Friday, 29 August 2014


We guess that when you have millions in the bank and millions more coming in from people that you can criminalise if they don’t fork their money over, then spending what to you is just  a few quid over the odds means a lot less than it does for those of us in the real world.
Beneath the gloatingly triumphal headline “New depot opens - ker-ching!” Boston Borough Council trumpeted the replacement site for the former Fen Road depot with the news that it would save the council – and theoretically, us, the taxpayer – a shedload of money.
But as is often the case with the borough council’s spin on events, the reality is slightly different.
Worst Street told us that “the move from the council's rented depot at Fen Road to the new purpose-built depot on land the council owns will save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds.
But the back story reeks more of ker-lunk than ker-ching.
Back in November 2012, a report to Boston’s Cabinet of Curiosities described an opportunity “whereby the council may be able to purchase an alternative site with the potential to significantly reduce its operational costs.”
The report went on to suggest the purchase of a suitable site costing up to half-a-million pounds, relocation needs and the surrender of the current lease on the existing site.
The chosen site for the new depot was on land which included a cafe and lorry park whose operators were forced to move out after 14 years.
The report calculated that it would cost about £145,000 to get out of the ten-year lease deal, which had only been renegotiated on more favourable terms a few years earlier and for which the annual rent and business rates were £135,000.
The council’s operational needs had reduced since then but probably more significantly Lincolnshire County Council gave notice that it no longer needed the borough to provide a transfer station for the recycling that it collects – having built a new one of its own, at … and we have to be cautious when we use this word in an article concerning Boston Borough Council … Slippery Gowt.
So yet again, County Hall says "jump," and Worst Street asks “how high?”
The report concluded that “the freehold purchase of a suitable depot facility allows the council to make significant revenue savings, as required by the medium term financial strategy” – a situation described at the new depot’s opening ceremony by council leader Pete Bedford as a “win-win situation” 
His scriptwriter continued: “We are saving money for council taxpayers and are more centrally situated. It's even better for staff who now have less distance to travel to get to work. Some now arrive by bicycle, which is good for the environment, good for their health and good for their pocket."
Such consideration  – not only do the staff get fitter, but their pay freeze goes a lot further as well.
However, the devil – as always– is in the detail, and the details are hard to find.
We've tried todiscover how much the new site cost, and you would think that a sum as large as £500,000 might be easy to spot, but we haven’t managed to track it down.
What we did find was that the penalty payment to end the Fen Road depot lease was £138,500 made to Ldc (Boston) – a drainage company worth more than £9 million.
As well as that there were “final settlement costs” of £45,000 and  – ker-lunk – an interest  charge for  late payment of £1,200.
So – the final cost of worming out of the lease was almost £185,000, plus an unspecified cost for the land that had to be acquired.
If the authorisation was to spend up to £500,000, we imagine that a figure pretty adjacent would have been spent.
If so, we are looking at an outlay of £685,000 to save on a bill of £1,350,000 over ten years.
That’s a total saving of £565,000 for the period – or £56,000 a year … less than the cost of running the Mayor’s office.
And we don’t think that takes into account the business rates

***

But money is an odd animal when it is Boston Borough Council’s coffers.
A recent entry in the lists of spending shows two payments to CIPFA – the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.
CIPFA claims that its 14,000 members work throughout the public services, in national audit agencies, in major accountancy firms, and in other bodies where public money needs to be effectively and efficiently managed.
Boston Borough Council has apparently spent  £3,175 for a “subscription” to CIPFA, and £3,100 for a “publication subscription,” which we hope are really one the same and that the number has been incorrectly repeated – although that may not be the case.
But it seems a dear old deal.
Is membership compulsory? – and if not,  could it be a useful saving to make?
But it must be important, as we note that Boston’s Chief Executive Richard Harbord is a member – in fact he just missed being elected to the  institute’s council for 2014-15 by a mere 14 votes

***
And still the spending goes on …
The council’s June list of spending items includes three civic dinners – one charged to the mayoral kitty, and the other two merely listed as “civic functions.”


We’ll drink to that!

***

Interestingly, there seems to be loadsa money for some things but not others – despite lip service to their importance.
After periods of silence, interspersed with equal amounts of inactivity over the past year, Boston’s Youth Council has issued a survey to help “get young people’s voices heard” – although quite how is anyone’s guess.
Forays into the world of the young are conducted in Boston from time to time, but never seem to amount to much.
It is sad – but the reason is fairly obvious.
Our allegedly “grown up” council leaders have no interest in what people of any age have to say, nor about what they want.
Boston Youth Council is a group of a dozen 11 to 18 year olds  who have short-listed concerns shared by all ages – issues such as healthy living, transport, access to services such as housing, education, training and employment, things for young people to do, street cleaning, refuse and recycling, parks and open spaces and feeling safe and part of the community.
To date, these young aspirants have largely been funded by a sole conservative councillor, who donated £1,000 in February last year, with a further £500 from his annual allowance in April this year and a promise to match fund the youth council in the future when it has raised a further £500.
In the early debates, whilst council members commended the scheme as a way to encourage future councillors to come forward – it insisted that there be no significant cost to the council.
It was recognised that the Youth Council would “almost certainly” secure lottery funding and, with the help of the Local Communities Development Officer and the county council’s youth services, others in the borough were sure to support it.
Maybe this will be happening soon –  it hasn't so far.
Everything seems to be taking so long, and we are puzzled as to the reason.
However, along with our bewilderment we have concerns.
At the time of inception, it was said that “the best model” for the Youth Council would be to largely replicate the local authority structure and for a Young Mayor to be chosen in the same way as the council process.
Later it was said that the young councillors planned to have portfolio members aligned with Boston Borough Council’s cabinet members so they can work closely with them.
Or maybe not.
When all this was rumbling through the system,  we said that we felt sure that many of the new intake of Boston borough councillors, elected for the first time in 2011, believed that they would be involved in ‘something that means something,’ and that their opinions would be recognised; that they would make a difference and have a voice.
But the sad case was that many of these people soon discovered that they had no voice at all, and were unable to make any difference to life in Boston.
This is because of the way the current ‘leadership’ runs the ship – denying debate, refusing to listen to views other than their own, and working out of either self-interest or the interests of their big bosses at County Hall.
The demonstration of how democracy works is that … it doesn't.
A select elite calls the shots, and expects its party rump – what an apposite descriptor –   to do as it is told, while all shades of opposition are treated as non-existent.
Many of these ‘leaders’ have played at politics for years and find that it keeps them busy in retirement – the grown-up version of “there isn't a lot to do at our age.”
It this really the sort of lesson that we wish to pass on to potential politicians of the future?
Surely, our leaders should make sure that they are in a position to demonstrate open, honest politics of a model quality, rather than merely inflict their shabby tired values on the next generation.
But if they are really sincere, why not find a few quid to help matters along instead of blowing it on slap-up dinners?

***

Last week’s clarification of who does what in Worst Street and who calls the shots served merely to increase the level of annoyance of one reader, who e-mailed to say: “It appears that a few people have got the town sewn up quite nicely and working how they want it even though there is a strong whiff of deception, incompetence and something nastier.
“My approach, be it right or wrong, is if something cannot be explained simply then there are things afoot.
“Your explanation was clear and I have no problem with it but it's the sequence of events regarding all of these councillors which is a concern and how they got to where they are now.
“With regards to UKIP councillors, regardless of their attendance at meetings, which is necessary, it's their public profile and what they are actually doing for Boston which I am sure people want to see.
“ I think that those that parted ways from UKIP after the election should have to go through the election process again as they achieved their positions by being under the UKIP party banner.
“To then break away and form another party, in my view, is deceptive, especially a rag bag one at that who don't appear to know their backsides from their elbows. When voting last year instead of being able to vote for the best representative, I hoped to vote for the less odious.
“Quite a hard feat.
“With Mark Simmonds’ resignation, although good to see the back of that weasel, he will only be replaced by another parachuted in from any place else other than Boston or even Lincolnshire.
“And the UKIP candidate? Well who now cares, as at the end of the day the party is basically Nigel Farage with some weird and ineffectual hangers-on. All very depressing considering that Boston really needs someone with passion and with the town at heart, more so than ever.
“Another thing I also don't seem to grasp is how utterly ineffectual the two local newspapers are at really addressing anything with any proper journalistic ability.
“Everything is reported in such a pathetic manner and never a story that has any merit.”

