Friday, 24 October 2014



S
o, tomorrow is the big day for the four wannabes who’d like to represent Boston and Skegness for the Conservatives at the general election next May.
The quartet emerged from a longlist of ten hopefuls, who in turn may have come from an even longer list, as we find it hard to imagine that so few people would be looking for a lifetime opportunity in parliament – which is what Boston has been for almost a century for those Tories who have stayed the course.
The way that the system works is that applicants go through a gruelling procedure which if they are successful earns them a place on an approved list of parliamentary candidates – after which they can apply to constituencies that are looking for one.
This time, the choice will be a public affair – or what the local Tories are calling “a US-style ‘Primary’” – an open election at which anyone living in the constituency and old enough to vote can attend to hear the candidates and vote for the one they most like.
The dog-hanging is at the former Peter Paine Sports Centre in Boston tomorrow afternoon – but don’t just pitch up, as you need a ticket … and it’s too late to get one now.
Last time around, things worked slightly differently, with the local branch making the choice.
While Boston and Skegness Tories are trumpeting the open primary decision, our instincts and observations of the way they operate tell us that it was more likely foisted on them, and they would rather have done the whole thing in the cosy comfort of the Conservative Club in Main Ridge.
So, who are the candidates in this four horse race?
Paul Bristow is 35, was born in North Yorkshire, and fought Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland for the Tories in 2010.  He is a former Hammersmith and Fulham councillor and one of the finalists in the South East Cambridgeshire open primary, last November. Mr Bristow joined the Conservative Party as a teenager and was the Conservative Future National Chairman from 2003-2005. He has also worked for a frontbench Conservative MP. He works in public affairs and market research.
Karen Buckley is a Lancastrian born and bred, a solicitor specialising in family law, and at the last general election, was the Conservative candidate for Hyndburn in East Lancashire.  She has been a councillor in Fylde, Lancashire since 2007, and is a campaigner for marriage. She divides her time between working as casework manager for Paul Maynard, the Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP, and teaching as an associate law lecturer of at the University of Central Lancashire. She is married with two children aged 19 and 21 and is an accomplished pianist and a member of her local church music team.
Tim Clark is the principal of Skinners’ Academy in Hackney, north east London and previously
headmaster of Spalding High School.  He has written about education policy, and in 2005 he stood against David Blunkett in Sheffield Brightside, where the Conservative vote share fell by 1.2 per cent.   He was also longlisted for the open primary in Suffolk Central and Ipswich North before the last election. Mr Clark is the son of a clergyman, and played the organ at his father’s church from being small. He was an assistant organist at St Mary and St Nicolas Church in Spalding.
Matt Warman is 33 and Head of Technology for the Daily Telegraph. He is the only first time candidate on the list – although he is head of a Conservative association in Hertfordshire, were he lives. His wife’s family live locally … his father in law is  a teacher at Boston Grammar School and his mother in law works at RSPB  nature reserve at Freiston Shore.
  
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W
hat if anything does this list of hopefuls tell us?
Whilst we do not know how many approved candidates expressed an interest in the seat – or how many interested individuals failed to make it on to that list, we would have hoped that there might have been at least one “local” candidate.
True, there is one who formerly worked down the road from Boston and another with family in the constituency – but the absence of at least one … however tokenistic person that Bostonians and Skegnessians  could feel might fight their corner … might have persuaded us that the Conservative Central Office was at least putting the interests of Boston ahead of its own.
The names on this list are – for want of a better term – the blue-eyed boys and girls whose fidelity and commitment to the party will be rewarded sooner rather than later with a seat in the House of Commons... the yes people the party needs in the increasingly fraught political environment.
Three have already fought parliamentary elections, and two of those have also been runners-up in selections for other constituencies, whilst the fourth is a member of his local party who works for the best-known Tory newspaper in the land.
Our departing MP Mark Simmonds had similar political antecedents when he was selected – membership of Wandsworth Borough Council and a candidate  in the 1997 general election who stood against Geoff Hoon in Ashfield.
The bottom line is that – especially where candidates have stood previously – their prime objective is to become an MP, with the choice of constituency being secondary.
In some cases here, the hope will be that Boston is a third-time-lucky constituency for their ambitions.
That’s not to say that whoever is elected won’t deliver – but we would question how much their heart will be in the idea of representing Boston and Skegness in particular.
For Mark Simmonds it proved a stepping stone to a ministerial post and an entrée to some valuable consultancy work.
And we think he showed his true colour when recently criticised for not doing enough for Boston with the response that we ought to be proud that he was the first local MP to hold ministerial office.
No, Boston is not most people’s idea of a place to come and live – and as we said in our blog a few weeks ago: “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.”
Having said that, there is still a possibility that the Tories’ hopes could founder, as peoples’ voting intentions are changing all the time.
UKIP is highly confident of getting a good result in Boston – if not taking the seat outright.
If, as the political Cassandras predict, a vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour – then candidate Paul Kenny could be in for a pleasant surprise after the decline in the party’s fortunes locally in recent years … though not, we suspect a seat at Westminster.
On balance, our opinion is that the Tories have played into the hands of UKIP by failing to realise how desperate local people are to have an MP who will put Boston first, first and first.
Time will tell.
  
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W
e can’t leave this week’s political section without a look at the light-hearted UKIP Calypso, which is causing some silly controversy and which includes a name-check for Boston in the final chorus, part of which runs:
The other parties will count
The cost
In Eastleigh, Thanet,
Thurrock, Boston
Labour and Tories shaking in
Their boots
When UKIP kick them up the grassroots …
The record, which laments “illegal immigrants in every town,” is performed by the former Radio 1 DJ Mike Read, and has prompted charges of racism because he sings it in a faux Jamaican accent.
Mr Read responded: “It’s a satire and a bit of fun. It’s not terribly serious. It wouldn’t have sounded very good sung in a Surrey accent.”
That was at the start of the week, after which it all got “terribly serious,” and within days, Mr Read was apologising to all and sundry and asking for the recording to be withdrawn.
If anyone wishes to complain to us about the inclusion of the above item – they can go and stick their head up a dead bear’s bum ... and we will not be changing our mind and apologising for that remark later, either.

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T
he Boston Big Local project seems to be lurching into action after almost two years of internal strife since it was established following the granting of £1 million pounds to spend in the six most deprived wards in Boston – Staniland South, Pilgrim Ward, Skirbeck Ward, Boston Central, a small portion of Fenside and Witham Ward – to make life better for local people.
As regular readers will know, schemes like this worry us – and in this instance we feel that our fears are justified.
The Big Local group appears to be largely self-appointed, and we also note the presence of some members with an existing agenda.
The group held its first public “consultation” in the town last week in the specially created eyesore known as the Age Concern Community Rooms, which does so much to detract from the ambience of the Wide and Strait Bargate areas.
One thing that everyone has been at great pains to stress is that spending decisions in no way involve the great and the good of the town – organisations such as Boston Borough Council and the South Lincolnshire Community Voluntary Service.
In fact, so loudly and so often was the point made, that it was possible to disbelieve the assertions from the outset.
And so it proved – as both the SLCVS and the council’s spendthrift B-TACky committee had their feet under the table at the start.
Quite where the members of the group appeared from is a bit of a mystery – and remains so, and we cannot recall much by way of public invitation to express an interest in membership.

