Because yet again, it seems that Boston is unable to get to grips with the important issues that could change life in the town for the better.
Two current examples show how an initial enthusiasm to light a way forward are already guttering like candles at a rainy barbeque.
The first of the is the Boston Big Local project, announced more than a year ago, under which the town is to receive a million pounds from the Big Lottery Fund to be spent over a ten-year period.
Already long forgotten is the fact that the allocation is for an area designated “Central Boston” which embraces the six most deprived wards in town – Staniland South, Pilgrim Ward, Skirbeck Ward, Boston Central, a small portion of Fenside and Witham Ward.
However, a number of people not associated with these wards have been quick to cry “foul!” and demand to know why a wider area cannot be included.
Usually, these people have political connections – which is interesting, given that everyone has been at great pains to point out that there is to be no political string pulling of any kind.
So what’s happened in the 16 months since the ballyhoo began?
From out of nowhere, a committee appeared to take on the task of deciding how the money should be spent.
Where the members came from is unclear, and who they are is unknown, but until now they have had a helping hand in the form of a “facilitator” who acts as a “mentor, critical friend and expert advisor” for the partnership and is there to provide a “support and challenge” role.
Wafflers of the world unite – you have nothing to lose but your brains.
There was an air of mystery when this solitary paid appointment was announced, and the plot has now thickened with the abrupt and unexplained resignation of the post holder which has not been helped by the refusal of the Big Local area representative to comment either.
So what’s the story so far ...?
We apparently have some money, which a virtually self-appointed ragtag group is to decide how it is to be spent. – although one suggestion was to blow £200,000 a year on a Party in the Park. Brilliant!
And that’s about it.
The structure of all this is already falling apart and nothing much by way of any bright ideas seem to have emerged.
Although the meetings are open to the public, their dates don’t appear to be well publicised, and unless our local “newspapers” attend to report proceedings, the punters remain in the dark.
Such a huge and potentially important project as this deserves better.
A good starting point would be a dedicated website, where we could see what was going on, and know who the members of the committee are – and to which we could contribute.
Sadly, we do not expect any of this to happen, and we sense a shroud of failure settling over the whole sorry circus.
How long will it be before the vultures start circling and declare that if Boston can’t decide how it wants to spend a million pounds, there are plenty of other places which can?
***On a lesser – but nonetheless important note – we are disappointed to learn that the committee set up to try to celebrate Christmas in Boston after last year’s debacle is already foundering.
From what we’ve read it appears that there is more than a hint of the prima donna from at least one quarter – which the dictionary defines as “a person who thinks she or he is better than everyone else and who does not work well as part of a team or group.”
Well done to those who are hanging in there and doing their best. Boston needs a decent event this Christmas, and if things were to fail for a second year, then we think that the damage to business and the town’s social cohesion would be irreparable.
***How grand to find a councillor who stands up for justice, law and order and appropriate punishment when an offence is committed...
Behold Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire, Chancellor of the Exchequer for the Borough of Boston, who was nothing if not forthright after a benefits cheat was ordered to repay the £20,000 she “fiddled” from the system.
Beneath the heading “We’ll get you in the end” Councillor Singleton-McGuire, trumpeted in the borough’s local Pravda: “Benefits fraud is not a victimless crime – we all end up paying for it. It’s perfectly laudable that residents who work hard and pay their taxes supply information to us about benefits cheats.
“Benefits are meant to be a safety net for those in genuine need – not a bouncy
castle for those who want to thumb their nose at the rest of society. For this reason
I have now introduced a zero-tolerance policy protecting taxpayers’ money.”
Give that man a medal …
Hang on though …
Is this the same Councillor Singleton-McGuire whose response to a member of the public alerting his partner to the fact that she was parked illegally responded by calling in the police?
It surely is.
And is this the same Councillor Singleton-McGuire who – after the police talked to both parties involved and found that there “was no evidence to substantiate that an offence had been committed” – told the Boston Standard that as a result of what he called “a storm in a teacup” he “no longer wished to do business with the complainant’s employers through one of his firms.”
It surely is.
We thought that blacklisting went out with McCarthyism and the Hollywood purges.
Quotations such as “one law for the rich and one for the poor” and “power without responsibility” come to mind in situations like this.
