Time and again, we have criticised the Boston Town Area Committee – the committee that thinks it’s a bank – for its disregard of the rules under which it is supposed to operate.
So it is both an irony and a pity that a romantic and poignant idea should instead come to reflect the contemptuous attitude of the powers that be in Worst Street towards the wishes of the people that they claim to represent.
It was on 3rd February that Boston Borough Council announced that “an appeal has been launched for a lasting memorial to be erected in Boston, “funded by public subscription” to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
We were told that this would take the form of two metal benches in the Memorial Gardens in Boston with an official unveiling and dedication event on the very day of the centenary, Monday, August 4, 2014.
However, this being Boston Borough Council, nothing ever goes as planned, as regular readers will by now be very aware.
Firstly, the public response to the project has been dismal, to say the least.
A report to a meeting of BTAC earlier this week admitted that only £600 has been raised so far – when as much as £5,000 might eventually be needed.
Worse still, of the money so far donated, £200 came from two borough councillors, and a further £100 from one of the borough council funded Placecheck groups – the phrase robbing Peter to pay Paul springs to mind.
Whilst the borough council announced from the outset that a couple of expensive benches would do the job, it then turned out that the ex-service organisations would prefer a stone obelisk.
They have shopped around and found one for £5,000 – but it’s possible that it won’t be ready in time.
At the start of this report, we mentioned that the money was to come from public subscription – but this now seems unlikely given the lack of support for the idea.
So the report to BTAC was not to report progress – but ask the committee to underwrite any shortfall to a maximum of £4,000.
The reports say that the committee – being putty in anyone’s hands when it comes to giving away our council tax – agreed.
As if in anticipation, on 11th April, the council was already telling us “The centenary of the start of the First World War will be marked in Boston with the unveiling and dedication of a pair of specially-designed memorial benches …” – so there!
BTAC has already been more than generous as far as Boston’s war memorial is concerned. On 5th March, the committee delegated authority to establish a memorial flame to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War.
The cost: unspecified.
And at its meeting in November 2012 it made a community grant of £1,000 to the Boston Veterans Memorial Plaque Committee as a contribution to their efforts in the memorial gardens for 2012/13 and further contributions of £1,000 a year for 2013/14 and 2014/15.
So that’s at least £3,000 from BTAC to date, and now the promise to stump up as much as a further £4,000 if needed – which would seem likely to be the case.
However, BTAC should not be making this offer to pay.
Under the council’s constitution, the only items which can legally be charged to BTAC are items provided exclusively or mainly for residents of the town wards that its members represent.
This is clearly not the case with funding memorial benches.
Not only that, but the report rattling the begging bowl under BTAC’s nose was written on behalf of the portfolio holder for bridges, flags, planters and leisure – Councillor Yvonne Gunter – who has a perfectly suitable budget of her own.
But the main point is this …
The council launched a public appeal – although why it did this eludes us, as it is not a local council’s job, and it is also taking up the valuable time of an officer as appeal organiser.
Now that the public has shown that it has no interest in supporting the appeal, instead of accepting defeat with good grace, the council has simply decided to ignore us all and spend our money anyway.
Some people in Boston are currently relying on food banks to supplement their diet.
Others are facing housing problems because of the notorious bedroom tax.
We have some of the most deprived wards anywhere in the country.
Perhaps someone senior at Worst lost a relative in the Great War which might explain this obsession with a memorial.
The council is now proposing to spend some of our council tax contributions on something that we have clearly said we do not want to contribute our money to.
And it is not a small amount.
But never mind eh?
And just one final word, when the event does take place, no doubt a plaque or two will be involved.
Could we please ensure at this early stage that there will be no repeat of the fiasco involving the leisure portfolio holder, whose name somehow became included along with that of the then mayor at the switching on of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee fountain?
As we await the e-mails accusing us of disrespecting the war dead from those who can’t appreciate the point we are trying to make, let us just add that
a: These benches have nothing to do with The Fallen – who are already superbly commemorated by the Boston War Memorial.
What we are talking about here is something to mark a date – a date which saw the start of a terrible wholesale slaughter the like of which has never been repeated.
