Wednesday, 3 April 2013

There’s been some argy-bargy in the local “newspapers” in recent weeks between the former Boston Bypass Independents and the current ruling Conservatives on Boston Borough Council.
In a nutshell, they’ve been playing the blame game – each accusing the other of responsibility for the mess that Boston was – and to a large degree – is still in.
The big problem with debates like this is that they are predictable – which is why it was very refreshing to receive an e-mail from a former BBI cabinet member and portfolio holder Jim Blaylock who – this far removed from events of the day –  offers some extremely interesting insights into events.
He writes: “I’m really pleased that the Conservative-led council is not afraid of difficult decisions (read their letter here) because there are a lot to be made if this town is to move forward.
“It’s a shame, however, that they have been economic with the truth in their letter ...
“I was part of the previous administration and can perhaps shed some light on what actually happened.
“Firstly, and perhaps most importantly – The Bypass.
“Boston people made it very clear that this was a major issue for the town. Buoyed up with enthusiasm, the leader, Richard Austin and his deputy Peter Jordan, met up with the leader of Lincolnshire County Council Martin Hill, determined to drive the project through.
“Unfortunately for them, Martin Hill was much too clever. He wanted to ensure that Boston Borough Council was run by Conservatives, and therefore the idea of a bunch of independents telling him what to do did not sit well with him.
“Richard Austin and Peter Jordan were told that Lincolnshire County Council were responsible for the roads and that it would be delivering the transport plan that was in place. They (the BBI) could make minor alterations and indeed contribute £1million of Boston money to the project.
“Effectively the Bypass was dead in the water for the period of the BBI council.
“Indeed this action subsequently ensured the defeat of the BBI and led to the current Conservative led council.
“Not a good start.
“At the time BBI won the election the council was spending more than it received. Staff costs were in excess of income and it had spent considerable quantities of money on projects such as the PRSA and the Haven gallery. The incumbent Chief Executive favoured these sorts of things – and therefore, like many other councils in the UK, the members were convinced by the officers that such things would benefit the town.
“The tail was wagging the dog.
“Previous to the BBI administration, the Boston Area Regeneration Company had been set up by the Chief Executive. Hailed as a new way forward in partnership working, the company was designed to deliver regeneration projects to the town, spending council tax money without the complexity of involving many of the councillors.
“It effectively short cut the democratic process.
“An investigation into BARC led to the Chief Executive leaving with a handsome (I can’t for legal reasons tell you how much) payoff.
“Richard Austin agreed to set up an Improvement Board, a group of established councillors and officials from the audit office to supervise the improvement programme. There were to be three elected members on the board – the leader, Richard Austin, deputy leader, Brenda Owen, and the leader of the majority opposition party (Conservatives) Peter Bedford.
“Peter Bedford refused to take part.
“Strange that the Conservatives now claim the success when the board finished only seven days after they took control!
“The Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre was costing vast sums of money and a number of ways were looked at to contain the costs.
As a town Boston had three pools – two at the Geoff Moulder centre and one at the PRSA.
“The plan was to refurbish the Geoff Moulder centre and operate one pool there – removing the second pool.
“Peter Bedford presented a petition to council instigated by the swimming club to save the training pool from closure.
“The Conservatives, when they got control, therefore had no choice but to maintain all three pools in the town.
“The plans for the college to take over the running of the Peter Payne centre, which was completely run down, were being discussed well before the election.
“Many people, myself included, felt that the college should use the state of art PRSA, which is poorly attended and that the Peter Payne Centre should close.
“Strange that the Conservatives claim responsibility.
“The same can be said about the replacement of the dust cart fleet – it was part of the plans before the election.
“The sale of the Assembly Rooms was discussed well before the election and the £1 million pound price tag was never mentioned. Many felt that the Assembly Rooms were a valuable asset to the town and should be developed as such.
Selling off capital assets to use as everyday income is not in the long-term interest of the town.
“Ask yourself: How could the building lose half its value in such a short period of time?
Forced sellers never get the best price for anything.
“Car parking makes me smile; the Conservatives immediately increased it, paying no heed to the difficulties of many local businesses.
“Finally the garden waste collection.
“Plans were in place for this, and a pilot project took place. Lincolnshire County Council were asked to help with the capital required for the new bins, but would not help. You now have to pay for them if you want one!
“The savings in landfill tax go directly to the disposal agency – and as the County Council are responsible for the disposal of the waste they receive the savings; the borough collects it, but will not benefit from the reduction in landfill tax.
“This partnership working seems a little one sided to me.
“The Conservative group running the council are at direct odds with their own party – never mind being out of touch with the people of Boston.
“On two occasions Peter Bedford stood up and said that we should increase council tax to ensure that the council could deliver services.
“The mainstay of Conservative policy is to reduce not increase public spending.
It’s time for politicians on all sides to clean up their act and treat the public with respect and honesty they deserve.
Until they do we will not progress from the mire we are in.”

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