps the “small weekly title” referred to the dwindling readership. Soon, we plan to announce the Boston Eye annual blog award which will be given to blogs published about Boston which have the word “Eye” in the title. We feel that we have a good chance of success.
Finally, we were tickled by the sign pictured below which we saw in a car park off Wide Bargate.

The name Robin Hood conjured up the outlaw’s memorable policy of stealing from the rich to give to the poor.  Exactly the reverse of Boston Borough Council’s parking policy – to take from the poor to give to the rich!

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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Wednesday’s item about Boston BID produced an interesting response from a senior figure in neighbouring South Holland District Council.
Proposals to create a Spalding BID about a year after Boston started in business were roundly rejected – and the district council played an important role in that decision.
“The anti-campaigners used the example of Boston as the reason why they shouldn’t have one,” we were told.” That figured strongly, and there were all sorts of accusations about the final vote in Boston, and whether it was by the right margins and all the rest of it
“When we had it in South Holland we booted it out because we let the traders tell us which way to cast our block vote, and there’s nothing stopping Boston Borough Council doing that.
“If the BID is not being used to underpin their funding – if  it’s genuinely supposed to be additional money for better stuff – they can quite easily turn round and do the same thing, and just say that we’ll run a separate poll for businesses and you tell us which way to cast the council’s block vote.
“We didn’t like the idea of taxing more people anyway, but said that if you tell us you want it, fine we’ll vote for it – we had about 30% of the local vote – and we ran a separate poll on our website and the anti-campaign won it by a country mile, so we voted against it.”
The final voting figures which saw the Spalding BID plan rejected left no doubt about the feeling of the local businesses balloted – only 71 of the  285 votes were in favour, and the majority voted against the proposal both by aggregate rateable value and numbers voting.
“I’m hoping that now the Conservatives are running Boston Borough Council that they’ll get back to the principle that if there is going to be additional taxation, it needs to bring additional benefits –  and certainly that the people who are being taxed should be controlling or at least having a proper say in where it’s being spent.”
Boston, of course, is in a similar position to South Holland – in that each of its assets with a rateable value entitles the authority to a vote, and which must give it the loudest voice in any ballot when the BID seeks re-election later this year.
We don’t know what happened last time – but it seems reasonable to assume that Boston Borough Council – which critics have said is too close to Boston BID, and which has flanked off tasks that were formerly its responsibility on to the organisation – would have voted in favour.
Since then, criticism of the BID forced the council to set up a review of its operation which made a number of recommendations which the BID promised to follow – but by and large never did.
Certainly the issue of the voting in Boston raised eyebrows – we recall one critic saying that he threw his ballot paper away thinking it was junk mail – then later discovered that this action meant that he was recorded as voting for the idea.
When the ground rules were laid down, the council minutes at the time recorded that to succeed the ballot had to meet two tests:- a simple majority of those who voted must vote “Yes” and that the aggregate rateable value of those who vote “Yes” must be greater than for those who vote “No.”
But, there was also the stipulation that to be a valid ballot at least 20% of eligible voters were required to participate.
This means that if, say, 500 businesses were canvassed – only 100 needed to vote and  of that, only 51  needed to support the plan for it to be imposed on 449 other businesses.
Talk about the tail wagging the dog!
In Boston, we never got to hear how many votes were cast – merely that “of those businesses that voted” 72.8% by number and 83.9% by rateable value supported the principles that were detailed in the business plan …”
Certainly, when the Boston BID ballot papers go out for the vote on a second five year term, our leaders should think long and hard about whether to support it – but will they?
Before Boston BID, there was a similar company set up in Sleaford – and when it sought a second five year term, it was unceremoniously thrown out.
Surely, there is a lesson to be learned here.
Next Tuesday sees Boston BID’s annual meeting – and we understand that there will be some interesting questions for the chairman and directors to answer.
Watch this space, as they say.

