But when it comes to jam today, then Lincolnshire County Council is always more than happy to oblige.
For the third time this year, Boston residents and businesses have endured the misery of traffic jams caused directly as a result of the ham-fisted actions of an inept highways authority which proves on an almost daily basis how little it knows about the fragility of the system which keeps the traffic flowing through and around our town.
The traffic chaos which began on Monday took motorists by complete surprise, as the announcement of the work was sneaked out on the previous Friday – and even Boston borough councillors were wrong footed by it as they were told nothing in advance either, and so had no response when angry voters gave them a call.
The latest debacle was caused as work began to create – of all things – a cycle path to link South Square, via a new shared footpath across the A16 Haven Bridge to the toucan crossing at the A16 and High Street.
Just a matter of yards and barely involving the road at all, you might think.
But when Lincolnshire County Council is pulling the strings the puppets inevitably end up with their wires crossed – and again this proved to be the case.
Presumably, because it saves Lincoln some of our money, works are always carried out during the day.
And as we have seen before, the county often decides to kill more than one bird with the same stone and chuck a few more road works into the cement mixer at the same time.
We saw it happen with the recent “improvements” on Fydell Street, and also on Main Ridge – both of which created considerable long term problems for motorists.
And the same thing happened again this week.
In the case of all three of these schemes we were told that such a policy means “less overall disruption for the public.”
But as has been proved time and again, this is a completely false assumption.
It may sound a little romantic, but Boston’s road system is comparable to the mechanism in a fine old watch – if you get even the smallest piece of grit in it, the whole thing stops working.
And that is what happens each and every time the county council sets up a road works sign in town.
One of our readers managed to make it through to Satish Shah, Lincolnshire’s Head of Highways, and the creator of the laughable “less overall disruption” line, and had a not terribly rewarding conversation – but one which included the interesting admission when asked for his views on this week’s traffic chaos that he had been arriving at his Worst Street penthouse by 6am – to avoid the traffic.
It’s a great solution, as it sets you free by 2pm, and we are sure that most if not all of the other workers in town would do it if they could.
But they don’t have those sorts of privileges.
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Eventually, Mr Shah sent off a grudging reply by way of e-mail which offered the usual: “I am sorry for all the inconvenience you experienced on Monday. I wish to assure you that we do care and any learning from this incident will be taken up for the future improvement.”
All together now, HO, Ho, ho.
Consider the reaction if the delays of this week and of previous long term road works this year – which between them have totalled around six months – had occurred in Lincoln, annoying the great and the good of the county, or Grantham, where the highways panjandrum Councillor Richard “Bob the Builder” Davies holds sway …
In the unlikely event that something similar had happened, you can bet your steel toed safety boots than there wouldn’t have been a second day of delay.
Perhaps someone in County Hall would also like to tell us why it is that whenever a pothole is filled in Boston, the event is dignified by the noun “improvement” as though something special is being done for the town, rather than a long neglected task being carried out, at the cost of major inconvenience and usually over many weeks.
Amusingly, the first day of the “improvements” went unremarked by Boston Borough Council – but on Tuesday – the day after the traffic chaos took hold – an item in the Boston Daily Bore slavishly toad** (see footnote) the party line by reproducing the county council good news press release issued the previous Friday – with no mention of any problems.
Meanwhile, with what now seems impeccably bad timing, Boston Borough Council’s “Leader” Pete Bedford leapt into the debate about the increasing unlikelihood that Boston will obtain a bypass before “a’ the seas gang dry, and the rocks melt wi’ the sun” as the Scottish bard once famously said about something else entirely.
In response to gloomy but prescient forecasts by Boston’s Labour group leader Paul Gleeson and the former leader of the Boston Bypass Independents, Richard Austin, that Boston has become the Cinderella of road building with little chance of ever going to the ball, Councillor Bedford conceded that “some of Boston’s traffic issues need addressing.”
