69 days to the elections
Suddenly, we seem to have general election candidates coming at us from all directions.
We now have eight declared candidates – with a possibility of nine should Paul Wooding decide to throw his hat into the ring..
But as of now, we have Matt Warman (Conservative,) Paul Kenny (Labour,) David Watts (Lib Dem,) Robin Hunter-Clarke (UKIP,) Victoria Percival (Green,) “Rev” Robert West (BNP,) Chris Pain (An Independence from Europe,) and Lyn Luxton (Lincolnshire Independents.)
Whilst on the face of it, this appears to be an eclectic range of political choices come 7th May, the fact is that there is a strong streak of Conservatism – other than the official candidate – running through the list, in the form of one-time Tories Boy Wonder Robin Hunter-Clarke, “Rev” West … both of whom have been Conservative councillors, and Lyn Luxton, who made an unsuccessful bid to be selected for the Boston and Skegness seat at Westminster..
In case you’re wondering why we keep referring to “Rev” West (pictured left) – it is that by some accounts he is as entitled to that honorific as we are to call ourselves King Boston of Eye.
According to a BBC report when he quit South Holland District Council as a Tory back in 2006, “he has set up his own church, based in a house in Holbeach, to preach ‘traditional bible beliefs,’”
The last yearly report for this church – “The Christian Council of Britain” – was published in 2010, when membership stood as around 45.
The choice seems a wide one, but frankly, we consider it to be between the Conservatives and UKIP – with Labour coming in third place.
As time goes by, the tide seems to be turning for UKIP – but perhaps not in the direction that they might wish.
In September last year, a Survation opinion poll commissioned by the Kippers gave the Tories 26% of the vote, Labour 21% and UKIP a political earthquake measuring 46% on the Richter scale!
Having said that, the sample was criticised for being smaller than people who take these things seriously like to see – and was just 595.
That was then – this is now, and the most recent survey done specifically with Boston and Skegness in mind was published at the end of last week by the Conservative peer Lord Michael Ashcroft..
Of the 1,000 people questioned, 39% declared that they would be voting Conservative; 17% Labour; 5% Lib Dem; 35% UKIP; Green 3% and “Others” 2%.
Lord Ashcroft found UKIP “within striking distance” of the Tories for the General Election and said they had the edge in the ground campaign.
Meanwhile, UKIP says the figures were “skewed” – and so it goes on.
Only one thing is certain …
We’ll know more on Friday 8th May.
As the campaign gathers pace, we wonder whether we have seen the first sign of what might be called “shenanigans”
A Tweet from the leader of the Labour Group on Boston Borough Council, Paul Gleeson suggests that UKIP door steppers might not be playing the game with voters.
After all those claims about the “Name and Shame” campaign aimed at preventing anti-social behaviour in Boston town centre, we at last have some solid information – thanks to a Freedom of Information request to Boston Borough Council by a Boston Eye reader.
So far, it seems that 30 pictures of alleged offenders have been published, resulting in nine identifications of the person in the photo – note that we do not use the word “culprit” as one of them was “incorrectly identified.”
In response to the question: “How many have been publicly been named and shamed?” the borough council replied: “The question is ambiguous. So far 30 images have been published (shamed) and of those eight have been correctly identified to the council (named.)
“To cover any ambiguity – it has never been the intention of the campaign to publicly name anyone.”
Such an answer suggests still further ambiguity – or vagueness, doubt, puzzle, uncertainty, obscurity, enigma, equivocation, inconclusiveness, indefiniteness, dubiety, dubiousness, tergiversation, indeterminateness, equivocality, doubtfulness, and equivocacy.
We have better things to do with our time than to count the number of occasions on which Boston Borough Council has employed the phrase “name and shame” to describe this well-past-its-sell-by-date publicity stunt – and now the council has the effrontery to claim that this precisely worded campaign never intended to name anyone in the first place.
Perhaps that is just as well, since one of the people “named” to the council, turned out to be guilty of … nothing at all.
But back to the FoI request.
Of the nine – oops, sorry – eight people named – oops, sorry – “identified to the council” just four have been issued with fixed penalty notices, of whom only three have paid.
Not terribly good, really, is it?
However, in a last ditch attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, the council claimed: “There has been a marked decline in littering, coinciding with the campaign and the introduction of the new drink control zone.”
We look forward to the next issue of Boston Borough’s Council’s “Help us not fine people whose names we get wrong” campaign.