***

Mention of Mark Simmonds brings us to another e-mail – this one from a party loyalist whose activities go back all the way to the 2001 election when Simmonds emerged top of the list of 145 applicants to be Boston’s MP.
It sounds as though things have certainly changed, because in those days we were told that not only did Simmonds not have a very reliable car – “but his clothes where in need of some maintenance.”
As well as the profits from property already mentioned, our correspondent says that Simmonds bought number 5 Church Lane Boston – which had been used as Sir Richard Body’s base in the town  –  from the retiring MP shortly after the election
He says that this was sold in 2010 at a profit of £50,000 and was never furnished or occupied by the family.

***

Fast forward to the present day, and we were interested to see the Simmonds family home in Boston apparently on the market


The property website Rightmove lists Swineshead Abbey as up for sale – although fades the details down, with the statement “this property has been removed by the agent. It may be sold or temporarily removed from the market.”
We have to assume that the listing is a recent one because of the price being asked.
Simmonds bought it in 2010 for £900,000 and the new asking price is £1.2 million – which is not a bad Mark-up – if you’ll excuse the pun – after four years.


***

And from the present day to the future – and the question of who will succeed Mark Simmonds as the next Conservative MP for life for Boston and Skegness. If their schedule follows the usual pattern, Boston Tories will meet next week – when, we hear, they will be informed who the candidate will be.
If that is the case, it would be a dangerous break with what little democracy remains in the borough – but it wouldn't be at all surprising, would it?

***

Following Boston Eye reports on the way Boston Borough Council pays its chief executive, Richard Harbord   – through his private company rather than the staff books –  the local government secretary, Eric Pickles, has said that the government will take action against councils that fail to keep excessive salaries and "dubious pay arrangements" in check.

click to enlarge
He was talking after the Sunday Times disclosed that Peter Lewis, Britain's highest-paid council official, channels his income through his company in a scheme that reduces tax bills.
Lewis was brought in last year to run Somerset's failing children's services on a four-day week, and the county council pays £318,500 a year to employ him.
“A recruitment agency takes an undisclosed percentage fee from this,” says the report. “If it is the usual 10%, Lewis is left with £286,650 … more than twice the prime minister's £142,500 a year.
“His earnings go to a company, StubbsStorey Ltd, owned by Lewis and his wife, Lynn. 
"As a result he can avoid income tax at 45%, and national insurance 12%. If he is paid by dividends, he faces only flat-rate corporation tax, possibly as low as 21%.”
Pickles told the newspaper: “"We've changed the law to reduce secrecy on town hall pay deals and given elected councillors the power to veto excessive senior pay.
Councillors now need to use these powers — and they should be held to account if they turn a blind eye," he said.
Of course, Pickles has said all this before, and it seems that nothing has changed here in Boston – a sorry case of the minister being all mouth and no trousers … what an appalling image!

***

We love it when Boston Borough councillors try to justify the unjustifiable.
In a letter to a local “newspaper,” Councillor Stephen Woodliffe – the cabinet portfolio holder for building control, environmental health, community safety, emergency planning, health and safety, licensing and land Charges, to name but a few – tells us that is important to point out that the borough council accepted professional advice in rejecting the use of sandbags as a means of flood defence.
He clearly felt the need for this defensive and apologetic stance after the heavy criticism levelled at the council during last year’s flooding.
Early on in events, almost the only word from the council was to announce that it was no good asking them for sandbags, telling worried taxpayers … “For the avoidance of doubt, in a flooding incident, Boston Borough Council does not supply sandbags, neither empty nor filled, to any resident or business in Boston borough as the responsibility for safeguarding homes and businesses lies with the owner.
“If there is time, sandbags and sharp sand are available from many builders' merchants and DIY stores, but far better to be prepared and have a supply of sandbags to hand rather than waiting for an emergency to occur.”
However, it would now appear that this suggestion was both pointless and time-wasting – especially during a mounting emergency –  when perhaps the idea was simply a bit of fun to keep us occupied during a crisis.
Councillor Woodliffe  cast his mind back to  Sir Michael Pitt’s “highly respected”  – i.e. it agrees with Boston Borough Council’s point of view – independent  report on the 2007 floods, “which are now considered to be the greatest civil emergency in Britain’s history since 1945 and in which 13 people died.”
He somehow  manages to overlook the 1953 disaster, which struck much nearer home, and which claimed the lives of more than 300 people on land and 224 at sea.
Sir Michael’s report was published in June 2008 and deduced that sandbags were largely ineffective in protecting properties.
Councillor Woodliffe  quotes the report as saying: “The review was unable to obtain any significant evidence that sandbags were particularly effective during the 2007 summer floods in providing protection to individual households.”
He also quotes the Local Government Association’s comments in 2008 that ‘sandbags are seen by the public and the media as a panacea in flooding events and their existence and deployment constitutes one of the most fraught parts of the emergency response to flooding’.
And, of course, they are expensive for councils to supply and transport – which would have nothing to do with it … would it?
Well it would, because the letter goes on: “Local authorities have to be prudent in the use of public funds and in this time of austerity.
“Boston Borough Council and other public authorities have wisely chosen (sic) to adopt the best advice available to both inform and protect residents against flooding.
And patronisingly he concluded: “I think we all understand the desire to fall back on traditional strategies in times of danger, but there are better methods and strategies available today and your borough council is at the forefront in using these to make good use of scarce public funds for residents’ benefit.”
A point worth making is that Boston Borough Council did not really “accept professional advice in rejecting the use of sandbags as a means of flood defence.”
It  has dredged up an old report that said what it wanted to hear, and put some spin on to it to cover up its ineptitude.
And despite the pooh-poohing of sandbags, most of the few buildings that actually had sandbags at their doors on the 5th December last year belonged to Boston Borough Council.
The Lincolnshire Local Authority Sandbag Policy makes it clear that: “Local authorities will maintain a stock of sandbags and sand strategically located within their district.
During a flooding event the local authority will attempt to deliver sandbags to properties occupied by vulnerable people within the flood warning zone directly e.g. the elderly, the infirm and those without their own transport etc.
Other groups will be asked to collect sandbags either from designated distribution points identified in public literature or radio broadcasts, from each local authority or from local builder’s merchants.
“No charge will be made for sandbags issued by the local authority during a flooding event but costs will be recorded for possible cost recovery by the local authority from central government.”
And why not take a look at the Advice on Flooding leaflet produced by the Lincolnshire Emergency Planning unit on behalf of the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum.
You can read it by clicking here
From page nine onwards it lists district council sandbag issuing policies – which tell us that
Boston Borough Council … holds a small stock of ready filled sandbags, which can be rolled out as required in the event of an emergency.
“In addition, larger stocks of empty bags are held ready to be filled if needed. The council cannot provide bags to everyone at all times, but will make available empty sandbags for a small charge.
And one final point.
It seems a little disingenuous not to compare like with like when offering an argument.
Whilst the 2013 floods in Boston were bad, they were soon under control, and did not involve great depths of water.
To compare them with the floods of 2008 – see the picture below – is comparing chalk and cheese.


 To argue that sand bags were ineffective during such overwhelming flooding six years ago is like saying that a Nissen hut would have been no use in Hiroshima back in 1945.

***

And still with flooding the Boston Daily Drivel ended its holiday with a story about the lucky winner of £2,000 worth of flood protection measures. She was one of a meagre 73 people who signed up for flood warnings, agreed to make personal flood plans and received a free door flood protection kit.
All residents who signed up for warnings went into a draw for £2,000 worth of flood protection measures for their home.
Lucky for some.
But there must have been a better way to have attracted more participants for such a rich reward.
Boston Borough Council has been struggling to sell the idea of flood protection – and even claiming for compensation after the event – and this raffle was really a huge missed opportunity.
Years ago during our time on the wireless, we drew the results of a competition in reverse order – and someone complained, pointing out that this contravened some Act or another because the winner drawn in third and second places was denied the chance of the top prize. The point was well made.
And we wonder if we were alone among people who signed up for flood warnings some years ago to feel a little cheated at not being able to enter a competition because we were disqualified by dint of already having been sensible.
And with just 73 takers, the excuse that it encouraged lots of people to sign up simply doesn't hold water – if you’ll pardon the expression!

