Until now, street theatre in Boston has been confined to the antics of the Transported arts group – with frustrated actors dressing in camel costumes as a means of taking people for a ride.
But this week came a new version with a cast of councillors replacing the comedians – nothing new there, then.
The occasion was the re-introduction of prohibition in Boston – with leader Pete Bedford putting on a pour show for the benefit of the local “newspapers,” assisted by Councillor Stephen Woodliffe apparently decanting “the first cans of alcoholic drink down the drain,” with a startled-looking Matt Warman, Boston’s prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate, also in attendance.
The event marked the introduction of the new Public Space Protection Order (pronounced Spo) with Boston Borough Council becoming the first in the country to use laws which no longer require a combination of drinking and anti-social behaviour to invoke the might of the law.
It’s been an expensive transition to replace the Designated Public Places Order that had been in force since 2007 – and has cost around £10,000 of taxpayers’ cash to implement … which includes the erection of 211 signs throughout the Spozone.
According to Boston Borough Council “many are in English, Polish, Russian, Latvian and Portuguese” – which leaves us musing on what other languages have been used.
Whilst no-one likes the sight of people slumped on public benches drinking themselves silly at all hours of the day, such behaviour can only be stopped if there is sufficient enforcement.
Lack of muscle was what prevented the previous order from working – yet there is the notion that the latest attempt will be more successful.
Lincolnshire Police – despite their straitened finances – maintain that they will be able to enforce the law.
In fact the report goes further and says that “Lincolnshire Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner have been very clear that they will adopt a zero tolerance approach to anyone caught consuming alcohol in the controlled drinking zone.”
This is just as well, as the police are the only people empowered to do so – and not, as local reports claim, council officers as well.
Whilst the proof of the pudding is in the eating, we suspect that the bulk of Spo-land will be ignored by the police, and attention focussed on the town centre area around the Ingram Memorial.
Whilst this might get some results, much depends on the attitude of people who are told to hand over their drink.
The original report to Boston Borough Council’s cabinet of curiosities makes it clear that “it is not an offence to drink alcohol in a controlled drinking zone. However, it is an offence to fail to comply with a request to cease drinking or surrender alcohol in a controlled drinking zone.”
The report implies that everything will run smoothly and that drinkers will meekly surrender their hooch on request and submit to a fixed penalty ticket if it is thought necessary.
Should the situation escalate with a double refusal, what then?
Whilst PCSOs can issue tickets, they cannot make arrests as far as we are aware.
So although this new legislation is being promoted as a nostrum for the town’s ills, it will require more than a few signs around the place and a lot of wishful thinking if it is to work.
As we all know by now, if there is an easy way to do things and a hard way, Boston Borough Council will usually opt for the latter.
In the case of the Spo, a subtext on the prohibition signs announces: “Pubs, restaurants and off licences do not form part of the Public Space Protection Order. Areas covered by a temporary event notice for alcohol sales or a local authority premises licence are only exempted from the Public Space Protection Order whilst alcohol is being served and for thirty minutes after.”
What this means is that in some areas of the Spozone it will be possible to sit outside a pub or restaurant – such alfresco continental delights are regarded with enthusiasm – whilst supping a glass of wine or beer and watch someone else doing likewise being roughed up by the law.
There are, as they say, lies, damn lies and statistics – and seldom is the statement more evidenced than in the annual report out this week on Big Brother Council’s CCTV performance
Whilst in most parts of the country, you are said to never be more than 50 metres from a rat – there is a good chance that if you go out for an innocent morning’s shopping in Boston, a CCTV camera will be a lot nearer.
But, as our leaders never tire of telling us – if we are guilty of nothing, then we have nothing to fear … even though we may feel resentful, distrusted, dishonest, and devalued by the awareness that we are being watched at all times by some faceless monitoring person.
The introduction to the report says: “The data within this document should not be seen as a full picture of criminal activity within the Boston area” which is fair enough – although it gives the impression that beyond the all-seeing eyes of the 68 cameras covering the town centre, Kirton, the Fenside Estate, Boston College, Pilgrim Hospital, Redstone Industrial Estate and Pescod Square there exists a world akin to Chicago or Detroit.
The headline news for the CCTV service is that it recorded 13,426 daily log entries, completed 1,740 incident records, contributed to 439 arrests and produced 231 pieces of evidence for use by the police or in court.
But if all this was not enough, the devil, as they say, finds work for idle hands.