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N
otwithstanding all this, there was a public consultation last week and on the Big Local website there is an eye wateringly long list which covers spending of many more millions than the mere one that is available.
Presumably, the idea is that we, the public – a pejorative term, if ever there was one – examine all the suggestions and select our personal favourites
The choices are under four themes – Health and Wellbeing, A More Attractive Environment, Greater Community Spirit and Encouraging Enterprise.
Under each heading there are lists of ideas that Boston Big Local “might support and fund” and those that the group “might inform others about but not fund.”
Theme one, heading one, contains 37 ideas with a further 11 considered worth a mention but not spending money on.
The breakdown for theme two is 21 and 24, theme three 32 and 4, and theme four 10 and 1.
That adds up neatly to 100 big ideas, but some of them have clearly been included without any thought at all.
And an astonishing number are things that are already the responsibility of Lincolnshire County Council or its odd job man, Boston Borough Council, are on the list.
Who else has the job of making roundabouts attractive, or putting more planters in the town?
Another suggestion is to encourage the renovation of many of our listed town centre properties – possibly through grants to owners … something for which a huge fund already exists, and which hardly anyone has bothered to access.
Other ideas include tidying open areas to provide mini parks – near the police station, near the railway crossing, near ASDA and on commercial sites that are no longer used;  providing welcoming signs and/or artworks on roundabouts depicting Boston’s heritage; employ a gardener and team to maintain high levels of environmental maintenance; clearing litter hotspots, tipping hotspots, etc.
All of these jobs already have an authority responsible for them – not only that but they are already funded through our council tax ... or if not, they should be.
The lists go on and on and on – and whilst worthy, lack imagination, comprising what are clearly a collection of individual bees in individual bonnets. Why else would somewhere like Burgess Pit again be included as somewhere worthy of the addition of park equipment including outdoor gym equipment) with a training track around the perimeter and gates at both ends?
It isn’t difficult to predict the final episode of this sorry soap opera.
The great and the good or their hangers-on will end up having a significant input into how the money is spent (if they haven’t already done so) and where there was once a chance to come up with something major, imaginative and impressive that would really enhance the town, the money will disappear in dribs and drabs on pet projects which at the end of the day will scarcely be noticed.
Meanwhile, the next step will be a report to the next meeting of the steering group on 30th  October.
We can’t wait.

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O
ur report last week criticised the dismal state of Boston’s shopping “offer” but sadly, it seems to be about par for the course.
A report from the data company Experian says that our high streets have been transformed in the last ten years, and the change – illustrated by the rise of tattoo parlours and convenience stores along with betting shops and mobile phone retailers – are changes that are seen as “increasingly social.”
The news coincides with a warning from English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley that historic towns and cities will soon be put under "huge pressure" to build "exponentially" to fulfil a perceived housing need.
He said that after next May’s election whichever party takes power will “put its foot on the accelerator” with increasingly “draconian measures” to ensure market towns are expanded to double or treble in size.
“This expansion is happening without due thought and attention being given to things like traffic, schools, the health service, hospitals, all those other things,” he said, citing  near neighbour King's Lynn as an example of somewhere that “huge identikit slabs of housing” are tacked on.
“I think in the next five or ten years, we risk losing something that has been protected for many centuries.”
We have no doubt that he is right – and that Boston is leading the way down that slippery slope already.
The first phase of the Quadrant developments includes plans for 500 new houses, Boston Mayflower plans a similar number, and we recently mentioned two separate applications which could see 420 houses built on estates facing each other on either side of Toot Lane, whilst parish councillors in Sibsey were opposing plans in East Lindsey District Council’s 15-year development plan which could see at least 235 new homes built in the village.
We wonder whether anyone in the corridors of power ever steps back for a moment, and – not in isolation – conjures up a mind’s eye picture of the area as a whole if all this building goes ahead.
We suspect not – otherwise alarm bells would be ringing in their heads.

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I
f you can call it that, the good news is that more help is on the way in the event of flooding in Boston. The bad news is that it will be located in Horncastle and run by the Lincolnshire Community Foundation which is based in Sleaford.
The foundation will provide clean-up materials for victims of flooding and help to make properties flood proof.
Whilst it sounds very useful, let’s not forget that of the scores of people affected by flooding in Boston at the end of last year, scarcely any have bothered to apply for government funding to make their homes and businesses more secure – and that Boston Borough Council’s “we don’t provide sandbags for taxpayers” policy will leave future flood victims high and dry … or rather just the opposite!

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W
e got something of a shock when we looked at the office hourglass the other day. Not only does the shape resemble the figure eight – but it is also almost eight years since we started blogging.
Despite that, it surprises us was that there are still some people out there who do not understand what Boston Eye is all about.
Despite what some may think, Boston Eye is not a newspaper … which is about the only thing that it has in common with the Boston Standard and Boston Target. We do not attend events to report on them, but instead try to offer an analysis that you won’t find anywhere else.
The clue is in the name – Boston Eye –  we keep a lookout for the taxpayers of the borough, and try to hold a mirror up to the great and the good of the town, in the hope that from time to time they might see the error of their ways and learn something as a result.
Unfortunately, this approach exemplifies the adage that you can take a horse to water, but cannot make it drink.
Over the years we have highlighted a number of wrongful things that we would have expected an opposition of any colour to have pursued with the power-mongers of the day.
But this has simply not happened.
What our stint at the grindstone has told is that relationships within the corridors of Worst Street are far too cosy, so that when push comes to shove – no-one bothers to shove.
  
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O
ur disappointment in our local councillors is underlined by a report from the Local Government Association, which is teaming-up with partners to draw-up some guidance for elected members to make more use of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.
According to the LGA: “Social media's importance is rapidly increasing as 54 per cent of adults now use it.
“There are 21,000 democratically-elected members across Britain and there is a thirst for knowledge on how councillors can best use it to better serve people who live and work in their area."
At the last count, one Independent councillor and one political group produced a blog – and three appear to make occasional use of Twitter."
Any further examples of the remoteness and disregard with which our elected representatives hold us will be read with interest.

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H
aving said that, one example which springs to mind is the regular contribution to the local magazine Simply Boston by the respected and beloved leader Pete Bedford.
Every month, he is invited to contribute his “notes” – and with monotonous regularity, what appears is usually an outdated piece that first surfaced in one of our local “newspapers” either as a comment column or a letter.
The latest offering finds the leader ruminating that “At the time of writing I am expecting the decision any day of the Secretary of State concerning the Quadrant application at Wyberton.”
That decision was announced on 17th September.
“Peter’s Notes” appeared in Simply Boston – for October.
Perhaps for the next issue he might like to mention the Great Fire of Boston in 1281 which destroyed much of the town, and defend the council’s decision not to provide members of ye publick with leather water buckets.
  
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O
f course, it is entirely possible that Councillor Bedford was keeping his eloquence in reserve for Boston’s role on a most unlikely stage.
As a result of the intervention of Councillor Stephen Woodliffe  – the cabinet member for Building Control, Environmental Health, Community Safety, Emergency Planning, Health and Safety, Licensing and Land Charges – Boston has apparently played a key part locally in the crisis concerning … wait for it … Ebola.
This unusual development came after Councillor Woodliffe attended a port users’ conference at the House of Commons.
The visit by Councillor Woodliffe  – who more than once has been mistaken for a Time Lord, because when his name is mentioned people ask, Councillor Who? – was “followed up” … presumably from leafy Surrey … by former Chief Executive Richard Harbord, who raised it with the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum, which then produced a briefing document about Ebola which was sent out to Lincolnshire county councillors and MPs.
From this, the two main things we have learned are that a) every local resilience forum is to “benefit” from staging an exercise to test preparedness for a case of Ebola developing, and which we can anticipate in “the near future” here in Lincolnshire, and b) that there are no current cases of Ebola in the UK, and that “the overall risk remains very low.”
Councillor Bedford circulated the news to all elected members at Worst Street, with the comment: “I hope you all agree that once again Boston has led the way on this issue.”
We are left lost for words.