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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

It seems that the great and the good never tire of marginalising the disabled in Boston.
Last week saw the start of the rear-guard action to try to get the Market Place into the state that it should have been in the first place – which is to make it a shared space between pedestrians and road users.
Because of their “we know best” attitude, the parties involved in the Market Place refurbishment produced a result which  when completed accurately reflected the fears voiced by  the disabled ahead of the project – and which only now are being acknowledged as genuine worries.
Work to knock the Market Place into better shape began at the start of last week –  with a notice period that gave disability groups barely any time in which to react to the proposed “improvements.”
These involve using planters to screen off certain areas, as well as tinkering with the “tactile” surfaces that give the blind or partially sighted clues to whereabouts they are in an area.
Representatives of various groups have reservations about the proposals, and also feel that more should be done by way of traffic calming.
Yet again, the warning is being sounded that the Market Place is “an accident waiting to happen” – and it is starting to seem that the authorities are indeed prepared to wait and see if one does.
Further plans for Boston include more shared pavements for cyclists and pedestrians – with John Adams Way being one such road.
Admittedly, the footpaths beside the road are fairly generous in most stretches – but proposals such as this ignore one crucial fact.
In Boston, cyclists have always ridden wherever they please – whether or not there are “shared” arrangements.
And when we say “always,” we mean ever since the British engineer, James Starley invented the Penny Farthing in 1871.
Not only do cyclists pedal willy-nilly, they frequently do so at speed, and these days few, if any, cycles are fitted with  a bell to warn people on foot that they are there.
This is bad enough if you are sighted and able-bodied.
But if you are blind or partially sighted, or less than fleet of foot, your chances of being clipped by a passing cycle – and possibly being hurt, or at least badly shocked – are considerable.
Along with a rethink of the Market Place design, there should be a sustained campaign to force cyclists to dismount when they enter areas designated for pedestrian use.
We have lost count of the number of times we have seen riders travelling at speed through Strait Bargate, and other areas where people on foot are not expecting them.
We have also lost count of the number of times our local police representatives have pledged a “crack down” on this illegal activity – but given how often we see the law being broken, we must ask why there have been no prosecutions … unless of course, the promised cracks down have been just a public relations smokescreen?
As if of all this was not bad enough, the disabled now have to contend with yet another obstacle – the al fresco continental-style dining experience ...
There is already one in the Market Place at the Seventh Heaven café - and now we hear that Nero’s in Strait Bargate is contemplating something similar.
That shop already has an ‘A’ board outside which causes problems for disabled pedestrians – and a pavement café facility could sit perilously close to the passing Into Town Buses.
Unless the Market Place and Strait Bargate areas are considered as a whole – and with due regard to the problems faced by all users – then the problems that we are witnessing, and which are now allegedly being rectified, will never be solved.

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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Boston Business “Improvement” District directors are girding their loins for the battle which they hope will see their lacklustre organisation re-elected for a second five-year term – although from what we have learned, they are more likely to end up with their trousers around their ankles than anything else.
Such a position would be a familiar one where the BID is concerned.
Its shortcomings over the past four and a bit years are well known to all our regular readers.
Its signal failure to organise a booze-up in a brewery …
Its inability to find the matched funding that was promised as part of its raison d'être
Its broken promises to keep members informed about the decisions of the board of directors …
Whilst the latter was a pledge of improved communication that has never been delivered, the board meeting of 22nd January went even further, declaring: “All the directors present agreed that any discussions that took place within a board meeting were confidential and information should not be released to the public until such time as plans had been fully formulated and the board had agreed to release the information.”
In other words, we’ll only tell the levy payers what we’re doing once it’s a fait accompli.
So, how does the BID plan to win the hearts and minds of the businesses that are forced to pay 1% of their business rates in a compulsory levy, and who are dragged to court by Boston Borough Council if they refuse?
The BID – which has never shown much in the way of imagination or breadth of ideas since it started in December 2008 – seems to think that its main strength, and therefore best chance of survival, lies with the Town Rangers.
When the BID first set up shop, the ranger service was an in-house responsibility.
But some while ago the job was passed to a local company called Taylored Security Services, whose managing director, Derek Taylor, is also a member of the board of Boston BID.
Back in the good old days when the BID was in the business of telling the people it represented what it was doing, a pie chart of its £146,000 income reported that 41% was spent on the rangers. The next largest outgoing was 23% on  “marketing/events/promotion and projects” whilst third on the list was 18% on the manager’s salary.
That’s almost £60,000, £33,500 and £26,000 respectively. After that, a further 14% - that’s £20,000 disappeared on “overheads.”
However you look at it, that’s a pretty top heavy – almost £140,000 of a budget of £146,000 for a manager, and his office to employ a handful of low-level security staff.
Now, of course, that has changed, and the manager’s salary does not cover responsibility for the rangers – who are employed by a company run by another director.
Aside from keeping the rangers, what other big ideas is the BID planning to tempt local businesses to sign up for further five years of ineptitude?
At present, premises with a rateable value of less than £5,000 have been charged a minimum levy of £50.
The BID has discovered that these businesses in this range make waves at levy collection time,  and that a large number “are anti-BID.”
So, the plan is to raise the threshold from £1,000 to £5,000, which will reduce income by £6,000 to £160,000 – but which the BID seems to think is worthwhile to ditch a load of ne’er-do-wells.
The BID also plans a personal approach to canvass businesses face to face. This is because “historically we have found that posted information, electronic information and newsletters have had limited success in raising the BID profile.”
It doesn’t appear to have crossed anyone’s mind that the last “quarterly” newsletter on the BID website was posted a year ago; that the most recent “update” was the news of the failure to obtain Portas Pilot status in July last year; the latest “what’s on” news was about the 2012 Christmas market and was posted in November that year, and the last download of board meeting minutes was on 17th January last year.
Could that perhaps account for the “limited success” in raising the BID profile?
There are also plans to  “reflect” on what has been successful and what has not worked  and possibly remove services that are “not valued or recognised.”
That could turn out to be one hell of a list!
So the bottom line seems to be to try to shed the trouble makers by marginalising them, and pay a manager to manage an organisation whose prime role is to pay another BID director to provide a private security service.
The aim is to stage the ballot in September – with an initial budget £10,000 that could rise to £15,000 if needed.
Hands up if you’re impressed!
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Monday, 18 March 2013

