Quite often, when Boston Borough Council does something, it runs counter to what other local authorities are doing – which appears to be the case with council tax in Lincolnshire. Boston has again frozen the charge, and South Holland actually reduced theirs by 0.3%. But the remaining five local authorities in the county increased their charges. All the bragging about freezing the tax makes councils look very good, of course, but the truth is that across the country, 59% of them have accepted a government “bribe” in the form of a grant in exchange for pegging the charge. But many councils are now saying that it is impossible to keep cutting spending in the face of diminishing grants from the government, and that they have to raise more than the government’s offer – hence the increases. Boston has been cutting until the pips squeak – although the Tory leadership fortunately set enough aside to raise allowances for councillors with special responsibilities this year – and must meet savings targets between 2014/15 and 2017/18 by £1,168,000. Let’s hope the cash is there – because if not, we’ll probably hear some plausible excuse to bump up the council tax this time again next year.Most of us regard snowdrops and daffodils as a sign that spring has sprung. But in Boston the season’s arrival is marked by the more prosaic call to Bostonians to name a “grot spot” in the town that would benefit from an assault by volunteers from this year’s Big Boston Clean-up. Part of us says that this is a good idea because it galvanises the community into action – since 2008 six tons of rubbish has been collected by 3,300 volunteers. But nagging away in the background is the idea that clearing up after the less socially minded among us does nothing to discourage them from simply dropping litter and dumping rubbish where they please – safe in the knowledge that someone else will tidy up after them. Then again, quite a few of these “volunteers” – such as schoolchildren and North Sea Camp inmates – are pressganged into duty. Over the years, we have noted that one area in particular – Daisy Dale in Boston – has “benefitted” from clean-ups galore, going back before the days when the BCU was a boy, and it would be interesting to know whether the area is still top of the list for dumping. How about if – when grot spots are cleaned up this year, a little notice was put up somewhere in each area telling people what’s been done, and asking them to be more considerate in the year ahead? And whatever happened to the relaunched name and shame “initiative” by Boston Borough Council and the Boston Standard? After the usual phoney publicity campaign, nothing more was heard or seen.
Monday’s blog in which a reader criticised members of Boston Borough Council for “cowering” in the Municipal Buildings generated e-mails from two local councillors. One of them merely asked how well the meeting arranged in Stickford by East Lindsey District Councillor Victoria Ayling to discuss the EU had been publicised. The answer to that was easy: it appeared prominently both in the Boston Standard newspaper and on its website. The other letter – from Independent Councillor Carol Taylor – leapt to the defence of councillors. “I have checked through my borough e-mails and can't see anything regarding the meeting” she wrote. “It was, as you say, on the night of the Eastleigh by-election and on this night it was the Corporate and Community Committee meeting of which Paul Kenny is chairman and could not have attended anyway. Councillor Kenny, Councillor Gilbert and their Task and Finish group have worked hard and continue to do so to engage with both the public and the government with regard to immigration issues … but for Boston Borough Council to be accused of 'cowering in the municipal buildings' is unwarranted. Councillor Ayling is to be congratulated on her arrangement of a meeting and the comment that she has had lots of emails and concerns from the public about EU issues, especially immigration. It is also sad that all those people didn't turn up. Where for example, were all the councillors from East Lindsey Council? Why aren't they being accused of cowering somewhere? Immigration affects us all in Lincolnshire … I have a suggestion for Councillor Ayling that she contact Councillor Paul Kenny, or one from her own political party, Mike Gilbert. I know she would be most welcome to join them for a more in-depth conversation regarding immigration and perhaps join in the continuing debate. The issue of coming out of the EU can be a volatile subject, but if the public are passionate about something they will attend. My final comment on this is that to hold the meeting in a pub – which I am assuming is not very large – suggests that she may not have been expecting a large representation of the public to turn up despite being ' ‘bombarded ' with concerns.”
Councillor Taylor also raised issue of the availability of councillors. “A further comment from your reader 'the idea of being able to converse with one of our representatives was just too novel to pass up' was perhaps for me the saddest comment of all in their remonstrance. Several Boston borough councillors hold regular surgeries, and all councillors are available at any time to discuss issues with our electorate, and if anyone wants to meet us to talk further, they are most welcome. Details including phone numbers and emails are available on both ELDC and Boston Borough Council sites.
There are two sides to this argument. Firstly, we would hope that councillors do not rely too much on “borough e-mails” to inform them about what’s going on in the real world. Yes, some councillors do hold surgeries – but they are in the minority – and they make themselves available to deal with specific ward issues. The latest Boston Borough Council bulletin lists four councillors who do this, whilst reminding us that Labour councillors are “happy to visit.” Labour used to hold “roving surgeries” around the town, but these have not taken place for a long time. What all this boils down to is that 27 of the present complement of 31 councillors don’t bother, and presumably expect an elector with a problem to get in touch with them. The aim of the Stickford meeting was to provide a forum for what was thought to be an issue on which many people had a view - and we can recall nothing similar being staged by a Boston councillor. Councillor Taylor is one of the few members who regularly takes up issues for the people – as in the case of campaigning for traffic bollards for Wormgate, and gathering signatures on a petition to try to speed up the provision of residents’ parking permits in the face of heel-dragging by the council. In our book, this makes her one of the “good guys” and we find it ironic that she should be defending those who are not working as well as they might.
Scarcely a week has passed since we mentioned the “hit and run” which damaged one of the public seats in Boston’s Market Place. That incident happened overnight – but now there is news of a heavy cast iron litter bin being knocked over – in the middle of the afternoon. As is usual in these days of absentee “real” police, PCSOs and now traffic wardens, it is down to CCTV to try to trace the culprit. The message is now clear – if it wasn’t before – Boston Market Place is an accident waiting to happen. Sooner of later, people will be killed or injured rather than rather mere objects damaged, and the indifference of those who refuse properly to manage the traffic and pedestrian flow in the area will have no defence, and the have been warned repeatedly of the potential dangers. Lincolnshire County Council is planning some improvements – more on that next week – but given the cock-up they made of the job the first time around, there’s no reason to assume that they are likely to improve matters at a second attempt.
The Boston Standard’s desperate attempt to win more readers with its new design does not appear to be impressing readers. Figures released this week show that in the second half of 2012 the Standard’s circulation fell by 12.4% to 7,684 – whilst the Boston Target lost 8.1% to stand at 14,121. Just three years ago the respective figures were 9,412 and 22,213. It really comes as no surprise as both papers are showing a serious decline in content – and some weeks publish so much unaltered material from Boston Borough Council that we begin to wonder whether their presses are located in the Worst Street basement.
Whilst it’s too early for flowers and sumptuous vegetables to flourish in the garden, something – onions perhaps – appear to be blooming in Boston’s Central Park’s community growing space.
It seems that someone in Worst Street was listening after our comment last week about the abrupt and insensitive removal of the photo of the late Councillor Paul Mould from the borough council’s website gallery of councillors.
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Here’s a request that we are happy to comply with. It comes from a gentleman named Billy Thorn, who for more than two years has been delighting visitors to his blog with stories and photographs of Boston in days gone by. He tells us: “The sole purpose is to try to get people interested in our beautiful town’s history. Much has been written about the Pilgrims, Herbert Ingram, etc. so I try to concentrate on the unknown, common person and the buildings of the town. I provide bite size pieces and hope people will follow up on what interests them. I am writing to ask if you would mention it on Boston Eye, which I know lots of people read and enjoy. The site can be found at www.bostonpast.blogspot.com I hope you will take a look and like what you see.” We have been fans of Billy’s “Old Boston” site for a long time and visit it regularly, and would urge you to do the same.
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