***

Still with Boston Daily Bull(sh*t)in – here’s what baffles us.
On one hand it is so important to keep in touch with us that it is published daily – but apparently by just one person. So when that person takes a break, the publication stops – ergo it can’t really be that important, and more like busywork than anything else.
               

***

It still not easy to work out the policy on issuing parking tickets in Boston since the county council began milking this profitable cash cow. We always thought that the idea was to use tickets to deter parking in areas where there were especial problems – and imagined that there would be a blitz on the Market Place in particular, where the situation is an acute one.
But as we have reported, Fridays seem to have become the day the wardens stroll out of town to find the odd car parked harmlessly but where it shouldn't be whilst the Market Place remains thronged with badly and often dangerously parked cars.
Last week, we noticed a change of tack.
Wardens were around on Market Day, touring all the little hideaways where people are forced to park because there is nowhere else to go.
Another day of easy pickings.
Is it because so many people break the rules in the Market Place and the wardens fear a confrontation, that they appear to steer clear of it?
We’re sorry to say that it begins to look that way.

***

Not surprisingly, the 94 year-old war veteran ticketed outside  Boston bus station  – whose story prompted the Daily Mail headline “War hero, 94, slams council as 'Nazis'” –  had his appeal against a £35 fine upheld.
"Even so, Boston Borough Council couldn't resist taking a parting shot which left them in a bad light …  yet again.
A local “newspaper” report quoted a council spokesman as saying that the appeals unit in Nottingham cancelled the charge as there was a discrepancy between the time on a bus ticket and the time printed by the penalty ticket machine.
So, they were wrong – but in Boston the council always has to have the last word.
“But the appeals unit did comment that the penalty notice we served ‘was issued for a valid reason,’” the spokesman smugly added –  which implies that really, the opposite was the case.
For once, discretion might have been the better part of valour – but this council always has to appear to be right.
See our earlier piece on sandbags!

***

More on the Quadrant debate now – and an e-mail from a reader who is unhappy with the ongoing coverage in the conventional “press.”
“The newspapers are making hay with the news that Boston Borough Council planners gave the Q1 project the go-ahead, again misleading most readers into thinking it's all over.
“This application still has to have a seal of approval on it from the Secretary of State!
“Looking at the comments from the leader Peter Bedford, it would appear we no longer have a need to take things to a planning committee.
“He has already stated the distributor road will be built round to Tesco and put pressure on Lincolnshire County Council and the government to put funding in place for the links through to the A52 and the A1121 Boardsides and then over the Witham to Tattershall Road (Boston  Standard 13th  August.)
“This will put more traffic on the A1121 past Swineshead Abbey then?
“Mr Bedford is already singing the praises of Chestnut Homes' Q2  – so, no need to take it to planning then?
“It would save expense and time to cut them out!”

***



Finally, we note concerns about the procedures surrounding the electoral register – just as there are changes being made to the way it is compiled.
After completing their original form – a job formerly allocated to the quaintly named householder – a copy was sent annually to be confirmed as still being correct.
Now that has changed, and if you've been registered for some time, your details and those of the rest of the household will now be registered individually – which will happen with about 80% of households
Under individual electoral registration you need to provide identifying information, such as date of birth and national insurance number, when required to register and the application will need to be verified before it goes on the register.
The government says: “Individual Electoral Registration will give people more control and ownership over the process and increase the accuracy of the register – with the new system able to verify that everyone on the register is who they say they are. This will ensure that there is greater trust in the legitimacy and fairness of our elections.”
Of course it will.
It also creates more jobs for the boys together with massive printing and postage costs, and countless home visits, which we’ll probably have to fund from our council tax.
It also makes some people uneasy.
A reader e-mails to say: “What annoys me most is the statement ‘you need to provide us with this information; if you don't you could be fined £80.’
“I was under the impression that voting in England was not compulsory, thus if you do not vote you do not have to register as a voter. Have I got this wrong?
“The other thing which is a concern in giving information, is how it is being used. With all the various agencies delving into our lives these days and demanding more information regarding how we live, and personal details, the collation of such information becomes more spread around, thus causing more of a chance of making you more vulnerable. This does not mean that people are generally up to no good, but misinterpretation is always an issue with the type of people who analyse information.
"I can see why the electoral registration service is doing this due to phantom voters registered by those who unscrupulously attempt to undermine elections but – as usual – the rest of us have to compromise our own personal liberties.”
There are several points to be noted here.
Firstly, there is no compulsion to vote here – unlike countries such as Australia which is one of 23 nations with mandatory voting laws … although only ten enforce them.
Supporters of the system say Australia boasts some of the highest civic participation in the world, with a reported 94% voter turnout in the last federal election, compared with about 65% in the UK's 2010 general election and an estimated 57% in the 2012 US presidential election.
We’re sure that Boston Borough Council is fully behind fining people £80 for failing to tell them what they want to know – it uses criminalisation as a sledgehammer to crack a nut whenever possible.
But there is even more money at stake here if you decide to be an awkward customer.
Again, the government tells us: “You need to be on the electoral register to vote in all UK elections and referendums. You are not automatically registered even if you pay council tax.
“If you receive a request for your registration information from your local electoral registration office then you are legally obliged to respond. If you do not respond you could face a fine of up to £1,000,
“It is an offence to knowingly give false information and you could face a fine of up to £5,000 and/or up to six months in prison.  If you do not make an application for registration when required to do so, you could face a fine of £80.”
As far as using the information is concerned – there are two electoral registers – the main one and the open register.
The main one is used – surprise, surprise – for “electoral purposes” … but also crime detection, finding candidates for jury service and checking credit applications.
The open register is for sale to any Tom, Dick or Harry  who wants to buy it so they can send promotional material, charity appeals, credit card offers and a whole host of other junk mail – but you can ask not to be included on this list.
The real answer is that they love to gather information about us – and the more they can get the better as far as they are concerned.
Earlier this week, the Local Government Association called for the practice to be stopped, claiming that it discouraged people from registering to vote – but with details floggable for less than 50p a name, we can’t see many authorities turning down such easy money.
The bottom line here is that if people feel strongly enough they just don’t register, and nothing much seems to be done about it.
The Electoral Commission says that up to six million British voters are not registered – a 50% rise in ten years, because registration has "not kept pace with a rising population."


You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.

Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com


Friday, 22 August 2014


As a change of career beckons for our local MP Mark Simmonds – he will not be contesting Boston and Skegness at next year’s general election because the parliamentary expenses system is not enough for him to enjoy family life – still no-one yet seems prepared to come forward to offer him words of comfort.
The website Conservativehome – which somewhat obviously defines itself as “the home of Conservatism” –  last week carried a comment by their pundit Iain Dale, presenter of LBC Drive, managing director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate – and clearly not a man to mince his words.
“I’ve never met Mark Simmonds,” he declared, “but, honestly, what a moron.
“Does he seriously think that anyone will have any sympathy for his apparent plight of not being able to survive on £120,000 a year? I ask you. I have some sympathy with his complaint that a parliamentary lifestyle doesn't really mix with a family life. 
“But my sympathy is tempered by the fact that he must surely have known this before he applied to be a candidate.
“And if he didn’t, he’s even more of a moron than he appears to be.
Does Simmonds realise how he comes across to a family of four who exist on £30,000 a year?
“And we wonder why people think politicians are out of touch”

***

In the Mail on Sunday, columnist Annie McElvoy is even more unforgiving.
Beneath the headline “£90,000 isn't enough for a Tory - but it's a huge bonus for UKIP ,” she writes:
“Not only has Mark Simmonds, a Foreign Office minister, resigned on the threadbare grounds that a £89,435 ministerial salary and allowances strained the family finances, but Mr Simmonds – an erstwhile backer of the Prime Minister – wants to throw in the towel in his Boston seat.
“This charmless departure, I'm told, brought forth some ‘rather salty language’ from the PM.
“Ordinarily, an undistinguished parliamentarian quitting in a seat with a 12,000 Tory majority would cause few tears among election planners.
“But Boston, where feelings about immigration from Eastern Europe run particularly high, is a bull’s-eye target at the election next May for UKIP .
“The Faragistes took more than 50 per cent of the vote there in the European elections; their highest total.
“Well-paid MPs with property portfolios moaning about how tough Westminster is sounds like a gift to the populist Mr Farage.
The seat is not as loyally Tory as it looks; it was a hard-fought Labour marginal in 2001 and 1997.
“The only cheer for Dave is that the Lincolnshire coast isn't plain sailing for Nigel Farage either. I'm told his best  ‘frenemy’ Neil Hamilton, whose entanglement with Mohammed Al Fayed ended up briefly losing the Tories the safe seat of Tatton, has ‘swung into action’, soliciting UKIP support in Boston while Mr Farage was indulging in his ritual summer fishing holiday.
“But the UKIP leader wants  to spend more time allocating  the prime Boston seat, dislikes having his hand forced, and has been cold-shouldering Mr Hamilton, whom he regards as an unreliable ally with a fondness for the sound of his own voice.”

