By the end of the first first hundred days – way back in 2011, which saw the Tories wrench control from the lamentable Boston Bypass Independent Party – we had at least sniffed a scent of action in the air ... even though the Tories were as startled as everyone else when they won control of Boston and had no real ideas in mind about what they would do.
A cabinet was cobbled together which looked good on paper but proved to have a few lame ducks in the badling – since when the story is history.
Worst Street’s leadership lumbered along, spending a fortune on the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre and little else and even had the nerve to claim credit for some of the few achievements that the BBI had accomplished.
Fast forward four years, and we are now nearing the end of the second first hundred days of Tory leadership – and what a difference between this quadrennial anniversary and the previous one...
The popular vote this time around was by no means unambiguous.
Before the farting around which passes for politics in Boston there were 13 Conservative councillors, 13 UKIP councillors, two Tory wolves in Independent clothing, and two Labour members who have emerged as much the same.
Bring on the wooden spoon to stir the mixture up, and we ended up with 13 Tories, 12 UKIP, one “unaligned” Kipper who fell out with his chums and took his ball away, two avowed “Independents” who suddenly became Soft Tories, and Labour – which seems similarly to have sold its heritage for a mess of pottage.
A lacklustre cabinet has replaced ... a lacklustre cabinet – with four of the previous team that performed so lamentably still at the helm, joined by three newcomers who seem determined to remain as anonymous as the day that they were appointed.
The only thing that hasn’t changed much seems to be the determination to hurl hundreds of thousands of pounds at the Moulder and the PRSA – purportedly to save us throwing more money at the Moulder and the PRSA.
You’re forgiven if you are feeling confused.
Instead of seeking to maintain momentum, the first thing that happened was that the Conservative group decided that a fifty-fifty voting split between themselves and UKIP meant that the electorate wanted nothing of the sort.
Not at all – whilst voters apparently opted for significant change, the Tories decided unilaterally that what they really wanted was the same turgid, sour mixture as before in the shape of the status quo.
After a week of conniving, they concocted a grubby deal with the rump of the BBI in the polymorphic shape of Clan Austin – reviled for years by the Tories, but suddenly welcome at the Worst Street banqueting table – and also have Labour chasing in their wake like seagulls behind a trawler.
Sadly, it seems that UKIP merely laid back and thought of England during this debacle without raising any protest whatever.
The result is that a party supported by almost half the voters has allowed itself to be humiliated and side-lined without a whimper of protest.
However, one ray of light and the end of the tunnel has arrived in the shape of an e-mail from UKIP’s deputy group leader Councillor Paul Noble.
He tells us: “At the last full council meeting on 20th July, the UKIP group attempted to limit the new Chief Executive's salary to £90,000 with no automatic annual, incremental increase, in an attempt to save Boston council taxpayers some money, but this motion was defeated by the 'soft coalition' votes of Conservative, Labour and 'Independent' members.
“The UKIP group intends to put several motions on the agenda of the next full council meeting in attempts to influence policy and to allow Boston voters to see that UKIP councillors are taking a pro-active approach to their new responsibilities.
“We aim to hold the present executive to account through our work on the various committees and to scrutinise its actions with greater effect than heretofore.”
Good news – but not, apparently, for our local “newspapers” which barely mentioned the UKIP challenge over the Chief Executive’s pay.
So, what has happened since that Hundred Day War of so-called politicians, we hear you cry?
There is really no other word to use than... hi-ber-nation.
Boston has since prepared for a big winter sleep – one which will certainly last until the next election in 2019 and probably beyond.
The so-called leader Bedford has been voted into office for the period – and a Chief Officer with already almost three decades of service at Worst Street is clearly not now planning to move on, and could be here for another twenty.
As Boston enters the political cave for a long winter of discontent, how might the powers that be see their surrender?
Doubtless the inept but optimistic among them will liken their hibernating selves to a bear – popular, cuddly, brave, huge, powerful, intelligent, industrious and admirable.
But let’s not forget that tortoises hibernate as well – and their resemblance to our leaders is far closer to the mark.
Slow, dull-witted, cold blooded, thick skinned, clumsy, uncharismatic, pretty well spineless – and reluctant to come out of their shell.
The bottom line is that the council’s inactivity most probably has a purpose.
It’s short of money, short on ideas, and in denial at the growing move to merge district councils with county authorities which themselves will then amalgamate into regional super councils.
A good hint that such a proposal will come to pass can be found in the dismissal of such ideas by the so-called leader.
Ironically, our earlier comments about UKIP have been echoed by one of their own councillors – although he dedicates his fiercest criticism to the so-called council leader.
