Friday, 19 June 2015
Last week, we read a report of squeals of glee from “tourism campaigners in Boston” (who they, Ed?) celebrating a growing visitor economy following the implementation of a “destination management plan.”
If you like acronyms, it boils down to the news that a plan by BVEP in partnership with BBC and LCOC, with the DMP in there somewhere, might be getting its grubby paws on yet another £1 million to join the millions already wasted and the hundreds of thousands still available to try to make Boston town centre look halfway presentable.
What this alphabet soup is telling us is that once again a series of talking shops have been at work getting money set aside for projects that almost never then seem to happen.
In his play Othello, Shakespeare summed it up nicely as “prattle without practice.”
In case you’re not au fait with the litany of letters, BVEP is the Boston Visitor Economy Partnership which concocted its plan in yet another “partnership” with the local business community, Boston Borough Council (BBC) and the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce (LCOC) and the Boston Area Destination Management Plan (DMP) – referred to thus probably because the first three letters of the acronym spell the word BAD! .
And what does the DMP do? It “sets out the context of the area's visitor economy and identifies actions to support development” and to “bring cohesion to the development of the town as a tourism destination, in turn growing its visitor economy.”
We suspected as much!
According to the report, actions that have been secured by the plan include getting £60,000 funding for “pedestrian way-finding and historical interpretation signage” (signposts) and more than £1 million for a townscape heritage initiative on east side of Market Place, and that by working together “we can ensure that the offer is developed and that visitors will be encouraged to come and experience it for themselves.”
If such fine phrases have a ring of familiarity to them, that’s because they’ve all been uttered before in some form or another.
In fact, when we started to dig deeper it wasn’t hard to find reports dating back more than ten years – all of them extolling the virtues of the Market Place and its importance both to residents and visitors alike.
In June 2004 the Boston “masterplan” identified the need to make the Market Place a more attractive area.
The masterplan was “refreshed” in September 2006, when it identified the Market Place as a “key area to take forward.”
Some of the phrases being bandied about at the time referred to the Market Place as “a physical environment which detracts from the unique heritage and quality that could potentially exist”
“This historic core can be seen as Boston’s greatest potential attractor...”
“Boston’s Market Place is the town’s greatest asset but has become weakened by a lack of investment and by poor quality public realm.”
All of this was, of course, written before the £2 million “refurbishment” of the area which – although it didn’t seem possible at the time – created more problems than it solved, and has been subject to regular criticism ever since ... although scarcely anything has been done to improve matters.
Interestingly, the photograph on the right was used to illustrate a 2007 report on the need to improve the Market Place, and is of the east side, which is the one that is supposedly next to benefit.
Given all the babbling over the past eight years you might have expected it to look a little better by now, wouldn't you?
But despite all the talk, all the reports, it has scarcely changed in all that time.
The Market Place is, of course, the focus of the Boston Conservation Area which was designated in 1969 – and which for the past two years has been high on the list of the English Heritage At Risk register.
It’s unfortunate that Boston often acquires unique distinctions that it could well do without – and to have the town’s entire conservation area on an At Risk register is one of them.
Last year English Heritage reported the area as being in a very bad condition, of medium vulnerability, but with the trend “improving.”
Set against the background that we have described above, we would have expected so much more to have been done or to be in the pipeline.
Let’s not forget that English Heritage put its money where its mouth was more than three years ago by stumping up £650,000 to help refurbish buildings in the area.
Have you seen the results?
That is because, sadly, the management of this was left in the hands of Boston Borough Council with the inevitable result.
English Heritage naively said at the time: “The reinstatement of traditional shop fronts is a priority in the scheme. The grant funding will contribute to a high quality built environment that Boston residents can be proud of” ... and “the economic regeneration of the town through investment in local businesses.”
With so many millions for the spending, surely, we must start to see something tangible soon ... shouldn’t we?
All this latest announcement boils down to is that a bunch of people with more time on their hands than things to do to fill it have drawn up pipe dream after pipe dream about how Boston could be improved ... but then apparently developed a short attention span as far as the next step was concerned.
In fact this was underlined earlier this week, when Boston Borough Council threw down a challenge to local people on how best to spend the £49,300 available for new town centre signage.
“Your help is crucial to help shape the project and decide what the top places are to visit and which stories help describe the town’s interesting history” burbles the borough by asking us – if we were a Boston tour guide – which five places we would take visitors to, and which five tales of Boston’s past would we share.
A quick straw poll – including an 88 year-old who has lived in Boston since birth – found that we struggled after two – despite the assurance from Worst Street that Boston “is lucky in that it has a wealth of history, heritage, culture and stories to tell ...”
The two most obvious were the Stump, and the Guildhall – although we preferred the latter before it was wired for sound with noisy recordings blaring in almost every room.
In fact, the borough bulletin promoting the challenge featured a blank signpost pointing in two directions – and, above, we have offered our own ideas as a starter for ten.
Going hand in hand with all of this is Boston’s membership of Die Hansa, which commemorates the Hanseatic League – a form of medieval cooperative of which the town was a member 700 years ago.