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T
here are still many of us who remember Mark James, who was Chief Executive of Boston Borough Council between 1995 and 2002 – when he moved to the same post with Carmarthenshire County Council.
Mr James is most fondly cherished for his enthusiastic promotion of the Princess Royal Sports Arena, and was famously quoted as saying that it would not cost the ratepayer a penny – an estimate that was adrift by around £8 million.
He so liked the idea that he took it with him to Wales, where it repeated the “success” story and a rugby stadium costing £25 million to build saw £18 million provided in differing forms by Carmarthenshire Council. 
Amidst all of this, Mr James ran afoul of a local blogger – to such a degree that a libel action ensued.
Unfortunately, the county council indemnified Mr James in a counter-claim and also allowed him to avoid tax due after a change in the law relating to pension contributions for high earners by awarding “pay supplements” which were credited directly to Mr James on top of his salary.
The Assistant Auditor General for Wales has ruled that the council acted unlawfully by authorising the tax avoidance schemes and by indemnifying the libel counter-claim.
Now it has emerged that Mr James has apparently decided that enough is enough and is one of 400 council staff who have applied for severance terms.
Mr James is paid £168,000 a year –  and a petition has been started which demands that he should not receive a massive payoff when he leaves … particularly as reports say that he may have already accepted another job, perhaps with the University of Bath.
Anger is particularly rife after the Chief Executive of nearby Pembrokeshire received a severance deal worth £330,000 to quit his job following a row over cash payments in lieu of pension contributions.
If you’d like to get up to date with the goings on, you can click here and here 

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W
hilst we are often critical of Boston Borough Council’s lip service to democracy, we were nonetheless taken aback by a recent meeting of South Holland District Council as it appeared on Twitter.


We mentioned earlier the keenness of councils and their members to communicate via social media – but in this case, we have to ask … what on earth was the point?

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F
or the sixth time in little more than a year, Boston Borough Council’s Daily Bleat is devoting a large amount of space to promote a local farm shop and beg us to vote for it in something called the Farm Shop and Deli Awards Retailer of the Year
We think that this is going a bit too far for a so-called civic publication funded by the taxpayer – which often includes stories of a local newspaper variety which are completely irrelevant to the work of the borough council.
Not only that, in this case the report appears to be a barely changed lift from the competition organisers'  including a reference to “our expert panel of judges …”  which makes it sound as though that panel is provided by the council, when this is clearly not the case.
It has to be asked whether the Boston Daily Bulletin is really worth the time that is spent on it.
It is obvious from the bulletin’s content that nothing much ever happens at Boston Borough Council – although oddly, the abrupt departure of the former Chief Executive more than a month ago has somehow failed to make either the bulletin or the borough’s website.
However, if  the farm shop in question wins an award, we are sure that it will be free hot pies for all in the corridors of Worst Street.

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F
inally, we are delighted to report a case of “now you see it … now you don’t.”
Last week we described the months-long saga of our battle with Lincolnshire County Council’s Highwaymen to address the potential danger caused by a temporary manhole cover.
After frequent e-mails – all of which were ignored by County Hall – we highlighted the feature on Boston Eye.
The day before last week’s issue appeared, the scene was as pictured on the left.
But by Saturday morning the risk had vanished – as the picture on the right shows. What a pity that it took so long and involved such rudeness and disinterest from those highways imps in Lincoln before a simple job was carried out.
We are still awaiting the promised e-mail response from the named officer to whom our complaints were forwarded – but won’t be holding our breath,


There will be no blog next week – our oncologist has other plans for us – and we cannot guarantee a return on 7th November either.  Apologies for that, and we will keep you posted via the blog, and our page on Twitter … @eye_boston



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, 17 October 2014


L
ast week we quoted town centre and car park portfolio holder Councillor Derek “Knocker” Richmond’s  take on the “huge early Christmas present”  from Boston Borough Council of a few hours’ worth of free parking in the run-up to the big event.
“This represents a Christmas present from the council to Boston,” he blared. “The town has a tremendously varied shopping offer – from small family-owned traditional retailers through to main multi-nationals.
“With free parking located conveniently close there should be no reason to want to go anywhere else.”
Whilst all local councillors are issued with rose-coloured spectacles when they are elected, a decision to wander around and plan our Christmas shopping based on his claim led us to conclude that Councillor Richmond’s pair had an especially generous tint.
In last week’s bright Sunday sunshine, we got rather a shock.
A stroll along Dolphin Lane revealed empty shop after empty shop with “to let signs” rather than goodies in the window.
We counted six such shops – almost half of those available in a lane that’s sometimes compared with the medieval streets of York.
A shambles it was – The Shambles it ain’t.
Dolphin Lane’s counterpart across the Market Place – Emery Lane – is also bereft.  Its biggest shop – the former Yates and Greenhough has been empty for more than two years, and kitchen fitters Murdoch Troon is also vacant. The rest of the street “offer” includes Cash Generator, a sex shop, a charity shop, a nail bar, tattooist, pet shop and jewellery shop.


A view across the Market Place, with the empty Millets at your back and a turf accountant to your right shows the vacant Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop, a fast food shop, a café , a charity shop, a betting shop, a vacant shop, a health food shop, a jewellery shop and a café.
Frequently, we are told that the number of vacant shops in Boston is no worse than the national average.
But the people telling us this fail to note how little is actually on offer once the charity shops (there are nine in the town,)  mobile phone shops … one of which is newly vacant in Strait Bargate, which leaves only five – and food shops are taken out of the picture.
We have Oldrids, of course, but beyond that a hotchpotch of generic High Street stores that are barely beating the business downturn – although with Christmas in mind, there are, at least plenty of card shops to choose from – seven of ‘em.
If the idea seriously is to make the place attractive, we need to spend some money on camouflaging the eyesores in our town centre in the run up to Christmas.
Look at this picture of the Dolphin Lane window of the former Millets which fronts on to the Market Place.
More than four years ago Boston Borough Council wasted a £52,000 government grant to make more than 25 disused shops presentable with temporary window dressing.
In the next story you will read how easy it is for Boston Borough Council to find £10,000 in “savings” to fund a publicity campaign for yet another attempt to curb street drinking that it almost certainly doomed to failure.
How about finding a similar amount to at least make our ghost town centre look attractive for the festive season?
As far as Christmas is concerned, if your dad’s really rich and you want a cowboy outfit  – why not ask him to buy you Boston Borough Council?

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I
f the report that follows sounds familiar, that’s because “it's like deja-vu, all over again.”
The quote by American baseball star Yogi Berra (**see footnote) who was famed for his malapropisms, sprang to mind as we read the agenda for yesterday’s Environment and Performance Committee concerning the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014  which comes into force on Monday.
A main plank of the act is the Public Spaces Protection Order – designed to stop individuals or groups committing anti-social behaviour in a public space.
As usual, Boston Borough Council is looking at an expensive sledgehammer to crack a nut with every indication that whatever they do will fail in the same way that similar efforts have done in the past.
A report to the committee outlined a laborious timetable for all of this which if it goes ahead will cost up to £10,000 to publicise – including providing signs, information and literature about the proposed order – a sum which our cash-strapped council can apparently find without any trouble from savings in the current financial year.
The PSPO replaces the DPPO – the designated public place order which came into force in Boston at the end of December 2007 and which cost thousands of pound to publicise on  that occasion.
The waffle irons were out in force in the early days of the DPPO – but looking back we can find no evidence of fines being issued or of any real dent in the problem of drinking in the street.
But, of course, according to the social astrologers, all this will change once the DPPO becomes a PSPO.
Or will it?
It was pointed out with monotonous regularity over the years that the DPPO was not a ban on drinking in public – but if someone was seen drinking by a police officer and asked to stop, it was an offence not to comply, and police could also confiscate the demon drink.
But as ever, the Devil is in the detail.
If a PSPO is created, “it is an offence for a person, without reasonable excuse, to do anything that the person is prohibited from doing by a PSPO other than consume alcohol.”
It is not an offence to drink alcohol in a controlled drinking zone.
But it is an offence to fail to comply with a request to cease drinking or surrender alcohol in a controlled drinking zone.
Are you following so far?

