Friday, 28 February 2014

Dear Prudence
Boston Borough Council’s presentations to the taxpayer increasingly portray the borough as Lincolnshire’s equivalent of the Big Rock Candy Mountain (although some feel that Cloud Cuckoo Land is nearer the mark) ­– which is why we were not surprised at the recent announcement concerning council tax 
It involved all the usual proclamations … No increase in the level of council tax charged by Boston Borough Council (an improvement on the mathematically impossible “zero per-cent increase” of previous years, at least) … and the casting of Lincolnshire County Council and Lincolnshire Police as the bad guys who get “the lion’s share” of the tax collected – even though the Lincolnshire Police slice is about the same as Boston Borough council’s … but it’s nice to have two fall guys rather than one, isn’t it?
Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire, portfolio holder of the borough’s handbag, said that all this was thanks to “the hard work of  this administration and prudent housekeeping.” Chalk one up for the Tories, then, it seems – oh, with a bit of help from the staff, who, incidentally, have been told to accept new terms and conditions or else risk the sack.
As in previous years, all this good news fails to mention that keeping the council tax unchanged is considerably easier because Boston is one of 161 local authorities receiving a share of a £550 million pot for doing so.
As ever, there was a queue of cabinet members falling over themselves for a name check, including Councillor Derek “Knocker” Richmond praising help from council staff and Councillor Stephen Woodliffe  (who he?) declaring that it was “remarkable” that council tax had been kept down considering the economic climate
With no sense of irony, the council leader, Pete Bedford, said that the budget was “unchallenged and safe.”  In fact, there has not been much by way of disagreement because the cabinet cooks up the budget, and the sheeplike Tory backbenchers join them to steamroller it through.  All that “unchallenged” means is that when non-Tory councillors try to raise a point they are either fobbed off or ignored completely.
A rise by any other name would smell as much …
This “prudence” comes after two years of pay rises for councillors totalling 20% which was largely approved by the Conservative majority back in 2012 ..
Twenty per-cent seems to be a popular figure, as Lincolnshire county councillors have just awarded themselves a rise of something similar. Elected members can now opt to receive £10,100 a year in basic pay, instead of  £8,184. And whilst the authority's Conservative leader, Martin Hill, said he would not be taking the money (he is a farmer in South Kesteven,) his pay nonetheless rises by 56%, from £20,448 to £32,000.  It would not be overly-stretching the imagination to assume that in the  implausible event of the Tories clinging on to Boston in 14 months’ time, they would regard another bumper pay rise as a fitting reward for their “achievements.” 
Crime does pay
It’s a downlifting experience to go from reading about crime to becoming a victim – which is why we were less than gruntled by the recent pronouncement from our MP Mark Simmonds headlined: "Drop in local crime means people in Lincolnshire can feel safer.” He told us: “Hardworking local police officers … can be rightly proud of their success in cutting crime. People want to know they are safe on their streets and in their homes, and our plan to make sure they can is working.” Quite what Lincolnshire Police is doing, is anyone’s guess. After an unpleasant attack on an outbuilding used for storage in which nothing of great value was taken but much more by way of damage was done – together with unquantifiable harm to our sense of safety and security – we received a fleeting visit from the police, who immediately declared it not worth any investigative resources. Apparently unless blood is left at a crime scene, forensic work is not deemed worthwhile.  This visit came after an eleven minute wait on the 101 non-emergency number due to the busy-ness of the lines (at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon!) A few days later, a crime number was allocated with the pledge that Lincolnshire Police was “committed” to providing a high quality service “throughout our investigation of your crime. The following Sunday afternoon a leaflet was stuffed through the letterbox (no knock!!)  telling us to do all the things that we had already done to prevent such an invasion.
This was followed by a ‘phone call to say that the break-in had been classified as undetected and would remain so unless someone put their hands up to it. Apparently our break-in was one of several in the area.
By a remarkable happenstance, 35 years ago, this writer was the Public Relations Officer for Lincolnshire Police and the current Police and Crime Commissioner was a reporter for Yorkshire Television news. Every so often I would come up with a story about how marvellous Lincolnshire Police was that would look good on TV – and the now-PCC would come along and film it. I got some brownie points for getting the force on the box, and the PCC got an easy knock-off.  We both knew it was bullshit – but that didn’t matter at all. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Go away and don’t bother us …
Still with matters policing, a reader has written to say: “Five weeks ago I first complained to Boston police, my local councillor, and traffic wardens about a van that parks where it shouldn’t  in Thorold Street or Red Lion Street, all day every day, every week. I have seen the wardens walk past without even writing down the registration number.”  Our reader, who believes that the van belongs to the owner of a local shop, continues: “I have spoken to all the above on this matter and they all dismiss responsibility to do anything about this blatant disrespect for the law.”
Charity – pah! Humbug
It might be charitable to believe that the powers-that-be are turning a blind eye to a local resident’s transgressions, were it not for the fact that householders in other nearby streets have been ticketed for parking too long in the bays outside their homes, and thus forced to move their cars every couple of hours to avoid paying a fortune in fines.
For one councillor it all begins at home …
But all thoughts of charity fell by the wayside in the wake of a report that reached us concerning theTale  Of  The Important Councillor’s Car Which Was Parked Against  the Rules.
It seems that not only was the car parked within feet of a sign which clearly warned  “Restricted Zone,  no parking at any time,” but  it also backed up this instruction with another – “parking in marked bays only.”
We are told that the car, which is owned by a senior member of Boston Borough Council, was  not only parked against the rules, but a permit issued to councillors which allows an exception if they are on council business – but only if the councillor concerned is the one who parks the vehicle   was on display.
Neither was the case in this event. Our photographer told us: “I saw a woman in the car on a mobile leave  the car to walk into town. I pointed out this abuse of a councillor’s parking permit … This behaviour is totally unacceptable and an abuse of position and very much of the ‘do as we say not as we do scenario’ …”
If this were anywhere else, one might imagine the story to end here.
But this is Boston, where nothing is straightforward – especially if our “esteemed” councillors are involved.
The parking episode was witnessed on a Friday, and two nights later – at 8-30 in the evening, to be precise – the complainant received a knock on the door from two Lincolnshire Police officers.
It seems that instead of being grateful for being spared the potential risk of a parking ticket the councillor concerned had complained that an “ex Tory” was now picking on them! 
Apparently, the police had viewed the CCTV footage without finding that any offence had been committed by our complainant but wanted to hear his side of things as they as the are obliged to do  when something is reported.
Isn’t it interesting?
Joe Public reports persistent abuse of parking regulations – and nothing is done.
Joe Public reports a bad break-in, which is written off within days without any effort to find the culprits – and nothing is done.
Joe Public tells a servant working for a senior Boston Borough Councillor about flouting parking regulations – and the full might of the law descends on him unannounced within 48 hours
Colour blind …?
Boston’s effortlessly amusing Daily Bulletin never fails to keep us entertained – but at the same time, occasionally leaves us mystified. Having told us that “purple power rules” it goes on to say that the Rotary Club of Boston St Botolph has sponsored a town centre planter for this year’s Boston in Bloom campaign “and it has been filled with purple crocuses.”
contradictorily the flowers in question would seem to us to be miniature daffs – unless we are colour blind, of course. Interestingly, judging is usually around July, which is a funny time of year to expect to find crocuses in flower – or daffodils for that matter. And although the purple crocus is the symbol for the Rotary End Polio Now Campaign, the colour theme for this year’s Britain in Bloom – of which our efforts form part – is Gold … an entirely appropriate colour to celebrate the event’s 50th anniversary. We hope that the Britain in Bloom judges will remain clear-headed amidst all this colourful chaos. As an aside, we wonder whether our leadership’s economies have included a downsizing of the Boston’s parks. Otherwise why would Councillor Yvonne Gunter, the council’s portfolio holder for parks and open spaces –pictured in the bulletin last week holding one end of a flag for no apparent reason – be in the photograph? Oh. Silly question.
Peter pays Paul …
Last week we mentioned the borough council appeal to raise an unspecified amount to buy for a pair of metal benches to mark the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. Since then, the borough has trumpeted the donation of £100 from The Placecheck group for Main Ridge East. Unless we’ve missed something here, this seems to be a relatively pointless exercise financially.  If memory serves, after an initial grant Placecheck funding comes from Boston Borough Council. So, the council gives a Placecheck group money to improve specific local communities, and the group then hands some of   it back over for the borough’s bottomless memorial bench fund. Does that make any sense to you?
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Friday, 21 February 2014