***

It wasn't just the heavyweights that ran with the story, either. Gaby Hinsliff, Grazia magazine’s “political editor at large” has a name check for our MP as well.


 *** 
And from as far afield as South Somercotes, a critic put pen to her local paper to declare that “Even as a Conservative voter I am appalled at the crass insensitivity with which Mark Simmonds announced his resignation.
“He bewails the fact that he cannot manage on £120,000 a year, plus a £25,000 a year salary for his wife and the proceeds of £500,000 he made on the sale of his London home – for which the taxpayer footed the bill and he pocketed the profit. You don’t have to be a fan of “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist” to see how thoughtless this is in an area where most work for the minimum wage.
“If that sort of income puts folk off becoming MPs, as Mr Simmonds states, then we are clearly in danger of having only the aristocracy back in Parliament albeit this time in the House of Commons instead of in the House of Lords!”

***

Conspicuous by their absence so far are any reports of how Mr Simmonds is likely to earn a crust once his parliamentary largesse disappears.
We all remember how he picked up £50,000 a year for ten hours’ “work” a month from a health company – he was shadow minister for health between 2007 and 2010 – and we are sure he won’t have taken a leap into the dark by quitting without the safety net of earning at least as much again as his parliamentary pittance.
His most recent work as Minister for Africa will have brought him into contact with all sorts of interesting people, and we await news of his future plans with interest.

***

Do we have a clue about how long ago Mark Simmonds decided not to stand again for Boston? 
A reader e-mails to say “I've looked at the electoral register for Swineshead, and despite Swineshead Abbey being their only (or main?) residence, the Simmonds appear not to be registered this year, which makes me wonder where they are able to vote.”
A colleague checked this as far as was possible, and told us that 192.com, which links names to addresses using information from the electoral register did in fact list the Simmonds family at the £900,000 mansion.
But there is no clue as to how old that information is, so things could well have altered.
If not on the register, of course, it is impossible to vote – but then if you are not standing, this scarcely matters.

***

Interestingly, a letter from the Louth neck of the woods underlines what we said last week about candidate selection and the golden ticket that some Lincolnshire constituencies like Boston represent for the Machiavellis – sorry, planners – at Conservative Central Office.
Victoria Atkins (pictured here with another Tory hopeful) is the newly appointed candidate for Louth and Horncastle, currently held by “Father of the House” Sir Peter Tapsell, who is calling it a day at the next election and who had a majority of 13,871 in 2010.
Ms Atkins is a high flying criminal prosecutor, and already well-connected in Conservative circles, serving as deputy chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum’s Justice and Home Affairs Group.
She is described as having “an unusual amount of open primary experience from Tonbridge and Malling, Mid Worcestershire and North East Hampshire – and also stood for Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012.
Whilst she says that she and her husband Paul, the managing director of a British food company “cannot wait to find our new home in Louth and Horncastle” her ties are clearly with London, and she also declares that “we like to spend what little spare time we have going to concerts, travelling, horse-riding and running around after our son, Monty.”
As we said last week, the candidate list that local Conservative activists parties have to choose from is drawn up by head office, and it seems fairly obvious to us that the soon-to-be-new MP has most probably been been picked for her value to the party as a PR asset now, and a high flyer of the future –  and less to do with the constituency and its needs in the present.
It will be interesting to see what happens here in Boston – as there has already been one cry of “foul” over the Louth-Horncastle selection.
The writer of a letter to a local paper says he was unable to register for the historic open primary election to select Sir Peter Tapsell’s successor. He says he found that he was unable to register to vote, received no response to ’phone calls, nor could he register via the Conservative Association’s website
“It would appear … that the Louth and Horncastle Conservative Association had deliberately delayed publicising the election in order to restrict the public attendance.
“Was that because the deal had already been done? Had Conservative Central Office instructed the local organisation to select a female in order to support their claim to welcome women MPs?”
We wonder what is going through the “minds” of our local Tory hierarchy as the ladies dust off their little black dress for the Boston selection process, and the men shake the mothballs from the turn-ups of their cavalry twills, seek out that natty yellow cravat with the blue fox heads on it, and pop their ageing tub of yellow brilliantine into the microwave to soften it.
The response of Tory supporters in Boston when County Hall snaps its fingers and tells them to jump is to ask “how high.”
When Conservative Central Office does the same, the response will surely be “how much higher?”
Can we expect them to do their best for Boston, or do as they're told?
Why ask?
In fact when we looked at the Boston and Skegness Conservative webpage last night, there was still no mention of Mark Simmonds' resignation, nor of any timetable to find a replacement.
And the MP's own website was equally silent.

***

A couple of weeks ago we mentioned the TaxPayers’ Alliance annual Town Hall Rich List – which detailed staff earning more than £100,000 a year.
There were two in Worst Street – Chief Executive Richard Harbord and his deputy and Strategic Director Phil Drury.
In overall terms, Boston always comes low on the list of councils when such scrutiny is carried out – but as we have said before, in the case of Mr Harbord, he is paid under a deal frowned upon by the Communities and Local Government Department through his own private company … which confers some considerable tax advantages.
This has not escaped the TPA this time around, though.
The report’s author, TaxPayers' Alliance Campaign Manager, Andy Silvester, told Boston Eye: “This is a deeply concerning arrangement, and taxpayers in Boston will want to know why this strange situation is allowed to continue. This preferential tax arrangement is bound to raise eyebrows.”

***

The webcasting of  the Quadrant application planning committee meeting was a first for Boston Borough Council – but changes to the law mean that it will hopefully not be the last time we see our councillors starring on the computer screen.
New regulations  announced by the Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles give journalists and the public new rights to report on local council meetings and allows them to film, digitally report, and tweet from all public meetings of local government bodies.
Pickles says that the new regulations – which apply only in England – are intended to end the resistance in some authorities to greater openness and the use of new technology to report on and film or broadcast council meetings.
Some councils have called police to arrest people who tried to report, tweet or film their meetings, or claimed the power to ban reporting on "health and safety" grounds or because of the danger that it would bring "reputational risks".
The new rules apply to all public meetings, including town and parish councils and fire and rescue authorities.
Eric Pickles said: “Local democracy needs local journalists and bloggers to report and scrutinise the work of their council, and increasingly, people read their news via digital media.
"The new ‘right to report’ goes hand in hand with our work to stop unfair state competition from municipal newspapers – together defending the independent free press.
"There is now no excuse for any council not to allow these new rights.
Not for the first time, it may well be the case that Boston Borough Council’s leadership needs to smarten up its act.
At the end of 2013 – although allowing filming of meetings was not mandatory – councillors recommended a change of protocol on the grounds of transparency and openness … nay, nay, titter ye not, as Frankie Howerd used to say.
However, along with this grudging nod to democracy the recommendations  gave committee chairmen discretion to allow filming or not and ordered that consent to film had to be sought  in writing, or by email, to the democratic services manager no later than five working days before the day of the meeting.
The recommendation also said that filming will only be permitted from cameras on tripods set up in advance of the meeting in a location designated by the chairman, and prohibited the use of iPads, notebooks, tablets or smart phones to record the meeting either visually or by audio.
It sounds as though Eric Pickles has driven a coach and horses through the local handcuffs on democracy such as those agreed by the council – and we look forward to seeing changes made so that they can be implemented – and to hearing the news publicly announced.