If anything, the memorial should be marking the end of the conflict, and
b: Among other appeals for money that came before BTAC this week totalling almost £2,000 were some that were borderline to say the least.
But BTAC is such a soft touch that none of this seems to concern them.
A year from today, Boston will have a new council – yes, it’s just 52 weeks until the local elections.
And of one thing we can be certain – two of the current councillors will not be returning, as a review by the Electoral Commission has decided to cut the number of members from 32 to 30, and the number of wards from 18 to 16.
Effectively, we are now in a counting-down period, as it will be impossible to avoid one at local level given that the date coincides with the general election as well.
It’s a good time to review the past three years since the Conservatives unexpectedly gained a majority on Boston Borough Council – without having given any thought to what they would do if they won, as they had never considered the possibility.
What the Tories probably hoped was that they would find themselves – as David Cameron did – in some sort of coalition … most probably with the Bypass Independent Party which had been the Tory bête noir since its landslide victory in 2007.
In that case, they could have thrown their weight around and then blamed someone else when everything went pear-shaped as it certainly has since May 2011.
But landslide followed landslide and the newly elected Tories found themselves up a gum tree without a paddle, if you’ll excuse the mixing of metaphors.
Their time in office to date has been impressively pathetic.
The loyalty of the staff on the Worst Street payroll has been tested time and time again with annual kicks in the teeth such as pay freezes and an unrelenting change for the worse in working conditions …
… and the electorate have seen their wishes ignored and the services for which they pay so dearly decline year on year
And yet, with an aplomb that Horatio Nelson would have admired, our “leaders” turn a blind eye to all this and repeatedly tell us how well they are performing.
Next year’s election will be an interesting test of their belief in what they see as our gullibility.
Boston Eye was highly critical of the BBI for the entirety of its reign, and when the Tories trounced them, we recall the gleeful e-mails we received from certain senior members who believed that we had played a role in the BBI’s downfall, and that after joining their celebrations, we would back them to the hilt in the years ahead.
When that turned out not to be the case, some of them turned nasty, but the fact is that our criticism was entirely objective, and based on their performance and nothing else.
As of this week, the Electoral Calculus analysis of the seven most recent opinion polls put the gap between the two major parties as broadly unchanged, with the Conservatives on 32% (down 1%), Lab 36% (unchanged), the Lib Dems on 9% (-1) and UKIP with 14% (+2).
The new national prediction is that Labour will have a majority of 40 seats,
Winning a total of 345 seats.
Much of what happens nationally is mirrored locally as the 2011 results showed, so the Tories in Boston need to heed the wake-up call if they don’t want to end up on the scrap heap.
But if they do, no doubt they will cite the ward changes as one of the reasons in the event of a trouncing, and they seem to regard anything that militates against the Tories as being something that is pro-Labour.
They seem incapable of believing that people can be Christian and not go to church if they don’t like the vicar – and, as members of the cabinet also prove regularly, it is possible to be a clown without wearing a comedy wig, a silly red nose, whirling bow tie, water squirting buttonhole and outsize shoes...
But we are getting ahead of ourselves, because in less than a fortnight there will be the European elections.So far, the only campaign leaflets to have dropped on to our doormat are from UKIP, and BNP, and Lincolnshire County Councillor Chris Pain – the man who split UKIP at County Hall and now seems to want to do the same in the East Midlands constituency. Doubtless some more will follow, but as with the general election, locally, the big parties seem almost disinterested in telling the voters what they stand for…
At the moment the Electoral Calculus analysis of polls for Europe gives the projected result as Conservatives 22%, Labour 30%, Lib Dems 9%, and UKIP 29%.
One thing that we can be sure of is that all our councillors will look their best in any election brochure, as someone in the ruling group has come up with the brilliant idea of taking new photographs of all 32 councillors – apparently because it’s thought that the present snaps aren’t good enough for the borough council’s website.Ok, the cost of this may not be great – after all it’s only the time of a member of staff arranging to catch up with 32 councillors when they’re next in Worst Street (and in some cases, we suspect that this is something of a rarity) then spending a quarter of an hour or so to make sure that they’ve got the right photo, then the time it takes to replace the appropriate pages on the website.
