A while ago we compared the over-optimism of borough council leader Pete Bedford with the “Cameron effect.”
Over the years, Cameron has lent his support to individuals or teams who have often rapidly gone on to crash and burn and disappear without trace.
So it seems to be with our leader...
A couple of years ago, he waxed lyrical about plans for the 161-berth Gosling Marina, including a bar and an 80-seat family restaurant, on which work was expected to have started last year – but doesn’t appear to have done.
At the time, Bedford trilled: “...we hope the marina will give the town a much-needed boost and regenerate the waterfront.
"When it is built, it should bring millions to the town, push up property prices and get people coming to Boston - it is a very exciting prospect.”
Unfortunately, a prospect is all that it seems to have been as the website for the marina is still “coming soon” and, we are told, there has been nothing going on at the site – and requests concerning progress have been ignored.
Given a misjudgement such as this, one would have thought that Bedford would have been a little more circumspect with future comments.
Back in February the leader was dangling another glittering bauble before our desperate eyes hinting coyly: “Because we are in the very earliest stages of planning I have to say ‘watch this space’ but serious interest has been expressed to the council in developing of Haven Wharf on the river along High Street.
“Parts of the building have been disused for about 20 years and this shows confidence in the barrier scheme being delivered on time and able to do its job of flood protection.
“I think we are in for an exciting time ahead.”
When the £10 million plan did surface, the idea was to demolish existing buildings within the site comprising the former Boston Auctions premises fronting White Horse Lane, the ASP Glazing premises, the linked three storey warehouse fronting the river and associated lean to and open storage buildings on the site.
In their place, it was proposed to build two seven-storey detached apartment blocks containing a total of 75 apartments plus three, three storey four bedroomed terraced dwellings fronting White Horse Lane and one, three storey four bedroom dwelling.
We certainly would have been in for exciting times – had the plan not been roundly rubbished by the borough’s own planning officers and recommended for refusal.
The reasons why it was a Very Bad Idea are too numerous to mention – but you can find the report to last week’s planning committee by clicking here
Over the years, Boston has suffered badly as a result of the race to make the place look modern and “sexy.”
We now have some truly ghastly looking buildings which in many cases took the place of ancient historic buildings.
The ancient Peacock and Royal coaching inn was demolished in 1960 to accommodate Boots the Chemist.
The former Scala Theatre and cinema is now Poundstretcher, the one-time Falcon Inn was demolished for the benefit of Argos, and – probably worst of all – the Red Lion was knocked down to build what was first a Woolworth store and is now QD.
A plaque put up in the store noted: “On this site once stood the Red Lion Tavern, recorded in the compotus of Saint Mary’s Guild 1515 as “the Hospitium of the Red Lion in Bargate” It then belonged to that Guild, as it also did in 1524. In 1640 it was said to have formerly belonged to the Sibsey family, having been sold by Ralph Poole to Richard Sibsey and Johan his wife in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.”
On occasion, we have been critical of the town’s planners for being over-sensitive in allowing development in areas which – whilst being deemed to have historic significance – have suffered so badly that one more nail in the coffin would make no difference at all.
The riverside site by Haven Bridge cries out for sensitive development and must not be allowed to become a piggy bank for developers.
Although Worst Street bangs on about Boston’s “heritage” there is little of it left – and we must seek to preserve and enhance that which survives.
Oddly, whilst we would imagine that the role of leader would be to lead, it appears that the task has now been assumed by Boston’s mayor, Richard Austin.
In his state of the union message after being elected, he said: "The image and reputation of a place is its most important asset.
“It affects so many aspects of life in that community. It affects the location of businesses, the decision of vital professionals and their choice of where to live and work. In fact it can affect the prosperity and well-being of everyone in the community.
"My most important task is to protect and enhance the reputation of the Borough of Boston whenever I can; this is a very important issue, and it is so important that I ask everyone in this council chamber to help in this task.
“Indeed I would like to go further and ask everyone in this borough to help promote Boston to the wider world."
He has now gone beyond those fine words – and is trying to rope us all into his crusade.
The plan is to create “a positive on-line document available anywhere in the world” to help promote Boston’s great past and bright future.
He said: “I want to hear from anyone with their views on what makes Boston a special place – it could be the cost of living, its intimate nature as a small market town, its amenities, open spaces, clean air, countryside and big skies, sports facilities, friendly people, the history and heritage which surrounds us or anything else.
“I just want people to appreciate where they live and work and be positive about it so Boston can be better appreciated by everyone. ...”
“Their positive contributions will appear on the council website so that anyone searching ‘Boston’ will discover what a great place it really is.”
According to Worst Street’s propaganda channel GTSN – Goody Two Shoes News – he said this was “important for the wellbeing of residents – those who may have been born here, lived here a long time or newly arrived – and would help give a good first impression to those thinking of relocating, especially those furthering their professional careers or businesses looking to move and expand.
