This time, it’s not the oysters from the Walrus and the Carpenter – although a number of people are coming out of their shells – but candidates to represent Boston at next year’s general election.
Last week our attention focussed on the campaign by Neil and Christine Hamilton for the “writer, actor, broadcaster and entertainer” to be UKIP’s man at Westminster on Boston’s behalf.
The idea chilled us to the bone, echoing as it did of the sound of a window of opportunity being thrown open by someone anxious to represent wherever presented the best chance of getting elected.
But as Boston Eye went to bed last week, more and more names were emerging.
A second candidate emerged for UKIP, along with two for Labour, and the first Tory interest in the seat.
The defection of Douglas Carswell from the Tories to UKIP and his decision to fight a by-election in his Clacton constituency on 9th October rather than sit tight until 7th May next year prompted local UKIP activists to postpone their proposed candidate selection date from 11th September to a date to be fixed.
It was a sound move politically and for another reason – anyone selected on 9/11 would start out with more than their fair share of “disaster” jibes before any other comments came their way!
So, who are the names in the frame so far?
We’ll stay with UKIP for the moment – and the party’s second candidate is Paul Wooding – aka djsharkyp on his Twitter page..
Mr Wooding hails from the Maidstone area, but told Boston Eye: “I have family who live in the area and I visit quite a few times a year and understand the people, their problems and their angst.
“I chose to put myself forward many months ago for selection as I am not motivated by fame or money.....just to bring attention and help to the region.
“I have been working since February on schemes, but cannot say much more than that as I would not like the other parties to steal the credit.”
Earlier this year Mr Wooding stood for the party in elections for Maidstone Borough Council’s South Ward and came a close third behind the Tory candidate.
Last weekend he was out campaigning in Clacton, after a 12 hour night shift, two hours sleep, and a two hour journey to his destination.
We call that keen!
As DJ SharkyP – not to be confused with DJ Sharkey (Jonathan Kneath) who co-created a style of hard-core techno known as freeform or freeform hard-core – Mr Wooding boasts 25 years’ experience, and says he can “cater for most genres and can supply a bespoke entertainment set for any occasion.”
Fortunately, he has had the perspicacity to change his social media profile picture in recent days, so that he now appears on Twitter looking more like a political candidate and less like an all in-wrestler about to launch an attack on his opponent.
Next we turn to Labour – whose prescription for election victory is to keep taking the mixture as before.
Our local “newspapers” report that Paul Kenny and Ben Cook have been shortlisted for the party in Boston and Skegness.
Mr Kenny is, of course, a familiar political figure locally. He’s a Boston borough councillor and former mayor, and also served as a Lincolnshire County Councillor.
Not only that but he has played before – having stood for Labour at the last two general elections.
Mr Cook, meanwhile, was Labour’s unsuccessful candidate in the Boston borough council by-election for Fenside a year ago – losing to UKIP changeling Patrisha Ann Keywood-Wainwright who after a series of political metamorphoses is now a member of Lincolnshire Independents … the “independent” party with a leader. Hopefully, she’s not as confused as we are!
The choice between Messrs Kenny and Cook will be made on September 21st.
Councillor Paul Gleeson, leader of the Labour group on Boston borough council, has said that in the mid1990s this was a close seat for Labour and that he expects that the strong UKIP challenge could split the Conservative vote.
Of the two candidates, we know Mr Kenny quite well and greatly admired his term as Mayor when he did much to restore the credibility that the role had lacked for many years.
However, local success is not a guarantee of anything more, and as we have already reported, Labour has not enjoyed a good run at general elections under Mr Kenny’s stewardship.
The closest the party came to capturing Boston was in 2001, when Mark Simmonds’s victory coincided with the second Labour landslide and he squeaked home with a majority of just 515 over Labour rival Elaine Bird.
In 2005, when Paul Kenny entered the fray for Labour, Simmonds won with a Tory majority of 5,907.