But he surprised local observers by continuing: “That’s why this issue has been one of the main thrusts of the efforts of this administration since it took control from the former Boston Bypass group. And we have certainly had more success.”
Twice nothing is still nothing in our maths primer – and the main improvements to our roads in the past few years were the widening of the A16 inbound and the A52 from Liquorpond Street to the junction with Lister Way … for which both the Passing Through Party and the previously largely Tory run council took credit, and which were all but completed before Bedford’s Tories took control.
As a so-called politician, Mr Bedford plays the blame card – claiming that the root of the problem is that the Bypass Independents stopped work on the Local Development Framework during the four years that they ran the council.
This was even though the not-quite-Conservative-controlled-council that preceded the BBI had made a start on this “crucial” document, which would have included routes for a distributor road.
“We have resumed that important work, but we are four years behind others. That’s why Grantham and Lincoln have received funding for major new roads and Boston hasn’t.
Having read that, we also recall that after the Tories took over there were further delays as it was felt that the impending creation of the South East Lincolnshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee made a Boston specific plan redundant.
Faced with little by way of choice, Mr Bedford agrees that he has gone on record as saying that the reality “especially in these times of austerity” is that Boston will not get a bypass anytime soon.
“That doesn’t mean we do nothing and sit and wait for such time as a bypass might become a reality.
“We do as we have done and move forward in the best possible way we can. For now, that is the relief road, the first part of which will be provided by the Quadrant development.”
Fortunately for him the government has just decided not to call in the Quadrant application – but the only piece to go ahead for the foreseeable future is the building of a new stadium for Boston United.
All the houses and the road link are for the further future.
And the section of the distributor road that has been mentioned runs from the A16 across to London Road – which is not very far.
But more pie in the sky will be on the way – eventually – when, we are told, “the second phase of the distributor road could subsequently extend north along London Road and then north-west across to the A52/Boardsides in association with a potential future phase of the Quadrant development known as Q2.”
No one seems to realise that all this will do is conveniently create a rat-run linking some of our worst existing traffic black spots.
And how efficient will a road be that is built in sections – possibly by different contractors, possibly to varying standards and plans?
Ironically, recent government funding saw £4.75 million allocated to the Boston Quadrant housing development – assuming that it goes ahead – whilst in the same tranche of generosity, £16 million was forked over for the Grantham Southern Relief Road.
Even so, Mr Bedford clings stubbornly to his faith in the Lincoln Shrine, saying: “our county council colleagues have said they also have a solution to Boston’s traffic difficulties at the top of their agendas, and we are working hard together on this.”
It would be nice to hear a little more about what form all this hard work is taking.
The Conservative leadership on Boston Borough Council now holds no sway at County Hall, after all their councillors but one were routed in last year’s elections – and we haven’t noticed anything by way of pressure from any of our replacement county councillors.
We also think that Councillor Bedford is being a little naïve in his faith in the County Council, which has pooh-poohed Boston’s calls for a bypass for years, and which most recently claimed that the town would never get one until our economy improved – which is looking increasingly unlikely.
This week’s road works alone have cost local businesses thousands of pounds in lost income and an incalculable amount in terms of damage to our reputation as a place to come to or to set up shop.
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And councillor Bedford’s timing with his remarks was certainly unfortunate coming as they did just days ahead of the county council Highways and Transport Scrutiny Committee meeting which dedicated most of its agenda to progress reports on the Grantham Southern Relief Road, Lincoln East-West Relief Road Phase 1, the Lincoln Eastern Bypass and the Spalding Western Relief Road.
It seems to us that towns such as Grantham and Spalding are prospering and continuing to prosper because they have decent roads, and that the roads are needed to boost the local economies … and not the other way around.
For pity’s sake – Burgh-le-Marsh and Wainfleet were bypassed around seven years ago, the idea being to improve the journey for holidaymakers heading for the Lincolnshire coast.