All told there are almost 200 town and city members across Europe, and Boston will be the fourth in the UK alongside Aberdeen, Hull and Kings Lynn.
The other three believe that membership brings tourism and business benefits – especially Kings Lynn.
However, the difference between us and them is that whilst Kings Lynn boasts enough places of interest to justify a fully-fledged historic town trail, all Boston can come up with is an artist’s impression of what our Hanseatic steelyard might have looked like.
Sadly, it seems as though – not for the first time – Boston is signing up for something that it believes will bring benefits without effort, and which will see the creation of yet another town talking shop.
It was with some satisfaction that – after mentioning the absence of numerous meeting dates from the borough’s website diary last week – many have now appeared as if by magic.
Sadly, it shouldn’t be necessary to have to nudge an authority which two years ago won an award for being the country's top council for transparency, inclusiveness and accountability from the Centre for Public Scrutiny.
Having said that, the CFPS is an in-house talking shop whose awards exist solely to scratch each other’s’ civic backs – and since then, Boston has made great advances to restore much in the way of secrecy and lack of information.
In the world of awards, it does seem that Boston more often than not is damned with faint praise.
Boston Stump is celebrating after receiving an award from review website TripAdvisor.
The Certificate of Excellence celebrates hospitality and is given only to establishments that consistently achieve at least four out of five good reviews.
Out of 82 reviews of St Botolph's 60 declared the church excellent, 19 good and only three average – which is surely what we ought to expect with such an impressive building.
Interestingly, Boston is often compared with York as being a similar sort of visitor attraction – quite wrongly in our opinion.
And York Minster – their version of Boston Stump – achieves similarly excellent reviews ... the only difference being that there are more than 5,000 of them compared with our 82.
Another triumph in the indifference awards includes St Botolph’s Footbridge.
In a paroxysm of glee, Boston’s Goody Two-Shoes Gazette declares: “St Botolph’s Footbridge took the top spot in the medium project category of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) East Midlands Merit Awards.”
“Medium Project Category” in the “East Midlands” “Merit” awards.
Not exactly gold medal stuff is it? – something more along the lines of an award for being a bridge.
Again, according the borough, the contemporary bowstring design was chosen “following extensive public consultation.”
We remarked on this at the time, when it was reported that 137 questionnaires were completed during a month long public consultation with 44 per cent of responses liking the bowstring design, 39 per cent preferring a traditional design and 17 per cent for a low bowstring truss design.
This means that the bridge was chosen on the votes of 60 people.
Obviously, the fact that it was also the cheapest bridge to build, which could largely be assembled off-site and installed with the minimum effort played no part in any of this.
With yet another award in mind, we note reports that last minute touches are being made to fill the dull-looking planters that clutter the town and double as bollards with displays to impress the judges of Britain in Bloom when they visit the town next month.
We are sure that we remember a time when the council’s park staff kept Boston colourful and bright all year round for the benefit of all who live here.
Sadly now, the position is that the town only gets a makeover to impress outsiders – whom we are sure would be appalled if they knew how drab it looks before they arrive and after they depart.
Amid all the chortling of how much greener the grass will be on the other side of the hill once the countless committees working (or not) on Making Boston A Better Place is the anticipation that it will result in more business for the town’s shops.
If that is to be the case, then we hope that things start moving soon.
The most recently published performance figures issued by Boston Borough Council show the disappointing footfall in the town centre.
A count is made – come rain or shine – on the third Wednesday of every month for 30 minutes at 10am and 2pm. opposite Brighthouse in Strait Bargate and numbers adults only – excluding children who look under 16 or people on the noisy, intrusive, polluting IntoTown buses.
Last year the average daily football was 2,409 – which strikes us a pretty pathetic... especially as the count is made on a market day, when the figures should be at their best.
Perhaps the lack of customers could be explained by the lack of places for them to shop.
The latest figures show that this year there are currently 45 vacant shopping units in Boston – up from 37 last year, which is a rise of 4% to a total of 18%
This means that almost one in five retail outlets are vacant.
Meanwhile, car parking ticket sales have slumped by 6% – down by 38,326 on last year – but total parking income, which includes fees for car parking passes and fines as well as income from ticket machines, has increased by 6%.
Another interesting barometer of the town's health is the number of new housing applications received – which are down for the fourth consecutive year and totalled 1,458 ... almost 130 fewer than 2013/14.
Almost without exception, figures such as there are sending a clear message of warning – but no-one at Worst Street seems prepared to hear it.
Under the banner “Delivering better council services with less money” the report allocated a High Risk score to the budget.
It declares: “There is a risk around the long term balancing of the budget with economic and funding uncertainty impacting on the ability of the council to achieve its corporate priority to deliver better council services with less money.
“There is a risk that capacity will impact on the ability of the council to achieve its corporate priority to deliver better council services with less money.”
It lists the possible negative risks as: “The risk of lack of money and lack of certainty going forward; lack of transformation projects.