In 2010 things got even worse for Labour with Mark Simmonds’ majority rising 12,426 or 49.4% and Paul Kenny winning 8,899 votes – 20.6% of the total, and a fall of 11.1% on the previous election.
But despite public opinion polls, elections are unpredictable, and Labour nationally is currently on target to form the next government.
But if nothing else, we would urge Mr Kenny to attend a couple of broadcast training courses to practice the art of the sound bite – we once heard him filibuster himself on a radio interview, which is no mean feat!
Ben Cook, meanwhile, is in his late 20s, and has lived in Boston all his life. He went to St Thomas Primary School, Kirton Middlecott secondary School and Boston College.
In his election leaflet last year he told voters: “Over the last few years, seeing how my friends and neighbours have been struggling to make a living in the town, I became an active trade unionist to try and make a difference.”
Now to the Conservatives.
Not surprisingly, we are witnessing the customary lethargic, mañana-will-do complacency that we have come to associate with our local Tories.
Initially, a spokesman for the Boston and Skegness branch told the Boston Standard that applications opened a couple of weeks ago – with members expected to make their choice from the contenders “in about three weeks.”
Now, though, the Tories are saying that adverts inviting applications will be appearing from Monday and that final decisions will be made "towards the end of October."
Is this over-confidence or just the usual complacency?
Now, though, the Tories are saying that adverts inviting applications will be appearing from Monday and that final decisions will be made "towards the end of October."
Is this over-confidence or just the usual complacency?
Whether we will see an open primary – which would give more members a voice in the final decision – has not been mentioned at this stage.
He is Kelly Smith, a 42 year-old “entrepreneur,” who runs his own company and who is married with two young sons and lives in Tealby – probably one of Lincolnshire nicest villages,
He is the Deputy Chairman of Lincolnshire Conservatives, a former county councillor for Lincoln Moorland, who was executive member for finance until he was ousted by UKIP, and is the Gainsborough Conservative association deputy chairman for membership and fundraising.
All the political credentials are there.
But from our viewpoint in the crow’s-nest we do have some observations.
Only a couple of months ago, Mr Smith was declaring how delighted he was to have been shortlisted as a candidate for the Louth and Horncastle seat at Westminster being vacated by Sir Peter Tapsell in 2015.
At the time, he stressed that he was “a Lincoln boy born and bred who has limited himself to only standing locally because he believes we should have good local representation.
“I have wanted to try to become an MP for a long time …” he declared, and goes on to say: “Having lived in Lincolnshire all my life, I have a real and instinctive passion for the area, which is why I won’t stand elsewhere …”
“I couldn’t go to the other side of the country and pretend to be passionate about an area I know nothing about. I want to represent Louth and Horncastle at Westminster, not the other way round. The issues for me in the constituency are improving flood defences and transport and creating real opportunities for our children.”
Presumably this will now read something like: I couldn’t go to the other side of the country and pretend to be passionate an area I know nothing about. I want to represent Boston and Skegness at Westminster, not the other way round. The issues for me in the constituency are the effects of immigration, the lack of a bypass for Boston and whatever else comes to mind that makes me sound electable …
A couple of years before all this Mr Smith was also pretty keen to be the first Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire, when his name was among three shortlisted by the county’s Conservatives.
One of the other candidates was County Councillor Richard (Bob the Builder) Davies, Lincolnshire’s Executive Member for Highways and Transportation and thus a key person to blame for Boston’s appalling road network.
According to the Market Rasen Mail, Councillor Davies is backing his former county cabinet colleague Mr Smith as a candidate for Boston – although why he thinks he has any say in the matter as a councillor for Grantham North West is anyone’s guess.
It must be that Tory Old Boy’s network that we’ve heard so much about coming into play.
At least Councillor Davies has told BBC Radio Lincolnshire that he will not be seeking the Boston candidacy.
When the time comes to choose who we want as MP for Boston, the question should be “ask not what Boston can do for you, ask what you can do for Boston” (sorry JFK.)