Yet somehow, the county council conveniently ignores the fact that Skegness is the most popular destination for holidaymakers from Nottingham and Derby, who travel through Boston to join a road that was unfit for purpose even before the car was invented.
The trouble is that we wouldn’t trust the clowns at Lincolnshire County Council to organise the laying of a crazy paving patio – let alone a quality road.
Remember the mess they made “improving” Boston Market Place?
It’s been a quiet week on the wider election front.
But it is interesting to see that our local Conservatives are to grasp the nettle and hold an open primary to select a replacement for outgoing MP Mark Simmonds – which means that anyone can have a vote in the process … Tory members or not.
It will be fascinating to see how many people turn out to vote.
When a replacement candidate was selected in Clacton for the by-election that will follow the defection of the Conservative MP to UKIP, just 240 of the 67,000 eligible voters took the trouble to attend.
This last week also saw the arrival of another Conservative contender for the post. Matthew Glanville, who is 38 and lives in Welton le Marsh is an ex-soldier and former civilian security adviser in Iraq. His wife, freelance journalist Annunziata, is the sister of Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg, and daughter of the late William Rees-Mogg, a former editor of The Times and life peer, who refused to change her Christian name to Nancy before the 2010 election to please the party leadership and – as they saw it – improve her electoral chances.
In the wake of a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary which says that criminal damage and car crime are “on the verge of being decriminalised” because some police forces had “almost given up,” Lincolnshire Police accept that they send an officer out to fewer than half the calls for help that they receive.
The Association of Chief Police Officers has said austerity measures mean forces have had to set priorities
And although Assistant Chief Constable Heather Roach, who is responsible for crime and operations in Lincolnshire, claims that “we certainly haven’t given up” she says that in some cases, “there is no investigation which can be done.”
Of more than 400,000 calls a year, just 181,000 of them “need attention.” – but there are some strange reasons given for why the police often don’t bother – the most unusual being that “sometimes people report a crime and don’t want police attendance at all because it’s just for insurance purposes.”
We find this latter explanation very worrying.
Is it really the case that someone can call the police, report a "crime," and then ask for no further action because they’ll leave the insurance company to foot the bill?
It sounds to us like an open invitation to fraud.
Whilst we understand the financial pressures on the police locally, it does seem these days that they will do anything to avoid stepping out of the warmth and comfort of the nick.
Many years ago we read an interesting history of our local policing in which one Victorian constable noted that it took him more than four hours each way to walk from Horncastle to Lincoln to give evidence in court – the travelling time not being counted as part of his hours on duty. Only inspectors and above had the perk of a horse to go with the job!
Now, we learn that Lincolnshire is among a number of East Midlands forces to share £800,000 of government funding for “virtual courts” at police stations.
These will provide create a live link between stations and a court “to make it easier for police officers and victims to give evidence,” which “will save travel costs and inconvenience to the service.
Call us old fashioned if you like, but we think that some things are better done face-to-face.
And the administration of justice should be one of these, unless the circumstances are exceptional.
It seems, though, that our police are not so hard pressed financially that they can’t afford to throw what must be huge sums at what was termed a “PR opportunity” in Boston Market Place.
This involved 15 staff, who brought with them one large exhibition van, one Transit van, one plain white dog van, two patrol cars, one PCSO vehicle, and one black labrador.
Clearly a good time was had by all, with the publication of hilarious photos such as the police rolling a speed stinger across the path of an elderly person on a mobility scooter.
Oh how we laughed – and what better way could the police have found to spend well at least £1,500 on something which will probably achieve nothing at all.
Worse still we note that the Boston performance is one of ten similar events around the county – so make that between £15,000 and £20,000 … for what?
There is a story doing the rounds which we report for its amusement value, which is something of a side effect of the police “public relations” presence in the Market Place.
We are told that a window cleaner who needed to work in Dolphin Lane was stuck for somewhere to park, and asked one of the army of police idly mooching around where he might leave his vehicle for a few minutes.