When information such as this reaches the public domain, it does much to undermine the perceived efficacy of things such as CCTV monitoring.
In Boston, it already costs a fortune – with little to show for it.
Recently, Lincolnshire Police raised concerns that a proposed CCTV control room merger between Boston and East Lindsey would diminish the service – with fears that incidents could be missed because there will be too many cameras to monitor.
Boston has already announced that it is taking over the South Holland District Council’s CCTV scheme, which covers Spalding, Holbeach, Crowland, Long Sutton and Sutton Bridge.
We think that keeping a watchful eye on the nefarious goings-on in three such large districts is an accident waiting to happen.
As the skies above the PRSA become ever more crowded with flying elephants and slices of pie, we found ourselves musing over the conundrum of why Boston is not a far fitter place than it is.
For what may well be the first time, a report before the full council meeting in Worst Street on Monday spells out just how much has been spent on sporting facilities in recent years.
The report – “Leisure, Health and Wellbeing Services” – looks at the “progress” made on the borough’s three main leisure facilities … the Peter Paine Sports Centre, the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre, and best beloved of all, the Princess Royal Sports Arena. (PRSA) and considers options for “affordable investment” to protect the facilities and services for the residents of the borough.
It is interesting to see the Peter Paine listed with the other two facilities – given that it was leased to Boston College by the borough council at a “peppercorn” rent after what some saw as an iron fist in the iron glove approach to wrest the centre back from the board of charitable trustees tasked with running it.
As a result the college was able to acquire funding to improve the centre – but also benefited from being able to put assets up for sale that were worth many times more, and which are not for sharing with the riff raff who pay the council tax,
The report describes the success of the venture since then, claiming that the Peter Paine attracts between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors a year “compared to diminishing numbers being experienced by the previous operations” – which contradictorily are listed as “not available” in the same section of the report.
But it has to be asked how many of those attending the centre are members of the “public” – as opposed to students benefitting from a generous gift funded by Boston taxpayers and government grants.
The centre’s website says that the Peter Paine offers the public “shared facilities” and is available to the hoi-polloi on “weekday evenings, Saturdays and school holidays.”
Based on that, we think it unlikely that the non-college take-up of facilities is especially high.
On now to the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre ...
Regular readers will recall another “deal” between the council and outside organisations under which a local schools federation and swimming group got first dibs on facilities in exchange for signing up to a partnership under which Worst Street stumped up £150,000 from reserves for “improvements” to be paid back over a number of years.
We long ago lost track of the amount of money being poured into the Moulder pool – but in this respect, the report is most helpful … showing as it does a total revenue investment of £2,878,000 between 2009/10 and 2014/15.
By comparison, the PRSA seems cheap, having cost a mere £1,060,000 over the same period.
All of that is before the bio-massive plan to blow up to £840,000 from the reserves to fund PRSA repairs and improvements to be repaid by the savings gained once another £560,000 from the reserves is spent on energy efficiency projects at the two centres.
Interestingly, the forecast income and savings are a combination of fuel savings, the Renewable Heating Incentive the Feed in Tariff and sale of discounted green electricity to PRSA operator.
We’d like to know a little more about that one!
So, with all this spending, and thousands of people using the facilities each week, why do the borough’s health statistics make such depressing reading?
The health and leisure report claims that 30,000 a year attend the Peter Paine, 260,000 use the Moulder while 16,400 opt for the PRSA.
Whilst the figures seem impressive at first sight, the daily attendances are much smaller than the grand totals imply.
The Moulder figures in particular are beefed up by the fact that the pool is used by the Witham Schools federation on a regular basis – the council recently disclosed that the organisation sends almost 600 pupils a week to the pool – 30,000 visits a year … whilst other visits by children add another 20,000 to the figures.
It is essential in this part of the world that our youngsters learn to swim, and as the schools in the federation are paying an annual fee to use the pool, we would expect high numbers.
But how about the grown-ups?
Last year’s Health Profile for Boston highlighted a number of sectors with a red circle, which means that they are significantly worse than the average for England.
They included the percentage of physically active adults which is much lower than the rest of England – as is the incidence of obesity and diabetes … both of which are lifestyle related.
In fact no section of the report dealing with adults' health and lifestyle or children's and young people's health scores significantly better than the England average
At a guess, we would say that the council is preaching to the converted when it comes to attendances at the sports centres – which makes them puff with pride rather than exercise, and brag incessantly about their “achievements.”
One problem area that we know all about in Boston is drinking in the street, which is now to be the subject of yet another expensive implementation of legislation designed to stamp it out.