Brian Rush, a long-time sparring partner of leader Bedford tells us: “UKIP supporters will have quite rightly been massively disappointed with the election outcome, and may feel there is little to celebrate, considering that it seems they, and they alone, were the cause of successfully sacking a load of (far too) long sitting local councillors of all persuasions.
“However, they are now being forced to pay a heavy price for their early, but now unproductive, electoral success. Being so unfairly treated and denied even one single chairmanship, is ill-conceived, and portrays a distinct lack of political good judgement by the ruling group.
"Such schoolyard tactics smack of bitterly sour grapes.
“A switched-on leader, who, despite suffering the indignation of an occurrence such as the one referred to, would cannily have kept his future, or more importantly future colleagues’ options open, with an eye on the party’s future political prosperity.
“For such an experienced senior councillor to decide to stoop so undemocratically low so early in his term smacks of gross inadequacy.
“Would a more switched-on leader not have recognised the value that might have been gleaned by offering at least one insignificant, lead committee seat and one or two equally minor positions to such a numerous opposition group as UKIP. This is an opportunity wasted, and future co-operation denied.
“Now, instead, this council will suffer a backlash driven by disappointment, as a result of a rather childish tantrum from what can rightly be described, as a cobbled together, and largely inadequate and inexperienced ruling group.
“Although some kind of knee-jerk reaction was to be expected, such a display of un-Tory political vandalism was unexpected coming from such a long serving and experienced councillor.
“What little credibility he once had will now have dissipated, and the reactions of a disenfranchised opposition might create a most unsatisfactory situation, the origins of which will definitely and directly be laid at the feet of the present Conservative Leader – whose political value following the loss of his own long held county seat, appears to now be in free fall.
“New young Boston borough Tories have had to gulp down their first, but not, last. few drops of political respect – all entirely the fault of that awful UKIP.
“The party has been forced to bid a final fond farewell to what once was a glorious and successful past.
“Imagine the shame felt of watching once proud Conservatives forced into having to go cap in hand to a once highly-criticised leader of what was once considered by proper Tories to be nothing more than a bunch of jumped up crass political upstarts!
“Yet here, in 2015, we ironically see Councillor P. Bedford having to grovel and beg for support from the last two vestiges of the original founders of the once highly criticised Boston Bypass Independents.
“Could any pill have taken so much swallowing, and tasted quite as bitter as the one administered gleefully, no doubt, by one Councillor and Mayor Richard Austin, whose support is now regarded as a vital lifeline for the desperate Conservatives!
“The ghosts of past Conservatives must be spinning violently in their graves – and it is singularly, the fault of one man ... Councillor P. Bedford.
“Once fiercely proud Conservatives will forever remember but choose to forget as quickly as possible ‘The Bedford effect!’
“The thought of being forced to grovel to the last two former Bypassers – whose own swansong cannot be very far away – and the shame of having to hold open this unearned door of opportunity once more for them to prance through, must really have rankled.
“As for UKIP, no wobblies have been thrown, no dissenting comments have been flung around, no complaints in the press – even though they polled about equal with the Conservatives and are now marginalised, if not totally ignored, and dismissed by the people.
“They have to continue to believe that their day will come, though in reality, are so dependent on a referendum outcome that their time of greatness may be short-lived.
“Political strength is born of unity of purpose, harmonised by a voluntary political agreement.
“I think the people of Boston may be in for a four year rocky ride and UKIP might yet prove to be the borough's salvation .... politically speaking. “
Reference in the above piece to the Bedford Effect reminds us that just a few weeks ago he was telling us: “One of my responsibilities as leader of Boston Borough Council is to encourage and assist in any way we can, economic regeneration.
“That might sound a bit fancy. In essence it means that I do all I can to make Boston a better place to do business in ...“
As surely as night follows day came reports that Norprint – one of Boston’s oldest and biggest employers – had called in the receivers and had sacked 100 people, whilst its parent company on the same site in Horncastle Road ... Magnadata ... had been sold to a Hull-based specialist printer, BemroseBooth Paragon.
Immediate word on the street was that the entrance to the site has been monitored for some time, possibly to support a claim that building houses – and perhaps even a care home on it – would not increase the traffic flow.
Once the news broke, leader Bedford was quick to state the obvious: "The announcement of the redundancies will have been devastating news for all of the company's employees.
"Although only a small offer to those affected, we will be very happy to help anyone who needs to apply for housing benefit, council tax support or universal credit and can offer appointments Monday to Thursday every half hour starting from 9am until 4.30pm."
As he said, this was only a small offer – but how much bigger it could have been had the borough abandoned its Poet’s Day mind-set.