The report notes a significant rise in the number of logged incidents from August 2014 onwards – due to “specific efforts to combat littering/urinating by using CCTV evidence in co-operation with the council’s environmental enforcement team.”
As a consequence, the report notes that 173 such incidents were logged from July to the end of November .
Before Boston Borough Council decided to mount its ludicrous “name and shame” campaign – which neither names nor apparently shames anyone – it seems as though spitting in the street received nothing more than a cursory glance from Big Brother control – if that.
But as though Boston doesn’t already have enough far more significant issues to confront, the council then decided to campaign against spitting in the street – with the result that the number of incidents apparently skyrockets and provides yet more black paint with which to daub the town and its reputation.
Even worse – if that were possible – it would seem that our CCTV masters decided to turn it into a bit of a lark.
The report shamelessly tells us: “During this period we have been motivating CCTV staff by including an element of friendly competition into their daily activities. We are encouraging operators to log littering incidents by displaying a monthly ‘score’ chart of the number of littering incidents captured by each individual operator – resulting in a monthly littering ‘champion’.”
It reminds of the “awareness” campaigns over the years – such as the one to highlight so-called “hate crimes.”
These are defined by Lincolnshire Police as “any crime or incident which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s actual or perceived social group or groups.”
But having said that, the force adds somewhat confusingly: “It is important to note that some hate incidents may not constitute a criminal offence and therefore will not be recorded as a hate crime, whereas all hate crimes are hate incidents.”
Whatever the definition, the upshot of such campaigns is a surge in reporting – usually accompanied by an absence of detection – so quite how this helps in any way is difficult to say.
The moral of the CCTV fable is that if you go looking for trouble – such as by running a bounty hunting contest – you will invariably find it.
If we were the betting kind, we would say that the response from United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust Chief Executive Jane Lewington to a letter from Boston Borough Council opposing the relocation of Accident and Emergency, Maternity and other acute services from Pilgrim Hospital pretty well suggests that a few unpopular decisions have already been made.
The council's decision to write was taken on 8th December and a letter posted on the 12th.
A tribute to the trust’s efficiency is that the letter somehow managed to vanish down a wormhole in time and not reach Ms Lewington until Christmas Eve – after which the elusive little missive failed to receive attention until 2nd January when the reply below arrived.
They keywords and phrases in the letter such as the facing of “unprecedented challenges in ensuring the sustainability of hospital services” coupled with “some difficult decisions will have to be taken,” tell us to expect the worst.
That a senior officer of one important organisation should treat another – which represents 60,000 people – with such cavalier disregard says much about the mind-set of the organisation.
Rather than waiting for the promised “formal public consultation” Boston Borough Council needs to fire off a second letter pdq to stress that the response is arrogant, unhelpful, rude and dismissive, and to seek a more measured, courteous and constructive response.
Next Tuesday will see yet another attempt to pull Boston up by its bootstraps with the first meeting of a new “Town Team” to help boost trade.
The event is being organised by the Boston Area Chamber of Commerce – a satellite of the Lincoln-based Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce – and according to Jenny Elwick, the organisation’s Boston and Sleaford network development officer, will only be as successful as the local business people supporting it.
Presentations at the meeting, which starts in the Assembly Rooms at 5-30pm, will include a review of recent activities, case study examples of other UK Town Teams, and a session with Gainsborough Town Manager Samantha Mellows.
The Town Team is the latest replacement for the inappropriately named Boston Business Improvement District – which after five years of legally robbing local businesses was voted into oblivion by them.
Those of you with longer memories may also recall Boston Area Regeneration Company, and Boston Chamber Of Commerce and Industry – now all consigned to footnotes in the books entitled “Putting Boston on Map.”
So much of the success of organisations such as town teams is the way that the towns they represent are promoted – and once again, Boston is lacking in this department.
A recent comparison of sites promoting Lincoln, Grantham and Boston shows just how far we have to go to make an impression.
The Visit Lincoln contribution is a website packed with information.
Boston’s Twitter page by comparison struggles to find two events in December – one of the busiest times of the year.
With regard to promotions, regular readers will know that we are always keen to help whenever possible.
The disheartening item in one of the first Boston Daily Drivels of the New Year again demonstrated the council’s reluctance to let go of the bad news that overwhelms our borough – by stretching the mention of the December 2013 floods into a third year.