***

Which brings us back to the TaxPayers Alliance
In a report at the end of 2013 – around the same time that Boston Borough Council was deliberating allowing cameras into meetings – a report from the TPA named the council as one of twelve which only allowed the public to record at meetings with approval of either the chairman or the Mayor.
At the time, Andrew Allison, National Grassroots Coordinator of the TaxPayers’ Alliance noted: “Allowing residents the opportunity to see democracy in action is an important part of the democratic process. Not all residents will be able to attend in person, and councils can get around this simply by allowing residents to film meetings themselves. They can also opt for low cost systems to broadcast meetings on their websites. It is time for councils to move into the 21st Century and embrace technology, rather than trying to pretend it doesn't exist the moment councillors enter a meeting".

***

It’s not the first time that the TPA has had harsh words for the council.
In November 2012 it nominated Councillor Bedford as its Pinhead of the Month
“Presiding over both the council and the Conservative group on the authority, he has just led his colleagues in support of a 20 per cent increase in councillors’ special responsibility allowances (SRA) over the next two years.,”  said the nomination.
“He has justified the move on the basis that councillors holding leading positions at other nearby authorities are taking far more in allowances than is currently the case at Boston. The changes will see Councillor Bedford’s own SRA increase from less than £6,500 per year to nearly £8,000.
Jonathan Isaby, Political Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, commented:
“Peter Bedford has badly let down those he represents by backing the hike in his allowances at a time when families are feeling the pinch and having to make savings.
“When was the last time you heard someone complain that their local authority would perform so much better if only the councillors were given a big rise in their allowances?
“When the council is freezing staff pay and making difficult decisions about how to spend scarce resources, the last thing councillors should be doing is increasing the amount they are taking for themselves.
“It ought to be a matter of pride for Councillor Bedford that he and his colleagues are currently delivering better value for money than their counterparts elsewhere by taking less in these allowances. Instead, they have chosen to vote themselves this eye-watering rise. How can Councillor Bedford now retain the moral authority to oversee necessary savings elsewhere in the budget?”
All of which moves us neatly on to our next item.

***

It’s always good to get feedback from readers … particularly when they want to learn more about the way that our local politics tick – or in the case of the broken timepiece that represents the current leadership in Worst Street –  grate and grind along without ever getting the time right.
And it was an e-mail from reader Annette that reminded us of much that has been forgotten over the years, and which needs to be remembered in the run-up to the next elections in May 2015.
“I enjoy reading your blog but would like to ask a question,” wrote Annette. “How can Peter Bedford be council leader when he lost his seat in last year's elections?
“I am also confused as to why nothing is ever heard about the UKIP councillors elected last year.
“Are they actually out in the community fulfilling their responsibilities, or just sitting back enjoying their success on protest votes without having to lift a finger?”
Good questions both.
The answer to the first is that for many years, Councillor Bedford wore two political hats – at Lincolnshire County Council as well as Boston Borough Council.
At County Hall, Boston is represented by seven of the 77 councillors, and locally we have 32, which will be reduced to 30 next year.
Because of the way that elections fall, voting for seats on the county overlap with the elections at borough level.
So last year, Councillor Bedford and a number of his Tory cronies who between then had swamped the county political scene, got the old heave-ho with just one seat remaining Conservative, one becoming sort of Independent , and the remaining five falling to UKIP.
Bedford became leader of Boston Borough Council after the local elections in May 2011, via a rather arcane route which we will explain later.
UKIP – having won sixteen of the 25 seats that the ruling Conservatives lost at County Hall – then surprised no-one by proving how incapable they were when it came to conducting politics in the real world.
The election saw the Conservative Party lose overall control of the council, having previously enjoyed a sizeable majority, and found themselves six seats short of an overall majority.
UKIP was the biggest party, with 16 seats, but lost six of its councillors to defections caused by internal wrangling shortly after the election
The upshot was that the Conservatives agreed on a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and several “Independent” members – who themselves defected from their own “party” to do so – to continue running the council.
If all that isn’t confusing enough, because of the collapse of UKIP unity, Labour – with 12 seats – now forms the official opposition.
At a local level, two people elected as UKIP members in the county elections were also voted in at by-elections in Boston Borough Council, and went through exactly the same political gymnastics as we had seen in Lincoln.
It’s hard to keep track between county and local level, but having started out under the UKIP banner, they briefly flirted with the title “UKIP Lincolnshire” then “Independence from Europe” before throwing in their lot with the Lincolnshire Independents group … which is so independent that it has a leader, which makes no sense to us at all – especially as it has nothing to do with UKIP or its policies
So to answer the original question about UKIP at both county and borough levels – “are they actually out in the community fulfilling their responsibilities, or just sitting back enjoying their success on protest votes without having to lift a finger?” – in our opinion, the reply would be “up to a point.”
They attend almost all lessons – four have 100% attendance records and one has 90%, but in terms of hearing from them or seeing anything by way of action, the answer is “not really.”

 ***

The first half of the first question – “how can Peter Bedford be council leader?”  –  is probably asked somewhere in Boston on an almost daily basis  and for the reason why we must again go back to the 2011 election.
Then, the Conservative leader was Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire and – such was the impact that Bedford made at meetings in the run up to the election, one candidate needed to ask who he was – even though he had 20 years’ “service” under his belt at the time.
He was then the Chairman of Lincolnshire County Council – a largely ceremonial job occupied by rota on the basis of time served – as Boston’s mayors are appointed these days after a brief flirtation with electing the post-holder.
Just days after the shock victory, Councillor Singleton-McGuire stepped aside and handed the reins to Councillor Bedford, becoming his joint deputy with Councillor Michael Brookes.
At the time, we asked the not unreasonable question “did he fall or was he pushed?” and were told that this was unfair, and we had misinterpreted a sacrifice for the good of Boston as some sort of political coup d'├ętat.
With almost indecent haste, Councillor Bedford turned up on the wireless to tell the enthralled listeners with his customary loquacity: “It was felt that it needed a steady pair of hands, should we say, at the helm, and to allow Raymond to specialise in looking into the finances, because as you are well aware, with the cuts that are upon us from central government and we accept those, the fact that it has to happen, but we do need a specialist in the area, and on the Conservative group, he’s the only person that we have who’s a specialist in that area.
“It would be absolutely impossible to do both jobs.
“Everybody is happy with what’s gone on. It was done amicably over the weekend; we had a group meeting yesterday teatime to agree and rubber stamp the outcomes.”
As we noted at the time, it was Harold Wilson who famously ran a so-called “kitchen cabinet.”
Now it seemed Boston had an equivalent – the Tory tearoom!
Nonetheless, we pursued the matter, and eventually, Councillor Singleton-McGuire declared: “I reflected on the situation at Boston Borough Council and its issues, especially the finances. In light of this, I set aside my personal gratification and tried to think what would be best for Boston. My intentions were to engage Peter Bedford as a second deputy similar to that at Lincolnshire County Council and South Holland District Council and to use his vast experience and ambassador qualities.
“Peter agreed to take over the leadership in the interim period, therefore releasing my time to concentrate on the finance portfolio.”
So, an “interim” post that is still being clung to more than three years later and is likely to remain so until the election – and long after Councillor Singleton-McGuire is said to have sorted all the borough’s financial woes.
Hmmm.  
***