Park alongside those wooden planters, he was told.
So he did.
And guess what – he got a parking ticket.
It is being said that after a brief conversation with the ticktim, the traffic warden received a clip around the ear for his pains – at which point he burst into tears, flung his uniform jacket to the ground and stalked off.
A delicious tale if true – but one which is receiving a lot of telling around the town regardless.
Ticketing motorists is still a big earner in Boston as far as Lincolnshire County Council is concerned.
A report to last week's highways committee meeting placed overall income from the county's car users at just over £1 million, with profits of £156,000 – a sizeable chunk of it coming from our local pockets.
According to County Hall, any surplus is ring-fenced and can only be spent on the enforcement service, supplying or making good parking facilities, and transport projects.
Excess income is currently helping to fund changes to parking restrictions, such as Westgate and the Marketplace in Grantham and ensuring that other schemes around the county are correctly lined and signed.
The Boston Big Local organisation continues to make its lacklustre progress as it looks for ways to spend £1 million of lottery money for the good of the town centre.
Most recently, it seems to have got stuck in a rut involving the Hansa, a league of merchants who worked together to protect themselves and their livelihoods, of which Boston was a member in the 12th century.
The group has already had a talk about the Hanseatic League and is now planning a trip to Kings Lynn to learn more about the Hansa and its link with the towns.
Quite how this will benefit anyone has not yet been made clear, but a free day out to Kings Lynn is always a delight.
And it gets better.
At last week’s meeting the group excitedly announced that it is organising a street food and craft fare (sic) in November, working in partnership with Boston Stump.
This will be in partnership with something called Sagemuseevents – a “creative business making happy places for positive experiences – elders and youngers, artists and makers, you and me.”
What a brilliant idea.
After the refurbishment of Boston Market Place, Boston Borough Council promised that there would be a wide range of different market events for residents and visitors to enjoy.
Unsurprisingly, it struggled to come up with even one – and the one it did deliver was … you’ve guessed it … a craft market.
Quite what the regulars who have stayed loyal though thin and thinner will make of a bunch of newcomers setting up shop in the lucrative run-up to Christmas is anyone’s guess.
Lincoln’s on-going indifference towards Boston continues to be demonstrated in the latest “Leader’s brief” produced by county council leader Martin Hill.
In it he mentions that neighbourhood health and care teams have been introduced in Skegness, Stamford, Sleaford and the south of Lincoln, with the rest of the county set to follow.
Also worth a line is the news that four new schools are opening this year, – in Spalding, Bourne, Crowland and Skegness, with two more planned for Gainsborough in 2015 and North Hykeham in 2016.
Councillor Hill says: “It's all part of careful planning and monitoring to provide new classrooms, extensions and schools wherever they are needed, ensuring the vast majority of children can attend schools close to their homes.
And does any of the good news in this report extend to Boston?
Don’t be silly!
As always, we have to look at other district councils around Lincolnshire to find good ideas.
In East Lindsey, the council is considering free parking periods in its coastal resorts to ensure that people have access to a car park with a free two hour tariff in line with those in the district’s inland towns.
Contrast this with the Boston approach, which seeks to squeeze every last penny from people who park, and ramp up the charges on an almost annual basis – and then shed tears of regret when people go somewhere else where the welcome is cheaper – or even free.
Another idea – so simple, logical and straightforward, that we can immediately see why it escaped the attention of our so-called “leaders” – is to increase sharing of responsibilities between districts.
Boston has dabbled with this by sharing one senior post with East Lindsey.
But at the same time, it demonstrated that if someone can do the same job for the same money in half the time, then the post was grossly overpaid to begin with.
And let’s not forget either, that in Boston, we pay our Chief Executive a full time salary for just six months' work.
However, turn your gaze southwards where South Holland District Council has just closed applications for shared posts in a project which merges some services with Breckland – not even a neighbouring authority – and is talking about the possibility of a third authority joining the concept.
