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Last week we continued our coverage of the saga in which a vehicle owned by a Really Senior Member of Boston Borough Council was parked in the Market Place by an employee – not only in contravention of a clear ban on parking … but displaying a council permit which allows free parking only if the occupant is a councillor on council business, which was not the case.
The action was challenged by a member of the public, who was reported to the police for his pains, and who subsequently protested in very strong terms to the powers that b’ain’t in Worst Street.
As we said, a complaint form was completed and returned – but given the reluctance of anyone dealing with the matter up to that point, we did not suggest anticipating a result too soon.
However, we bargained without the speed with which the council can muster when its interests are served by a rapid reaction – and especially when an obvious opportunity to pass the buck presents itself.
Within days of the complaint a reply came back from the Chief Executive, Richard Harbord.
And guess what – the bottom line of the response was the convenient “nothin’ to do with us, guv.”
And why was that, we hear you cry?
“As it happens the vehicle was in an area which is subject to County Council rather than Borough enforcement.”
This response was like a red rag to a bull, and prompted the reply: “Can I presume you will be passing this atrocious misuse on to the County then, to see that this is tackled – as the borough seems to treat this as something no one wants to tackle in Boston. Do you think this is an awful case of ‘do as we say not as we do?’ It’s certainly a case of looking after your own.”
Back came the smooth reply: “I think you have misunderstood my response to you.*
“It was open to the County to enforce their parking regulations in this case. Regardless of anything else, Members Parking Permits do not allow them to park on County land or highway in any case. It was therefore not a breach of the permit more a breach of parking process. In other words as it happens the parking permit was irrelevant in this instance.”
So That’s All Right Then.
By way of one small crumb of comfort, Mr Harbord said that he had “re-iterated to all Elected Members the conditions under which they have a Parking Permit.”
We’re sure that this will make a lot of difference!
Interestingly, the councillor at the centre of this affair appeared at least until recently to believe that the police enquiry he instigated was being hotly pursued.
But this view is not shared by the man who reported the parking infringement. He recalls an amicable and sympathetic discussion with the police and the strong impression that a line had been drawn under the incident as a result of their visit.
On two different occasions and at two different sites we noted vehicles belonging to the Lincolnshire County Council Highways Alliance (that’s road menders to you and us) parked up while maintenance was being carried out to traffic light columns. In one case, one man stood importantly by whilst a second scraped rust bubbles from the paint on a metal pillar. In another, a vehicle checked in with a second one where a similar job had been completed. The Lincolnshire County Council Highways Alliance is a partnership between May Gurney, Mouchel, Imtech Traffic and Infra (traffic signals) and the county council’s highways department. Perhaps that’s why it needs at least two vehicles and at least three men, most probably travelling from Lincoln to Boston at double time for a Sunday to do a job that could easily have been done more cheaply by someone local on a normal working day.
An appeal fell on deaf ears so the group decided that “owing to the complete lack of respect, and the unprofessionalism which the party officers have shown in this matter, we no longer have any desire to be associated with UKIP. To comply with council rules we must have a group name but one no longer including the word UKIP.
“A group name will be registered once we have consulted with the council.”
Whilst we never expected much from UKIP, all these delicate little blossoms have done is thrown away a chance to have a greater impact on Lincolnshire politics than they do now by behaving like spoiled brats.
Stuck for a new name?
How about Politicians Resigning Are Truly Stupid?
That’s PRATS for short!
Hats off to whoever came up with the great idea that a council that always tries to portray itself as caring, kindly and thoughtful should now adopt the concept of fear and intrusion into privacy as a way of whipping residents into submission – albeit in the interests of good public order.The picture on the right shows the original movie poster and below it the borough's brilliant burlesque – with threats in four languages – which is its big idea to stop people using Hatters Lane between Bridge Street and West Street for defecation and urination... “during broad daylight.”
Whether this means that taking a pee and doing one’s big jobs at night is ok isn’t clear.
But our Big Brother Council thinks that “the psychological effect of a pair of staring eyes” will put an end to the problem once and for all.
Whilst we know that some of our residents aren’t particularly fussy when it comes to obeying the call of nature, we think that a cynic might suggest that the closure of the toilet facility that used to be just a few yards away could a contributory factor.
And we were struck by the council fanfare trumpeting the campaign which said that Hatter’s Lane “is close to the town centre, little used and very narrow.” Could something similar be said about the Worst Street mind that dreamed up this feeble idea?