Is Mr Smith’s chameleonic enthusiasm for Boston that of a man who wants to be an MP first and foremost?
It seems to us to be a somewhat dog in the manger attitude from someone with such an overwhelming ambition to be a MP that he is unwilling to undergo the smallest inconvenience to get where he wants to be.
An interest in Lincolnshire as an area is not the same as having an interest in Boston, is it?
Perhaps the Vicar of Bray might be persuaded to stand?
We have even encountered suggestions that a couple of Boston borough councillors could be suitable for the job – although we firmly believe that if William Tell were alive today and living in Boston, he would salute Gessler’s hat before supporting such a suggestion.
Back to our present MP Mark Simmonds – and we wonder what his reaction was to the news of a proposed 10 per-cent increase from £67,000 to £74,000 for our parliamentary representatives after the election.
As an 11 per-cent rise was suggested last December by the outgoing head of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, and has scarcely been watered down by his successor – the interestingly named Marcial Boo – we are guessing that it still wouldn’t have been enough.
Mr Boo claimed that MPs’ salaries have “fallen behind,” thus risking excluding good candidates from parliament who are accustomed to higher pay.
“It is not an easy thing to do,” he is quoted as saying. “We want to have good people doing the job and they need to be paid fairly.
“Now, that's not paid in excess but it's not being paid a miserly amount either ...
“There are lots and lots of professionals in public life and in the private sector who earn a lot more than that – so it is not an excessive amount of money at all.”
Whilst we hate to say goose to a Boo, and we accept that MPs deserve a fair salary, we have to ask how such a figure is reached.
Whilst a lot of professionals in public life are paid more than MPs, it is because they have some sort of skills or qualifications.
MPs have none, and the lure of politics is supposedly to serve, not to profit from society.
And we wouldn’t mind paying MPs such a huge sum if they regarded the job as full time.
But a lot of them – Mr Simmonds included at one point – are able to parlay their parliamentary skills after time into highly lucrative “work” outside the Commons.
Usually it is defended by saying that it helps them understand life in the “real world” – and only a cynic would consider it a case of being greedy, plain and simple.
It really came as no surprise to hear that the Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has told Boston Borough Council to hold fire on the Quadrant development plan to concrete over Wyberton, which a special meeting of the planning committee predictably approved on August 5th.
After all the hullabaloo when the scheme was approved by the Worst Street puppet show – which included a three page “special” edition of the Boston Daily Bore in which leader Pete Bedford made “no apologies” for his previously unannounced support for the project – the council tepidly proclaimed: “The Department for Communities and Local Government has issued a holding direction to give it longer than the initial 21 days from receipt within which to consider the Quadrant consultation from Boston Borough Council.
“The Secretary of State is still considering whether to call the application in or not and has an undefined and unlimited time within which to consider it.
“The council can do nothing until it receives express permission from the minister to determine the application in line with the planning committee resolution to approve with conditions.”
The final authority rests with Pickles because of the size and scale of the project, and he can overrule the application if he wishes.
At present it is solely for a new stadium for Boston United. The additional bait is a plan for 500 houses, a retail park and the start of a new bypass – but no details on that have been drawn up – merely a delightful set of watercolours that could represent almost anywhere.
Much of the argument over this plan has caused us concern, and it is interesting to learn that it might be shared in Whitehall as well.
However – in the way that the left hand of the government often doesn’t know what it’s right hand is doing, a few days later Mr Pickles announced a shortlist of more than 160 smaller housing developments across the country that could benefit from a share of the £525 million Builders Finance Fund, “which will get workers back on sites and new homes built.”
Among the developments listed is a grant to Chestnut Homes for 40 houses on the Quadrant site – presumably these will be of the affordable kind.
Meanwhile, planning more homes is definitely not proving the flavour of the month elsewhere in Boston and environs.
