Thursday, 7 March 2013

 Like the first leaf of autumn, a colourful piece of A5 paper fluttered through our letterbox this week. And like the first leaf of autumn, it will doubtless be followed my many more between now and the Lincolnshire County Council elections on Thursday 2nd May.
The leaflet was sent on behalf of the 62 Conservative members – who totally swamp the authority in terms of numbers and therefore power. There are just five Labour, four Lib Dems and six Independents, who contrary to definition, work collectively as a group and who have a leader.
This means that what the Tories want, the Tories get, and as is so often said, the boys and girls in blue at County Hall mostly want things that are of little relevance or use to Boston but very good for Lincoln.
The leaflet trumpets four “successful” years, and the honouring of the election promises made in 2009.
The first of these was to keep the council tax as low as possible. As with many other local authorities, this means making no increase – which is helped in these times of low inflation because costs of all kinds remain lower than they might be. Councils are also helped by the fact that the government hands them a chunk of cash if they freeze the council tax – so between these two factors, a low tax rate is almost automatic rather than a promise that requires much effort to deliver.
“Maintaining important frontline services” comes next.
The truth is that the “front line” – the council’s spelling is that of a flea and tick eradication treatment for cats and dogs – is being moved all the time.
Many would argue the council’s recent decision to raise the threshold at which elderly and disabled people qualify for services such as home help and access to day centres was tinkering with a front line service … but the council would obviously disagree, because it suits them to do so.
Promise number three was to “enhance economic and cultural opportunities,” followed by a pledge to “protect and champion the county and its people.”
Both are ringing but meaningless phrases but perhaps the campaign to protect the status and identity of the Lincolnshire sausage features in there somewhere.
Under the heading “standing up for the county’s way of life” the leaflet specifies certain areas on which a re-elected Tory leadership would focus.
So what’s in them for Boston, we hear you cry?
First on the list is a £10 million investment in broadband, support for small businesses and “tourism support with a major upgrade to Lincoln Castle” at a cost of £19 million, no less.
We recently examined the situation in Boston regarding employment opportunities, given the determination of our local leadership to preserve Bostonians in the aspic of pre-industrial revolution times by limiting their horizons after school to the packhouse and the caulie cutting pastures – so we doubt that broadband will offer much of a lifeline.
Next comes £1.5 million for Police Community Support Officers, who are seldom – if ever – seen on the streets. But the Tories always consider law and order pledges a vote winner, whether they achieve anything or not.
Pledge number three is to stand up for roads and transport. Far and away the lion’s share of this spending has benefited Lincoln – with the latest being a  £22 million project to dual the A46 from Doddington Road roundabout to the Whisby Road junction, which will help create 4,000 jobs – for Lincoln. Resources allocated to repair potholes also get a mention – but the funding for this is through a £6.5 million Department of Transport grant, and we have yet to see much evidence of money being spent in Boston.
The only time the town gets a specific mention in the campaign leaflet, is in connection with the Boston Barrage.
But again, if memory serves, the county’s only interest and investment did not concern flood prevention, but was a contribution of £11 million to support the tourism initiative known as the Fens Waterway Link – which will see Boston as a staging post for the boating fraternity as they sail between the cathedral cities of Lincoln, Peterborough and Ely.
And they delayed approval of that support for a month in order to have second thoughts about it.
All told then, the past four years have produced little for Boston – and let us do our best to forget the County Hall contribution to the Boston Market Place debacle.
By and large, the County Council works for the benefit of Lincoln – whatever denials to the contrary might be made
And our own local Conservative representatives at County Hall have remained largely silent during these past four years – instead of fighting Boston’s corner as they should be doing.

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