We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve either read or heard Boston Borough Council mouthpieces tell us their version of the good news concerning our council tax.
It was summed up on the borough website after the tax setting meeting a fortnight ago.
“No increase in council tax by Boston Borough Council in 2013/14 - that's the headline good news from the council-tax setting meeting … It is the third year running that the council has not increased its share of the council tax you pay.”
Well of course, we all know the myth attached to the so-called council tax “freeze.”
Councils agree to peg their charges for a year and the government slings them a bunch of readies to ease the pain.
Councils like it because it makes them look good – although over the years of the freeze-easy era, more and more of them have put their hands up and confessed that they aren’t quite as clever as they like to think they are.
Not so Boston.
Despite the headlines, there are some tell-tale, giveaway phrases in the announcements to tell us that all is not quite what it might appear to be.
In January, the first announcement declared:  “Residents should not have to find a penny more in council tax in 2013/14 to pay for services provided by Boston Borough Council ...
And the one we cited earlier in our story says: “It is the third year running that the council has not increased its share of the council tax you pay.
So you might be lulled into believing that you’ve been let off more council tax for a third year.
A number of readers have been in touch since their council tax demands arrived in the last few days who have clearly been lulled into a false sense of security by the council’s claims.
You may think that if you live in Boston your bill will remain the same.
But for 27,500 residents living in 13,000 dwellings in the heart of the town, that is not the case.
They live in the area served by BTAC – the Boston Town Area Committee – which the borough council treats as if it were a parish council … and as such levies a separate charge to raise its own share council tax.
This is despite the fact that the councillors who sit on the committee are Boston borough councillors, and that the services BTAC provide are delivered through Boston Borough Council.
For many years, the BTAC budget has remained virtually unchanged.
But just before the setting of the council tax charges for 2013 to 2014, “budget consultations” suggested that BTAC should adopt the whole area of the Garfits Lane playing field rather than only the playground area that it had previously funded.
Despite the fact that BTAC is controlled by the Conservative leadership, the vote to agree was a close run thing – and in the end it was the casting vote of the Conservative Chairman and cabinet member Councillor Mike Gilbert that tipped the balance in favour of the cabinet’s demands.
The effect of that decision is to increase council tax for a Band D property from £8.85 to £12.72.
The propaganda machine at Worst Street tells us that “most households will pay less than this” – which is only because most properties in Boston are in the Band A category.
And whilst it means that it is perfectly true to claim that the council has not increased its share of the council tax, by foisting a bill of almost £34,000 from the “council’s finances” to those of BTAC, the council has effected a saving on its ludicrously high “leisure” budget.
This budget stands at just under a million pounds for 2013/14 and pays for the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex, healthy walks and sports and play development.
That’s a lot of money for so little in terms of delivery, and we wonder why keeping the £34,000 in the more appropriate budget could not have been managed, rather than fobbing it off onto the townspeople – most of whom will never use the facility.
As you might expect, there is camouflage around the issue – the principal claim being that  “overall the level of tax amounts to 24p per week for the BTAC taxpayer”  … but as one councillor and BTAC member told us: “This will increase the “town” element of the council tax by 41%.
It’s not the first time that the leadership has tried to push charges on to the parishes.
Back at the end of 2011, a “briefing document” asked them either to accept responsibility for local street lighting or else pay the council £68 a light to meet the cost. This would have raised parish charges by – at the lowest 13.6% in Wyberton to 105.2% in Frampton. Fortunately, the parishes refused to play ball.
Talking of which, we’re reminded of the old street game involving a ball and three cups, which took money from people by a cleverly designed series of distractions using “plants” in the audience so that the punters wouldn’t spot what was going on.
But, as Abraham Lincoln so rightly declared: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