In Fishtoft, the parish council has raised several issues with Boston Borough Council over two separate applications which could see 420 houses built on estates facing each other on either side of Toot Lane
And parish councillors in Sibsey are opposing plans in East Lindsey District Council’s 15-year development plan which could see at least 235 new homes built in the village.
East Lindsey rates Sibsey as a “large village” – which appears to mean that this makes it all right to enlarge it even more.
Villagers say that the council lacks local knowledge, and that Sibsey has no wish to become an extension of Boston, or a small town in its own right.
East Lindsey District Council haughtily responded that the local wishes for no further expansion weren’t an option “in reality.”
According to the powers that be, the 2011 Localism Act was intended to devolve more decision making powers from central government back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils. The act contains a particular focus on community rights, neighbourhood planning and housing.
And a quoted key measure is reform of the planning system to make it more democratic and more effective, and to ensure that decisions about housing are taken locally.
We have already seen in the case of the Quadrant development that the wishes of truly local individuals are dismissed by puppets on a planning committee which does the bidding of the council’s “leadership” – which in turn is doing what it believes the government expects it to do.
The people of Wyberton went so far as to organise a village referendum which, insofar as these things go, made local wishes quite clear.
But the result was scorned at the committee stage and even deliberately distorted so as to be able to shrug it off.
First Wyberton, next Fishtoft, and then …
Mention of housing brings us back to the financially useless Boston Borough Council which flogged of around 5,000 council houses to Boston Mayflower in 1999, after tenants supported the move because they wanted to see their homes improved.
The tale is one of the many sorry sagas of this council, which always needs more money that it has, and which in this case sold off the family silver to get their mitts on some.
Which is why it was ironic to read the success story from South Kesteven, where hundreds of affordable new homes are set to be built from a £60 million fund that will also be used to refurbish existing homes.
The district council said that changes at national government level let the council keep its rental income in full which had enabled the scheme.
Council leader Linda Neal, said: “Embarking on a large building programme like this will go some way to reducing the shortfall and it will also provide the added bonus of delivering economic benefits including creating local jobs, developing skills and training, stimulating local business and enhancing the appeal of the whole district as a great place to live.”
We wonder into which black hole the proceeds from Boston’s retrospectively bad decision to sell its housing found their way.
Sadly, whenever it gets any money it seems to pour it down the nearest drain – the Princess Royal Sports Arena, the Haven Art Gallery, the Boston Enterprise Park, the government grants to smarten up out run-down town centre – the examples go on and on.
Then of course there is another matter which we are sure our leaders would like us to forget – the mystery million pound loan, which was taken out in 1991 for fifty years at a rate of 10% - which means it has cost the council taxpayers £100,000 a year ever since.
A report by Chief Executive Richard Harbord early in 2010 said “I can only surmise that there was some crisis which required immediate borrowing but on the face of it perhaps unfairly with the benefit of hindsight it does look like a very major case of very poor judgement. The residents of Boston will have paid over £6m in interest by the time this loan is repaid.”
Were there no minutes or other records made at the time?
If there were, where are they now?
Boston Borough Council – the council that keeps on giving (away our hard-earned money.)
Life in Lincolnshire seems to get bleaker by the minute these days.
A recent briefing by Eurosat, the data agency of the European Union, looks at the richest and poorest areas in Northern Europe – and places Lincolnshire fourth out of the poorest ten.
The report says: “In the UK we think of ourselves as having similar standard of living to other countries in Northern Europe.
“However, the poorest UK regions are by far the poorest in Northern Europe. This is because the UK is much more unequal than other countries, where there is nowhere as rich as London, but nowhere as poor as our poorest regions.”
Even worse – if that’s possible – we know that Boston is among the most deprived areas not only in Lincolnshire but in the country as a whole, which pushes us still further down the slippery slope.
It’s a sad fact, but we never seem to hear any suggestions about how we might improve Boston’s lot.
