Breaking news: ... Un oiseau petite tells us that Councillor Aaron Spencer has been named as the Portfolio Holder for Finance after the suspension of Councillor Raymond Singleton McGuire - although we, the riff-raff, have not been told anything at this stage
UPDATE: Boston Borough Council says ... Councillor Aaron Spencer has been appointed Boston Borough Council's finance portfolio holder.
Council leader, Peter Bedford, said: "I am pleased to announce that Councillor Spencer has taken over the finance portfolio as from today. I am certain he will carry on the excellent work that Councillor Singleton-McGuire has done."
Councillor Spencer said: "I look forward to the challenge of taking the lead in the financial affairs of the borough council. I recognise the importance of the role - it is something which impacts in some way on practically every person living in the borough.
"It's a big job, but I have worked in the commercial world and I will have the support of the council's excellent financial team, and I take up the reigns (sic) from a good starting point."
ncreasingly, the incurable optimism that seems to be woven into the fabric of Boston Borough Council’s tattered mantle is taking over from what should be a sense of reality.
Last week we took a look at a report which is supposedly addressing what needs to be done to breathe life back into Boston’s ailing town centre.
The bottom line seemed to be that too little was being done, and too late – with much of the action needed to make a difference being beyond the ability of the borough council to deliver.
But never mind.
Not unlike Mr Micawber, whose personal mantra is that something will turn up our leaders in Worst Street are forever panning for gold despite forever coming up with iron pyrites.
As last week’s report was making it clear that nothing much can be done to stem the inevitable decline in our town’s fortunes, what did we hear from the powers that be?
There are no prizes for guessing.
“Good news for town centre.”
The claim was based on yet another report, and centred on the “footfall” figures –jargon for how many people come in and out of the town centre
It was preceded by an interesting question.
“Did you know that Boston Borough Council monitors how many people visit the town centre?”
The answer was “no” – but given that the nosy blighters watch us wherever we go already, yet another piece of sneakiness came as no real surprise.
“Everyone who appears to be over the age of 16 is counted as they pass a fixed point for the same half hour morning and afternoon every third Wednesday of the month, come rain or shine, to give an indication of the popularity of the town centre.”
We can only imagine that this tedious chore is handed out as some sort of punishment – but it has apparently yielded the wonderful news that the latest figures show a four-year high, with an average daily footfall between April and September of 2,572.
This immediately propelled Councillor Derek Richmond, portfolio holder for the town centre, into a frenzy of ecstasy.
“This makes for very good reading – it shows the town centre remains an attractive proposition for shoppers and visitors and is actually showing improvements year on year despite the difficult financial times we have all experienced.”
What the borough fails to mention by contrast is that this footfall figure comes against a background of the worst shop occupancy rate for the same period.
The annual figure – issued in April – showed that there were 36 empty retail units in the town and 229 occupied … whilst four years ago, the figures were 29 and 257 respectively.
A helpful definition of what Boston Borough Council considers to be the “town centre” is also absent from the news, and another omission the presence if which would have been helpful is how long Worst Street spends counting heads.
To have any relevance, the number of hours between counting them in and counting them out would need to be at least five – which averages around 515 people wandering around the town centre each hour.
That’s eight and a half people a minute – although those half-people clearly are under 16, and therefore ought not to be counted.
More footfall is good news, of course, but cherry-picking the good news and hyping it up is sadly becoming typical of the spinners at Worst Street.
No matter how bad the news, the borough always finds something positive to say, when often, saying nothing would be far more prudent
Again, it was Mr Micawber who summed up our leaders’ approach: “Welcome poverty! Welcome misery, welcome houselessness, welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary! Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end!”
alking of leaders, we now have one fewer than a week or so ago, after the borough’s joint deputy leader Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire was removed from his duties.
A terse statement from the council – which like other recent bad news does not appear on its website – said: “In the interests of transparency and good governance Councillor Peter Bedford, the leader of Boston Borough Council, has removed Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire from all cabinet and committee duties pending completion of proceedings relating to his personal business interests.
“In the interim the leader and deputy leader, Councillor Michael Brookes, will jointly discharge the portfolio responsibilities.
“The council will provide no further comment on this matter pending the outcome of legal proceedings.”
Seemingly, the idea of using the word “transparency” was to suggest that this statement made everything clear – but surely, anything which raises more questions than it answers is far from pellucid.
According to his list of disclosable pecuniary interests, Councillor Singleton-McGuire is first and foremost a landlord and property developer.
How this has somehow placed him into a legal dilemma ought really to be explained, as presumably the options can range from something relatively trivial to quite serious – and a statement such as the one issued by the council if nothing else should strive to be fair.
The council has subsequently added a line to “clarify” matters by saying: “The borough council and Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue are both taking legal action against Mr Singleton-McGuire in his personal capacity for alleged breaches of housing legislation.”