Now to more on the Quadrant debate, which was held over from last week because of pressures on space.
A writer says:
“I wonder if the reasoning behind the Boston United move really was just because Old Yorkie has gone way past its best.
"In fairness, it has been crumbling for a very long time – but can that really have been the only catalyst for this extraordinarily large project?
“I would accept that the government’s new initiative  regarding house building, has played a fairly major part in the motivation, and in a run down, and dare I say it, neglected town such as Boston, initiatives like this are more than welcome.
"In fact in Boston`s case, it is vital, and  needed a.s,a.p, because the way things look, it’s not great.
“No matter the reasons, isn't  it great to see local developers like Chestnut and others putting forward building proposals and developments in and around Boston? 
“Well it is ...  and isn't  it clever that Chestnut’s Quadrant name cleverly denotes that there are three others?
“But the recent planning meeting was a clear demonstration of just how bad things have been for Boston.
“Planners are strung along, manipulated and influenced, and as for the motley collection of decision makers – they do have a lot to answer for.
“What is questionable is how long this particular ‘stringing along’ has been going on, and the remarkable length of time, it seems, that this was being privately discussed!
“All our councillors actually knew a great deal about this, and it seems had been directed to the decision ages ago.
“Let`s get some clarity here, does the Payer or the Piper call the tune...because I think in Boston it is different from the norm.
“Is it really ok, to have potential bounty hunters wandering around our parishes checking out the viability of locations, upon which they might just happen to fancy putting a large or smallish development, and, it seems, being guided … nay advised … by our council?
 “Would it not be equitable to give the local parish council notification, and information regarding such a project proposal?
"After all, it is their patch, but they seemed as shocked by the project as we were, and it seems not to have been the case with the Awful Quadrant Proposal that was – surprise, surprise – passed by the planning committee.
“So what is going on inside the heads of our top end senior officers in the Municipal Buildings?
“Have the delusions of grandeur and importance become so entrenched that they no longer respect, consider, or worry about the ordinary rate paying punter? 
“Isn't it time we began to hold them to account; isn't it time that our councillors insisted on a regular ‘information event’ free from clutter and butter.
“We need to let our officers see the faces of the ratepayer, and force them to provide some proper reasons for projects and actions or lack of them.
“Our officers are paid by us, and councillors are elected by us and their calling is to act on our behalf.
"Believe it or not, they are therefore responsible to us – not, definitely not, the other way round, as some of them seem to believe.
“So here is a question for our development officers.
“Exactly how much assistance was provided, by our officers and staff for this contractor?
“We are told that the plot for the football stadium has been donated through some trust or charitable society....that's all right then, but whose land is it that the rest of the development has been earmarked for?
“Will we, or Boston United, actually and automatically own it at any time in the future?
“Will there be a cost?
“If all of that is actually right, is it really then the job of a highly paid council officer to strive to protect the confidentiality of those prospectors who I am sure will get a reasonable payback, maybe ?
“Even then, as contractors openly trample and dig all over a particular piece of land, checking out the potential of a development opportunity, we Wybertonians are kept in the dark, and/or sworn to secrecy?
“Our enquiry some time back to the borough, asked what a collection of workers with diggers and things were doing in a particular field in Wyberton?
“I believe at the first time of asking, no detail was available, and were told that the presence and purpose of the activity was unknown.
“Sometime later we were told that the council thought that they were just contractors, checking out sites that might be suitable for building on ... only to later discover the true scale of the forthcoming proposal.
“It seems a bit of an understatement to say that they are just going round looking for possible, or potential sites, and fast forward some time later and the work was still going on, in different locations, but on the same large site.
“Lo and behold, suddenly, not only have we been, it seems, falsely informed, we were then faced with being forced into a decision within weeks of this enquiry when a planning application was presented.
“So, a group were hastily gathered and scrambled around, trying to play catch up, attempting to find documents, checking the details, and responding, followed by creating a plan of action, in an attempt to thwart the detailed application and content of the developer’s proposal.
“Not only, I believe, have our officers gone way beyond what might be thought of as accommodating, they have bent, further than whatever might be thought of as simply providing advice and guidance beyond the norm.
Such is the desperation of the council in this town for any scrap of good news even if it is contrived and manipulated to gain an advantage.

***

Things are looking up after last week’s gloomy warning for gardeners when we reported that Boston Borough Council had announced that it couldn't take any brown bin payments until September 8th “due to insufficient availability of stock.” Soon afterwards, we heard from George Bernard, the borough’s Head of Operations, who e-mailed to say: “Happily we received our delivery of new brown garden waste bins earlier than we were led to expect, so are now back in business for those wanting to join the scheme or buy further ones!”
The brown bin service is something that we can wholeheartedly recommend from personal experience and remains very good value – so long as the promise that one can be obtained for a one-off charge and no on-going costs is maintained.

***

Finally, more good news this week is that we are not alone in our concerns about the way that local government works in Lincolnshire.
A new website has been launched as “a clarion call to all those people in Lincolnshire that believe British standards should be the highest in the world and their maintenance should be fought for.”
The authors urge readers to “join us now in this new - bloodless and peaceful - Battle of Britain, where we have an opportunity to put the 'Great' back into Britain again.
“With your help, we can give publicity to the wrong-doers, shine a light on to shady deals, and rip open those little brown envelopes under the very eyes of the people that are being deceived.
The website can be found at  www.lincsenquirer.co.uk  and is worth taking a look at.
  

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com





Friday, 15 August 2014


It’s as if Charlie Bucket has handed back the golden ticket  to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Not that long ago Boston MP Mark Simmonds told  us that – instead of moaning about how little time he has spent in the constituency of late – we should be proud that he was the first MP for the borough to have been given a ministerial job.
He also left us in no apparent doubt that he would seek re-election next year.
Then – lo and behold – he announced this week that not only is he quitting as a minister, but standing down as our representative at next May’s general election.
Sadly, it’s again the familiar case of an MP saying one thing, and then doing another – as the problems that he cites about barely seeing his wife and children could surely not have become so acute, so quickly.
In fact, Mr Simmonds himself said he had agreed his departure as a minister at the time of last month's government reshuffle, saying that David Cameron only wanted people who were standing at the next election in ministerial posts.
Mr Simmonds has said that he has to "put family life first" and blames a lack of financial support for MPs with families outside London.
Mr Simmonds was paid £89,435 a year as a minister and MP. Now he will get an MP’s basic pay of £67,060
His wife is also paid up to £25,000 a year to act as his office manager, and the MP is entitled to £27,875 a year to rent and pay for a flat for him and his family.
That of course, excludes expenses, which have been reported as the highest among Lincolnshire MPs at £173,000-plus last year.
However he said none of this “stretched” far enough and so he stayed in hotels during the week when he was in London.
Mr Simmonds has received little sympathy from commentators.
The Daily Telegraph – normally a newspaper which gives the Conservatives an easy ride – quoted the MP as saying: “I have to stay in a different hotel room every week and any parent would hate that – and I do.
“The accommodation allowance needs to provide for families – and it doesn’t. When my children are on holiday they can’t come and stay with me in London - I can’t see them.”
Mr Simmonds said he was not willing to live in the “outer reaches of London” where rents were more affordable.

***

But, pause for a moment to wipe away the tears, and read on …
Mr Simmonds’s claims that the allowances were not enough to support a family life were denied by the Parliamentary expenses watchdog, which last December recommended an 11% pay rise for MPs after May's general election.
A spokesman for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority said: “We are awake to the impact on family life for MPs who have to live in two locations – in London and the constituency. That is why we provide more support to MPs with family or caring responsibilities.”
An MP with three children would be able to claim £27,875 a year – made up of  £20,600 a year to rent a flat with an extra £2,425 for each of his three children. This, said the spokesman, would “allow them to rent a flat big enough to accommodate their children.”
And the Daily Telegraph disclosed that Mr Simmonds received more than £500,000 from the expenses system after selling a house on which the mortgage interest was paid by the taxpayer for almost all the time he owned it.
“Six months after he became the MP for Boston and Skegness in 2001, Mr Simmonds bought a large house in Putney, south London, for £650,000.
“From 2001 to 2009, the mortgage interest was paid by the taxpayer, with the Tory MP claiming more than £2,000 a month to cover the cost.
“His wife, Lizbeth, became his part-time office manager, receiving £20,000 to £25,000 a year. However, after the expenses scandal of 2009, several new rules were introduced.
Instead of claiming for the mortgage interest on the Putney house, Mr Simmonds could now claim only for renting in London.
Because his constituency house was designated as his main home, he could claim rental costs in London.
“Soon after these changes, Mr Simmonds sold the Putney house for £1,187,500 in the autumn of 2010 – an increase of £537,500 on what he originally paid.
“Under the new rules, MPs were allowed to continue claiming mortgage interest costs for an interim period, but in those cases they also had to share some of the profits with the taxpayer.
“Mr Simmonds decided not to do this and since 2010, has claimed for hotel rooms in London.”
Despite being a full-time MP, Mr Simmonds – whose constituency home is the £900,000 Swineshead Abbey, a 15-acre estate with three reception rooms, a walled garden and “leisure room” – has also held various jobs, including a controversial role as a strategic adviser to Circle Healthcare, an independent medical care provider for which he was paid £50,000 a year from June 2011.
He fee was paid at £12,500 a quarter for 10 hours work a month and in February 2012, Mr Simmonds was forced to apologise for failing to make clear the interest when speaking in favour of the NHS shake-up.
He had to give up the job when he became a minister.
He is also chairman of retail specialists Mortlock Simmonds, to which he contributes about 10 hours’ “work” a month, at £80 an hour – a handy £10,000 a year additional drop in the financial bucket.

