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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