The omission of his courtesy title is presumably just to rub salt into the wound, as Councillor Singleton-McGuire remains … a councillor.
His responsibilities prior to this brouhaha included the portfolio for finance – one of the most important jobs in the cabinet which is now to be shared between two others who already have a generous workload.
hen of course, we have Councillor Singleton-McGuire’s role in this bemusing affair …
His reaction has been to take his ball away – to quit the Tory group and start life as an independent councillor
He told a local “newspaper” that his removal from post was a decision made by the leader of Boston Borough Council “fuelled by various internal issues between the council and my own personal property business.”
He went on to say that his efforts to turn the council finances from a deficit left by the previous administration to a positive often encountered difficulties.
“The past three and a half years have been challenging, demanding and, at times, very obstructive when dealing with council members and staff …
And he continued: “My challenging and questionable approach about fundamentally incorrect systems, lack of transparency and scrutiny over financial and other matters has recently led to the leader blocking communication between myself and Boston Borough Council, forcing me to enlist the help of outside authorities such as the Information Commissioner’s Office, Local Government Association, Department for Communities and Local Government and Government Ombudsman.
“… to remove me as deputy leader and finance portfolio holder, in light of openness and transparency, does not reflect well in light of the above experiences.
“I am therefore unable to continue my allegiance with Councillor Peter Bedford as Conservative group leader and leader of the council.
“It is with that in mind and it should not come as a surprise that I have decided to continue the remainder of my term in office as an independent.”
surprise it was, though, and one which brought a mixed reaction from the Labour group on the council.
Their leader, Councillor Paul Gleeson, said that the only notification the party received was through the council-issued press release.
He pledged that the leadership’s “insular approach” in dealing with the community, would prompt Labour to ensure that “any enquiry into this matter includes all councillors and is as far as possible carried out in public.”
Subsequently, he tweeted: “Reading Councillor Singleton-McGuire on why he resigned from Tories confirms our campaign for more openness and transparency in the dealings of the council.”
He also declared that he was “Not surprised to hear ousted dep leader of Boro has left Tories. They treated him badly after his campaigning skill won them the Boro in 2011.”
o, will we see a battle for more openness and transparency or not?
We suspect not.
Councillor Singleton-McGuire’ departure from the Conservatives creates an interesting development in the balance of the council.
Until midweek, the council’s composition was listed on its website as:-
17 Conservatives (which at that point still included Councillor Singleton-McGuire.)
4 Independent Group 2 members
2 Lincolnshire Independents
1 English Democrat
1 Unaligned – which is what you get called when your really are Independent.
Yesterday, that list remained unchanged – although Councillor Singleton-McGuire’s departure changes the equilibrium of the council and sees its once comfy majority wiped out.
On party lines, the council is now 16 Tories facing off 16 other ragged-trousered opponents, who we are certain would never in a million years combine to give the so-called “leadership” any trouble.
Politically, the opportunities are there to give Councillor Bedford and his dwindling bunch of henchpeople a rough ride between now and election day on 7th May next year – which would if nothing else force some accountability and openness on a regime which has thumbed its nose at democracy since attaining power.
But don’t hold your breath waiting.
Many fine words have been uttered by members of various parties and groups since the Conservative stranglehold on the council took effect – but action has been completely absent.
orst of all the disclosures is the allegation by Councillor Singleton-McGuire that council members and staff were “obstructive” as he tried to get a handle on the council’s ailing finances.
Also, we are left aghast by the claims that the leader blocked communication between Councillor Singleton-McGuire and Boston Borough Council.
Quite what organisations such as the Information Commissioner’s Office, Local Government Association, Department for Communities and Local Government and Government Ombudsman made of a leading councillor going to them to find out what was going on in his own authority is anyone’s guess – but we imagine that it will not have enhanced Boston Borough Council’s reputation.
It would appear that there is clearly more to all this than meets the eye, and some very serious questions have been raised which Councillor Bedford really ought to answer.
hilst our comments last week comparing Christmas events in Boston with the simultaneous arrival of three buses after none turned up for several hours were meant light-heartedly, it seems that there is a serious issue behind the scenes.
We highlighted the fact that we were suddenly confronted with three festive events over just two days – one from Boston Big Local, in conjunction with Boston Stump – followed a bash in Pescod Square ahead of the Boston Borough Council Christmas event culminating in a light switching-on ceremony.
The Pescod Square event will start an hour after the borough council’s opening celebrations, with the shopping centre’s light switch-on being staged ahead of what will almost certainly be a much bigger event from the council.
If it sounds as though for some reason, the shops are staging a “spoiler” on the borough’s efforts, then that might well be the case.
Certainly the council group behind this year’s event got stared earlier than anyone else – and their progress was well recorded.