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Friday, 15 March 2013

We wondered what on earth one of our councillors had done to be accused so vehemently of making “dangerous” comments and “fanning the flames of tension” during a meeting involving members of the borough Task and Finish Group on the effects of immigration on Boston, the Shadow Communities Minister Chris Williamson, and Harris Beider, a “Professor in Community Cohesion.” Apparently Professor Beider took exception to reported “claims” by Fishtoft’s Independent Councillor Ossy Snell that a lot of criminal offences appeared to have been committed by foreign people. Frankly, we think that the learned Professor should wake up and smell the coffee. On this week’s Boston Standard website, eight out of ten defendants on motoring charges were clearly from Eastern Europe – and many of the offences were serious in that they were drink related. It would seem that all Councillor Snell is guilty of is of speaking as he finds  – but that is sometimes politically incorrect in itself for today’s pundits. Similarly Councillor Snell was chastised for suggesting that those migrating here should learn English. Yet when the government makes similar demands for applicants from overseas who want to work in the NHS, everyone nods sagely.
Along similar lines, after a recent report in the Daily Mirror which said that Butlins is hiring hundreds of workers in recruitment drives throughout Eastern Europe while turning away unemployed Britons, a Boston Eye reader has been in touch with our local MP Mark Simmonds. Bearing in mind that Boston was also a big recruiting ground for Butlins in Skegness, he writes: “Would it not be prudent for measures to be introduced into law to compel employers to actually advertise their job vacancies? I would further suggest that it would be prudent to curtail the on-going love affair some employers evidently have for cheap agency labour. If a firm has a job to offer, then it should actually be available to those here, it should be advertised here, and it shouldn't be permissible to fill vacancies with an endless stream of cheap agency workers purely because some employment sectors see it as a convenient means to circumvent basic employment rights. I submit that it would certainly be much more appropriate and successful than the open vilification the British unemployed are currently being subjected to by this government.  A bit of common-sense in the circles of power wouldn't go amiss.” To us this seems a reasonable suggestion – but doubtless Professor Beider would disagree. So far a reply from Mr Simmonds has proved elusive.
There’s been much talk of road safety issues during the week, and an interesting observation has come in from Boston Eye reader Alan Marshall about a missed opportunity to improve one problem street. He writes:  “Thinking of Tawney Street as perhaps the most dangerous thoroughfare in Boston, where parked cars obstruct any safe passage of ambulances, fire engines – in fact all motor vehicles, including cyclists  – I observed the decline of the old hard surface tennis courts within Central Park adjoining Tawney Street for some years. When eventually the post and wire surrounds were removed, I thought to myself ‘Thank goodness. At last someone at Boston or Lincoln has finally seen what I had thought obvious for years. This being to widen the double-gated vehicular entrance from Tawney Street into Central Park so as to separate pedestrians from vehicles, resurface the old hard courts with high quality dark green tarmac, mark out parking bays, then offer all properties which do not have off-street parking on Tawney Street one permit for £100 a year, and thus remove all on street parking on Tawney Street.  It seemed so obvious I didn’t think it needed me to suggest it. The day I drove by to see the old tarmac being removed in sections and replaced with soil, just reminded me how useless our borough and city councillors are.  Ok, they call it a community growing space, but they have turned part of Central Park into allotments. Just how crass is that?
Despite all the promises in opposition, it is starting to seem as though our Tory councillors who also sit at County Hall are having second thoughts about supporting the re-routing of the Into Town bus service away from Strait Bargate.   Last week we saw a letter from Councillor Mike Gilbert which, whilst supporting an alternative route, spent most of the time painting a picture of disadvantaged elderly and disabled people, and bus drivers starving in the dole queue as a means of pulling at our heartstrings to maintain the status quo. Now we have had a glimpse of an e-mail from another county councillor to a constituent which says: “I fully support looking for a solution that both considers the vulnerable and elderly who may use and depend on the bus service, whilst also having limited effect on other townsfolk, and I am therefore open and commend looking for a reliable and viable route.” Is it just a coincidence that “reliability” and “viability” are the two words most commonly used by bus operators Brylaine to justify the continued use of Strait Bargate as rat run when the county council renews their contract in June?
We tend to assume that our local councillors are on top of what’s going on in the town, and that they might as part of the job be expected to read our local “newspapers.” That’s why we were rather disheartened to hear the comments of one local Tory who declared that they didn't buy local newspapers because they weren't interested and they couldn’t afford them anyway. Such bllatant disinterest is a slap in the face to voters – but perhaps that was what was intended.  If as claimed, this councillor is so poverty stricken that £1.15 is too much to spend, there are alternatives. A visit to the library is one, as the papers are usually somewhere around.  We are also fairly sure that a few copies are available in the council members’ lounge – and failing that, we are certain that newspapers are an allowable expense for a councillor to charge.
We are indebted to Boston Borough Council’ website for an photo that could well form the basis for a future “spot the odd one out” competition. According to the caption accompanying the picture below: “Volunteer gardeners prepare to tackle a ten-ton pile of granite chippings.” 

