Friday, 27 March 2015



44 days to the elections

On 13th February, we raised a concerned Eye-brow at the number of trustees running the Boston Sports Initiative – which is the charity with overall responsibility for the PRSA.
There are just three … one of whom is also the company secretary, another an accountant, whilst the third is Councillor Yvonne Gunter, Boston Borough Council’s portfolio holder for leisure services, parks and open spaces, country parks and reserves, playing fields, tree management, crematoria and cemeteries, allotments and grounds maintenance (phew!).
This is despite the fact that under the terms of the company's Articles of Association, there should be a minimum of six trustees and a maximum of 12.
At the time we remarked that Councillor Gunter’s role did not appear on her Boston Borough Council website CV, nor was it listed as an outside organisation to which councillors are appointed.
It now seems that this has been rectified.
As well as a list of councillors’ pecuniary interests, there is also something called  a register of “local choice interests,”  which we hadn’t stumbled across until just recently for the reason, we suspect, that it is a fairly recent addition to the borough council’s website.
On Councillor Gunter’s page – beneath the section “Details of any body directed to charitable purposes of which you are a member or in a position of general control or management" – there appears what seems to be a new entry “Trustee of Boston Sports Initiative.”
.
But alongside the entry it says: “Updated 2-3-15” – just two weeks after Councillor Gunter’s role was drawn to the attention of a wider public by Boston Eye.
Councillor Gunter was appointed to the Boston Sports Initiative in April 2012 – which makes it three years before the appointment was officially listed under the borough’s “transparency” policy.
Scarcely an “update.”
Throughout that period, the BSI – and therefore the PRSA – has relied on the generosity of Boston Borough Council … which means the taxpayers … for the funding it needs to continue.
Indeed, the borough’s own figures show revenue contributions of more than £500,000 towards the PRSA since 2012/13 – and of course the biomass boiler mania which has currently gripped the council in its sway will see hundreds of thousands more being spent to “save” the £800,000 needed for repairs and improvements at the PRSA.
We have to say that we are not happy with a situation where one of the three trustees who presumably negotiate with Worst Street is also a senior member of the authority – and with a responsibility for leisure services to boot.
Such a state of affairs must surely apply an unfair pressure on the person concerned when it comes to choosing which responsibility takes precedence on occasions.
The council got into a similar fix once before, when it appointed a member as a director of the thrillingly useless Boston Business “Improvement” District.
Merely adding an interest as a Trustee three years on raises a lot of questions, and is not the best way to be open with the taxpayers.
By a strange co-incidence, Councillor Gunter’s outside interests came under the spotlight in August 2012 – just a few months after she joined the BSI trustees, when she was the subject of a complaint that she had breached the Members Code of Conduct by not declaring relevant interests on her Declaration of Pecuniary Interest registration form.
Councillor Gunter had declared no employment on her form – although on the internet she was modestly hawking her services as “Lincolnshire’s Premier Wedding Planner.”
A report by the then Chief Executive Richard Harbord concluded:  “Having communicated with Councillor Gunter, it appears there was an oversight on her registration form in respect of her occasional work as a wedding planner.  This has now been corrected.”
Did not bells then ring concerning the PRSA job?
Apparently not.

***

There has been a lot of trumpeting from Worst Street recently about the wonderful sports facilities that it provides.
One almost forgotten place on the list is the Peter Paine sports centre, where the leadership forced the charity trustees to hand over the facility so that they could  charge a token rent to Boston College which in turn would be able to access a government grant scheme to make improvements.
Whilst it was good news for the college, it was less so for the taxpayers who are now limited in their use of what was once a public facility.
Even better news for the college was that it facilitated the sale of the nine-acre Boston College De Montfort campus   which went on the market for £1,500,000.
Now, the college has applied to demolish the campus so that Cyden Homes – a Grimsby based developer formerly known as Chartdale Homes – can build 108 houses and “associated infrastructure” on the site.
We feel sure that the good news monkeys who lead our council will tell us how wonderful all this is for Boston – but less than certain as to how much benefit has been delivered to the people who pay the council tax.