We are told that the manager of Pescod Square and the Oldrids management were often invited to these meetings but never came – as it appeared that they had no wish to join up with the council team.
It’s a short-sighted, selfish and miserable viewpoint that would have warmed the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge.
t seems increasingly apparent that the choice of a brewery as the location in which to select the UKIP candidate to fight next year’s general election seat for Boston and Skegness was an inspired one.
The date had already been moved once, and we were told that a decision would be taken on Thursday 13th November.
At the eleventh hour in the run up to the event we learned that both of the only known contenders to stick their heads over the parapet had pulled out.
The first of these was Neil Hamilton, a disgraced former Tory minister, whose professed love of the area evaporated like the early morning mist.
During a visit three months ago he was quoted as saying: “I came, I saw, I liked what I saw and that is what has made my mind up."
He added that he had decided to stand in the constituency because it won the highest number of regional votes for UKIP in the European elections in May.
“I obviously want to be in at the kill," he declared.
So much for Neil Hamilton – whom polls showed might not have been a popular choice among local people in any case.
The other would-be candidate was Paul Wooding, who – unlike Mr Hamilton nailed his colours to the mast a lot earlier.
Although he is from the Maidstone area, Mr Wooding told Boston Eye: “I have family who live in the area and I visit quite a few times a year and understand the people, their problems and their angst.
“I chose to put myself forward many months ago for selection as I am not motivated by fame or money.....just to bring attention and help to the region.”
But suddenly, it seems that everything went pear shaped.
In a series of messages on the social networking site Twitter, Mr Wooding spoke of a “pre-ordained” result, and the pointlessness of travelling up for the hustings “to be a guaranteed loser.” He also said that the selection process would include “three ex-Tories.”
Meanwhile, after the selection process, local Ukippers declined to name the successful candidate – promising to do so last Monday … which came and went without a a word.
However, yesterday came the announcement that the victor is none other than – surprise, surprise – Robin Hunter-Clarke … pictured on the left with another well-known comedian. RH-C is a county councillor for Skegness South who is also Chairman of Boston and Skegness UKIP branch and deputy leader of the UKIP group at Lincolnshire County Council
A couple of years ago – at the tender age of 19 – Mr Hunter-Clarke became the youngest Tory to serve on Skegness Town Council, but defected to UKIP because “the Conservative Party no longer represents the views of local Conservative voters. However, the views that UKIP hold are much more in tune with core conservative values, which is why I have defected.
"The people of Skegness voted me as a Conservative and I am still a conservative, however the Conservative Party no longer is – UKIP is the 'Conservative Party in Exile'.”
Dear us – another Tory defector … and so young.
But like so much these days, we are left wondering what has been going on behind the scenes.
After the announcement, Paul Wooding told Boston Eye: "The winner sat on the original selection committee to choose the shortlist, therefore was ineligible to apply to stand.
"He chose the weakest four plus Hamilton (his mate) so Hamilton could win.
"The National Executive Committee removed one name and added Robin Hunter-Clarke to the short-list when he didn't even apply in the first instance.
"They only informed me of his inclusion the day before the hustings and as I was not prepared to go to a gunfight armed with a knife, I withdrew.
"My ethics of honesty, principle and integrity are diametrically opposed to that of UKIP.
"I was not prepared to lend credibility to a rigged, pre-ordained hustings.
"I believe their decision will cost them dear and they will ultimately snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in May 2015."
ou have just a week left in which to make your opinions known in the Lincolnshire Police budget consultation for 2015/16.
Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick is asking for answers to just half a dozen questions – and frankly, we cannot see how completing the survey will make the slightest difference to the way that our local police service is managed.
Questions include – should the budget be cut elsewhere to maintain the force strength at 1,100 officers? … which is, incidentally, almost 100 fewer than it was 35 years ago, when Lincolnshire was a different place to police entirely.
Another question on personpower is about the number of PCSOs, and whether they should be maintained at 149. Our views on that are widely known.
Then there is the issue of whether the police should spend more or less time investigating crimes such as internet fraud, child sexual exploitation, and “modern slavery.”
The choice of answers is: more time, same as they do now, less time and “don't know.”
Given that respondents most probably have no idea of how much time the police spend on these tasks, a sensible answer is impossible to give – but perhaps that is the idea.
It also amused us to encounter the question: “Who do you think is responsible for keeping our community safe and reducing crime? (tick all that apply.) The menu offers the police, the public, businesses, local councils, Fire and Rescue, the ambulance service and the NHS.
If someone will tell us how this question will oil the wheels of planning for next year’s police budget, we would be most grateful.
Not for the first time, we have been presented with a meaningless survey that will be of no assistance whatsoever to the powers that be at police headquarters.
But it allows someone to say that we, the taxpayers, have been consulted.