It was great to see Boston taking part in the worldwide celebrations to mark Commonwealth Day. But what a pity that the Commonwealth Day flag – which paled into insignificance when pictured beside Councillor Yvonne Gunter in Boston’s daily Pravda on February 18th – was flown from the council offices in Worst Street. The idea of a flag atop a pole is that the height dominates the scene – so that it can be seen from a wide distance. To fly the flag – or any flag for that matter from a ledge on the side of the council offices – is a waste of time, pure and simple.The borough’s propaganda picture of that showed something more resembling a tatty duster strung like a home-made surrender flag from an episode of Dad’s Army flapping limply from a shonky broom handle.
All this served to remind us of something which we hoped that some of our councillors might have remembered.
When Boston’s Assembly Rooms were sold for peanuts to become a much needed night club in November 2012, we were told: “Flags will continue to fly over the Assembly Rooms at times of public celebration and for civic occasions despite change of ownership.
“Owner Matt Clark said: ‘I stressed at the time of the handover that I wanted to see a continuation of community uses at the Assembly Rooms, and this includes use of the flagpole. I have said on many public forums that the flagpole is not lost and will not be. I am very happy in continuing to fly any flag that the council would like'"
This, of course, is the same Matt Clark who signed a deal which promised external re-painting of the Assembly Rooms within a year of the deal going through.
Although our old eyes are not as good as once they were, even without our specs we can see that this was a broken promise.
Has the same thing happened again – or did the council “not like” the Commonwealth Flag enough to ask for it to be flown from where the whole town could see it?
If so, it seems surprising that the council “leader” Pete Bedford said at the time the promise was made: “This was important to us. He has made no secret of his support for community uses and it went without saying, we thought, that this would include public use of the flagpole, which the council is obviously very pleased to support."
Yeah. Blah, blah, blah …
One of the saddest and most feeble political excuses is to blame a previous government/council/manager/postman/dogsbody for the inability of the current incumbent to achieve as much as they could have done.What’s even sadder locally is to see that argument proffered by Tory councillor and cabinet member Mike Gilbert, who is quoted as saying: “We were subject to an administration that weren’t doing things as efficiently as I would argue we are as a Conservative administration.”
He underlined his colleagues’ feeble performance to date by boasting: “I think we’ve done an extremely good job, getting efficiencies, delivering excellent services and improving some of the things we inherited from the last administration.”
All this is rather disappointing, coming as it does from a councillor that we have always regarded as the one bright firework in a cabinet box of otherwise damp squibs and duds.
Whilst we were as critical of the Boston Bypass Independents as anyone, their former leader – and current Boston councillor Richard Austin – pointed out in an e-mail at the time we stopped blogging in May:“ The BBI inherited a financial overspend that had been kept going by very large increases in council tax that were well above the rate of inflation. In addition there had been a catalogue of maladministrative blunders such as failure to sign contracts. A new and very experienced Chief Executive was appointed and a financial recovery plan put in place. A big reduction in staffing costs was achieved at the same time as increasing staff morale. By the end of our four-year term we were described by our auditor as one of the most improved councils in the country.”
Interestingly, the newly arrived Tory administration was quick to hijack the retrospective plaudits from the auditor, and overlook the fact that the previous administration to the BBI – although technically one of No Overall Control – was in fact run by the Conservatives.
As far as the appointment of the Chief Executive is concerned, instead of regarding him as something “inherited” from the previous administration, the Tories have fallen over themselves to extend his contract time and again – most recently until after next year’s local elections. Not only that but they continue to pay his company – the former Modular Raised Floors (UK) – £9,780 a month for just 15 days work.
Not only is this equivalent to an annual pay packet of £230,000 a year – one of the highest pay packets for a chief executive anywhere in the country – but its final extension goes beyond next May’s elections.
Check out comments by the local government minister Eric Pickles over the last several months, and you will find that the local Tories are quite happy to ignore the party pronouncements when it apparently suits them.
Finally, despite last week’s mutterings of discontent, we note that Councillor Yvonne Gunter remains undeterred as far as her enthusiasm to be photographed is concerned. Aside from appearances on both the Boston Standard newspaper and website she turns up in both the borough’s daily Pravda and website as well.
The latter story concerns a stunt involving local schoolchildren on national no-smoking day.
In one of the council’s photos children are pictured flanked by Councillor Gunter and Councillor Stephen Woodliffe, the borough’s regulatory services portfolio holder, which has a vague connection to health issues, and therefore, presumably, smoking
So why is Councillor Gunter in the picture?
Well, the photo is taken in Central Park, and Councillor G’s portfolio includes parks along with bridges, planters, flags and cemeteries.
As far as we can tell, that’s the only reason – in fact, even Big Cig, “a grumpy-looking giant cigarette” was worried when someone stole his thunder!
* It never fails to amuse us when highly paid public “servants” decide that the best form of reply is to treat their respondents as if they are idiots.
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