“The risk of a lack of capacity, recruitment and retention; potential changes in leadership; fewer staff, increasing workload.
Strangely some of the negative risks are also considered to have a positive side as well – “the opportunity to maximise the efficiency of council services and continue to improve value for money; transformation programme
“The opportunity to maximise staff resources by targeting priority areas, working with partners and shared services, improving recruitment and retention, preparing for changes in leadership.”
It’s heartening to see the phrase “change of leadership”appear more than once.
We only wish it meant what we thought it might mean.
We only wish it meant what we thought it might mean.
Apparently an old problem with Boston Borough Council’s website, which we have highlighted before, has re-emerged.
A reader writes to say: “I have sent numerous emails to the borough council's general email regarding their website – when viewed from a mobile. So far no response!
“The problem is, it seems impossible to view the council's full version of their website but only the mobile version.
“When trying to access a specific page on the website via a search engine for example, once opened the page defaults to the mobile version homepage.
“I'm viewing on iPhone and have been through all the settings on my phone browser and can't find any solution on my phone.
“This is the only website I can recall having this problem and it's very frustrating!
“I've tried making the council aware how rubbish the mobile version of their website is, there isn't even a contact email address on their "contact us" page.
Most of this is above our pay grade – but we have mentioned more than once that Worst Street’s general e-mail address ... email@example.com ... often seems less than bothered to reply to enquiries from punters.
Let’s hope that someone will – once again – remedy the problem which treats enquirers so off- handedly, and get the website working properly as well.
A regular reader declares himself at something of a loss following a letter which appeared in one of our local “newspapers” this week,
“I opened the local paper this week and read with amusement – or should that be bemusement – - a letter from a recently elected borough councillor,” he writes.
“In this letter to the editor our new 'trust me I'm a councillor' recruit spelt out his feelings about the benefits of not having to carry the baggage of political party membership.
“What amused – and amazed – was the fact that the letter was from a councillor who presented himself to the voters on a party ticket – UKIP – and within an hour of his declaration as an elected councillor was knocking on the door of the Conservative group with the intention of transferring his party allegiance immediately.
“The letter further claims it will be easier for this councillor – following the Conservatives' natural reluctance to take such a character to their political bosom – to represent his electorate as an
unaligned Independent member of the borough council.
“Questions to other councillors reveal that any member adopting such status is not allocated any seat on any working council committee or outside body.
“A trawl through the list of recent appointments reveals that this is the case in this instance; so exactly how our letter writer is going to more easily represent his ward and its voters from such a starting point needs a wee bit more explanation, methinks.”
Finally – and still with our council members – a couple of little birds tell us that not everything in the garden is rosy.
Apparently one member is complaining of not getting the right information to get on with the job properly, whilst another is lamenting the strain that official duty is placing on previously wide ranging outside activities.
We suspect that speculators among our readers would unhesitatingly conclude that the councillors in question must be newly elected UKIP members.
In fact both are Tories.
You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Friday, 12 June 2015
As regular readers may have noticed, we tend to be a glass half empty rather than glass half full publication – and we were reminded why when we read the latest attempt at flag waving by council “leader” Pete Bedford.
His latest efforts to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat appeared beneath a banner headline in the borough’s Goody Two Shoes Gazette which screamed “Boston means business.”
“Boston is booming with more businesses showing confidence in the area’s prosperity and prepared to invest their hard-earned cash,” it burbled – going on to quote the leader’s “highlights” from recent developments.
These comprised a second butcher’s shop opened by Carl Dunham, the German trailer maker Fliegl’s move to a new UK headquarters and factory at Frampton Fen, and the expansion of B&M with their new store at Alban Retail Park.
But is this really the “boom” that the borough claims it to be?
The new butchery is moving into premises vacated by Betts, who were also butchers, whilst the Fliegl move is to a redundant site formerly used for something similar.
And as for the move by B&M, we note an application to seek a variation in the range of goods sold at the Alban Park site – presumably to beef up the stock, and therefore the attractiveness of the new location...
Could this be the opening scene of a retail drama that sees the out of town site being enhanced preparatory to the closure of the store in Lawrence Lane?
We would consider this quite likely, as it is hard to imagine that the company can sustain two large stores within a few miles of each other.
We are surprised that the borough hasn’t leapt upon the move by Specsavers to the former Ryman store in Bargate – ignoring, of course the inconvenient fact that it leaves their old premises in the Market Place empty.
Even when big name firms seek to set up shop in the town, Boston Borough Council can’t bring itself to make things as straightforward as they could be.
The recent application by Lidl to open a store on a wasteland in Tawney Street is such an example.
Borough planners went into their usual ' the past comes first ' mode by demanding that the store design was modified to change the roof line and thus the view of Boston Stump – this in one of the most unsightly areas of town where buildings of all types and ages sit cheek by jowl.
Lidl wisely told Worst Street to go and boil its head, and the planners caved in.
