t’s been the week that Boston Borough Council introduced prohibition – and we can’t wait to see quite what effect it will have.
We cannot for a moment imagine that the council would have done other than vote to ban street drinking – in the form of a PSPO … a Public Space Protection Order. Scarcely had the gavel fallen to confirm the order than Boston Borough Council’s website was chortling: “Drinking alcohol in the street in Boston town centre will be illegal from January 12th.
“Boston Borough Council agreed to be among the first in the country to introduce new legislation declaring the town centre a drink-free area.
“Anyone found drinking alcohol in the designated area will be subject to arrest if, when requested by a police officer, they do not stop drinking or surrender the drink.”
Therefore, if we read it correctly, drinking alcohol in the town centre will not be “illegal.”
In the unlikely event of a police officer (and it can only be a police officer) losing his way to the nick and winding up in the town centre and then having the misfortune to bump into someone drinking, an offence will be committed “if, when requested … they do not stop drinking or surrender the drink.”
If someone is drinking in the town centre – or that Hell’s Kitchen included in the prohibition zone known as the Grand Sluice Bridge – a police officer has a) to see the consumption of alcohol and b) to have the request to stop refused before c) an offence is committed.
Previous schemes have failed because they have not been enforced – and in those days, a greater selection of officials had authority to do the job.
Councillors were told that despite fears over future funding, Lincolnshire’s Chief Constable Neil Rhodes had given an undertaking that the area could be policed – although it is possible that the pledge was a long-lost echo that bounced from the marble pillars of the council chamber after been trapped there for some years.
It will now cost council taxpayers around £10,000 to publicise a scheme that was dead in the water before it was even floated.
Despite that, council leader, Pete Bedford, said: “This one of the best good news stories we have had for a while” – a mauling of superlatives that suggests he really needs to get out more.
In tandem with all this we noted Boston Borough Council’s somewhat inconsistent embrace of tipple in connection with last year’s floods.
On Wednesday 26th November, the Boston Standard ran a promotion – rather loosely tied to the flood anniversary – about the launch of a bottled beer named Resilience Ale … which readers could buy cheap with a cut-out coupon from the paper.
Two days later the story appeared almost word for word in the borough council’s bulletin, with the claim that Boston Borough Council had “teamed up” with East Lindsey, Lincolnshire County Council, the Environment Agency and the Standard to produce the beer.
So irresistible was the chance of a cheap drink, that the council bulletin mentioned it several times more over the following days – apparently without any sense of irony..
nterestingly, as the issue of the PSPOs reached the full council at the beginning of the week, the leadership came under fire from a councillor who lamented an en bloc vote by the Conservative group “to not allow proper debate of the topic.”
So let’s see if we have this right …
… It’s ok for our “transparency” obsessed council apparently to collaborate with a brewery to produce supplies of cut-price “celebratory” booze …
… But it is not ok to allow the council as a whole to debate the introduction of new regulations to control street drinking.
Could someone please tell us how this self-serving approach makes any kind of sense?
omeone else who might benefit from an outing with our leader is our aforementioned Chief Constable Neil Rhodes, who has stepped up his recent warnings about the effects of cuts by writing to the Home Secretary Theresa May to claim that the force will effectively go out of business within three years under the current funding arrangements, and will be the “first in the country to fall”.
The Daily Telegraph, which gave prominence to the leaked letter, said:
“Mr Rhodes warned that under that structure, bobbies on the beat would be a thing of the past in Lincolnshire, while those officers left would take much longer to respond to 999 calls.
He said minor offences such as criminal damage and theft would have to be largely ignored … and that the current budget proposals mean a further 236 front line officers will have to go."
Hold hard, as they say.
Never mind what may happen in 2018 – bobbies on the beat have been a thing of the past in our part of the world for years, and we have first-hand proof that cases of criminal damage and theft are ignored,
And as for cuts – why is the front line at risk?
It’s equivalent to sacking the foot soldiers in order to keep the generals in work, and makes no sense at all
History reminds us that Sir Robert Peel, who was widely regarded as the father of modern policing, was heavily influenced by the social and legal philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, a British social reformer who called for a strong and centralised, but politically neutral, police force for the maintenance of social order, for the protection of people from crime and to act as a visible deterrent to urban crime and disorder.
You can’t do that from the back office.
n intriguing little message from Lincolnshire police appeared on Twitter earlier in the month, and caused us a little concern.
It was posted – presumably by way of explanation- after the force named a person charged with crimes in Boston.
“We name those charged with burglary 'before guilty' as well as those charged with drink driving. Way UK justice works.”
We name those charged “before guilty” smacks of overconfidence and more than a little by way of prejudgement – and we hope that they didn’t mean it the way it sounded.
e have acquired yet another candidate who wants to be Boston’s next MP.