The help was announced on Friday – the day after that staff were sacked – and many would surely have welcomed an appointment then … rather than suffer throughout Friday and the weekend.
Not only that, but a week after the redundancies there was still no information about help and advice on either the borough’s website or in its lamentable bulletin.
And – although the announcement was indeed devastating – it did not come as news to Councillor Bedford.
He told the husband of a Norprint worker who lost her job after twenty years: “It is very sad but not unexpected news.
“I have a few friends who work there and they have been telling me for a while now that this would happen.
“Let's hope the receivers can sell this on to a company to operate from a smaller site in Boston area which then may make it a viable company again. (Boston’s MP) Matt Warman is already involved and we as a council will do all we can to retain this in Boston.”
Unfortunately, the arrival of the receivers is usually a court of last result ... and if the experts can’t make a go of the business, it seems doubtful that someone else will want to try.
In view of his reply, Councillor Bedford was asked: “As the council were expecting this, how have the officers and councillors been working with the management of Norprint to find a solution?
“As it was the receivers that have made the staff redundant, I can only assume that they had tried to find a buyer for the business but have failed, hence the closure and redundancies.”
Back came the reply: “I had been told personally not the council please do not try to put your own thoughts on this. Until these things surface the council cannot be involved in rumours. As stated before we will do all we can as council (sic) and have already been in touch with Jobcentre Plus and others.”
So, it appears that – like Oscar Wilde’s Ernest Worthing – our leader is the Boston equivalent of “Ernest in town, and Jack in the country” ... able to act upon events such as the Norprint catastrophe “officially” only once they become public whilst knowing that the axe was due to fall some time ago “privately.”
If we were he, our conscience would be troubled – but fortunately, we are not.
Perhaps Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde might be a more appropriate metaphor.
Clearly, as a new kid in town our MP Matt Warman avoided any such conflicts.
But we are told that he was left wrong-footed after only hearing the news of the closures from a staffer who saw some speculation on a local “newspaper” website.
Similarly, we understand that he upset a few of the newly sacked Norprint staff by posting on his Facebook page: "Jobcentre Plus have assured me they are already working closely with all those affected who need their help.
"I will do everything I can to support people in claiming redundancy or benefits and of course in finding new positions."
The reason that the jobless staff were upset was because they claimed to have heard nothing of this – and felt that Mr Warman should have made contact with them first.
News of the death of former Councillor Margaret Haworth was accompanied by a tribute from Boston’s Chief Executive Phil Drury, who said: “She was possibly one of the most formidable, challenging and enthusiastic people I have ever met.
“She had Boston at heart always and even when no longer a councillor she still regularly visited the offices unannounced and attended planning committee meetings.
“She was totally committed to the town and its people.”
We remember Mrs Haworth well, and agree with Mr Drury… whom we suspect will find no need to dust down his tribute when the bell tolls for some of our more recent councillors...
Leisure and Open spaces portfolio holder Claire Rylott has started to find a voice after doubtless being dumbstruck by her appointment to the cabinet in May.
She was recently banging the drum for the Boston in Bloom event and after that waxed lyrical about the Boston Gateway project.
This is another uninspiring piece of nonsense from the Transported project, which is thankfully moving into the final phase of its three year, £2½ million spending splurge.
The idea is to display posters along the route from Boston railway station and bus station to the cut-price St Botolph’s footbridge.
Enter Councillor Rylott: “Improving the appearance of the busy pedestrian corridor between Boston railway station, the bus station, B&M open space and the Stump is a priority,” she warbled.
Is it really?
We can’t recall ever hearing it mentioned until now, and it certainly wasn't on the Tories’ manifesto at election time.
And what’s all this nonsense about the B&M open space?
We think that Councillor Rylott must mean the chaotic car park outside the shop – but apparently thinks that calling it an “open space” will give it a more pastoral ambience.
Mention of Boston in Bloom reminds us of our accusation that the effort that goes into winning a badge from the Royal Horticultural Society (even though everyone who enters gets some sort of recognition regardless) is strictly limited to making the route that the borough maps out for the judges look attractive – while the rest of us can go and stick our heads up a bear’s bum.
Pictured above right is an example that we posted on our Twitter page a couple of weeks ago.
This “display” stands at the junction of four major roads in Boston – and is passed each day by thousands of people either on foot or in their cars.
Frankly, the only person we can imagine getting any satisfaction from such a display would be the likes of Miss Haversham – the spurned bride in Dickens’s Great Expectations.
The choice of phrase that makes a crowded and badly laid-out car park sound like an oasis typifies Boston borough council’s patronising mentality which yet again treats us taxpayers as if we are a little soft in the head.