For a moment, we feared a rerun of the ASDA application to build on Lister Way – which saw eons wasted in debates over whether or not to save a monkey puzzle tree – and the insistence that while several listed buildings of great ordinariness could be demolished, one had to remain as an example of what had been lost.
It now sits forlornly at the entrance to the supermarket site.
Had it been demolished, and a roundabout created, traffic flow in both directions would have been greatly improved – not least on the journey into town, where Sleaford Road backs up because of the junction heading for ASDA.
Sadly for Councillor Bedford, the news of Boston's Gold Rush came as a local produce company announced the loss of 130 jobs and the transfer of a further 120 to a new site near Spalding.
Latest unemployment figures show there are 725 people out of work and claiming benefits in the borough – and an extra 130 people will increase that figure by almost 18 per cent.
There are a couple of quotes which we would commend to Councillor Bedford.
The first – by David Joseph Schwartz, an American motivational writer and coach, best known for authoring The Magic of Thinking Big in 1959 – says “Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.”
The second – more recent, and very similar – comes from Donald Trump: “As long as you're going to be thinking anyway, think big.”
The sad fact is that – far from Boston being a focus of business confidence – the reverse appears to be true.
A quick search of commercial property on the market in Boston shows that 32-36 Strait Bargate, 4 Wide Bargate and the NCP Car Park off Red Lion Street are for sale at an eye-watering price of £3,250,000 plus VAT ... which rounds it up to an even more eye-watering £4 million.
Also in Strait Bargate, the QD stores premises are being advertised to let with vacant possession for £195,000 a year plus VAT – but don’t tell the staff, as according to the sale particulars they’re not supposed to know!
Elsewhere, a large chunk of West Street and St George’s Road – which appears to be the Scooby Doos premises among others is yours for a mere £1 million.
A couple of iconic buildings include the upper floors of Shodfriars Hall “needing improvement” for a rent of £127,500 a year plus VAT and the former HSBC bank in the High Street – once tipped as a Starbucks outlet.
And of course, Pescod Hall is again empty – when it cries out to be used as a tourist information centre and hub for local crafts and publications.
Carry on searching and you will find at least £2 million of other town centre properties on the market.
It’s a far cry from the Worst Street contention that “Boston is booming with more businesses showing confidence in the area’s prosperity and prepared to invest their hard-earned cash.”
What they seem to be doing is selling up as fast as they can and getting the hell out of the place.
Whilst the opposite is supposed to be the goal, we note that the Worst Street love affair with pouring money into the Princess Royal Sports Arena continues unabated.
This week has seen the announcement of the installation of the 364 solar panels which will produce an estimated annual output of 79,000 KWh. and allegedly begin delivering “free energy” immediately.
Meanwhile, the borough has applied for permission to install a biomass boiler at the PRSA and another at the Moulder Leisure Centre.
The idea behind the PRSA installations is to make the place attractive enough to lure an outside operator to take on a lease for the place, “so that the PRSA has a long-term future without on-going revenue support from the council.”
The combined energy efficiency measures at the PRSA and the Moulder – which already has solar panels – will cost taxpayers £560,000, and allegedly generate income and savings to pay for £840,000 worth of repairs and improvements at the PRSA.
The main thing to note here is that the claim of “free” energy is nothing but hokum – for instance, in the case of the biomass boilers the cost is more than half a million pounds and we have not been told what the solar panels have set us back.
The borough council burbles: “The PRSA is seen as important in terms of helping tackle the borough’s health and wellbeing issues – unhealthy lifestyles leading to issues such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular illness.”
Students of irony will therefore appreciate the publication by Public Health England of Boston’s health profile for 2015.
Sadly it shows that little has changed since the last report – although it seems that the fatty tissues have moved around.
Whilst we have lower levels of adult obesity – there are 26.8% of adults in the borough classed as obese – the figure for obese children is the worst in the country, at 27.1%.
Boston remains low in the league of educational achievements, and our record for physical activity among adults and excess weight – rather than obesity – is all below what they should be.
We also have figures that are significantly worse than the England average for recorded cases of diabetes.
So what conclusions can we draw from this?
The most obvious is that the millions spent on health facilities by Boston Borough Council have been a spectacular waste – as by and large they have not made the slightest dent in the overall health profile of the town.
All they have boiled down to is an exercise in lip service which has upgraded the facilities for a fortunate elite.
Will this stop them wasting money on such a large scale, and bring about a new look at the real health issues facing the town?
That would be too much like hard work, when you can simply equate spending a fortune with achieving a task.
As always, the borough council has sought to play down any bad news – with a quote that runs thus: “The increase in the prevalence of diabetes, skin cancer and TB could actually be a result of the awareness promotion work and thus more people going to get a formal diagnosis.”
FADE IN SOUND FX: Bottom of a barrel being scraped.
Whilst in its power spending mode, Worst Street tells us that solar panels are to be installed at the £3.6 million Boston Enterprise Centre, owned by the council but operated by something called Nurture Enterprises.
The centre – which it goes without saying is “state-of-the-art” and “cutting-edge” – has never been a great success, and is traditionally under-occupied and unprofitable for Worst Street.