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W
e hope so, because it gets sillier from this point on.
Where drinking is concerned, the enforcing officer will be a police officer – although in other instances of breaches of the order, fixed penalty notices can also be issued by PCSOs, council officers, or any other Tom, Dick or Harry designated by the council.
Whilst the DPPOs did not ban drinking in public a PSPO will apparently adopt a tougher line.
Anyone caught drinking by a policeperson in a controlled zone “will be requested to desist drinking forthwith.”
So, John Citizen is tipping a tinny harmlessly on a bench in Boston Market Place – and when asked to stop, he does.
But this reasonable response will not see him emerge unscathed.
Anyone asked to stop drinking and who immediately complies, will have his or her details “verified” by the police officer who will pass them to Boston Borough Council for recording on their anti-social behaviour computer blacklist, known as Sentinel,  and a warning letter will be sent to the person “which will contain suitable narrative.”
The information on the Sentinel system is shared with 19 local organisations, including all seven district councils and Lincolnshire County Council – and interestingly includes the details of anyone who witnesses an act of anti-social behaviour.
Among the organisations sharing the information are Mayflower Housing and two other social housing trusts.
Does this mean that co-operating with the police and handing over your drink could count against you if you apply for a house at some future date?
Whilst enforcement officers of whatever stripe have the discretion to issue fixed penalty notices to “offenders” in Boston, the police will be denied this role where street drinking is concerned – instead it will fall to the borough council.
So … where a person refuses to stop drinking, they commit an offence “and the instructing officer from Lincolnshire Police will secure a witness statement in an agreed form and pass to Boston Borough Council for recording on Sentinel.”
For a first offence, Worst Street will issue a £100 fine, and – if it is not paid – “will consider all of the recovery options open to it in accordance with the law and its corporate enforcement policy.
If anyone is caught twice in any six month period, the council will consider prosecution.
Stand by for the usual headlines – “Council gets tough on street drinking” and all the other nonsense about cracking down.
The report says that Lincolnshire Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner have been very clear that they would adopt a zero tolerance approach to anyone caught consuming alcohol in the controlled drinking zone.
Is there an echo in here, or have we heard all this before?
Over the years Lincolnshire Police have pledged zero tolerance to all manner of things – most regularly the use of pavements and pedestrianised areas by cyclists, and we all know how successful that has been. 
DPPOs failed because hardly any enforcement was carried out – the police are simply not a visible presence in Boston town centre … or anywhere else for that matter.
And this situation seems unlikely to change just because a shiny new law is coming in next week.
PSPOs seem likely to fail for precisely the same reason – but with the added encumbrance of a two tier enforcement system.
Mr Plod bags himself a boozer, then has to prise sufficient information from him for Boston Borough Council to hound him through the courts if necessary – in  a cumbersome, top-heavy over-administered pantomime that could be avoided if policemen simply did what they did in the old days and used some common sense to make a problem go away.
At least PSPO is easier to say than DPPO.
The P is silent – as in pstupid – so the acronym is pronounced Spo.

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S
uddenly, the impossible has become possible – and the road works on John Adams Way and Haven Bridge which have crippled the town for  the past four weeks will be completed overnight between 7.00pm and 6.00am to “minimise  inconvenience to local residents.”
Head Highways honcho Councillor Richard “Bob the Builder” Davies said: “Throughout this project, we’ve been doing everything we can to reduce the inconvenience caused to area residents and businesses (really? – Ed.)
“Although the nature of the work being done previously meant it had to be done during the day, we’ve reassessed the work that’s still required and have decided we’ll continue the improvements at night when there is less congestion on the roads.
“This arrangement shows we are listening to people’s concerns and addressing them where possible while still improving the town’s roads in line with the Boston Transport Strategy.”
We suspect that this is the closest we will get to seeing Lincolnshire Clownty Council admit that it cocked things up, got them wrong and has caved in to public opinion.
Just three weeks ago, Councillor Davies was leaving us in no doubt that overnight working in Boston was not an option.
Repeatedly, and publicly – on local radio and in the chamber at County Hall when questioned by our local representatives – he made his position clear.
On the radio he told listeners that working overnight could potentially double the cost and that with a fixed budget, this would mean that somewhere else would miss out on road improvements.
In the council chamber costs had risen to “sometimes three times as much” – which meant that “somewhere else wouldn’t get something.
“So my question is if any member here doesn’t want their pothole filled or doesn’t want their particular road resurfaced, please let me know and we can then put some more work into night-time working on occasions.”
Somehow we doubt that kind heart councillors from elsewhere in the county sacrificed their set of road works so that Boston’s could be done overnight.
No, this is yet another case of people who think that they are politicians playing at what they think are politics.
After hearing people’s concerns and doing nothing for a month, the county council has not suddenly picked the wax out of its ear and bent over backward to ease Boston’s pain.
And it seems beyond coincidence that by a strange quirk of highways engineering that a point was suddenly reached where work that in the main could be done overnight was all that remained.
However, as regular readers will know, working in the dark comes as second nature to Lincolnshire County Council.
One happy coincidence that we did note is that  the new working arrangements come after Councillor Davies appears to have made more visits to Boston in recent weeks that we suspect is usual for him – and from his comments has not been impressed the misery that we have been suffering on a daily basis.
If nothing else, it shows that the guy took note of our problems and has perhaps done something about it.
It’s just a pity that it has to be given a political massage in the process.
And what a shame this this respite for Boston has come without any hint of lobbying or pressurising County Hall from our so-called “leadership” in Boston.

***

S
o, will Boston now get something of a breather as far as road works are concerned?
Not if Lincolnshire’s Highways Department has anything to do with it.
As an accompaniment to the John Adams Way/Haven Bridge symphony, the Highwaymen have added a sonata in the form of a right turn ban on traffic leaving South End.
The idea is to improve traffic flow in the town.  The trial ban, which began on 21st August, is set to last for up to 18 months – but after six months, there will be consultation with local people as to whether the ban should be made permanent.
As any fule kno this road takes all the lorry traffic to and from Boston Docks, and as a result of the ban on turning right, vehicles heading north from the port now have to do a U-turn around the Liquorpond Street roundabout to return along the A16.
The likely impact of large container vehicles turning so sharply appears to have escaped  the radar of the Highwaymen – due no doubt to their finely-honed incompetence.


Seriously, who would have thought that heavy container lorries trying to circumnavigate a roundabout that is not large enough for them to do so might cause some major damage?
Not Clownty Hall’s experts, apparently.
The next question is how much will it cost to repair the damage, and who will be responsible for repairing it.
If the right turn ban is to remain in force, the roundabout will have to be reduced in size.
But whether it is repaired or reduced, the work will almost certainly take some weeks, and require lane closures.
Perhaps, when the time comes, this work could be done overnight – as a token of apology by our hapless county council.

***


M
ention of road works moves us seamlessly to the subject of a bypass.
After our comments last week about the debate over who was doing what and when, we have heard from a reader who was a councillor way back when – i.e. in the days before the BBI took control of Worst Street.
He says that the letter to a local “newspaper” was not written with the thought of whitewashing any previous administrations – but was a case of not letting an incorrect statement by former council leader Richard Austin go unchallenged.
“Whilst it is a fact that that previous administrations' attempts to secure funding of a solution to Boston's traffic ills had been unsuccessful, should we describe such attempts as incompetence?” he asks.
“Some people may wish to do so, which is disappointing, especially to those who did the lobbying, suggesting meetings and pushing for funds.)
“But the point of the letter was to put the record straight that Councillor Austin was not correct to infer that absolutely no efforts had been made. That's all. And of course Councillor Austin, not being on the council pre-2007 would genuinely not have been aware of actions which, for some reason, he wants to tell the public did not take place.”

***

A
nother part of the debate – that of whether or not the BBI promised us a bypass has prompted another e-mail – this time from a reader who noted some of the quotes being spouted as the party took over.
These included the comment from Councillor Austin at the election count in the Peter Paine sports centre that “Boston needs emergency treatment;” the claim by Deputy leader and former mayor Peter Jordan that the party was “pushing to meet the next Prime Minister;” the claim on 9th May 2007 by Councillor Sheila Newell in the Boston sub-Standard  thatthe party now expects a new road – probably in six or seven years” which was rebutted in the next paragraph by Councillor Austin, who said “there was never a promise that a bypass is coming – that’s out of our hands”
However, he also said in the same story: "Our borough is no longer prepared to be ignored. This astonishing victory for the Boston Bypass Independents is only the first step on the road to recovery, for regeneration, and for that long, long-awaited bypass.”
We await the second step with bated breath.