But for a council that’s strapped for cash it still seems a waste – especially when the job will have to be done all over again a year from now.
We thought for a moment that the editors of the free magazine Simply Boston had agreed with us that the monthly outpourings from Council Chairman Pete Bedford were so dreary as to no longer be worth printing when they failed to appear in the last but one issue.But in the May issue there he was again – like a rash that won’t go away.
As we read “Peter’s Notes” – described as “an insight” as to what is happening in and around Boston – we felt a distinct feeling of déjà vu, which at first we put down to the repetitious nature of his offerings, wherever they are published.
But then we realised that our sense of déjà vu was because we had déjà viewed the bulk of his words of wisdom on a previous occasion.
Although we were looking at the May issue of the magazine, the bulk of the leader’s column was a reprint of his comments in the Boston Standard on 26th March.
And this is not the first time he has submitted something that he made earlier to the magazine.
We’ve commented before on Councillor Bedford’s attitude towards the tax payers, and examples such as this simply serve to underline everything that we have said.
If he can’t be bothered to get his scriptwriter to come up with something new, then he should not bother, rather than treat us with contempt.
It’s not that long ago that Chairman Pete was using his impressive knowledge to tell us that the proposed Boston Barrier was right for the job and in the right place – going so far as to sound a warning to those who might inadvertently de-rail the project and cause delays.But his confidence is not shared by some who – dare we suggest it – possibly knows more about the subject than he does.
David Matthews, a retired consultant in the field of docks and harbours, flood protection and barriers has e-mailed Boston Eye after recent concerns about the retail future of Boston to ask: “Why are all the shops closing?”
And he helpfully provides the answer.
“Surely this is obvious. Who wants to keep a shop in Boston after the floods? The insurance will be prohibitive.
“Since around 2000 the Environment Agency (EA) has been working on a barrier, a dual purpose barrier even.
“It is a pity that it will not serve either purpose well.
“First it is supposed to increase business by keeping that brown muddy stream we see covered up during the summer season.
“The EA have admitted to me that they only expect this to work 70% of the time, two tides out of three. Only on one day in three will it be possible to go all day without seeing the dirty brown stuff. Will this bring in the business that is claimed?
“To add to the problems it is my opinion, as a retired lock designer, that they will not be able to keep the lock gates at the Grand Sluice open for the narrow canal boats which are longer than the lock. This means that they will not be able to use the water link.
“If I am correct this rather makes a farce of this part of the project, made even worse by the fact that cruise boats will no longer be able to ply from the marina to the wash because a lock is not included in the barrier.
“The EA inform me that this is acceptable to their client.
“As the EA is a quango responsible to HMG (Her Majesty’s Government) how can this be?
“But at least the barrier will protect the town from a repeat of 5/12/13.
“The EA announced this within days, so it must be true.
“Well actually, no.
“I stayed well away from the event because I understood the risk but reports tell us that water came pouring through the dock. How can this be corrected?
“The dock is downstream of the new barrier site.
“The dock can be modified either with new gates or a storm barrier and the walls being raised.
“I understand after my comments that this is now to be done, but we shall see.
“Walls will also have to be raised from the barrier site downstream; failure to do this will mean that as “fluid dynamics” predict, the water would be higher in front of the new barrier than it was without the barrier on 05/12. Water will overtop.
“The obvious place to put a barrier is at the end of the Haven.
“In January 2010 I went to a public exhibition to decide where the barrier should go. I told the EA representative – “none of these.” He therefore introduced me to their then consultant. No doubt the consultant was expected to convince me of my error. In fact the opposite was the case and I was asked by him to provide a design document for my ideas.
“This was multi-purpose. Keep surges at least four miles from Boston.
“Keep the tide out during times of high precipitation (such as 2007) allowing the Haven to drain the river and IDB (Internal Drainage Board) drains. Protect the SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) from storm and also keep a low level in the Haven for small boats (a practice at a number of sites in the UK).
“Sometime after that the consultant parted company with the EA. It is costly to obtain a consultancy for a project with the EA in competition with others. They now have a new consultant.
“As I do not live in Boston this is all purely a professional interest other than if they spend charge payers money to correct it, which I do contribute to.”
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