Its annual report for 2013-14 noted that whilst three businesses moved in, five moved out giving a net loss of floor space of almost 1,500 square feet.
We are not told the cost of the solar panel investment – but as the borough council has gone from making no money from the centre to receiving a puny 10% share of the profits, we can only imagine that the borough has found yet another successful way to fritter away our taxes.
For a long while, there has been something called the David Cameron Effect – a law which states that whenever the Prime Minister supports – say a football team or individual sportsman ... they promptly lose.
It’s possible that something similar may be emerging which we can call the Bedford Effect.
Just recently, the leader of Lincolnshire County Council, Martin Hill, proclaimed the merits of a unitary Lincolnshire authority – the creation of which would save £30 million and see district councils such as Boston vanish forever.
Enter leader Bedford, spouting: “There are no plans to abolish district councils. We continue to focus on making a difference for our residents and communities.
"We have a strong track record of delivery and clear plans for the future, with robust financial strategies and a great team.
"We can be proud of what we have achieved, and we can move forward with confidence.”
What’s happened since?
The latest reports say that subsuming Lincolnshire alone would not be enough for Councillor Hill and his cronies – instead there is an even bigger plan for a single authority from the Humber to Peterborough.
In terms of how Boston might benefit from any such changes the answer is clear.
It will not!
We get precious little from County Hall as it is – unless it is to Lincoln’s advantage to dole out its largesse.
A unitary Lincolnshire authority based on the existing county would see Boston even worse-served ... if that were possible.
And anything bigger would resound like a death knell across the borough – although there's nothing to say that Councillor Hill would be in charge of it!.
As it is something that happens only once, we make no apologies for publishing our new MP Matt Warman’s maiden speech to parliament in full.
We thought it was a good speech and recognises many of the disadvantage facing the borough – but also the advantages upon which we need to build.
The speech was made on 9th June during the debate on the European Union Referendum Bill – and here it comes...
It is an honour to speak on a day of so many marvellous maiden speeches, and it is also an honour to speak in this seminal debate on an issue that I believe will define a generation of politicians.
I am privileged to represent the people of Boston and Skegness, succeeding Mark Simmonds. Mark’s career ranged from safeguarding the future of Skegness hospital, working with a Labour Administration in a fine example of cross-party constituency working, through to chairing the UN Security Council. Hardly a day on the campaign trail went by without me being told that I had very big shoes to fill, and I will assiduously work as a constituency MP to do that.
Hardly a day went by, either, without a prospective constituent assuring me that Mark’s own predecessor, Sir Richard Body, was another model of an ideal MP. Sir Richard was a Maastricht rebel back when the Conservative party had what was described as a wafer-thin majority of slightly double what it is today. His brave stance is a reminder to all of us that we are here to represent our constituents, rather than to toe any one party line. I hope I can live up to that responsibility as well.
Boston and Skegness is a constituency that begins at Swineshead in the south—where, incidentally, King John was poisoned—and quickly arrives in Boston itself. In 1204, Boston famously paid tax of £780, whereas London paid £836. One newly elected councillor recently pledged to dedicate himself to restoring Boston’s status to those medieval levels, and I look forward to supporting him in that endeavour. Indeed, I thank him for taking the lead on it.
Elsewhere, the constituency is home to some of the best agricultural land in the country. I invite hon. Members from across the House to visit so that they might put faces to the names of those people mentioned on supermarket bags of potatoes. Afterwards, they might choose to spend a few hours joining the 500,000 or so people who annually visit Skegness, one of the few seaside resorts that is never described as faded. Indeed, Skeg Vegas is more glorious neon than faded.
I have not the time today to mention Wainfleet All Saints—home to the superb Batemans Brewery—or the Bubble car Museum in Langrick, the Carrington vintage tractor show, the first Butlins or, indeed, the beautiful areas of my constituency that touch the Lincolnshire Wolds and, almost uniquely for my patch, merit a contour line on a map.
That is in part because I want to deal with the subject of today’s debate. Since the expansion of Europe, tens of thousands of people from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and elsewhere have come from their home countries to work in and around Boston. They have made homes and lives in Lincolnshire and we should welcome taxpayers who have, to coin a phrase, got on their bikes. These, I would argue, are not just the best of Europe, but, in many cases, the best of Britain, too. In Lincolnshire today, following in the footsteps of workers from the Midlands, Ireland, Portugal and, latterly, Bulgaria, they work in all weathers to put food on our tables, whether it is Brussels sprouts at Christmas or asparagus at the moment.
It is thanks to an open-door migration policy, however, that Lincolnshire’s police, housing, schools, roads and hospitals now face unprecedented pressure from new numbers—and it is new numbers, not new nationalities, that cause those pressures. We did not plan for or predict their arrival, so we were not able to invest adequately and in a timely fashion in the services that we now urgently need. Social tensions have recently eased, but they have allowed divisive, single-issue political campaigns to flourish and to block out much of the light on what is great about my constituency.