But we sincerely hope that a suggestion from one of our councillors goes no further.
A recent “newspaper” report told us that after hearing of the failure of a course designed to prevent alcohol related offences in Grantham – only one person turned up – our Time Lord related Councillor Stephen Woodliffe (Councillor Who?) – told Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Hardwick: “I urge you strongly to take it to Boston. The town is a prime target for this.
“I am sure the borough council will support this. The long term plan is to deter people from street drinking so this would be worthwhile.”
The course is offered by Lincolnshire Police and Addaction, and targets offenders who have received fixed penalty notices for committing low-level alcohol related crime such as being drunk and disorderly.
We don’t know about drinking – but we wonder what Councillor Woodliffe has been smoking … and where we might buy some!
The scraping of bottoms of barrels continues with a final report to the council on joining Die Hanse – a resurrected modern alliance of the medieval trade association known as the Hanseatic League … of which Boston was once a member.
In much the same way that Boston overeggs the pudding where its Pilgrim Fathers connections are concerned, history is again being rewritten to infer that the Hanseatic League would have been nothing without us – even though our involvement was little more than as a medieval trading post, in which Hanseatic merchants held a “house” and an area to conduct trade, a “steelyard” in the town.
Because connection to the league works well in other places which have more to offer visitors, Boston Borough Council is again keen to leap on another’s bandwagon.
Be that as it may … to paraphrase the opening of a legendary television series …
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man, as vast as space and as timeless as infinity … it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. It is an area which we call the Acronym Zone.
According to the report on joining Die Hansa, the opportunity has been recognised both within the authority and with those partners and stakeholders which include the Boston Area Partnership (BAP) and the Boston Visitor Economy Partnership (BVEP.)
So, what’s this BVEP?
According to the Lincolnshire Chamber – whose dead hand is on the tiller in so many things to do with Boston – BVEP is a mix of public and private sector organisations with a common vision - to grow Boston's visitor economy. BVEP meets around four times a year, and its “key driver” for activity is the Boston Area Destination Management Plan (DMP) which “sets out the context of the area’s visitor economy and identifies actions to support development.”
So far so confusing – although we can appreciate why the Boston Area Destination Management Plan is not more precisely initialised as BADMP!
Which brings us to BAP.
In recent years the word has had just one meaning in Boston – large filled bread rolls which locals take for a walk around the town centre whilst chewing them to death in the process.
But the other BAP is proving slightly more vague.
The last reference to it appears on Boston Borough Council’s website and is dated June 2013.
But look any further and you reach a dead end.
Although it is a publicly accountable organisation, we can find no trace of its meeting dates and minutes.
Even worse, the most recent document available online is the “Boston Area Partnership Community Strategy 2004-2009.”
Even though it is six years out of date, it says nothing different to every borough council aim and objective published since Noah was a lad – few of which have been achieved.
So … is there a BAP – and if so what has it been doing?
Would Boston’s chances of seeing improvements be better if there were fewer talking shops and acronymised gatherings of the great and the good coming up with slogans rather than actions?
We are sure that our chances would be much enhanced – but if the members of these groups were forced to act rather than talk we suspect that an avalanche of resignations would be in the post almost immediately.
Perhaps it’s as well that BAP has no recent minutes to read.
A report in 2013 on the Boston Visitor Economy, detailed the headline role of the BADMP thus:
Address and combine the diversity of offers … Recognise, strengthen and coordinate different functions … Manage and monitor impacts … Prioritise and allocate resources … Generate further support and resource and … Identify the opportunities and threats to the destination which involves “enabling objectives to be relevant, long term visions to be captured, opportunities to be harnessed and issues addressed.”
Pass the waffle iron, please.
A persistent headline on Boston Borough Council’s website announces: “Hatter Lane lockout proposed”
Recommendation for the deed to be done was on the agenda of the Boston Town Area Committee – B-Tacky – on Wednesday.
By this morning, it will
A: doubtless have been passed
B: been celebrated as yet another get-tough measure by Boston Borough Council in the war in anti-social behaviour.
But is it a big problem?
Not really, according to Lincolnshire Police.
Between July and December last year only two police incidents linked to Hatter Lane were reported – neither of which was defined as a crime.
On November 29th last year, two men were seen “apparently” removing jeans with tags from beneath their jumpers.