That is probably true of eight of the nine people in the picture.  The ninth is Boston Borough Council's portfolio holder for leisure services, parks, open spaces and cemeteries, Councillor Yvonne Gunter.  It’s a tough question – but can you guess which one she is?
The news this week that a £50m project to roll out superfast broadband to at least 88% of houses and businesses in Lincolnshire is set to begin seems likely to have little, if any, impact here in Boston. A  County Hall spokesman says: “Companies need it to expand and if we want companies to relocate here we need to have this 21st Century technology in place.” But the Luddite stance adopted by our local council leadership – and Boston’s MP – seems to prefer only the packing and caulie cutting industries … so why would they want  high tech businesses to come here? It’s also less than encouraging to hear that BT is working with new technologies to extend coverage in Lincolnshire even further by rolling out superfast broadband to include its exchanges in Grantham, Spalding, Gainsborough and Bourne. It’s not the first time that Boston has missed the list, and also not for the first time that Bourne has overtaken Boston in the town improvement stakes – whilst our leaders appear to stand by and watch.
The next promised date for the re-opening of Boston’s Assembly Rooms draws ever nearer without any sign of any activity. This has prompted a reader to ask:  “Does anyone have any idea when work is likely to commence? The May ‘opening date’ grows ever closer.  I am sure Boston Borough Council are maintaining a keen eye on proceedings in the light of the terms of the ‘Agreement of Sale'. It might become very embarrassing for them if they are not ... especially for the party loyal who are looking toward being re-elected on 2nd May at county level."
A former member of the Boston Bypass Pressure Group has offered a further comment on buses using Strait Bargate as a rat run.  Michael Borrill e-mailed to say: “The question of the buses through the Market Place has reminded me of the "Tribal" (a firm of “consultants”) report of 2007. This report, at great expense, provided the council with a Boston Town Centre Study which was apart from the Transport Study. Over the years some of the details have been cast aside – e.g. the West Street development – but many of the recommendations still apply. One of these was "more pedestrianisation" and less pedestrian/vehicle conflict. "The pedestrian experience in the Market Place can be viewed as inadequate due to the presence of manoeuvring vehicles, through traffic (there were no buses when this report was compiled) and the poor delineation of the pedestrian route across the Market Place. These issues lead to pedestrian/vehicle conflict and severance." This was before buses and the revamp of the Market Place! The report recommended : "Reduce pedestrian/vehicular conflict. Pedestrian priority should be a key part in any redesign of the Market Place. This does not necessarily mean excluding vehicles, but means that they should feel ‘guests’ in a space that is ‘owned’  by the pedestrian." I suggest all councillors read this report.”
The whooping by Boston Borough Council’s leadership regarding the plans for a £3 million marina by the River Witham off Fenside Road is all but drowning out the fears of local residents, who are concerned that it may cause structural problems to their houses, as well as devaluing them and increasing insurance charges. All of this is being brushed aside by plaudits for the scheme – which will see 161 berths for boats and a restaurant as well. We have our doubts about such a project. It may well bring in a few more visitors, but the bottom line is that it will more likely see Boston used as a staging post along the Fens Waterways Link.  But the best line we heard was the idea apparently endorsed among our so-called “leaders” – that the development might see a near doubling of house prices in the area overnight. Now we know that some of our councillors do not inhabit the real world!

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