Both our MP and our council leader have famously espoused the packhouse as the be all and end all of employment expectations in Boston – and until they grow out of that pathetic mind-set we frankly despair of what the future holds for Boston.
As we heard last week, attempts to open up the town to new business fell flat on their face with the Boston Enterprise Park, and if anything much by way of new ideas to boost the town exist, then they remain very well hidden.
But they are urgently needed.
Inevitably, poverty goes hand in hand with benefits, and this week we learned that 30% of referrals to food banks in Boston are due to delays in processing benefit payments.
Few will argue that the so-called bedroom tax plays a role in all of this, and last week, MPs backed the Affordable Homes Bill which exempts people who could not be found a smaller home from the benefit cuts.
Despite the fact that he is calling time on his association with Boston, our MP Mark Simmonds played it safe and toed the party line – and although the vote came as a shock to the coalition, our man Mark stayed onside and voted against.
This from an MP representing one of the poorest areas of the country, who himself has been moaning about making ends meet on a “miserly” £100,000 a year, and who regards his young constituents as nothing more than packhouse fodder.
Perhaps his decision to look for a new job has turned out to be a wise one – so long as we don’t replace like with like when May 2015 comes.
Boston’s Big Local – the group charged with spending a £1 million lottery fund gift for the benefit of the town centre area of Boston, which is home to around 12,000 people – seems to be emerging from the shadows after some unpleasant infighting.
However, if does not appear to have been spurred on to do anything with particular enthusiasm or energy.
Although the scheme was approved at the end of 2012 it has settled into the comfortable rut that becomes the natural habitat of people who form themselves into a committee and start to feel important.
The money has to be spent within ten years, and we will soon reach the two year mark with nothing to show, apart from a load of meetings.
Once upon a time the minutes appeared on the group’s website, but nothing has been posted since February, and the site itself was last updated in July, which included a report on a group seminar called “leadership matters.”
It certainly does, and it would be nice to see some leadership being demonstrated.
As it is, one had to turn to Twitter to follow the most recent meeting – and this is the report from start to finish.
- Tonight’s meeting is now underway!
- The agenda for this evening’s meeting
- If you think you would like to bring something up, please let us know!
- The group are currently discussing proposals to have a newsletter to be distributed to local residents and businesses
- In attendance at this morning’s evening, we have Rachel Lauberts, Rob Lauberts, Paul Gleeson, Nathan Bryant and more who aren’t tweeting!
- The group are now discussing distribution of the newsletter.
- The group will be holding a consultation event in the Age UK Community Room in Wide Bargate on Thursday 16th October, between 12pm and 7pm
- We asked our Big Local Rep to write an article for our website. Take a read by visiting ….
- Boston's been selected as one of 150 areas around England to be granted £1m to make a lasting positive difference 2 the community
- The group are currently discussing our proposed Guided Principles.
- Our next meeting will take place on Thursday 18th September at the Black Sluice Lock Cottages
- Tonight’s meeting has now closed!
Perhaps it might be worth a visit to next week’s “consultation” event, to ask what the hell is going on?
Meanwhile, yet another of those quangos that are all around us is telling us some good news – even though it appears to contradict what seems to be happening in the real world.
A survey of 1,515 employers in the area – including 130 in Boston – conducted for the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership said that 65% of employers reported an increase in profitability, turnover, sales and market share in the last year, and 72% expected performance to improve in the year ahead.
And 70% of employers in the LEP’s priority sectors (whatever they are) gave Greater Lincolnshire a positive or very positive rating as a place where their business can grow, with “more than four in five” private sector employers expecting to invest in their business in the next two years.
However the survey did highlight some of the challenges Greater Lincolnshire faces in terms of infrastructure.
“When asked to rate the area’s positive aspects, only 21% of rated the transport infrastructure as good. Poor transport infrastructure was cited by 30% of private sector employers as an obstacle to business growth.”