The old saying that money is the root of all evil may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s true to say that money – or the lack of it – often causes more trouble than it’s worth.
Two examples at opposite ends of the spectrum are currently doing the rounds.
The first is the Boston Community Showcase, which began in 2005, and drew ever-growing crowds to Central Park year after year.
Sadly, the organisers have taken what they call the “unusual” decision to “suspend” the event this year because the £9,000funding needed has not been found.
Sadder still, we think it’s quite likely that once suspended, the impetus and the goodwill will be lost and the event will never be staged again.
Until last year, when funding came from the Medlock Trust and the Lottery Fund, Boston Borough Council met the bill through a  “Community Cohesion Delivery Group” from a government grant which ran out after 2010/11.
Basically, the borough handed over the money to an outside “partnership” which then organised the event – in just the same way that they palm off so many other tasks these days.
But whilst the borough will no longer support the Showcase, the fact is that it could probably have helped had it wished to, as – despite its ceaseless playing of the poverty card – there is more than enough money washing around to raise the relatively small sum of £9,000.
It is also interesting to note that one of the key players in the Showcase was Labour Councillor Paul Kenny, and the absence of a funding offer for this year coincides with his term as Mayor of Boston – which means that his hands were tied politically.
What a fortunate co-incidence, some might say.
At the other end of the scale is Boston’s £1 million windfall from the Big Lottery Fund.
As if by magic a group “tasked” with spending it has materialised, as did a paid “facilitator” with council connections and political ambitions.
As with the late, unlamented Boston BID, the group is not allowed to use the money on services provided by statutory bodies – but the borough never worried about that in the past, and doubtless will not do so again this time around if a chance can be found.
As is so often the case when a huge sum of money is involved, the Vivian Nicholson “spend, spend, spend” syndrome takes effect.
Chillingly, this includes mention of blowing £200,000 a year on a “Party in the Park” – which would skint the fund in five years, with absolutely nothing to show for it.
Instead of benefitting Boston – which is the aim of the gift – it would make the town a magnet for partygoers across the East Midlands, with all that this implies.
Other ideas include improving the town’s economy to lure in outlets such as Toys R Us, Burger King and Primark.
Aside from this distinctly unambitious list, the job of improving Boston’s economy is theoretically the job of Boston Borough Council – although we are stumped when it comes to recalling examples.
Sadly we suspect that when all is said and done, the money will have blown away like early morning mist and the town will look and be no better for it – remember the multi-million pound Market Place “improvements,”  and the empty shop improvement grants.