***

T
he mention we made last week of “The Bypass That Never Was” turned out to be a reference to the so-called Southern Economic Corridor scheme that included a section between London Road and the Dock bridge.
Whilst the precise year is unclear, the available documentation suggests around 2005, and the idea was to take traffic off London Road and continue through the dock area to A52 east of the town.


The Boston Southern Economic Corridor was included in the first local transport plan and aimed to enable “sustainable economic growth” and support existing industries and businesses.
The overall project involved a partnership between Boston Borough Council and the now defunct quango the East Midlands Development Agency, with additional European support.
The original reason for the scheme was to boost the port’s economy and the need to improve the road network was added later.
At this point Lincolnshire County Council was entirely onside, but costs rose to such an extent that the scheme was reviewed in both economic development benefits and transport terms.
We understand that when the idea was put to Lincolnshire County Council for funding consideration it was “called in” – referred back for further debate – by a group of county councillors, who included, we understand some Boston members.
The upshot of the call-in and the ensuring discussions was a decision that funding should go elsewhere on schemes that were not being challenged.

***

W
hen Boston’s planning committee gathered to discuss the Quadrant Development a few weeks ago, one thing that was particularly noticeable – apart from the tang of Sloane’s Liniment in the air – was the assertiveness with which any suggestion that the area around the Princess Royal Sports Arena would be a suitable location was rebutted.
Time and again, we were told that for a variety of reasons, the area was totally unsuitable – and yet eight years ago, plans for  a 7,500 seat football stadium with two training pitches plus a 300 seat conference facility, 90 room hotel, pub/restaurant, almost 1,000 parking spaces, and a coach park were discussed by Boston Borough Council.
The scheme also included building houses on the redundant York Street site.
The proposal was submitted by the football club’s then owners – a company called Lavaflow – and was rejected on the grounds that no business plan had been submitted that clearly showed that the development, and the other related developments required to enable the new stadium to be built  were financially capable of being constructed.
But there were a couple of interesting points to emerge from the report at the time.
The first was that council officers agreed with the applicant that there were no alternative central or brownfield sites within the town, which could reasonably accommodate a new 7,500 capacity football stadium.
They added: “The application site at Boardsides … has the benefit of being located adjacent to the Princess Royal Sports Arena and would therefore form a cluster of sporting facilities.”
Also of note was the criticism of a proposal to provide a shuttle bus between the ground and the town centre on match days for only two years.
This was considered “inadequate for the purposes of encouraging fans to access the site by means other than the private car.”
Yet when opponents of the Quadrant scheme living in Wyberton protested about congestion and other problems caused by visitors, they were blithely brushed aside.

***

T
he report on car park ticket machines that we mentioned last week again highlights the lack of forward thinking by Boston Borough Council which inevitably ends in a free for all with council taxpayers’ money.
The machines were bought in 2006 and are now wearing out.
The cost of replacing 28 machines is £105,000 – that’s £3,750 a machine – plus a £9,500 a year maintenance contract.  The machines could also be rented instead, which would include maintenance – but the cost of this option is not specified.
The new machines come with all sorts of bells and buzzers which have clearly seduced them at Worst Street.
For instance, a machine can tell them at Base Camp Alpha if it feels poorly, or is running out of tickets.
It can record car numbers to stop us cheating citizens from giving someone else our unexpired ticket, and therefore the balance of our paid for but unused waiting time, and lets us pay by mobile ’phone  – which we imagine  lit up a few greedy eyes with the news that this would “increase compliance – motorists can pay to park whether or not machines are operational.”
And of course, with an eye to future profit, an “additional functionality” of this method of payment is “carbon-metered parking.”
This style of parking enforcement enables charging based on the car’s carbon footprint with the most polluting vehicles paying the most whilst those with low carbon emissions could potentially be offered a discount.
This is not, of course, a way to screw more money out of motorists, but “an incentive to individuals to move to less polluting vehicles.”
Despite the apparent obsession with greed, it is interesting to note that suggestions by the council’s scrutiny committee  include looking at the possibility of having free parking binges to encourage tourism into town, but also to find out how much income would be lost if the council moved to free parking altogether. 
There’s no doubt that most people would like free parking, and the advantage of that would also be that there would be no need for costly ticket machines, and traffic wardens could concentrate  on “real” infringements of the regulations.
However, the report has also proposed that  charges are reviewed over the coming months – with revised fees in the starting gate for 1st April next year.
Despite the greedy efforts to make as much as possible, thirteen of the council’s 23 car parks lose £70,000 a year between them.
Whilst it will be interesting to see what the eventual outcome of all this debate is, we think that it is pretty unlikely that the council will ever abandon the milk cow of parking charges or even reduce them  – although there are compelling reasons to do so.
One suggestion that has not been made is to try to retain the more reliable machines for a little longer whilst replacing just the ones that need too much maintenance.
That way, the replacement costs could be staggered so as to be met in smaller outgoings, of, say, 25% every two years – avoiding the need to spend a huge sum every eight.
Similar short-sightedness led to the Assembly Rooms fiasco where, instead of budgeting for relatively small annual sums on maintenance and decoration, the building was left to become ruinous – by which time it was impossible for the council to find the funds needed to make it good once again.

***

W
e’ve devoted a lot of space in recent weeks to the finely crafted ineptitude of the county council’s highways department – and the even worse news is that it is not just reserved for the big, set piece occasions.
Even down at a humble level it is possible to be ignored, roughed up and made to feel that trying to be a helpful citizen is worse than wearing a hat in church.
When the interminable road works on Main Ridge were being done earlier this year, what appeared to be a temporary manhole cover was put down on the pavement.
But when the workmen eventually struck camp and left some months later, the cover remained.
Over time, those natives who inevitably regard destruction as a bit of a lark did their best to pry the cover free of its heavy duty fixings, leaving it loose, and potentially dangerous.
We noticed all this because the Boston Eye offices are not far off, and our morning constitutional regularly involves a stroll down picturesque Main  Ridge, where fag ends and rubbish litter the gutters despite the council giving the local Placecheck group £1,000 for a state of the art street vacuum cleaner.
On 26th August, we wrote to the county’s Highways South office to draw their attention to it, and received an automated reply saying that it would be “forwarded to the appropriate person for response.”
However, no response was forthcoming.
On 28th September our regular constitutional took a nasty turn when Mrs Eye caught her foot against the remaining screw – which by this time had been prised about an inch clear of the cover, and fell against some railings, badly bruising herself in the process.
Having been ignored by Lincolnshire County Council, we e-mailed Boston Borough Council to explain the history and request that something be done as a matter of urgency, before someone was more seriously hurt.
But as the responsibility lay with County Hall, Boston asked for our permission  to forward the  e-mail to the very people who had ignored it, which we gave.
This time Highways South wrote to say that the e-mail had been passed to the main Highways Department in Lincoln and a named member of the Technical Services Section had been asked to investigate and respond.
We also told, somewhat abruptly: “ …  you have been sending your enquiries to the info email address …  the contact email address is customer_services@lincolnshire.gov.uk and they will ensure that the correct department receives your correspondence.”
Presumably this served as a justification for doing nothing – even though the correspondence had been received and acknowledged.
And guess what?
A further two and a half weeks have gone by with nothing being done.
Another time, we won’t bother.
And should anyone have the misfortune to trip and fall as a result of this deliberate ignoring of a potentially dangerous situation, please get in touch.
We will share our correspondence with you in the hope that you will be able to sue the clowns at County Hall from here to kingdom come.

***

A
 final chuckle on a different matter entirely was delivered by the previously mentioned Councillor Richard Davies in Twitter message which read … “Good visit to Bourne this AM to meet potential new Conservative councillors – great to see fresh blood and new ideas.”
Whilst we know that politics is a dangerous game these days, should this not have read; “new blood and fresh ideas?”