If you really want to complete it, the link is here http://www.lincolnshire-pcc.gov.uk/Get-Involved/Budget-Consultation-Form.aspx
eanwhile, the police are preparing to farm out more responsibilities by seeking bids for “a single restorative justice service” for victims of crime and anti-social behaviour in Lincolnshire.”
We are told that “restorative justice brings those harmed by crime or conflict, and those responsible for the harm, into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.”
We imagine that this means everyone sitting round in a cosy circle while an offender issues a meaningless apology for the crime committed – which the victim accepts because there is no other option.
All that it does is allow the police and courts to spend less time on their core duties and save money.
And this is called progress.
reader kindly sent us a copy of the price list quoted by South Holland District Council after we suggested last week that here in Boston the bulky waste removal charge of £25 for a “standard white item” and £35 for two seemed a little on the high side.
SHDC is far less demanding asking just £25 for up to three large or bulky items.
The council published a detailed list of what will, or will not be taken, and as always, we found something to make us smile within the contents. Under the heading of “special waste” South Holland told us without a flicker of a smile … “Piano/organs will also be taken on this service. Please note these can only be collected on a Friday.”
Can anyone tell us why?
gg on face time for Worst Street after it had to tell anyone seeking a flood grant that they were out of luck – but it was still possible to deflect the blame.
The council website told us that the November edition of the local free magazine Simply Boston had used an item that was “way past its ‘use by’ date.”
The borough said that it had issued the original at the beginning of September – which was actually after the deadline for flood resilience grants of August 31st.
But the release advised that it might still be worth making enquiries if anyone had missed the deadline.
“This information has been removed from the Simply Boston article. It is now too far past the cut-off date in November to entertain any late applications for repair and renewal grants,” lamented the powers that be.
Call us cynical, but we wondered whether Simply Boston was simply getting its own back after the countless times that Worst Street has fobbed it off with out-of-date, previously published “notes” from Leader Pete Bedford.
inally, we are pleased that Boston Borough Council has responded to Boston Eye’s nomination for the Golden Turd award by surpassing even its own already shi**y standards.
Undeturd by our previous remarks, Wednesday’s edition of the increasingly irrelevant Boston Daily Bulletin was clearly energised and inspired by our award – so much so that it sought to push the envelope even further.
Beneath the headline: “DEFILED – DEPRAVED. Would you clean it up?” we read of the unacceptable behaviour of some people using the public lavatories managed by Boston Borough Council.
The preamble to the piece cautioned: “Images connected with this article come with a warning: They show graphic scenes of the disgusting condition some have left Boston’s public toilets in. If you do not have a strong stomach, then do not look at them.”
What a red rag to a bull that was, and the photos were preceded by equally graphic language.
“These images show the Lincoln Lane toilets – inspected and cleaned on a weekday at 11am, but abused and filthy in the most depraved fashion by the time they called again at 1-15pm.
“In one of the incidents someone had defecated in the gent’s urinal trough – not only unsightly but also causing a blockage.
“One of the cleaners said: ‘There was only one way to clean this and that was to put gloves on and remove the contamination by hand.’
“In another incident, also at Lincoln Lane, a toilet seat in one of the cubicles had been deliberately smeared with faeces."
After such vivid “journalism” a reasonable reader might assume that the message had been delivered loud and clear.
But this is Boston Borough Council – where too much is never enough.
A final paragraph addressed to readers re-emphasised: “WARNING: The link below will take you to graphic content that some may find disturbing. Do not view these images if you do not have a strong stomach …
Certainly, the warning was correct.
The pictures were indeed graphic, unpleasant, and depending on your tolerance level on a scale between nasty and nauseating.
It also goes without saying that they were available to anyone of any age to view, and it is also fair to say that a “health warning” of graphic content is so commonplace these days that it seldom acts as any kind of caution – more commonly as an inducement to view.
What went unsaid was that the publication of such images will do nothing to prevent the offending behaviour.
The people who do this sort of thing are unlikely to have their conscience pricked and vow to mend their ways in the highly improbable event that they read of their malfeasance in the Boston Daily Bulletin.
In fact we are left aghast at the reason why Boston Borough Council took the decision to publish these distasteful, objectionable and obnoxious photographs.
All that we can conclude is that the decision made the correct assumption that our local “newspapers” would seize the council’s initiative as a justification to reproduce it, which would in turn validate the council’s own disagreeable decision.
We wonder how many of our local councillors endorse this latest stunt which – forgive the pun – smears the town with a dirty reputation.
Nor were things helped by the second page of the bulletin which listed the latest offenders in the council’s “Name and Shame” campaign – who are guilty of a combination of public urination and littering in and around Boston town centre.
Sadly, these people are neither named, nor shamed – and the sole thrust of that day’s issue is further to depict Boston as a thoroughly unpleasant place to come to – either as a visitor or to live.
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