He’s Chris Pain, a Lincolnshire County Councillor, who will be fighting Boston and Skegness as “An Independence from Europe Party” candidate.
He said: “The current electorate have got the choice of three ‘Conservative’ candidates – the Conservative lead candidate (Matt Warman) works at the Telegraph in London and lives there.
“The Lincolnshire Independent (Lyn Luxton) failed to be selected at the Conservative hustings.
“The UKIP candidate (Robin Hunter-Clarke,) who is a 22 year-old ex-Conservative member, has never held a job and comes straight for (sic) college.”
Taken at face value, this is an interesting analysis – but also somewhat disingenuous. Crucially, it overlooks the fact that there is a Labour Party candidate in the ample form of Councillor Paul Kenny – who is fighting the Boston and Skegness seat for the third consecutive election.
There is also another Independent candidate – Paul Wooding – who had hoped to be the UKIP choice until a last minute piece of sleight-of-hand saw Robin the Boy Wonder win the day.
Mr Pain’s background is no less interesting than some of the other candidates that he has highlighted because of their change of allegiance.
He had led UKIP in Lincolnshire until 2013 and was the official leader of the opposition on the county council after the party came second last May.
He was then ousted from the party and his departure, along with that of several “breakaway” councillors – including two representing Boston, who are now Lincolnshire Independent councillors – gifted the official opposition to Labour.
He summarises his bumpy ride on his website here which includes the c-word … conspiracy.
If you are wondering about “An Independence from Europe Party,” then worry no more.
It was launched by Mike Nattrass in 2013 after UKIP de-selected him as a candidate – so it would appear that political disgruntlement will be a driving force at next year’s general election
If you aren’t already, then you certainly will be by the time that 7th May next year dawns.
hoever wins, we reckon that it can be said with some confidence that not much will change.
Despite the promises at national, county and local level, it came as no surprise to see Lincolnshire omitted from the government’s heavily publicised £15 billion scheme to invest in more than 100 new road schemes which will see more than 1,300 new lane miles of motorways and trunk roads, and in the words of Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin tackle congestion and fix some of the “most notorious and longstanding problem areas” on the network.
“When 90% of journeys are taking place on our roads this work is vital to help people get on and get around.”
You might have thought that this would have almost certainly included our part of the world – after all, Boston has been recognised for years as having an antiquated road network which is totally unsuitable for purpose.
When the map was published to show where the Whitehall largesse was arriving, Lincolnshire might well have been the Kalahari Desert.
And if that wasn’t bad enough McLoughlin rubbed salt further into our wounds by branding his announcement “the biggest, boldest and most far-reaching roads programme for decades.
“It will dramatically improve our road network and unlock Britain’s economic potential.”
The latter phrase served as an ironic reminder that Boston’s plight is exacerbated by the fact that inadequate road communications are frequently cited as a key reason why industry is unwilling to set up shop here.
If it’s the biggest for decades, we suppose that gives some sort of clue of how long we must wait before we get a decent road network.
But let’s not be pessimistic …
Perhaps the railways will come to Boston in the not too distant future!
eanwhile, many of our election candidates are making use of social media– especially Twitter – to keep voters in touch with what they are up … sometimes delivering what seems to be an almost minute by minute account.
Probably the most prolific is Lyn Luxton, followed by Paul Wooding, whose more recent offerings have comprised a rant against the party he formerly sought to represent in Westminster.
Shortly after our last issue was published, he posed six open questions for Robin Hunter-Clarke concerning the candidate selection process.
He has asked Hunter-Clarke to explain how he emerged as the "winner" when he did not enter the original contest in the first place; why, as a member of the selection committee did he not choose any local candidates for a shortlist; his reasoning for selecting former Tory Neil Hamilton for the shortlist and his relationship with him; why, when the NEC elevated him to the shortlist, he did not refuse on the grounds of it being unfair to the other candidates; when he became aware of the NEC's decision to add his name into the equation and why did he not, at that point, inform the other candidates; and, as he was aware of the contents of all the other candidates’ CVs and additional candidate information with motives for contesting the seat, why did he not declare this information to the NEC and ask to be ruled out.
Although the answers might prove interesting, we don’t somehow expect that they will be forthcoming.
ne might think that with so many candidates already lined up on the starting grid that we are in for an interesting time ahead – but history shows that this is unlikely to be the case.
Whilst we applaud the chutzpah of the two independents to declare so far (or three, realistically, if you include Mr Pain) there are currently just three “independent” MPs out of the 650 “serving” at Westminster.
The pressure on an independent to persuade the electorate is so much greater than it is on any of the party apparatchiks who are contesting the seat.