Still talking money …

We see that the council has taken it upon itself to promote an appeal – and a couple of its councillors along the way – to fund, by public subscription, a pair of individually-designed ornate benches, forged in  metal and decorated with poppy motifs and words of dedication to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War..
The list of target groups sought to support the appeal is exhaustive – covering as it does businesses, organisations and groups and schools as well as individuals.
When appeals like this are launched, it is usual for a target figure to be announced as well.
After all, there is so much detail about these benches that a specific manufacturer must be in mind – which means that a price must therefore be known as well.
If one is, then we have not been told – which begs the question of what happens to surplus monies donated to this worthy cause, and also why such an otherwise apparently hard-pressed council can spare the time to administer the campaign.

Down memory lane …
Those of you with long political memories will of course remember Mark James, Boston’s Chief Executive between 1995 and 2002, when he moved to the same post with Carmarthenshire County Council. Mr James is best remembered for his enthusiastic promotion of the Princess Royal Sports Arena, and was famously quoted as saying that it would not cost the ratepayer a penny – an estimate that was adrift by around £8 million.
He so liked the idea that he took it with him to Wales, where it repeated the “success” of Boston, and a rugby stadium costing £25 million to build saw £18 million provided in differing forms by Carmarthenshire Council.  Amidst all of this, Mr James ran foul of a local blogger – to such a degree that a libel action ensued. Unfortunately, the county council indemnified Mr James in a counter-claim. The council also enabled Mr James to avoid tax he would have been due to pay after a change in the law relating to pension contributions for high earners by awarding “pay supplements” which were credited directly to Mr James on top of his salary.
The Assistant Auditor General for Wales has ruled that the council acted unlawfully by authorising tax avoidance schemes and by indemnifying the libel counter-claim.
Mr James has now stepped down temporarily while police carry out an investigation which he hopes can be conducted “as quickly as possible as this was in everyone’s best interest.”

And finally …
A visit to the newly sited Post Office yesterday confirmed our worst fears. A queue gradually built up whilst no fewer than six staff lurked behind the counter. If that seems a little odd, the simple explanation was that only two of them were serving customers. One, an overweight man in a baggy suit in which he kept his hands firmly planted in his pockets, stood around staring as the workers toiled on. He may have had some sort of supervisory role, but as his name tag was turned away, who could tell? Across the road at the old Post Office building, a notice had the impertinence to tell us about the extensive consultations that ended in this farcical move. Not for the first time, we saw a small crowd gathered at the entrance trying to make sense of one of the most unhelpful maps we have ever seen, and helped them out by pointing to their destination. We suspect that like us, many customers will now use another post office rather than this pathetic replacement for the real thing.