So – how else might we capitalise on the town’s less appealing features?
The annual event attracts up to 2,000 visitors – from as far afield as Japan, Kenya and Australia – but has outgrown its current site at Days Lock in Little Wittenham, Oxfordshire.
The requirements for a replacement venue are for a bridge to hold six competitors side-by-side and parking for 300 cars, with space for a registration tent, a tea and cake stall and, ideally, village fete games.
A number of bridges in and around Boston very closely resemble the current bridge that hosts the event.
And as Boston Borough Council never tires of telling us, poo sticks – which suggests that an offer to take on the championships could be a marriage made in heaven.
As well as that, we notice the enthusiasm for teaming up with other places as a means of good publicity.
Most recently is seems that joining Die Hanse – the former Hanseatic League – of which Boston was part in medieval times is going to boost our fortunes, linking our names with the likes of King’s Lynn and Hull and many European ports.
So – how about this for an idea from nearer home?
The small medieval hamlet of Spital in the Street in West Lindsey seems tailor made for the job.
All other suggestions are welcome.
On a more constructive note, the Department for Communities and Local Government is reminding us that it's time to register for this year’s Love Your Local Market event – a “celebration” of our market culture that happens over a fortnight in May. Over 900 markets took part last year, putting on nearly 7,000 events, although we cannot recall Boston playing a role.
For more information, including how to register, and a downloadable information pack, click here
As the run-up to the general and local elections meanders quietly along in this part of the world, an unusual gauntlet has been thrown down by Paul Wooding – who was shortlisted as a UKIP candidate for the constituency but pulled out at the last minute after believing that the selection process was not quite as democratic as it should have been.
He begins his “open letter to the people of Boston and Skegness” with a self-quotation:
“The plight of the people of East Lincolnshire and particularly Bostonians, has for so long been remembered, as to be entirely forgotten.”
After a brief biography – 56 years old, happily married for 24 years with a 10 year old son, a family living in Skegness and an intention of moving to the area – Mr Wooding takes the unusual step of setting out his political stall … and then asking people if to vote if they want him to stand as an independent candidate.
“I have recently resigned from UKIP as I felt they did not share my passion for honesty, integrity and anti-corruption," he writes.
“I have travelled the world, served in HM forces and been on active duty. I also have excellent negotiating skills due to many years at management level in an extensive sales environment and have owned my own companies. Currently I am a hard working Royal Mail artic driver.
“Many of you will have recognised my name in the Boston Standard from August 2014, when I applied to be your UKIP candidate, just before Neil Hamilton, and I was considered to be one of the favourites.
“Unfortunately, UKIP had a pre-planned agenda to give you a 22 year old, ex-Conservative, career politician with no real life or work experience instead.
“I firmly believe that the people of East Lincolnshire and in particular, Bostonians deserve better.
“Since March 2014, I have been working on numerous plans that I would have put into effect in the event of being elected to represent you, and I am in contact with cabinet ministers with regard to one of the plans, from a serious bid to obtain the funds needed for a bypass, a scheme for massive reductions in the amount of RTA's on the roads, a Skegness regeneration scheme, serious migrant integration plans, drafted private members bills to a) abolish offshore wind farm subsidies, b) legislate for farmers and food producers to pay a living wage, c) make a statutory requirement for migrant workers to be able to financially support themselves for a period of six months, d) legislate to allow the deportation of migrants in the event of a criminal record either before or after migration and e) change the ASBO to a more workable, robust system that has zero tolerance including motoring offences.
“I will give support to any councils that challenge unabated greenfield development, challenge the Danish electricity cable at Bicker Fen, give wholehearted support to a public National Health Service and work tirelessly to keep all services at the Pilgrim Hospital intact.
“The original purpose of the House of Commons was for a normal, working local representative from an area to speak that region’s grievances and needs.....a true voice of the people.
“Unfortunately, over time, the system has become far too politicised. To select a candidate on party policies alone only diminishes your voice, and the wants and needs of the community then vanish into the ether replaced by the self-serving interests of party politics.
If you believe your local MP should have morals, honesty, integrity and a hard working ethic.....
If you believe your local MP should represent your wants above self-interest and party agenda.....
If you believe your local MP should live in the area, once in the position.....
If you believe your local MP would understand your issues more if he/she has lived the same life as the majority of people....then you have a simple choice to make as all the declared parties have a party agenda, a whip and a self-serving interest to win as many seats as possible in Parliament, leaving the constituents’ issues further down the pecking order.