I believe that only if our relationship with Europe changes fundamentally can we fix the root causes of our current problems and that, in the future, only if we can plan for those population changes can we adequately prepare. Of course, it is only because we have a Conservative majority Government that we truly have the chance to have our say as a country between now and the end of 2017.
My own motivation for standing for office stems directly from more than 15 years as a journalist. I believe we live in a world that needs more actors than critics. Writing about technology, I was lucky enough to cover Britain’s world-beating, but still somewhat incomplete broadband roll-out, as well as to cover the rise of Apple, Google, Facebook and much in between. I hope that I can continue to make the case for every aspect of technology improving every aspect of government. I hope that we will see a world where we have more activists than clicktivists. Making those changes will require far more than technical expertise; it will require political courage. I hope that I may provide a small part of that courage to stiffen the sinews of colleagues when it comes both to Europe and to changes in how Government use technology. It is no less than all our constituents deserve.
We hope that Mr Warman has not misread the ambitions of the anonymous councillor referred to in his speech comparing our tax relationship with that of London almost a millennium ago.
Without any specific promises, successive council leaderships appear to have taken the borough back to medieval times in terms of service, progress and appeal.
Boston is already back in the Dark Ages without the need for any additional effort required.
Despite our infrequent criticisms of leader Bedford, he may have a secret fan base out there – according to an e-mail from a reader, who tells us: “A recent outing to a local supermarket threw up an extraordinary sight.
“Walking across the car park was a shopper carrying a bag with a logo on its side which read: ‘I (pink heart) PB’
“What does it cost to join this fan club? Is it restricted to blueys?
“Is the pink heart significant?
“Will there be another one soon that says: I (heart) WS (West/Worst Street)
“PS. It was not Mrs Bedford who was carrying said bag.”
Editor’s note – we are sorry to say that in this case the PB is note our glorious leader, but promotes fashionista Paul’s Boutique.
We mentioned last week our concerns that information might be harder to find under our new council – and that has already turned out to be the case.
Last week, we are told, there was a meeting of the new look Cabinet of Curiosities – but it did not appear on the monthly list available to the public on the borough website.
Whatever happened to the election pledge for increased transparency which was also supposed to include a public question time at cabinet meetings?
We also understand that there is a meeting of B-Tacky on 1st July – which as recently as yesterday was not mentioned in the list of meetings for the month.
Hopefully, this is an oversight.
If not it seems as though it’s not just Washington that operates behind closed doors.
Finally, another e-mail from a reader far more observant that we could ever be raises questions concerning some newer members of the council.
“I note that amongst our new councillors there are three who share the same phone number – obviously Mummy's. But we understand that it is correct to say that Mummy is already doing a lot of their LCC work for them.
“Another two new councillors will be expecting a council officer to take all their calls.
“This, of course, will limit possible communication to office hours.
“One has to wonder what was the perception of a councillor’s duties and relationship with the electorate by such new members when they stood for election.”
You can write to us at email@example.com Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Friday, 5 June 2015
By a happy coincidence, we took last week off, in order to let the dust settle after the 7th May elections.
And it was just as well we did ... as the powers that be in Worst Street seem to have sunk into some sort of fugue state at around the same time, and only now seem to be awakening.
Whereas the immediate period after the 2011 elections Boston was awash with activity, this time around the reverse was true.
At the beginning of this week, we saw just one meeting for June listed ... and according to the council diary, there were no further meetings for the rest of the year – which of course is nonsense – and was followed (slowly) by additional information.
We can’t say why, but we are starting to get a feeling that information will become harder to get than previously.
As an example, only now is it becoming possible to discover the names of committee members – as the agendas start to appear online. A list appeared in one of the town's “newspapers” some days ago, but was not apparently shared with the taxpayers.
An alternative thought is that – as with the 2011 election – the leadership's continuation in power was unexpected and took them by surprise.
Perhaps history repeated itself at our recent elections leaving our leaders high and dry in terms of how to continue ... hence the soporific start to their new term.
The same sleepiness appears to have reached other levels within the organisation.
This time last year, Boston’s Christmas Market group – which had a sizeable input from council officers and members – had been meeting regularly, and plans for the event were taking shape.
But as far as we are aware no similarly early start was made this year, although the reason is unclear.
Does this mean that Christmas in Boston is cancelled for 2015? It’s come close once before with a couple of previous farces going back to the bad old days of Boston Business “Improvement” District and the year that we had no light switch on ceremony, which made us a county-wide laughing stock.
Last year’s council-planned Christmas event was a step in the right direction – although it was marred by “spoilers” from Oldrids and Pescod Square.
Perhaps this year the council has decided to leave it to them.
If so, it is a pity, as the council still has a stake in the event in the form of its investments in lighting – supposedly, £35,000 worth ... although you wouldn't think so to look at them.
This year should see them return for the fifth and final time – that £35,000 is just a hire charge.
Perhaps the Worst Street Scrooges think that this is enough and that the rest can be done by others.
What else appears to have fallen by the wayside?