“That makes it important for the prosperity of Boston and the wellbeing and prosperity of all those who live and work here.”
As always, in its desperation to rush the good news to the public eye, Boston Borough Council’s website immediately posted a link to Councillor Austin’s new site.
Unfortunately, it might have been better to have waited until some comments had arrived before posting the other link
Last time we looked, none had become two – so at least the page doesn’t now appear so stupid.
Councillor Austin has also contacted schools asking students to write about the town and borough in the way best suited to them – creative writing, poetry, artwork or photography.
In many ways Councillor Austin's appeal is what we would expect a town mayor to come up with – although the way that he has raised the ante ought really to be in the job description of the so-called leader.
Instead, Bedford seems content to sit on the side-lines and let others do the talking for Boston.
Torindy Councillor Austin claims ownership of the slogan “Boston – a great past an exciting future”
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Boston’s greatest past was in medieval times – although it missed out on a mention in the Domesday Book in favour of Skirbeck – but prospered as a wool town when sheep hair made the nation’s fortunes ... and Boston was second only behind London in prosperity
But the wool trade declined, the rivers silted up, and Boston went into a decline from which it never really recovered.
Cue: “An exciting future”
Quite where this part of the slogan has come from is anyone’s guess, as nothing that we can think of is suggestive of any such thing.
The borough faces many problems from a variety of sources – and quite how a few playground poems will turn this around can only be imagined.
Perhaps the Boston Target was right, when its website report claimed that Councillor Austin felt that his website document “would have a goof impact on the town ...
The dictionary defines “goof” as “an incompetent, foolish, or stupid person; a careless mistake; a slip, or blunder; to waste or kill time.”
And are we alone in finding a lecture on the importance of image and reputation somewhat ironic coming from a political chameleon that suddenly dismissed years of espoused independence to form a beneficial “soft” coalition with the Conservative group to ensure their continuing control of the council chamber.
More than one little bird has whispered to us to say that the search for a new Chief Executive of Boston Borough Council is effectively over.
We understand that the current acting post holder Phil Drury is the sole choice of the borough’s chief officer employment panel and will remain as Acting Chief Exec until he meets certain “targets” – after which he will assume the throne.
Mr Drury is a long serving officer who has previously been unsuccessful when the top job has been up for grabs.
Quite how this fits in with earlier statements by the council is hard to fathom.
There is no reason why this post should not have been filled long ago – although way back in 2011 Leader Bedford was quite unambiguous when he stated that the council “could no longer sustain” a full time officer and was looking at alternatives including a job share with another authority.
Mr Drury currently receives “acting” pay over and above his regular salary, although we are told that the council still saves money on the arrangement.
The council’s recruitment policy “is committed to adopting a fair and consistent approach in its recruitment and selection procedures ... (which) will promote equal access to jobs, good HR practice and compliance with employment legislation ... (and) an obligation that every appointment shall be made on merit.” ...
Or should we say that was the policy until now.
If we were a senior figure in the Worst Street council chamber we would be becoming a little nervous..
This week saw the annual Local Government Association Conference at Harrogate.
Boston had a couple of delegates there of course – membership tickets cost £600 each, exclusive of accommodation ... but we qualify for the discount, having just paid the annual £6,100 membership fee,
This year’s chairman will be a familiar face to our representatives from Boston.
He’s Councillor Gary Porter, Conservative leader of South Holland District Council – which regularly shames Boston Borough Council through its enthusiasm to take on new ideas ...principal among them the decision to share the chief executive role.
In an interview with the Local Government Chronicle, Councillor Porter said that requiring poorly performing councils to be scrutinised by their stronger counterparts would help local government win extra powers through devolution.
He said it was essential that weaker councils improved if the sector was to win the trust of MPs and other parts of the public sector.
“Parliament judges us on our worst colleagues and we can’t afford in the next few years for that to be the case,” he said.
“We cannot deny that some of our colleagues in local government really could do with a kick up the backside. And if we try to deny that we will never be taken credibly.”
We wonder whether he had an image of a nearby council in his mind's eye when he issued his warning.
Almost as if on cue, one committee of Boston Borough Council has kindly volunteered itself for a kick up the backside.
We’re talking about BTAC – the Boston Town Area Committee – which held its first meeting since the election on Wednesday night.
As is customary on these occasions a chairman and vice chairman are elected.
And this was where a committee that we thought could sink no lower in competence than its predecessor showed just how wrong we were.
For the space of half an hour, in a swelteringly hot room, the committee received two nominations for a chairman which failed on a vote that split politically – if that’s how you describe an anti-UKIP alliance – 7:7.
Undeterred, alternatives were sought.
How about a job share between the two nominees on the basis of six months each?
What about a lottery to pick a chairman?
How about a temporary chairman – just for the night?
