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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