As long ago as April last year, the pages for the first Boston “official” calendar” were all but sold to local sponsors – Boston Eye included.
It was printed around August and on sale in good time to head off the competition.
For once, things went smoothly, sales went well and the calendar raised a decent sum for charity.
We even heard talk of a second calendar while the first was still being prepared – but this year there has been a deafening silence.
Again, a cruise around the borough website during the week turned up further signs of information malaise.
Almost a month after the election there were no photos available of our new councillors, and links to their names produced nothing more than details of the ward they represent and an email address.
And the poor old Boston Daily Bulletin has transmogrified into the Goody Two-Shoes Gazette in recent times – with such a wide smile stretched across its face that its cheeks must surely ache.
It may be our imagination, but we believe that electors were far better informed about far more interesting things at this point four years ago than they are this week.
At least it has dawned a little late on Worst Street that there are now 30 councillors – and not the 32 being reported as recently as Tuesday this week..
Meanwhile, little else changes.
A month of road works begins at the end of June to replace traffic lights and improve the footpath at the junction of John Adams Way and Botolph Street, in Boston.
The work includes a temporary right turn ban in and out of Botolph Street so that existing signals can be turned off and removed “without the need for disruptive temporary signals allowing John Adams Way to flow freely.”
There could also be some single lane closures during off-peak times.
Our old friend County Councillor Richard “Bob the Builder” Davies tell us: “The traffic lights at this location have reached the end of their working life so we have tied this work in with improvements required to the nearby footpath ... to minimise disruption on this busy junction. It is important that we keep traffic flowing along John Adams Way.”
To regular readers this may have a familiar echo.
Similar promises were made when work was being carried out on Haven Bridge – which many motorists will remember to their cost.
And just one question...
Why does it take a month to replace a set of traffic lights and work on a footpath?
Talking of traffic, it still doesn’t seem to clear just what the traffic wardens who patrol the town have as their mission statement.
There was consternation recently and some debate in the social media after wardens were seen hunting in packs – three of them strolling past Iceland from the Spilsby Road end, and two others heading along Church Road ... where they have been noted more than once.
The Church Road sightings sparked a small debate – with questions being asked as to why they were so far out of town and in an area where the double yellow lines were clearly being obeyed.
A reply from Lincolnshire County Council made many laugh. The response – an attempt at a put-down but also with a snotty undertone said: “It’s just a picture of two traffic wardens walking down a road in which no one is parked illegally. Could be en route to a hotspot!”
But Clownty Hall backed down after readers pointed out that there were no hot spots in the area, which was well out of town, and retreated to referring enquiries elsewhere.
It’s not the first time we have seen parking enforcers hunting for victims anywhere other than they are likely to be found.
We’ve said it before, and it is worth repeating – the most blighted area of Boston as far as parking is concerned is the Market Place ... and the problem needs resolving.
Ever since the area was “refurbished” some years ago it has been beset by problems which the powers that be have chosen to ignore.
Most of the time it is now a mess with cars parked haphazardly and often illegally, no clearly defined areas for vehicles or pedestrians to use and a host of other inadequacies.
The nearest that we got to any comment on the mess was when the former portfolio holder for the town centre railed against motorists and generally slagged them off for not knowing where to park – even though it wasn't clear.
The previous leadership did nothing to help matters, aside from dumping a load of weed filled planters here, there and everywhere to try to create some form of delineation and protection for pedestrians.
Unfortunately for the Market Place, the previous leadership is now the new leadership – one or two old faces excepted – which raises the worry that we can expect nothing to be done for the coming four years.
The Market Place should be a focal point for the town – for locals and visitors, as well as for events such as Christmas celebrations ... which we may not now be getting.
As we said at the start of today’s offering, it appears that the powers that be in Worst Street seem to have sunk into some sort of fugue state.
But now it’s Wakey Wakey time, and time to get Boston up and running.
Still on the subject of traffic we note some worrying reports of increasing pollution from diesel engines.
It seems that the first three letters of DIEsel are not without significance!
Several recent reports have highlighted the problems caused to health by diesel emissions – the most recent of which warned of an increased risk of a stroke in inner city areas.
In Boston, the main through road – John Adams Way – is well monitored ... and we are told that aside from one or two “hotspots” there is little to worry about.
But one place familiar to us all which sees vehicles pass within inches of people is Strait Bargate – where the controversial decision to treat a pedestrian area as a rat run for buses allows scores of journeys in both directions every day.
We’ve all watched them grind their noisy, meeping path through shoppers for the slightly spurious reason that if they didn’t use Strait Bargate, the Into Town service timetable would collapse into chaos.
Young children in buggies and disabled people in mobility scooters are inconveniently placed with their heads not far above exhaust pipe level – and we wonder what the consequences for their lungs are as a result.
If nothing else, in the interest of good public health practice, the time is overdue to extend monitoring of emissions to include Strait Bargate to see if a problem exists of which we are unaware.
By an ironic coincidence, a non-vehicular source of pollution recognised by Boston Borough Council is also being adopted by it.