***

The sheer desperation of Simmonds’s financial plight was neatly summed up by the Political blogger Guido Fawkes.

None of all the above is likely to play well with the constituents of an area where the average annual salary is the lowest in the county at around £21,000 – a wage which has barely increased over the past seven years.
And let us not forget that famous quote when Mark Simmonds was asked about the lack of jobs for local people in a radio interview.
He responded: “I can meet some young people in Boston who say ‘Mark, when are you going to get all these migrants out of our town, and I say to them, ‘Well, when you’re prepared to go into the fields or the packhouses.”

***

So, whither Boston?
Which makes a change from saying wither, Boston.
In an ideal world, we could do with an MP who believes that the salary and perks is enough to make his or her priorities Boston, Boston, Boston.
But that’s not going to happen, we are sure.
At the start, we mentioned the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – and that’s what a seat like Boston represents for any aspiring Tory politician.
For almost a century, the seat has been unshakeably Conservative, and anyone winning it is guaranteed a job for life.
Before Mark Simmonds came Sir Richard Body, who was MP between 1966 and 2001. Before him, we had Sir Herbert Butcher, from 1937, preceded by Sir James Blindell who sat from 1929.
His predecessor was Arthur Wellesley Dean, who won the seat in 1924 and we have to go back 1918 to find a Labour MP – William Stapleton Royce (born 13th December 1858.)  
The problem with such a lengthy period of ownership and such regularly high Tory majorities, is that the seat is important to Conservative Central Office – for the sole reason that it can parachute in a favoured candidate in the certainty that they will win.
This sort of political patronage has become increasingly common with the Tories in recent years, so don’t hold your breath and hope that an MP who is really perfect for Boston will get the job.
Head office draws up the list of “approved” candidates, and although theoretically, the local Conservatives have the vote – when Central Office pays the piper, our local boys and girls in blue will dance to the tune with whichever partner they are told to select.
Sadly, this is especially true of the current Tory hierarchy in Boston – though let’s not forget that Skegness has a say as well.
Should we take UKIP into account?
Mention has already been made of Neil Hamilton, the party’s deputy chairman – a former barrister, teacher, and Conservative MP for the Tatton constituency until his defeat after becoming involved in a political scandal known as the cash-for-questions affair,
In Who's Who, Hamilton is described as a writer, actor, broadcaster and entertainer – well, he certainly makes us laugh.
The last time UKIP fought Boston was in 2010 when the party took less than 5,000 votes.
Since then, it has enjoyed a renaissance – particularly in the local government elections for both the county and a couple of  local by-elections.
However, it appears in Lincolnshire that UKIP is more divided locally than the Labour party is nationally, and has now fragmented into variously named groups, whilst the surviving main UKIP group has made scarcely any impact locally … and in Boston, has done even less.
The Liberal Democrats may stand again.
Enough said.
And a veteran of recent local elections – Boston Borough Councillor Paul Kenny has not yet said whether he will stand again for Labour in 2015, but his record at national level is scarcely a good one.
The closest Labour came to capturing Boston was in Mark Simmonds’s first contest which was notable for the second Labour landslide of 2001 when he squeaked home with 17,298 votes – or 42.9%.
His rival for Labour, Elaine Bird, polled 16,783 votes, representing 41.6% and giving Simmonds a majority of just 515.
In 2005, when Paul Kenny entered the fray for Labour, Simmonds won with 19,329 votes – 46.2% of the ballot – with Paul Kenny trailing on 13,422, or 32.1%, giving a Tory majority of 5,907 and a swing to the party of 6.4%
In 2010 things got even worse for Labour with Mark Simmonds polling 21,325 votes or 49.4% and Paul Kenny winning 8,899 votes - 20.6% of the total, and a falloff 11.1% on the previous election.
The Conservative majority was 12,426 representing a swing of 7%.
Whichever way you cut it, the writing on the wall is for another Conservative MP representing Boston at Westminster – and the battle now to be fought by our local “politicians” should be to ensure that we get the best representative for the area, and not some plant foisted off by Central Office who has big plans for them in ten years’ time.

***

The last word will never be spoken on the Quadrant development in Wyberton, and the fallout from the decision by Boston Borough Council’s planning committee is only just beginning.
Fallout is the toxic detritus that follows a major explosion such as a nuclear detonation or a major volcanic eruption – and for most of the people who live in Wyberton, something akin to such an event happened when the committee all but nodded the scheme through.
Given the strength of feeling you might have hoped that the council leadership could have been graceful and generous in victory.
But you would be wrong.
As was to be expected, the opportunity to rub the losers’ noses in it was too appealing to resist, and a “three page special” edition of Boston Pravda was fired off to the handful of people who subscribe to it on the Thursday following the meeting.
In it, borough council “leader” Pete Bedford – although he seems to have led from behind for much of the debate – was quick to say I told you so.
 “Boston Borough Council’s planning committee has made a brave but correct decision to indicate its approval of one of the biggest developments ever to be put before them,” he squawked, telling anyone who would listen that “I make no apologies for my support for the project” – which is the first that we heard of it.
In fact, Councillor Bedford appeared to go to some lengths to distance himself from things – resigning as a planning committee substitute at the end of June and being replaced by Councillor Stephen Woodliffe, who was actually called upon to cover one of the absences at the meeting which voted for the Quadrant scheme.
Narrow squeak there, then, Pete.
(Don’t call the leader a narrow squeak – editor.)
It was said at the time that Councillor Bedford was an “attending supporter” of Boston United, but this didn’t bother two members of the planning committee who declared that they had an interest as season ticket holders – and really didn’t seem to think that this mattered.
Councillor Bedford also claimed that “support for the scheme has already been indicated with granting of £4.75 million secured by Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership from the government’s Growth Deal.
“The successful bid is a major indication of support for the project from Government, reinforcing the planning committee’s decision.”
How something that received a grant before a decision was taken to approve it can reinforce that decision is an interesting use of the language – but one that we have come to expect from our leadership.
After stressing the upside of the plan, Councillor Bedford went on to say that: “The only losers will be those who have complained that they will lose a view – but the right to a view is not a material planning consideration.”
No other complaints were mentioned, although our recollection was of concerns being expressed regarding health, traffic dangers, and problems with local NHS and education services to name but a few.
However, as another famous Tory, Winston Churchill, told us: “History is written by the victors.

***

Councillor Bedford’s verbal gymnastics after the event reminded us of some others during the debate – most notably from Councillor Derek “Knocker” Richmond, who was somehow omitted from our awards last week.
He quite often uses a strange reverse logic to make his points.
Remember his insistence to charge disabled blue badge holders to park their cars? The logic behind this was that the disabled really wanted to pay to park in order to achieve a much yearned for equality with able bodied people.
Then there was the contortive argument in support of a 20p charge to use the council owned toilets, which involved declaring that the value of a pre-decimal penny seventy years ago was 86 new pence in today’s money which proved that a 20p charge to use the loos represented a 65 pence discount for users.
At last week’s planning meeting he regaled us with the argument that because 19 per cent of the residents of Wyberton turned out to vote in the Quadrant referendum, this meant that the 81 per cent who didn’t were not opposed to the development or were not bothered.
Somehow this conveniently overlooked the fact that more than 86 per cent of those who did vote were against the development – but, of course, any attempt to extrapolate this figure would have not gone the way he liked.
One thing is for certain … we wouldn’t want him calculating our weekly wages!