 (** footnote) Not to be confused with Yogi Bear – who was famous for the quote: "I'm smarter than the average bear"



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, 10 October 2014


The concept of transparency in local government is a laudable one – but only if that transparency extends beyond basic information and into detail.
Every month (or so) Boston Borough Council issues details of the way it has spent our money, and at present the list goes as far as July – even though we are halfway through October.
Any sum above £250 is listed, and the use the money has been put to is itemised – but sometimes, that isn’t enough.
We are often curious about how some of the spending is approved – or whether someone simply has a good idea and signs a chit to pay for it, and also at what point someone questions the level of outgoings.
It also makes us wonder at what level a sum needs to be subject to authorisation or discussion – and even relevance.
The situation in Boston perfectly demonstrates the fears recently expressed by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, which said 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 – and that councillors who "may not have sufficient capacity" to do the job thoroughly made the problem worse.


***

One such example is the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre – which by now must surely have far exceeded the budget set for improvements and upgrading
Regular readers will recall that  the council – excuse the pun – baled out the Moulder pool by creating a five-year partnership (that’s a club) with the Witham Schools Federation and Boston Amateur Swimming Club, which started late in 2011.
The plan involved spending £195,000 from reserves, with £150,000 being repaid over five years from the “partners,” and the remaining £45,000 being funded from the capital reserve – which means written off.
By our rough calculations the total reached more than a quarter of a million pounds very rapidly, and has since risen still further – with items such as “GMLC equipment” costing £54,000, and alterations at Creations Gym for more than £71,000.
We have noted spending such as £1,300 on three 42-inch plasma TVs,  “rubber tiles and borders” cost £7,000, locker refurbishment totalled £5,149, resurfacing the car park came to £1,770, and various sundry items swallowed another £1,800.
And still it goes on – July mentions a further £27,000 on solar panels … adding to the £125,000 already spent, which appears to have made no appreciable inroads into the centre’s electricity bill.
But who has the overview on all of this?
Is it a portfolio holder, or a council officer?
And are there limits, or will the spending simply continue indefinitely?
And why do none of our councillors ever question what is going on?
Accounting for it is not enough.

***

Elsewhere in the list of expenditure, we see two big chunks of money paid in “Voluntary Org Grants” for the first six months of the year – each totalling £16,250.
What are these voluntary organisations, who runs them, and to what use is the money put?
If these payments continue at the same rate they will total £65,000 in a full year.
If the beneficiaries of the money include the five neighbourhood schemes that began life as Placecheck projects, then there are still more interesting questions about the way that our taxes are being circulated and spent.
A recent application to the Boston Town Area Committee from a Placecheck group that wanted to  install a CCTV camera on a playing field said that it had agreed to contribute £2,250 toward the borough council’s costs and wanted the committee to given it the outstanding £3,800.
Is this a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul – as it would appear that Boston Borough Council gives these groups money and they in turn pay it back to the council, whilst begging for more from a committee famed for wasting taxpayers’ money.
We suppose it keeps the bureaucrats busy.
Again it is not enough merely to say – we are giving away £65,000 to “vol org” groups.
Transparency is one thing – accountability is quite another.

***

Then there are the other “bits and bobs” that accrue across a year.
Not that long ago we mentioned £3,000 being spent on Mayoral dinners  - and now we note  further £1,800 on a Mayoral lunch and room hire.
Members of the council pay great homage to the idea of a first citizen – although we have had some corkers in the past that we could well have done without.
But the office still guzzles up a figure getting on for £100,000 a year, and therefore we hope that it is kept under regular review when savings need to be made – although somehow we doubt it.
A bigger bit and bob was the cost of a webcast, which can only have been for the planning committee that decided to rubber stamp the Quadrant planning development.
The cost of “webcast 50%” (why? Ed) and “satellite costs 100%” was a staggering £4,215 – something like a thousand pounds an hour to present.
It would be very interesting to know how many people watched the meeting on their computers – assuming that figures are available.
If they are not, then it seems to be a dreadful waste of money to spend so much on something where no value for money statistics are available.
The money was paid to a company called Flingbrook, which has its offices in Berkshire, and which numbers companies such as Channel 4, Boots, Google, Santander and Topman among its clients.
No wonder it cost so much!
Was there nowhere closer to home, or cheaper?
click to enlarge
Recently, a county council not too far from Lincolnshire looked into this and found that certainly as far as costs were concerned, it could be done far more cheaply.
South Holland District Council, meanwhile, has been webcasting for some time using an organisation called Public-I which has been providing a service to local councils since 2000.
SHDC currently has planning committee meetings for the six months from April in its archives, and we find it hard to believe that they have paid more than £4,000 a time for the coverage.
Webcasting Boston Borough Council meetings would be a good idea, as they are so poorly covered in the local “newspapers.”
The problem is that it would also highlight the lacklustre performances by many councillors and the total absence of any engagement by others.
Perish the thought, but we might also see a bit of grandstanding in some quarters as well.
With an election not many months away we think that our so-called leaders will prefer to lie low rather than lie in public!

***

Last of all, down at the cheap end of the July spending are two items that raised an Eyebrow.
A “crowd modelling” training course cost £650. Crowd modelling? We’re not entirely sure, but we think it’s to do with managing panic stricken people at the scene of major disasters and the like.
Best to be prepared, we suppose.
Last – and by all means least – we note the entry on the monthly spending list which reports, with absolutely no sense of irony at all … £1,000 spent on “hire of bus for healthy walks.”

***

At a recent council event we hear that our MP Mark Simmonds told guests who expressed their sorrow at his departure from parliament at the next election that he would still be living in the area as his next job will be here.
Which got us wondering.
We doubt that Mr Simmonds plans to follow his own advice to people who find themselves out of work and sign on at a local packhouse.
Nor do we think that he is likely to pursue his previous line of work and become an estate agent. Not only are there plenty of those in Boston already, but commission on prices in this part of the world is scarcely enough to regenerate the huge income he currently enjoys at Westminster.
So what’s left?
Mr Simmonds’ most recent political duties as a minister took him frequently to Africa, which is rather far removed from Lincolnshire.
However prior to election victory in 2010 our MP was a shadow health minister between 2003 and 2004 and again between 2007 and 2010.
Between 2010 and 2012 he became a “strategic adviser” to Circle Healthcare (social enterprise), which ended when he was appointed a minister – and was paid £12,500 quarterly for ten hours a month.
That’s £50,000 a year for 120 hours … £415 an hour.
Circle already has strong connections with the Conservative Party.
Its investors are also party donors and have given money to MP’s offices. They include Robin Odey of Odey Asset Management, who has donated to the offices of Nicholas Soames, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Kwasi Kwarteng who used to work for Odey Management as an analyst, and Jo Johnson, head of the Number 10 policy unit.
Circle calls itself an “employee co-owned partnership” where doctors and nurses are in charge of its hospitals, and are “owners” of the business.
The company’s best known acquisition is most probably Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire which it took over from the NHS when it was consistently near the bottom of the 46 trusts, but which now has one of the highest levels of patient satisfaction in the country.
It is said that the takeover deal, which saved the hospital from closing down, is seen as a blueprint for the future of many NHS trusts.
So are Mr Simmonds hints about remaining in Lincolnshire connected with his CV in health?
In July, United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust – which runs Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital – was told that it must spend another six months in special measures because it was still failing to deliver acceptable standards of care.
Time will tell, but Mr Simmonds would clearly be a viable candidate if the Lincolnshire UHT went the way of Hinchingbrooke Hospital and was privatised –  whilst  his one-time fee from Circle would work out at a full time equivalent of  a handsome £16,650 a week