The leadership’s big rescue plan for the Princess Royal Sports Arena and the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre envisages the installation of biomass boilers with a maximum output of 380kw for the PRSA and between 450kw and 510 kw for the GMLC.
The most recent local report on air quality identifies four local developments on farms around the area “which may impact on air quality.”
Their total output is 4,300kw.
The additional boilers proposed by Worst Street will increase this by more than 20% – and let’s not forget that one of these – at the Moulder – is in a densely populated area, and not on village farmland.
Not for the first time, we find ourselves misunderstood.
When we first started blogging nine years ago it was in the dog days of a heavily Tory influenced council that was theoretically under “no overall control.”
At that late stage they were well and truly mired, and we said as much.
When the Boston Bypass Independents surprised themselves and everyone else by seizing control of the council we took our time before commenting – but when it became clear which way the wind was blowing, we made our feelings felt.
This caused a number of Conservatives in opposition mistakenly to assume that we were anti-BBI and pro-Tory.
When the Conservatives surprised themselves and everyone else by seizing control of the council, we again took our time before commenting – no rush to judgment here at Number 1 Eye Street – but when it became clear which way the wind was blowing, we made our feelings felt.
The reaction from the Tories – unlike the BBI which took criticism on the chin – was to turn nasty.
We have always spoken as we find – and by and large we have found successive leaderships to be wanting, unimaginative and obsessed with being in control rather than listening.
Now, we learn “that the Eye wanted UKIP to win the council ...”
This stunning exposé has been penned by the twice failed Tory candidate Daniel Elkington – who blogs under the name of Boston Tory ... as if he is the only one.
The most recent tirade begins: “I've read the last Boston eye (sic) blog with interest as it's normally quite amusing, this time the only real joke was right at the end and didn't reward one for trudging through a half hour rant about the fact that the Conservatives have managed to organise control of Boston Borough Council.
“The main thing seems to be that the Eye wanted UKIP to win the council, ergo his comments on BTAC. I read several times that 'the electorate voted for'...
“I wish the Eye wouldn't be blinded by hate quite so often.”
Normally, we treat claptrap like this with the contempt that it deserves – but given that there are so many new councillors at Worst Street we think it best to make our position clear.
We do not support any political party on Boston Borough Council.
As our blog declares, we are “watching out for the voters of Boston.”
Boston Tory's gripe that the blog isn’t funny shows how little he understands its purpose – but then you can’t please all of the people all of the time ... as we have been proving for years...
Whilst we wouldn't have thought it possible, we note that the Boston Book of Days records contain yet another instance of history repeating itself.
Last week we brought you the account of the Conservatives regaining power in the council, alongside the evidence of tough choices in selecting members of the borough cabinet.
Historians have now uncovered yet another medieval manuscript showing a centuries old depiction of an early coalition.
Never let it be said that Boston Borough Council doesn’t seek the best value for money.
An £800,000 windfall from County Hall is being shared between Lincolnshire’s local authorities to help improve services.
The money came in through council tax charges on second homes to spend on “schemes which are of mutual benefit to both the county and district councils."
As befits the imagination of its leadership, Boston has received the smallest grant among the seven districts, and will invest around £31,000 in “third sector organisations which work to turn people away from a life of offending.”
Whilst we have no doubt that this is important work, we have to ask whether it is the most important use of £30 thousand.
For instance, Lincoln is to spend more than £90,000 to help build a multi-storey car park as part of the Lincoln Transport Hub Scheme., whilst East Lindsey will use almost £500,000 to help support local businesses and manage grants which are used to revamp homes for those with disabilities.
We have a sinking feeling that – not for the first time – the borough's money will vanish into a contract post ... either full or part time, and that no real benefits will be forthcoming.
By an unhappy coincidence, the launch of the Transported project to promote this part of the world with graphic illustrations on the side of FreshLinc lorries happened about the same time as an accident which saw one of the company’s vehicles burn out on the A1.
Fortunately, no-one was badly hurt – but it did make us wonder for a moment whether Transported had produced an alternative abstract illustration ... possibly with a Turner Prize in mind!
Still with alternative photos ... we note that the trend among our local newspapers to use whatever picture comes to hand, rather than the appropriate illustration is spreading.
Last week we highlighted two bizarre photos which appeared on the Boston Target website alongside stories of a major riverside development planned for the town, and an idea to reduce the number of whelks being fished to conserve stocks.
The first picture showed an empty waterside scene which might have been taken in Boston in prehistoric times had cameras existed, whilst the second implied that using a rod and line might solve the whelk over-fishing problem.
The Target continued on the same lines with a picture to illustrate a report headlined “Influx of migrant workers are driving down low wages in Boston.”
The picture – captioned “foreign workers” – looks more to us like a family outing somewhere in the south downs – perhaps pea-picking or something similar.
Certainly, it can be said with some confidence that it is not a typical fenland farming scene!
Not to be outdone, the Boston Standard report on the John Adams Way road works was accompanied by a photo that could have been taken at any number of places ... but none of them in Boston!
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