***

Despite the best efforts of Boston Borough Council’s leaders the Quadrant objectors remain bloody but unbowed, and we understand that they are planning a detailed response to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, who will review the application because of its size and impact.
The group says that it is only fair that he is made very aware of their suspicions and concerns regarding this particular application.
The group tells us that they are always open to “new or influential” information, and willing supporters to champion their cause, not just in Wyberton but right across the borough.
We have a couple of lengthy e-mail contributions concerning last week’s debate, and because this week has turned out to be so busy, will be holding them over to next week’s Boston Eye

***

The leadership’s patronising “we told you so” approach provoked an angry response from some of our readers, who felt that the borough three page “special” report on the planning meeting was only special because of the partiality it displayed.
One reader told us: “I have never witnessed such blatant bias!
“All those who were in favour have had something quoted by them recorded.
“Where are the comments from Councillor Smith and Councillor Snell?
“Whatever you may think about these two councillors, they were brave enough to speak out and yet were not mentioned!”
A number of other readers felt the same way, - so for their benefit, we have come up with our own take on the bulletin …



***

At long last work is underway to paint the side of Boston Assembly Rooms which races the river – and as expected, a team of abseilers, whose last job was repairing a North Sea oil rig are to carry out the work.
Earlier ideas such as using scaffolding were rejected on cost grounds, whilst working from a barge was no good because the tide would have restricted work to a couple of hours a day.
Owner Matt Clark says that the work will include reglazing the windows and renovating the woodwork.
He reminded us that he took over the property about two years ago – which means that the paint job is now well outside the timescale agreed for completion when the deal was signed.
There are also plans for further renovation work on the ground floor.
Whilst it’s great that at long, long last the building will look as is should have done for the past year or more, we still think it a pity that no better use for it could have been found than a nightclub.

***

However, the latest issue of the free magazine Simply Boston has cleverly anticipated how much better the Assembly Rooms may look after the paint job has finished – aside from the colour, that is.
We couldn’t believe it when we saw the picture below on the front page of the August issue.


It’s one thing to use an archive picture if you tell the readers that’s what it is – but quite another to apparently pass it off as current … and there is no mention that this picture is donkey’s years old.
Let’s hope no visitors were lured to see our sights by such misleading information.

***

Still with Simply Boston, we note that council leader Pete Bedford is still fobbing the editors off with a load of out out-dated tat passed off as his “notes” which purportedly discuss “the important topics in and around Boston.”
His latest offering is mainly about the borough council’s annual report – which is an historic review of the year rather than a live topic.
Amid a deluge of statistics he tells us “there have been a number of successes which will be highlighted in our annual report when it comes out shortly.
This is from the August issue of the magazine.
The annual report was published on 18th July.

***

Last week we heard that health service officials had promised not to axe the Accident and Emergency department at Pilgrim Hospital.
The pledge was made after concerns that cuts could mean its eventual closure were voiced by East Lindsey district councillors.
A motion copied to local MPs, the Care Quality Commission, Lincolnshire County Council and local parish and town councils, says :”East Lindsey District Council is extremely concerned at recent moves by United Lincolnshire Health Trust which would severely impact upon the district's residents and visitors should they be implemented.
Grave concern is expressed regarding the possible move of the accident and emergency department at Pilgrim Hospital, to Lincoln County Hospital.
“This would leave a large area within East Lindsey without adequate emergency treatment and mean that access to emergency treatment would be over an hour away in a number of areas. This is unacceptable. By the very nature of emergency medicine, and the "golden hour" rule in many cases needing to be observed, this could be very dangerous.”
East Lindsey’s well-timed intervention is to be applauded – but the big question that remains unanswered is … why didn’t Boston Borough Council co-sign the protest?
The council is always boasting of its shared relationship with East Lindsey, and someone in Worst Street must surely have the job of keeping an eye on the council’s agendas to watch for conflicts of interest or items of shared importance.
But no-one apparently spotted it.
Had Boston added its support to the motion it would have added some weight, and demanded that bit more attention.
But as usual, our so-called leadership sat on its hands and did nothing.
There’s a surprise.

***

Every Friday until the end of the month we are told by Boston Borough Council that we can look forward to a day’s free entertainment in the Market Place – courtesy of the Transported organisation.
This involves everything from watching people walking around dressed up as a camel, and the usual face painting, to trying your hand at plumage-inspired knitting.
The objective of Transported is to develop “inventive” ways of getting people involved in the arts where they live, meet and work, providing “inspirational experiences” and “empowering local people to take the lead in shaping their own arts provision.”
Quite how that relates to what’s going on in the Market Place is anyone’s guess.
And yet again, Boston Borough Council is redefining words to suit its own convenience when used about the event – presumably in the hope of riding piggy back on some activities that it has had nothing to do with or pay for.
The dictionary defines “free” as meaning without cost or payment
Transported has been given the unusually specific sum of £2,592,183 to blow over three years for a bunch of luvvies to have a good time at our expense.
And it seems that there is so much dosh washing around that they laid on a series of treats in Pescod Square earlier this week on market day.
They included a man with rouged cheeks and a balloon on a string tied to his wrist chalking on the pavement, a group of young women mincing about waving their arms in the air in some sort of dance routine, another band of women striding around whilst wearing outsized headphones, and another man holding a pose for a while and then moving … some sort of mime perhaps, but definitely not a “human statue.”
How sad, how very, very sad.

***

Amid all the commemorative events marking the outbreak of the First World War a century ago last week, one thing was conspicuous by its absence – news of Boston Borough Council’s appeal for a memorial in the town.
It was early in July that the council trumpeted that the appeal was “almost” there – but the silence is now deafening.
As near as we can tell, the appeal passed the halfway mark at the end of June, and around £1,000 was handed in early in July.
The appeal total is said to be £4,200, so the halfway mark would be £2,100, and the added £1,000 would take it to £3,100 – which is still a thousand pounds shy.
The appeal – to raise money “purely from public subscription,” has not gone well.
Initially the plan was for two wrought iron benches to be placed in the Memorial Park in Wide Bargate on the very day that war broke out in 1914.
But the veterans pooh-poohed this idea and demanded a granite obelisk instead.
Then because of problems with timing, the date to unveil this lump of rock was put back, until Armistice Day – when it will somewhat pointlessly mark the 96th anniversary of the ending of the war.
As insurance, Boston Borough Council’s B-Tacky committee agreed to make up any shortfall – although any such contribution should really have been approved and paid for by the full council budget rather than a committee.
This means that council taxpayers will foot any outstanding sum … which is an interesting definition of a voluntary public appeal.
Yet again, Worst Street defines the language to its own ends.
We look forward to a progress report on the memorial sometime soon.

***

In days before the word was even thought of, economic necessity ensured that the Victorians recycled everything.
That is why dustmen were so named – because the only thing left to dispose of after everything else had been reused was – the dust.
Now the job is dignified by titles such as sanitation engineers, refuse disposal operatives, environmental engineers and suchlike.
But things have moved on in more ways than one since the days of the Old Queen.
Not only do dustmen now have posh names, but the dustcarts they used to drive are – in Boston at any rate – now styled as “refuse freighters.”
Not only that – they have been fitted with on-board computer systems “to improve efficiency”  …  which apparently means giving an electronic finger to anyone who complains that their bin has been missed when in fact they failed to put it out.
Yet another caring message from Worst Street sums it up under the headline: “Bins not put out: No collection.”
It goes on to explain that these hi-tech “freighters” can record bins that are not presented in time on the day of collection.
“In future there will not be return visits to empty bins recorded on the system as not being presented,” wags the council’s finger sternly.
It’s good to discover that our council tax is being so wisely spent, isn’t it?
And just to rub salt into the wound, the council has announced – inevitably in the peak of the growing and gardening season – that it is unable to take any brown bin payments until September 8th “due to insufficient availability of stock.” The announcement was posted on the borough's website at the beginning of August.
The words booze-up and brewery come to mind.

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