The shared management structure has operated since April 2011, providing full year savings for the two authorities of more than £1m.
Boston’s sharing with East Lindsey saves around £43,000.
As South Holland rightly and proudly boasts, its ideas are at the forefront of local government transformation.
That must put Boston at the hindpart, we suppose.
It may well be that part of the answer to the turgid leadership in Boston lies in a recent observation by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee which said that too much reliance was placed on councillors who "may not have sufficient capacity" to do the job thoroughly.
And the committee was also concerned that the hopes that an army of "armchair auditors" would step in to use data published under a new openness regime had been thwarted by the failure to present the information in a useful way.
The committee chairman Margaret Hodge said: "The Government believes that the best way to ensure that councils spend our money wisely is to rely on local residents and councillors to provide scrutiny.
"However, there is no convincing evidence that 'armchair auditor' members of the public are being empowered to hold local authorities to account for how they spend the £36.1 billion in funding they receive every year.
"Councillors do not always have the skills or time to fulfil this role, which involves scrutinising the delivery of complex services such as adult social care provision.
"If this system of local accountability is to work effectively, residents and councillors must have access to relevant and comprehensible information.
"Yet while local authorities are required to publish data such as expenditure over £500, senior salaries and land holdings and building assets, this data is presented in a way which does not make for easy and effective scrutiny by the public."
Having struggled to decode financial reports and spending returns issued by Boston Borough Council, we have to agree.
Whilst a lot of information is certainly available, absolutely no attempt is made to translate it into terms that are easily understood.
We feel sorry for those councillors who are trying their best to keep track of things, but are unable to do so because of lack of transparency – although on the leadership side, we suspect that many of the back benchers seldom if ever bother to check what their masters are doing and just do as they’re told.
And often, the only time that reports are offered in a more easy-to-understand way is when the “leadership” feels that that there is something to advance its political image.
And we agree with the PAC’s view that some councillors "may not have sufficient capacity" to do the job.
Some of the remarks made at the recent meeting which approved a new football stadium for Boston United demonstrated such woeful stupidity and ignorance that we can only assume that their advocates regarded these shortcomings as a badge of honour rather than one of disgrace.
And for further proof, one only has to look down the cabinet membership list to see what Margaret Hodge is talking about.
One of the few areas in which Boston Borough Council claims success is in the disposal of green garden waste – but it may be a case that is has bitten off more than it can chew.
Whilst many people have bought the bins and use them regularly, larger gardens need the occasional visit by someone who can cut taller hedges and the like into shape and cart the clippings away.
In Boston, a veritable self-employed army of people advertise such services – but possibly not for much longer.
We were talking to one the other day who has been a jobbing gardener for years, and who has a trade licence to dispose of the waste he collects.
Now, though, he says he has been turned away by Boston Borough Council – because he calls on them too often, and says he knows of others similarly blacklisted.
Superficially, the idea is a good one that makes money for the council.
But as always it got off to the usual iron first in the iron glove approach adopted by Worst Street which was to say: If you want your green waste collected you must pay us for a bin. If you don’t buy a bin, we will no longer collect your green waste. And now it appears they are saying: enough is enough, we have more business than we can cope with so the shop is now shut.
And they call it public service!
And they call it public service!
Finally – they say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions … well, here’s some more proof.
Of all the ways you might promote Lincolnshire as a destination, our eye alighted on this one, which appears on the front of a nationally distributed tourism guide.
“Lincolnshire: Head off to somewhere different”
Whilst it’s clearly meant to sound inviting, it reads more like a piece of advice, don’t you think?
There will no blog next week, and our next offering will be – all being well – on Friday 4th October.
We hope to keep tweeting in our absence, and that you don’t mind waiting too long for the best and most detailed political coverage in Boston.
** Footnote: Toad. The spelling is deliberate rather than the customary toed – as in toadying.
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