But nothing we could say can be better expressed that the comments made to the Standard after the story appeared …
***We mentioned a couple of editions ago that the first tottering attempts to bring democracy to Boston Borough Council meetings were not without their obstacles.
When cabinet members answered questions from the floor of the council chamber, the problem was that they could not be seen – giving the illusion of a talking pillar rather than a responding councillor.
It would be unkind to suggest that this may have been deliberate, and the efforts to remedy the problem generated some success in that the last meeting we watched on video councillors could be better seen – but unfortunately not heard!
The council chamber has microphones for councillors to use, and we seem to recall that many years ago it was possible to record proceedings by the simple insertion of an audio jack plug from a recorder into the council’s own system.
***With elections for Europe just around the corner, we are pleased to see that life is set to remain simple for voters – assuming that the naming of parties remains much the same as it did in 2009.
Then, in the East Midlands there were 13 candidates – and the four available seats went to the Conservatives with two, followed by Labour, UKIP, and the Lib Dems, who won a seat apiece.
With UKIP tipped to do even better this time around, we wondered how things might look if voters were being asked to place their tick in the appropriate box in Lincolnshire.
Here, after a series of spats, the party has fragmented and in so doing threw away the chance to make a real difference in the corridors of power at County Hall.
The group includes two county and Boston borough councillors – who have decided that they now wish to be known as the “Independence from Europe Group.”
This means that the line-up for Lincolnshire County Council now comprises 35 Conservatives, 12 Labour, 10 “real” UK Independence Party members, 7 Lincolnshire Independents, 4 Independence from Europe, 4 Liberal Democrats, 3 Independents, and 2 UKIP Lincolnshire.
We’re not quite sure what this tells us about UKIP – but it says a lot about our local councillors … none of it very good.
Most readers know our views on the Big Boston Clean-up by now – in a nutshell, it’s an effective community stunt, which lets Boston Borough Council duck responsibility for keeping the place clean for most of the year.
Whilst this argument is refuted by the powers that be – a contradictory impression has been given out in the run up to this year’s event … which starts on Monday.
According to the council: “The Big Boston Clean-up's annual grot spot amnesty, applied every year since the initiative first took place in 2008, is over.
“The gloves are off and businesses with untidy areas of land are to be written to telling them to clean it up, get involved in this year's Big Boston Clean-up or stand by to receive a litter control notice which could cost them a £100 fine.”
Does this mean that for the past seven years the council has deliberately turned a blind eye to the legal responsibility that businesses have to keep their premises tidy?
It would appear so.
According to Councillor Michael Brookes, Boston Borough Council's portfolio holder for waste services, businesses “have a legal responsibility to keep their land clean and tidy. But every year some commercial businesses rely on volunteers to do it for them. That's not on, and this year it ends.
“Those written to after a pre clean-up inspection who do not tidy up, or who have not contributed something to the effort will be fined."
So does this mean that helping out a Boston Borough Council publicity stunt can free you from the rule of law?
The answer would seem to be a resounding “yes.”
***Just when we thought Boston’s flood drama was over comes news that ceiling tiles in Clarks newsagents on Fish Hill were brought down after water from a blocked drain in the Assembly Rooms above the shop overflowed.
Yet another blow for an iconic building, which – although it might be wonderful inside, we wouldn’t know – is decaying visibly despite repeated promises that it would be painted externally to a high standard.
Painting the building was a condition of sale – which stipulated it should be done within a year of the purchase almost 18 months ago.
Incredibly, the Assembly Rooms seem to be deteriorating more rapidly than ever they did during the years of neglect as successive council administrations refused to spend money on its maintenance.
But we’re now starting to wonder whether this is perhaps part of a cunning master plan designed to bring tourists to the town in their droves ...
The similarities between Boston town centre and the Cuban capital Havana are just too great to ignore – which makes us wonder whether Boston will be joining the likes of Cuzco in Peru, Mobile in Alabama, Tehran, Madrid and Glasgow to become the 26th place to be twinned with Fidel Castro’s home town.
***Finally, although this time of year is when we celebrate resurrection, we think that unless Boston Borough Council believes in miracles the time has come to update its details of our local representation.
The following appears on the borough’s website beneath the heading “meet your local councillors.”
Councillor Mould died in February last year.
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