*** 

The issue of Boston’s troubled roads continues to rumble on.
After last week’s Boston Eye blog, the county’s Head of Road Chaos (HORC) Councillor Richard Davies, came in for some stick and was challenged over why his patch and others warranted overnight work but not Boston.
The initial response was to say that “in this instance it wasn't possible,” – but at least Councillor Davies declared that he was returning to Boston this week “to look into reports of lack of contractor activity”  which we have to say has been noticeable whenever road works are carried out in the town.
He also rejected charges that Lincoln was out of touch with the town, saying: “Our depot and local office is in Boston - there's no simple answer to congestion. Clearly you'd rather inactivity.”
Actually, inactivity – in terms of not being able to drive through the town other than in first gear – is exactly what we are complaining about.
Later, Councillor Davies tried the time-honoured political stunt of pointing the finger of blame elsewhere, and shooting the messenger.
Whilst he admitted that “we could do a much better job explaining” he added “but it would help if some commentators would explore more before commenting.”
As the only source on this issue was Boston Eye, we have no doubt to whom he was referring.
For the record, we made little by way of comment, merely reported – unlike our local “newspapers” – the exchanges between Councillor Davies and Boston county councillors, and references from his social media page announcement regarding overnight working.
We’re afraid that if his comments lacked some information, then he should seek to make himself clearer.
After all that, it was entertaining to have our sense of schadenfreude piqued by a story in Councillor Davies’ home base of Grantham
The Grantham Journal reported that “the councillor responsible for roads has apologised for traffic in the town grinding to a halt this morning.
“Patching work … led to congested roads in the centre of town and traffic moving at a snail’s pace along High Street and roads running off it.
“Councillor Richard Davies, who represents Grantham North West on the county council and is portfolio holder for highways, said the council needs to improve upon how it maintains the roads.
“Councillor Davies said: ‘I am sorry about the disruption this morning. We are trying to improve this as we speak. We need to be more focussed on the road user, but overall the objective is to address the necessary road repairs in the town and we cannot do that without some disruption.’”
It’s good to see that our roads supremo is a multitasker when it comes to delivering delay – but as we said last week, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

***

On Sunday, we noticed a distinct increase in the amount of traffic out and about – due largely, we suspect, to the fact that it is currently the only day of the week when it should be possible to do shopping that requires the use of a car. Sadly, a pedestrian was involved in an accident on John Adams Way near Haven Bridge where the road works are being carried out, which again saw traffic tailed back all the way through the town to Horncastle Road.
Whilst we appreciate the difficulties in such circumstances, it ought not to be beyond the wit of the authorities to manage traffic flow more efficiently on such occasions.
Perhaps a “crowd modelling” course involving cars might provide some answers.
Similarly, we noted social media comments about problems caused by frustrated drivers blocking the roundabouts.
It may be selfish, but in light of the ham-fisted handling of the roadworks by Lincolnshire Clownty Council it is to a degree understandable.
How about some temporary traffic lights to manage the flow – or is that a little too avant garde for the folk at County Hall?

***

Three Boston borough councillors – all of them former members of the Boston Bypass Independents – wrote to the Boston Standard, a “newspaper” that is published weakly, to add their threepenn’orth to the debate, declaring that any restriction in traffic flow on Haven Bridge needed to be managed carefully to avoid the chaos we are currently experiencing.
They added – as have many others – that “We are sure that in Lincoln any such road works would have been carried out at night.
The letter, signed by Councillors Helen Staples, Richard Austin and David Watts (sic) challenged Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill, and his highways henchman Councillor Richard Davies to visit Boston and find out at first hand the damage done to our economy “by the bad management of highways works.”

***

Their letter angered a reader who e-mailed Boston Eye to attack “the hypocritical condemnations” in the letter.
“How do people such as these dare to have the temerity to spout such ill-conceived drivel,” he continued.
“They conveniently fail to admit the disaster caused by them by failing to deliver the original and main key element of their own political policy.
“To now complain about the obvious inadequacy and grinding congestion being suffered in, on, and around our local roads, is nothing short of idiotic hypocrisy.
“Why do they not come clean and admit they literally threw away the best chance this borough ever had of resolving the traffic chaos, and admitting it was  they  who are to blame for failing to deliver in the first place!
“The very mention of the word road should stick in their throats!”

 ***

The letter also prompted a response from a group of councillors from all parties harking back to the pre-2007 days to “contradict” the assertion that nothing had been done to secure a bypass for Boston before the arrival of the BBI.
Because there was no European funding for road building, but funds were available for “regeneration schemes,” references to a bypass/relief road/distributor road or whatever, appeared under yet another euphemism – that of “regeneration corridor.”
This apparently assuages the collective conscience of the councillors “serving” between 2000 and the arrival of the BBI.
What a shame that our so-called politicians are so concerned with calling a spade anything but a spade that this gobbledygook probably did more to obscure what was being sought for the town rather than  making it clear.
Frankly, we think that all previous administrations are guilty of incompetence – hence the need to try to provide a whitewash.

***

Interestingly, at the recent meeting of Lincolnshire County Council another former BBI member – county and Boston borough councillor Alison Austin – insisted that “no-one in the past has ever promised to deliver a bypass for Boston.”
However, this does appear to be at odds with the declaration by the BBI after  its landslide victory in Boston in 2007, which said: “Boston Bypass Independents were elected … on a manifesto of getting Boston moving by getting a bypass built for Boston. We were accused by our opponents of being a single issue party but the electorate soon saw through this political smokescreen, voting the old guard out and a virtually brand new council in to power.”
The statement certainly appears to be unambiguous – but then again we’re talking politics and politicians here, so anything goes.

***

The present traffic chaos – chin up … there’s only another four or five weeks to go – has reminded many people that a bypass was on the cards … and not that long ago, either.
Readers tell us that there were plans to bridge the River Haven at the High Street and that this went further with compulsory purchase of land and property in the area. We believe that the money ran out before any was really spent, but it is salutary to think how different things might have been had the work happened. Any readers' recollections of those days are warmly welcomed.
Instead, all we have is the John Adams Way – a “bypass” that is unique in that it runs through the centre of the place it is supposed to be bypassing.
It could only happen in Boston.

***

One thing that can be said is that we will never get a bypass unless we make a big fuss. In 2007 the BBI polled 16,294 votes out of a total of 31,333 based on a poor turnout of 36.9%.
Clearly the people of Boston really wanted a bypass – and judging by the current pressure of public opinion they still do.
Yet an e-petition on the government website calling for a bypass has so far only attracted 1,080 signatures.
The petition will remain on-line until the end of March next year, and if you would like to sign it, you can do so by clicking here
Signing it won’t achieve anything at government level – but if enough people do, we will at least have some clear evidence of the strength of opinion to show them at Clownty Hall.
Meanwhile, a recent statement from South Holland District Council planners reports that the cost of phase two of the Spalding Western Relief Road is £95.6m.
Boston residents will be delighted to know that the application was funded by Lincolnshire County Council “through its budget targeted at schemes that will support the future prosperity of Lincolnshire,” adding that “Spalding is expected to experience future traffic growth in line with the rest of the UK.
“This traffic growth places extra demand on the existing congestion points within the town, increasing queue lengths and delays.”
The answer appears to be that if you want a bypass – move to Spalding.