“Officers attended and stop/searched two males; no instruments or apparently stolen property was found on them although officers did find two pairs of well-worn jeans in a bin (no tags or instruments suitable for de-tagging found). No offences having been disclosed the males’ details were recorded and they were allowed to go on their way.”
The second “incident” was on 9th December 2014 when police were told of a female, “who was apparently heavily in drink” using the alleyway as a toilet.
“Officers attended but the female had already left and was not found.”
Ever eager to assist, the police searched earlier dates and discovered that on 21st March 2014, officers attended a report of males causing a disturbance and being verbally abusive at the rear of Pickwick’s Wine Bar. Names were taken, and alcohol was poured down a drain.
On 31st March a PCSO saw a man drinking alcohol and “moved him on” after words of advice.
On 5th April a PCSO saw evidence that alcohol was still being drunk in the area in the shape of empty bottles and cans – although no-one was present.
On 24th April a PCSO noted the presence of human faeces but no signs of drinking.
None of the above appears to make Hatter Lane the Hell’s Kitchen that Boston Borough Council depicts.
The feeble idea that clearing detritus from the lane daily would prevent future problems was exactly that – and it seems almost that this was the hope in Worst Street so as to justify what appears to be yet another sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Having mentioned B-Tacky once – there is just one other point that emerges from this week’s meeting.
B-Tacky is famous for giving money away like there is no tomorrow – and there is never a shortage of people lining up to dip their sticky paws in this bran tub of largesse.
By the time you read this, the committee will almost certainly have approved yet another payment to the Friends of Witham Way Country Park.
The Friends have received a donation from BTAC “each year for several years” to cover the cost of hiring a portaloo for volunteers from North Sea Camp to use while carrying out “essential work.”
A report to the committee said: “BTAC makes the donation of approximately £600 as an annual payment to cover the cost of the hire from May to September each year.
“The Friends ask that this amount is increased to £750 per year, which will enable them to hire the portaloo from April until the end of September or even early October, and so allow the volunteers to extend the period of their work.”
Whilst this sort of thing is praiseworthy, it has become too much of a habit for our liking.
B-Tacky has a kitty available for people to tap into each year – supposedly to benefit areas of the town on which it levies a special charge to “serve.”
In an ideal world, this money should be shared fairly and even handedly.
But when an organisation sees it as little more than an annual birthday treat from a kind old Uncle, something is not right.
The Friends appear to regard this grant as something of an entitlement, for which they no longer have to budget – as is the case with the “volunteer” convicts who do all the hard work.
This year they are looking for a 25% hike in their donation so it might be an idea to check the prices available.
But none of this will have worried B-Tacky.
As they well know at Boston Borough Council, rogue landlords are a very bad thing – but a news item that caught our eye this week raised yet another question.
Next month the £110,000 gift from the government to attack the problem runs out – but, we are told, Boston Borough Council has decided to release “a fresh pot of money” to continue the scheme.
So many pots of money seem to be around these days that it is hard to swallow the Worst Street bleat that times are as hard as they claim.
No where is this better demonstrated than in a job advert that recently appeared online.
That's what we call a good starting wage ... and for an apprentice, too!
A sorry sign of the times appeared in a recent cabinet agenda item concerning such an apparently simple thing as reviewing cab fares in Boston.
It appear in the form of a request by the Boston Hackney Carriage Association for the addition of a “soiling charge” as well as increasing charges.
At first, we wondered if this was some sort of throwback to Victorian days, when a horse drawn cab might leave a steaming pile of rose manure in its wake for some other poor devil to clear up.
Further inquiries showed this to be a request for claims for compensation to be paid to taxi drivers in the event of someone – for example – throwing up all over the interior of their cab.
If, as they say, there is no smoke without fire, we assume that the problem has now become so acute that our cabbies feel the need for positive discrimination against those who lose their grip on their alimentary canal during the journey home from one of our local nightclubs.
First, the streets and gutters fell prey to this foulness, now the taxis.
Where will it all end?
On an Into Town bus, we suspect.
After such gloomy news – a ray of sunshine.
The one week of the year when Boston becomes a clean and presentable place falls next month with the eighth annual Big Boston Clean Up.
Which has seen local people fed up with finding rubbish everywhere they go collecting more than 71 tons of rubbish so far.
Once again, the need for such an occasion highlights the inadequacy of the actions by Boston Borough Council so far to prevent littering – rather than sweep up after the horse has bolted.
After all the thousands of words devoted to flooding in Boston, a recent entry on the borough council website brought a smile to our lips and made us think of Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army…
Can’t think why.
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