“Wouldn't you agree that working hard in the background for a better deal for East Lincolnshire is preferable to sound-bites and photo-bombing opportunities?
“That is precisely why I have not been active in the media since my resignation from UKIP. I am actively still working for a better deal for you.
“Career politician or mature, passionate hard worker with only the interests of the electorate at heart and with the drive and tenacious ability to get it ... would you choose the latter?
I stand for Integrity, Honesty and a passionate desire to help the long forgotten people of Boston and Skegness ... if you wish me to stand as your Independent representative at this year’s general election please text “yes” or no” to 07770 192960, tweet @djsharkyp, email email@example.com or comment in the New Boston Eye.
It’s a bold and interesting move – and one which depending on the outcome, could well save a lost deposit.
We hope that Mr Wooding will keep us in touch with the outcome.
We hope that Mr Wooding will keep us in touch with the outcome.
The issue of “localness” of candidates is an interesting one – and it seems important to political parties to stress the point if their man or woman can claim such status.
However, we believe that the local Conservative Association is stretching things a little with its thumbnail sketch of candidate Matt Warman.
The party website tells us: “Matt Warman is our prospective parliamentary candidate for the 2015 election. A local candidate committed to improving our NHS and our transport links as well as dealing with immigration and the EU.”
As we understand it, Mr Warman’s claim to localness is through the fact that his parents in law live and work in Boston, and it seems rather disingenuous of the party to take it that one step beyond.
Similarly, it the party wants to help his campaign, it might be an idea to add an internet link after the promise that “you can find more information about Matt on...”
Meanwhile, the pollsters and political anoraks are coming up with the usual conflicting results for how voting in Boston and Skegness might go.
Iain Dale, author of the political blog Iain Dale’s Diary, founder of Total Politics magazine, and presenter of the LBC Drivetime has produced specific predictions for Lincolnshire - and lists Boston as a gain for UKIP.
He says: “On the face of it, it’s a safe Tory seat, but a Survation poll in the constituency in September showed UKIP way ahead. Admittedly the sample size was only 596, but it will have shocked the local Conservative Party. The UKIP candidate is 22 year old Robin Hunter-Clarke. Strange to pick such an untested candidate, but at least he’s local. Mark Simmonds is standing down, complaining he can’t live on £120,000. If UKIP are to make a breakthrough, it might well be here.”
However, the first Ashcroft National Poll of 2015 has produced an unexpected result showing the Conservatives leading Labour by six points, by 34% to 28%, with the Liberal Democrats unchanged on 8%, and UKIP down three points at 16%, and the Greens up three points at 8%.
Having said that, Lord Ashcroft cautions that the poll is subject to a margin of error of 3% – which could mean the Conservatives and Labour would be tied on 31%.
As we said earlier ... there are lies, damn lies ... etc etc.
As we said earlier ... there are lies, damn lies ... etc etc.
Finally, whilst we acknowledge the hard times faced by Lincolnshire Police – it would seem that there is still money sloshing around for non-operational purposes.
The county Police and Crime Commissioner has just announced plans to make resources available through a Community and Volunteer Fund to assist small local, community based groups in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour and supporting the victims of crime.
Well it’s cheaper than policing, and means someone else has to venture into the cruel outside world, doesn’t it?
Organisations can ask for a minimum of £250 up to a maximum of £1,000 for their project – and without naming names we can think of at least one group from Boston which will be there with the begging bowl outstretched.
Whilst money handed out for this project might at least yield the occasional result, we have to raise an Eye-brow at another initiative being staged in Skegness, where people are being given the opportunity to participate in “a community counter terrorism exercise” next month.
“Public attendees will be thrust into the fictitious town of Sandford and be faced with a situation where a terrorist incident is about to or has taken place,” says the police blurb.
“Decisions made by the attendees will shape the way the incident is investigated and how it impacts on the community and families of those arrested. They will also need to give consideration to media attention.”
The event organiser – the aptly named PCSO Dave Bunker says: “The object of the exercise is to give members of the community the opportunity to empathise with police decision-making processes during real incidents. Numbers will be strictly limited to a maximum of 30.”
It’s hard to imagine anything much more pointless and possibly expensive than a stunt like this.
Let’s hope that there’s still enough cash left in the force’s kitty to clamp down on Boston’s “demon drinkers”
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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com