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Friday, 14 February 2014


The events of last week, which brought us out of hibernation, were not the first by any means. Admittedly, it took a particularly puerile rant by a councillor with the savoir-faire of a hermit crab to light our blue touch paper, but the kindling has been there since the day we stopped blogging.
The leadership of Boston Borough Council is an Aunt Sally because of its spectacular incompetence, not because of the bias of commentators or any form of political agenda.
In almost every respect, it resembles a clapped out platoon – Dad’s Army without the laughs – which is epitomised by its bunker mentality in the ever-decreasing time it has to make amends between now and next May’s elections.
All the bluster of the borough’s Captain Mainwaring, and cabinet colleagues such as his Captain Mannerless, has done nothing to disguise the fact that the Conservatives took  control of Boston as much to their own amazement as that of the electorate.
They were elected with no policies and have clung to that ideology ever since.
Now, as the sands trickle inexorably through the hourglass, they seem to be getting increasingly embattled.
Letters to editors, self-congratulatory “comment” columns in local papers, and now a daily council bulletin – think Pravda  meets the Pyongyang Times – are all feeble efforts to paper over the cracks.
We’ve exchanged one crumbling monument in the form of the Assembly Rooms for another – a leadership without solid foundations that cannot seem to recognise its own structural shortcomings .
The Assemby Rooms fiasco is a classic example of the leadership’s inability to get things right.
Having neglected it to the point where it was a blight, not an asset to the town,  the leader – without any sense of irony – launched an attack on the Post Office,  reminding it of the “a mandatory government instruction that public bodies owning heritage assets should not leave them empty and that options for re-use should be considered before deciding to sell.”
Forgive us if we emit a hollow laugh.
It’s one of the clearest signs – if signs were needed – of the remoteness and arrogance of a leadership that clearly regards the people who gifted it their trust as idiots who are beneath contempt.
We thank the people who welcomed us back last week, and for as long as we are able, we will continue to blog – weekly on a Friday for the time being.
Don’t forget – Every Friday, it’s Boston Eye day!
Watch this space, as they say.

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Our former blog is archived at:


Thursday, 6 February 2014

The charmless Boston Borough Councillor Derek Richmond is never slow to speak his tiny mind.
Councillor Richmond is already the stuff of democratic legend for his feeble argument that charging Blue Badge holders to park would end disability discrimination by giving them equality with everyone else that is forced to pay.
More recently, he tried to blame the disabled for a fall in car parking revenue – one of the few “genuine” sources of income for the council – because their protests delayed the implementation of the new fees.
As the portfolio holder for the town centre, he has sat by while the Market Place “improvements” have turned the place into a chaotic wilderness where drivers park willy-nilly and where nothing of interest ever happens.
Until recently, his portfolio also included Boston BID, which made such an impact that local businesses voted it out of existence.
And neither has his custodianship of the town’s toilets been flushed with success.
Now, is seems that assaulting the freedom of the disabled and local traders simply hasn’t been enough.
The Boston Standard tells us that Councillor Richmond told one of its reporters that he had taken an exception to the comments by its Observer columnist.
“You want to sort your Observer column out,” he is reported as saying.
“We know who he is, he’ll get a knock on his door one day.
 “When has he supported us? He never supports anything we do.
“He’s going to get a knock one day.”
Questioned further for his views Councillor Richmond told the Standard: “I don’t think it’s a balanced opinion. Justified criticism I’ve got no problem with, but it is not that.”
He wrongly accused Observer of being a “paid up member of the Labour party” and said his columns were “ill informed” and often incorrect, but did not to offer examples.
History is littered with intrusions by political  regimes which disliked the coverage they received from the press – and the “knock on the door” often ended in terrifying consequences.
Perhaps mindful of how reckless and menacing his stupid comments sounded, Councillor Richmond “clarified” his remarks a few hours later.
“By a ‘knock on the door’ I meant that even though Observer hides behind a pseudonym I know who he is, and may knock on his door so that he can have an adult face-to-face conversation with me in order that we can sensibly discuss some of the issues which concern him, I would welcome a meeting with Observer at any time as I do with any other member of the public.”
The day that Councillor Richmond has an adult conversation with anyone will be cause for celebration, as in the past, his rapport with the public that elected him has been less than satisfactory.
Boston Eye was once on the receiving end of similar sentiments from a senior councillor  to those received by the Standard’s columnist, which included the phrase “Be careful what you write…”
We are sure that no-one will swallow Councillor Richmond’s blustering attempt to backtrack.
Not for the first time, he has shot from the lip and had cause to regret is. What we regret is that such people are in positions of so-called authority and feel confident enough to behave in such a churlish manner.
Boston Borough Council’s leaders are by and large deservedly criticised, and simply because they now issue a daily hymn sheet singing their praises does nothing to change that.
The problem is a leadership that will not listen to criticism.
Perhaps if  he wishes to change public perceptions, Councillor Richmond could branch out into social networking.
Come to think of it, he could be the “Twit” in Twitter.
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