 ***

Meanwhile, parking is still an issue around the place – even though there is ample time to leave your vehicle in traffic, go shopping or to the bank, and return to your car to find it just where you left it.
In a desperate attempt to earn a little goodwill, Boston Borough Council has announced plans for “a huge early Christmas present” for the town.
“To help boost the all-important Christmas shopping trade” the council is to remove "all charges on all car parks on some of the biggest festive shopping days."
We already have a question about this, as Worst Street subsequently mentions that the "gift" applies to "all borough council-controlled car parks."
Whether this will include the five off street car parks owned by Lincolnshire County Council  is not clear – but they are the areas that will be most popular in the run-up to Christmas – Market Place, Wide Bargate, Pump Square, South Square  and  Station Approach.
However, the free parking dates include the famously festive Thursday, November 27, when the town’s Christmas lights are being switched on, and the equally celebratory Thursdays, December 4th 11th and 18th.
On all of these dates parking is free from 4pm.
On Saturday, December 6 – Small Business Saturday, apparently – parking will be free all day, as it will be on Sundays November 30th,  December 7th, 14th and 21st.
And Christmas Eve will also see free all day parking.
Given the greed with which the leadership normally embraces car parking income, this certainly ranks alongside the epiphany of Ebenezer Scrooge after his ghostly visitations.
Council leader, Pete Bedford, said: “The aim of all this is to welcome as many people as possible into the town to help Boston businesses following the floods of last year which, for too many, marred Christmas.”
And Councillor Derek “Knocker” Richmond, portfolio holder for the town centre and car parks, chimed in: “This represents a Christmas present from the council to Boston. The town has a tremendously varied shopping offer – from small family-owned traditional retailers through to main multi-nationals. With free parking located conveniently close there should be no reason to want to go anywhere else.”
Close – but no cigar, as they say.
If the idea is, as Councillor Bedford says, to help Boston business, then it is too late by several months. Not only that, but our local businesses need the support of the local council all year round – not just a bit of tokenism at Christmas.
And – varied as Boston’s shopping offer is – Councillor Richmond is well wide of the mark to think that free parking for a few hours late in the day will erase any need to shop elsewhere.
We’re afraid that both men are over-egging the Christmas pudding.
Car parking income in Boston is no longer the cash cow it once was, and whilst this “huge” gift will save shoppers a few bob, it is by no means as generous as the council would like it to seem.
But there is, of course, an election on the way, isn’t there?
Interestingly, the council is now looking at either leasing replacement car park ticket machines or buying new ones for more than £100,000 – with maintenance costs of £10,000 a year, which it seems will inevitably mean even higher charges.
More on that next week

***

As a sidebar to the parking issue, we sometimes wonder if Boston’s problems will ever be solved.
Not for the first time, a reader e-mails to tell us: “It appears someone at Lincoln has issued orders that foreign drivers are exempt from parking restrictions. Surely under the Freedom of Information act we are entitled to know who issued this order.
"As an example a white transit van blatantly breaks the law in Red Lion street in Boston. For about a year I have contacted local councillors, county councillors and even the police commissioner for Lincolnshire, but every one passes the buck.”
Perhaps the attention of our civil enforcement office is elsewhere. Last week during a visit to the Market Place, we noticed one of them enjoying a merry chat with some craft stallholders, while illegally parked cars lined the row of planters that help make the place look such a mess.
As we emerged from a shop twenty minutes later, he was in the self-same position – as were the parked, unticketed cars.

***

In other market towns around the county, councils take a different view of parking. In Market Rasen, for example – a winner of Portas Pilot funding which is apparently proving a success – parking is free.
And in Sleaford, forward looking North Kesteven District Council plans more than 100 new, cheap, long-stay car parking spaces in the south of the town to support local businesses costing between £1 and £2 a day.

***

Last week’s mention of an alleged abuse of  car parking privileges by a councillor has prompted a letter from Independent Councillor Carol Taylor, who says: “Allow me to put you straight regarding your description "get-out-of-jail-free" councillor car parking pass.
“It doesn't get us out of jail, suggesting that we break the law and get away with it – we don't!
“The individual concerned who has allegedly refused to pay a parking fine for taking up two spaces is in a minority. Our parking permits are used solely for council business when we are working in our ward areas or with ward residents.
“We are not allowed to park in the market place or the two central car parks at Wide Bargate, not even on council business. We are also not allowed to use our pass if we park to go shopping for instance.
“Many of us work hard in our wards and when visiting people on council business we can use our permits. Boston borough councillors adhere to the rules and regulations for the use of car parking permits.
“If it has been proven that a councillor has abused this privilege then they should be dealt with accordingly, but please do not tar us all with the same brush!”

***

Speaking of Christmas, and the switching on of lights, we wonder what the future holds for the costly yet unimpressive deal signed by Boston Borough Council three years ago, and which still has two years to run.
When the old lights were replaced the most the council could scrape together was £25,000 – and the late but unlamented Boston Business “Improvement” District agreed to stump up an extra £10,000 for the first two years.
Now that the BID is no more, is the borough saddled with a  £35,000 annual contract which at the time it said could not be afforded without extra help?
And what happens as far as Christmas lights are concerned in the future?

***

As far as the general election is concerned, there is little to report locally this week.
Boston is still listed as being among the seats most likely to fall to UKIP, whilst the local Conservatives have published details on their website of the “open primary” selection event on October 25th between 1-30pm  and 4-30pm, and which they describe as “a US-style ‘Primary.’”
They’ve booked the Peter Paine Sports Centre for the dog-hanging, which seems a little ambitious – particularly given the turnout for a similar event in Clacton at which only 240 of the 67,000 eligible voters registered to attend … despite the national interest and political controversy surrounding the seat.
To vote here you must register by 22nd October, live in the Boston and Skegness constituency and be over 18.
Registering is not as straightforward as it could have been if more than one of you would like to attend.
Whilst a drop-down box suggests that more than one ticket may be ordered, that is not the case, as the choice is 1 … or 1.
So, if Mr and Mrs Voter want to attend, they need to fill out individual applications – and they only have eight minutes in which to do it, whilst a timer ticks cheerily down to let them know how much time is left.
Full e-mail and home addresses are mandatory, as is a demand for the applicant’s date of birth.
We’re not sure that such security is necessary, as somehow, we don’t see many – if any – people wanting to try to sway the vote!

***

Meanwhile, travelling hopefully to arrive, we imagine, one of the UKIP contenders for the Boston and Skegness constituency, Paul Wooding, is now styling himself “UKIP PPC.”.
PPC is an abbreviation of Prospective Parliamentary Candidate – a title that we have always understood to refer to a contender who has triumphed in the selection process and is representing his or her party at the general election.
Perhaps Mr Wooding knows something that we don’t.

***

We note that our leader’s contempt for local journalilsts continues unabated. We recently picked up the September issue of the Simply Boston magazine – which is still available even though we are in October.
The Peter’s Notes page carried Councillor Bedford’s unashamed support for the approval of the Quadrant Development two months ago, and a reminder that grants were still available in connection with the December floods.
If the notes seemed familiar once again, it is because they were.
They first appeared in a letter to a local “newspaper” on   August 20th.
And the deadline for applying for the grants that Councillor Bedford mentioned expired at the end of September!

***

What a delight to see Boston mentioned in last week’s Sunday Telegraph as boasting one of Britain’s five best independent bookshops.
click to enlarge
Que?
Trident Booksellers, “is the only independent bookstore left in Boston, which is desperately sad,” reported children’s writer Jacqueline Wilson.
 “It’s a bookstore and a café that sells new and used books. It’s a great place for students to sit, to browse, to work on their computers …” it waffles.
We must take a look, we thought, which is when we discovered a slight snag.
The address of Trident Booksellers and Café is 338 Newbury Street, Boston,  Massachusetts – a nine hour flight away.
Oh dear.

***


Finally, another example of over-egging the pudding!
A report in Monday’s Boston Daily Bore employed a sheaf of epithets to tell a story.
Phew! … breaking ground …  a tough job .... the soil was rock hard ... because it was littered with rocks … staff had to employ an iron bar and plenty of muscle and effort to break through …”
And the nature of this Herculean task?
A hole, about three feet square and a foot deep, dug – no, excavated – by three men to house the £4,000 lump of stone that was intended to mark the start of the First World War but will instead be dedicated on the 96th anniversary of its conclusion.
Fittingly, given Boston Borough Council’s obsession with medals, badges, scrolls and the like, everyone who contributed to the semi-public appeal will be “honoured” with their names included on a “Scroll of Honour.”
Given that the obelisk is to recognise the ultimate sacrifice by the 843 local people who died in the Great War, is the idea of meriting a place on a scroll of “honour” for opening one’s wallet a vulgar idea, or is it a vulgar idea?


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