An advantage of standing for a party is that there is a hard core of voters who will put their ‘X’ in your box regardless.
It is not necessary to demonstrate charisma or any other charms – as we have seen over the years.
For any of our “independent” candidates to persuade voters of their potential abilities and thus be elected is an uphill struggle comparable to climbing Mount Everest in bare feet, a T-shirt and shorts, and without oxygen whilst carrying an anvil in their knapsack!
We fear that there will be a few deposits of £500 forfeited before the day is out.
nother independent further down the food chain who deserves some sympathy is Boston Borough Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire. No sooner had he been suspended from his cabinet and portfolio responsibilities “pending” the outcome of legal proceedings relating to his business activities, than he was replaced by Councillor Aaron Spencer.
When he appeared in court – on video for the entire world to see, thanks to the Boston Standard – the case was adjourned to Lincoln Magistrates’ Court, where a two-day trial is scheduled to open on April 28th.
The local elections are scheduled to take place on Thursday 7th – just nine days later.
eanwhile, sitting MP Mark Simmonds has decided that reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated, to quote Mark Twain.
He has bobbed up in newspaper reports claiming that the benefit cap is helping to cut unemployment across Lincolnshire.
And it’s no small beer.
"Because of this cap, fifty-two households in Boston and Skegness **(see footnote) are no longer able to claim more in benefits than the average family earns by going out to work.
"This means more families in Boston and Skegness with the self-respect and security that comes with a good job and a regular pay packet.
"The worst thing we could do now is abandon the plan that is working, delivering a brighter, more secure future for families in Boston and Skegness."
If Mr Simmonds could explain how more families have gained self-respect and security because a mere 52 have had their benefits docked, we would like to hear.
s we get older, we sometimes wonder whether our memory is as acute as it once was – so it is always welcome to receive some reassurance.
Recently, we raised an Eyebrow at Boston Borough Council’s claim that the English Heritage and Boston Borough Council Partnership Scheme in Conservation Areas had been “so successful” that English Heritage had extended it into 2015.
Our recollection was that the scheme, which was launched in December 2011, was always intended to run for five years – and that far from being a roaring success, only a handful of the grant money available had been handed out.
Much of this has been confirmed by the council’s Overview and Scrutiny annual report which says that there is still about £100,000 in the kitty, with a “definite possibility” of further funding being made available.
And the report added: “The scheme was to be re-launched to encourage further applications.”
Now that’s more like it!
e take a cock-eyed approach to the way we do some things here in Boston.
Last weekend saw the national Small Business Saturday event, which in some districts of Lincolnshire – notably South Kesteven – was enthusiastically embraced.
But in Boston we had become so obsessed with last year’s floods, that we appear not to have bothered with the event much at all – which was a sadly missed opportunity … especially given that plenty of free support and promotional material was available to participants.
More bizarrely in Wormgate a so-called “bite back” event (why?) was staged to mark the flood anniversary the previous day, which could have made an excellent springboard for the national event.
The flood anniversary has become something of an obsession with Boston Borough Council, which seems unable to draw a line under it, and reminds us about it on an almost daily basis.
But we think that it was a step too far to publish the above item on Twitter – which might have caused some to fear that history was repeating itself!
alking of events, we have had the great Christmas light celebrations since our last blog.
It’s still shameful that the management of Pescod Square, and more disappointingly Oldrids not only distanced themselves from the council’s own offering, but seemed almost to have planned a “spoiler” to steal the borough’s thunder.
We know that there was a slight hitch with the lights on the borough’s effort, but what we wondered more was what has happened to the incredibly expensive lights that made an appearance a couple of years ago, and which we understood were hired on a five year contract costing £30,000 a year.
Certainly the look of the town does not reflect a spend of that magnitude, so what is going on?
Also there were murmurings about the shortage of lights on the borough’s tree in the Market Place, and bearing in mind that the council had been given £1,000 for the project by local company Magnadata we do feel that Worst Street could have come up with better value for money – unless, perish the thought, they resorted to renting yet again.
However, depending on who’s taking the pictures, every photo tells a different story.
The above photo on the left accompanied coverage by the Boston Standard, whilst its neighbour appeared in the council’s bulletin.
couple of side bars to the Christmas activities included an annoyed message from a visitor during one of the much trumpeted free parking session in the council’s car parks.
“Shame it was written on small cards nowhere near the button on the machines” said the writer adding ruefully “I paid!”
And our favourite photo has to be the one of the Mayor, Councillor Alison Austin and her consort, husband Richard, apparently being greeted by three members of the borough council’s cabinet – who are all easily recognisable!
**Footnote: Boston has 27,291 households, and Skegness has 8,445. The 52 no longer receiving big benefit payments represent 0.14% of the total.
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