***


As the elections approach, it seems that the knives are out for one of the few genuinely independent councillors at Worst Street – not for the first time, either.
A recent members’ briefing heard from two senior figures at the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
Among those councillors attending was Witham Ward Independent member Carol Taylor, who has just retired after 44 years as a nurse, and who was a former associate of the speakers.
Councillor Taylor wrote on her blog: “It was an excellent presentation and certainly proved to be very informative and productive. After the meeting I came home and wrote a thank you email to the speakers. This is where I committed a heinous crime.
“I wrote ‘Dear ... I would like to take this opportunity to thank you both for taking the time to address council members....". I then continued ‘I am sure I speak for all of us who attended, that the meeting was very informative and productive ...’”
So, what was wrong with that, you may ask?
It appeared to us – as we are sure that it would appear to most other normal, civilised folk – to be a polite reply, from one whose expertise eminently qualified her to respond.
But apparently not.
First came a ‘phone call advising Councillor Taylor that she shouldn't speak for others. Then, the issue of this thank you letter found its way on to the agenda of something called a group leaders meeting because it was felt that Councillor Taylor should not have said "I am sure I speak for all of us who attended...." – even though she says that she was convinced that everyone at the meeting thought it informative and productive too.
Fortunately, a number of councillors at the meeting nipped this piece of pettiness and pettishness in the bud.
Councillor Taylor told her blog readers that she learned afterwards that apparently several councillors had complained instead of the usual few.
And she added: “As long as I don't breach member conduct or bring Boston Borough Council into disrepute, then I will continue to express my opinion when, where and by the method I choose. It is called freedom of speech.”
 It ought not to be necessary to point this out – but sadly it is, because many of our elected members are too big for their boots and have their heads so far up their own backsides that they are blinded by stupidity.
And sadly, we feel that things will get worse as the election nears, rather than better.

***

Meanwhile, the timetable  has emerged for elections to Boston Borough Council.
Fifteen wards will be contested for 30 seats – two fewer than last time after a boundary re-organisation.
Some areas have new ward names –  St Thomas, Station, Trinity and West, whilst  a single Staniland comes into being  – and as we have said previously it would be helpful if Worst Street would produce a map so that voters can see how the changes affect them.
But sadly, this sort of help has not been forthcoming.
These are the ward names, and the number of councillors to be returned in each.
Coastal, two.  Fenside, two. Fishtoft, three. Five Villages, two. Kirton and Frampton, three. Old Leake and Wrangle, two. St. Thomas, one. Skirbeck, three. Staniland, two. Station, one. Swineshead and Holland Fen, two. Trinity, two. West, one. Witham, two. Wyberton, two.
If you’re planning to stand for the council, nomination papers are available from the offices of the Returning Officer’s Worst Street office.
Nomination papers must be in not later than 4pm on Thursday 9th April.

***
Moving on now to the general election, and it seems that one of our local “newspapers” has fallen through a wormhole in time with its account of UKIP leader Nigel Farage coming to Boston.
“Nigel Farage is set to join other big UKIP names coming to Boston over the coming months as the May general election draws closer” said the report on the Boston Standard website.
The piece – dated 18th March seemingly overlooks that fact that there are no coming months between then and the election – just seven weeks.
But never mind – our visitor might not be the same Nigel Farage that we have in mind.
The report calls him the leader of the United Kington Independence Party.
When last we looked, Kington was a market town and civil parish in Herefordshire, on the English/Welsh border with a population of 2,626 –and though on the western side of Offa's Dyke, it has been an English town for a thousand years.
Perhaps the Independence issue for Kington’s Mr Farage is one concerning Plaid Cymru – the National party of Wales!

***

We’ve mentioned the drive by our UKIP parliamentary candidate Robin “Boy Wonder” Hunter-Clarke a time or two now – and to date he remains the only one of the eight to have put any literature through our door … and in very large quantities at that.
 Most recently, we saw a special wrapper promoting his campaign wrapped around the Boston (and presumably, Skegness) Target.
All this has to have been a very costly exercise and raises a question in our mind.
Looking at the Electoral Commission guide to spending, it would appear that UKIP is in the “short campaign” spending period which means that it can spend £8,700 plus 6p to 9p a voter – which in Boston and Skegness would be £6,350 at the maximum rate for the constituency’s 70,529  electors. 
Will the money hold out until 7th May at the present rate, we wonder?

***

But it may well pay off.
Someone described as “a top election pundit” – and that means most of us these days – claimed earlier this week that UKIP would take Clacton, South Thanet, Rochester and Strood, and Thurrock in the general election.
Politics professor Matthew Goodwin, of Nottingham University, set out six other seats he believed UKIP could win – Boston and Skegness, Great Grimsby, Castle Point, Thanet North, Great Yarmouth and Cannock Chase.
We shall see.

***

We note the emergence of two “hustings” for candidates in the Boston and Skegness Westminster race to face members of the public in a “Question Time style atmosphere.”
The first was  being held last night at the Assembly Rooms in Boston, with the other on 10th April at The Storehouse church in Skegness.  The event organiser is Pauline Morgan of Swineshead, who styles herself “a keen advocate of getting the public heard amongst the ruckus noise of politicians.”
With just 100 seats available at each event we do not foresee any problems. Given the high level of disinterest in politics in Boston, we doubt that anyone will get killed in the rush for a seat.
  