The report added that over the next “few” years Lincolnshire County Council will spend several hundred million pounds on major road projects in Lincoln and Grantham, and Network Rail is making significant investments in Lincolnshire too.”
The survey was carried out by phone – and we wonder how many businessmen would tell a total stranger that their company wasn’t in fine fettle and planning big things for the future.
We also don’t consider the news very encouraging for Boston. As usual, County Hall is pouring money in the direction of Lincolnshire and Grantham for road schemes, while the Lincolnshire Conservatives have announced “good progress” with lobbying central government, resulting in the Department for Transport confirming more trains between Nottinghamshire and Lincoln.
We sure that this will be welcome to the powers that be in Boston, who have never been able to drum up customers for a £3.6 million business park.
All this comes as a couple of our local politicians at last appear to have woken up to the fact that Boston has as much chance of getting a by-pass as it does of seeing the Cape Canaveral space centre relocating to the banks of the Witham.
A local “newspaper” report says that fears are being voiced that Boston could miss out on vital business if a by-pass for the town is put on hold for much longer.
Could miss out?
We have missed out!
Shrewdly, they have noted that Grantham and Lincoln have each recently received funding for major new roads but that Boston “appears” to have been forgotten.
Borough Borough Council Labour group leader Paul Gleeson is quoted as claiming that it was unfair that Boston was being left out while other towns were thriving.
And Councillor Richard Austin – whom staff at the Guinness Book of Broken Electoral Promises fondly recall as the man who won control of Boston for four years on a bypass for Boston ticket said that the issue was an on-going concern.
Yes, on-going since the 1930s
“It seems that everywhere but Boston is getting a by-pass,” he cleverly observed. “The county council don’t seem to take the development of Boston seriously enough.”
And even before our laughter had time to subside, we were shaken by new convulsions when Councillor Richard (Bob the Builder) Davies, the county’s executive member for highways, said that if the council had the money it would build the by-pass tomorrow.
“Building the Boston by-pass is one of my, and the county council’s, key long-term objectives. Our ambitions are set down within the Boston Transport Strategy, alongside a number of other desired improvements for the town's road network.
“But the fact is we need to attract external funding to be able to start construction, either from the private sector or central Government …
… “It’s a complex, challenging project but I assure local people that we’re totally committed and are working to deliver it as soon as possible.”
The level of Lincolnshire County Council’s enthusiasm for the parts of the county which are not Lincoln and Grantham was reflected during the week at the annual rural conference and exhibition organised by the Local Government Association and the Rural Services Network.
It describes itself as “the key event for rural policy and decision-makers in local government to explore and understand rural perspectives on some of the most significant issues being debated across local government.”
The agenda included a look at key challenges for rural authorities on planning, supporting local business, health and wellbeing and housing amongst other issues.
Suggested attendees included lead members representing and serving rural communities, chief executives and officers of rural authorities, and organisations responsible for, or involved with, rural affairs and communities.
It certainly sounded worth a visit, so it came as something of a surprise to learn that just one member of Lincolnshire County Council attended – Robin Hunter-Clarke, Deputy UKIP group leader at Lincolnshire County Council, and a national NEC member of the party.
Good for him – but bad for Lincolnshire as a whole.
We asked the LGA if there were other delegates there from Lincolnshire – but it seems that this is classified information.
“We are unable to share delegate information other than with event attendees,” said a spokesman.
We note that members of the Boston in Bloom group held a “catch up” this week, which will include plans for next year, and target “grot spots.”
Targeting grot spots in Boston is a task akin to that meted out to the mythological Greek King Sisyphus who as a punishment was compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.
What we don’t understand about the Boston in Bloom palaver is why everyone goes flat out to tart the town up for a few short hours each year to coincide with a visit from the judges.
A more measured approach would be to work year-round, improving all the time, so that come judgment day all that was required was some fine tuning to finish the job.
That way the people who live in Boston would enjoy a permanent benefit and Boston Borough Council would improve its chances of winning one of the medals that it craves so desperately.
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