At one point the suggestion was made that they simply packed up and went home – until it was remembered that they had an agenda and that members of the public were in the chamber to witness this sorry saga.
Eventually – and only after the idea was initially rejected, a vote was taken to allow the meeting to be chaired by an officer for the evening.
Such a move is almost unheard of, and suggests that a few councillors need lessons on the direction known as UP.
BTAC – which we shall continue to refer to as B-TACky after this week’s fiasco – is supposed to be the “parish council” for the town wards, and ought therefore to be above petty politics..
Its membership comprises seven UKIP councillors, four Tories, two Labour and one “Independent” who is really a Tory.
Between them the non-UKIP members joined forces to ensure that anything that might benefit a UKIP member was unable to happen – which interestingly saw the Torindy Alison Austin and two Labour councillors snuggle up with the Conservatives.
So, the members started as they presumably mean to go on – playing silly games, rather than thinking of the electors of the wards they represent.
It is always a pleasure to encounter and admire a group of politicians who know what they want, and stand up for it.
But what do you make of a bunch of childish councillors who don't even know what they don’t want, and who are effectively willing to pee on the voters rather than behave like adults.
When first we saw Boston Borough Council’s latest innovation, we mistook it for another of the bizarre stunts normally associated with Transported’s arty-farty luvvies.
Beneath the headline “Dog poo slalom for children walking to school,” Boston’s GTSN reported that council staff have taken the novel step of painting piles of dog droppings pink to show their owners how many there were, and how thoughtless it was to leave them on the ground.
As a slalom is defined as “a race that follows a zigzag course, laid out with markers such as flags,” we were bemused by the choice of noun – until we remembered that Worst Street stuck flags in dog turds in Central Park a couple of years ago.
Had they perhaps combined the two actions into an exciting sport for the summer holidays, we wondered?
Of course not – and we are not saying that the problem is anything other than anti-social and thoroughly vile.
But yet again, Boston Borough Council is elevating local troubles to the top of the agenda – and losing sight of the big problems facing the borough as a whole.
Not only that – but as with the flagging campaign – the council warns that dog mess it presents a serious health hazard especially to children, but then declares “the pink-sprayed poo will be left for a few days to act as a guilty reminder to offending dog owners before a borough council team cleans it all away.”
So who's to blame is a child receives an infection in the interim?
Credit for that goes to New York – no, not our near neighbours, but the other one they call the Big Crapple – where a vigilante with a paint spray has been outlining unwanted faecal contributions in green spray paint (see photo above.)
If you'd like to explore this distasteful subject further the link here
will show you more examples of excremental art.
Were it not for the fact that our local “newspapers” seize upon the illustrated freebies written for them in Worst Street – which also helps them justify using a photo of the unpleasant sight of a pile of fluorescent pink dog shite when otherwise they might think twice – far fewer people might be offended had this unpleasantness been confined to the Boston Daily Bulletin.
A reader who is becoming increasingly exercised by the irrelevance and trivialness of the “publication” recently used a freedom of information request to find out exactly how many people ask for this intellectual treat to be delivered to their computer mailboxes each weekday morning.
Back came the reply: “There are 784 email addresses in our mailing list” – and in an effort to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, the council added “this also includes secondary schools and colleges which then are forwarded onto pupils to receive.”
We don’t know about you, but somehow we find the idea of today’s “yoof” gagging for the latest drivel that the council has to offer through the sanctuary of their school or college almost as ridiculous at the material that they receive.
Surely, with so much being spent to "entertain" so few, there is a question of value for money that needs asking in these straitened financial times.
As if we didn’t have enough by way of troubles, one of our local “newspapers” is celebrating the possibility that Lincolnshire will become the new place for Londoners to exploit.
We especially liked the idea that “Prime real estate in Lincolnshire is being snapped up as buy-to-let investments by London based first-time buyers as they are priced out of the capital.
“With the average house price in London reaching an eye-watering £514,000, people seeking property are being drawn towards Lincolnshire where the average cost of a home is £384,000 cheaper than in London and for just £130,000 in Lincolnshire buyers can expect a two-bed semi with a garage and a good-sized garden.
“With these figures buyers are quite rightly tempted away from the capital to counties like Lincolnshire as they are able to get much more square footage for their money.
“Even though the sacrifice is that these buyers won’t be living in the property as they continue to rent themselves in the capital it makes financial sense.
“Many first-time buyers want to get on the property ladder but aren’t prepared to give up their London life and jobs and this is the compromise.”
How generous and brave of these people to buy our houses – thus denying local people the chance – to produce enough income to keep them in style in London ... and, as inevitably happens, drive local prices still further beyond the reach of the locals.
Finally, many thanks to those readers who sent their best wishes to Mrs Eye – whose help with this blog is indispensable.
She is recovering slowly but steadily from major emergency surgery – it will be some time before she is leading anything like a normal life, but is gaining strength as the days go by.
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