***

Meanwhile, we note the arrival of a website for Lyn Luxton’s Pilgrim Party – subtitle: “Steadying the Ship.”
The team comprises the candidate herself as “Party Director,” a “Communications Director” and a “Campaign Director” – who turns out to be none other than the hustings organiser Pauline Morgan … without any apparent concern regarding conflicts of interest. 

***

With Boston in the record books as a town where obesity was once king, we wonder whether some of our candidates think that there is political capital to be made from scoffing.
By an eerie coincidence UKIP’s Robin Hunter-Clarke and the Pilgrim Party’s Lyn Luxton tweeted pictures of themselves having breakfast.


Based on a morsel count, we would put Ms Luxton ahead by a narrow sausage!
But the war of the snaps didn’t end there.
Another photo contrasted the turnout for a Hunter-Clarke pub evening with that of one for the Conservative candidate Matt Warman.
I’m so busy,  I need a big breakfast … my pub nights are bigger than your pub nights …  Isn’t it good to see that our wannabe MPs are truly grasping the really big issues?

***

We’ve often complained about how few of our political activists take the trouble to make use of the internet – so it comes as a change to find a new voice on the blogosphere
Daniel Elkington, a Tory independent financial adviser, who in a recent letter to a local “newspaper” styled himself “Conservative Party Chairman” has his sights set on a seat on Boston Borough Council after a previous failure.
He now blogs as “Boston Tory” and his first and so far only effort appeared on 11th March.
Modestly, it begins: “I would like to start my first post on here with a thank-you.
“I'd like to thank all the people who have helped me to become the man that I am and all the people who I would like to consider my friends.”
Political dynamite, eh?

***

The campaign to make our outgoing MP Mark Simmonds return some of the expenses that he claimed for billboard advertising and hospital radio sponsorship is being greeted with the customary enthusiasm.
Independence from Europe candidate Chris Pain started his own campaign on the 38 Degrees website after an earlier one was launched on 4th March, which has attracted 68,679 of its target 75,000 signatures.
Mr Pain’s campaign seems not to have lit up the sky quite so brightly.
It currently stands at 11 signatures of the 100 required – and has done almost since it began. The last petitioner signed more than a fortnight ago.
One problem may be that – whatever  people might think about Mr Simmonds' expenses – the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has looked into the case and declared that he acted within the spirit of the rules.

***

We hear that despite all the promises to the contrary, Boston Borough Council is in line for some big bucks from the Boston Big Local £1 million fund to help some of the most deprived wards in the town.
So much for the oft-repeated promise “This money will not be dictated by Boston Borough Council ….  It will be totally dictated by the local community.”
Why are we not surprised?

***

Huge amounts of publicity attended the launch of the first-ever Community Clear Up Day, which saw hundreds of events across the country for the first day of spring.
The event was planned by the government and arranged by grass-roots activists including community and faith groups, councils and parishes, and schools and sports teams and could now take place annually.
And what, we hear you cry, went on in Boston to mark this event?
Well ... err … nothing that we know of.
That’s probably because the event was staged a week before the Boston Big Clean Up.
Ok, Boston came up with the idea first, and has dined out on it ever since.
But what a chance was missed to have started on the day of the national drive, and then followed through with the local initiative on the Monday.
However, that would have required imagination, flexibility and a list of other attributes which no-one would associate with Boston Borough Council in a month of Sundays.
Another opportunity wasted.

***

We’re sure that there is scarcely a dry eye in the house after the news that the Boston Daily Bulletin is cutting back on publication during the pre-election period daftly known as “purdah.”
During this period – which Boston Borough Council claims started on Monday … although the government has announced it as 30th March – sahibs and memsahibs must watch what they say to avoid accusations of electioneering, and restrictions are placed on Worst Street communications.
It seems there is so little going on that the Boston Bulletin will only appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during purdah.
Not only that, but apparently, such is the desperation for content that an appeal has gone out to non-profit making non-political groups in the borough  to submit their news for publication.
“There’s no charge and you will be read by thousands who subscribe to the Bulletin or read it online,” burbled the bulletin – amid sounds of wings flapping and pigs oinking,
The bulletin began life as an indigestible lump which appeared once a month.
Then it went daily – but with extra pages at the end of each month.
More recently, it seems to have begun to struggle – with many stories appearing that were totally irrelevant to the council.
Recently, the Labour group leader Councillor Paul Gleeson made a formal complaint about bias in the bulletin, and told Boston Eye: “I have a series of issues and have been in discussion with the borough for a period of time.”
If he has not yet received a satisfactory response, we think that this is a good time to rattle a few cages in the corridors of power.


***

There will be no Boston Eye next week, as it is Good Friday.
The blog will return on Friday 10th of April – less than a month before the elections.

Easter reminds us that hope must never be lost,  for as dark as the road may seem, there always lies light at the end of it. 
May all your prayers be fulfilled, and may you have a pleasant Easter!
  
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


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