A similar tack was adopted by the head of Clan Austin during his comments on the news that Boston has the lowest reported incidents of racially motivated hate crimes in Lincolnshire.
Out of 57 incidents reported countywide only eight were in Boston.
Councillor Richard Austin – who is struggling manfully but unsuccessfully to try to tart up the world view of Boston – reportedly declared: “I think it's great news ... I think it helps enhance the image of Boston.”
In what way?
“Crikey, that Boston sounds like a nice place to live. There’s only a 0.012% chance of falling victim of a racially motivated hate crime, compared with a 0.00779% chance in Lincolnshire as a whole.
“That’s a greater risk than the county overall.”
“Oh, I didn't realise ... “
The reality is that such figures – were they even known to intending visitors or residents – would doubtless have no effect on them at all ... and certainly not “enhance the image of Boston.”
It’s perhaps a sign of how badly Councillor Austin is struggling to “promote Boston to the wider world.”
It’s now some weeks since he appealed for favourable comments about what made the town “a special place” which could be posted on the internet to alert the wider world to what a wonderful place the town is.
Immediately there was a rush of enthusiastic comments – though unfortunately, most of them appeared to have been cooked-up “in-house” and therefore had little, if any, credibility.
In the month since then the list has remained virtually untouched.
But an interesting addition to the webpage featuring the mayor’s campaign comes from the town’s police “chief.” who has attempted to soothe us with statistics to show how safe Boston is.
He does this by comparing crime figures for Boston with those of Lincoln, Nottingham and Peterborough – because “in recent years Boston has been compared to London, Nottingham and even New York (the one in the United States and not the one near Coningsby!)”.
Whilst we can’t recall such comparisons, he then goes on “for the sake of clarity” to compare crime levels per 1,000 population.
He then tells us: “By these measures, Boston is safer than Lincoln, Nottingham and Peterborough.”
This may be so – but so what?
Nottingham, with a population of 310,000 has 30,300 crimes annually in the categories listed – whilst Boston, with a population of around 65,000 has 4,680 ... which is more than enough for a place like this.
Boston is a medium sized market town, whilst Nottingham is a large industrialised city.
Chalk and cheese.
Unfortunately, the figures that we are not told are far more significant.
The most recent figures for overall crime in Lincolnshire – which is where we’re really interested in – show that he is right when he says that Boston is safer than that Hell’s Kitchen they call Lincoln.
But what he doesn’t tell us is that, not only is Boston second only to Lincoln for crime, but that it is mean streets ahead of the other Lincolnshire districts.
Boston is almost 20 crimes per thousand ahead of neighbouring East Lindsey – and 40.1 crimes per thousand head of population than North Kesteven.
These figures paint a different picture entirely – one which it seems that our local sheriff didn’t want us to know.
Fear of crime is the main engine which drives the feelings of local people, and until those fears are dispelled people will continue to feel unsafe.
The fact is that parts of Boston do not feel safe – regardless of what the statistics may say.
A more visible police presence would be of great help.
Perhaps we could coax the PCSO’s out of the cars that they so rapidly acquired within months of being formed as “extra bobbies on the beat.”
And far be it from us to suggest that a word or two was put into the writer’s mouth in his contribution to Boston Borough Council – it must merely be coincidence that he chose to say: “Boston is a town on the up with a proud history and a great future ahead.”
Of course it must.
Things are just not going well for Councillor Austin’s “isn’t Boston grand” campaign.
Not only have the police got their sums wrong on the crime figures, but our local chief also chortles that anti-social behaviour is down by “a staggering 28 per cent over the same period.”
Whilst that may well be true ... the claim had some of the shine taken off it by Monday’s Boston Borough Council Bulletin (circulation 784) which again chose to lead on an shameful story about the town.
“Hatter Lane is locked down!” trumpeted the headline. “The trouble-hit Boston alley now has keypad control gates at either end to prevent problems of drinking, drug taking and associated anti-social behaviour.”
Good work, Worst Street!
All this fuss over a highly localised issue – just like the brouhaha over the pink dog poo mountain in Kirton and the hidden drinking den in the park built by young people for the purposes of holding orgies and perhaps even human sacrifice and cannibalism.
We think that it might be a good time for Councillor Austin to quit his campaign.
Not matter how hard he tries, Worst Street is forever coming at him from out of the sun to shoot his campaign down in flames – using the very organ that is supposed to publicise the borough!
Further signs that Boston lacks drive and initiative continue to pour in.
Recently, we saw the Woodhall Spa’s 40s weekend prove such a crowd magnet that visitors to the village had to park on the outskirts and walk in.
It’s reckoned that at least 10,000 people attended the event, with similar, record, numbers at Revesby Country Fair.
The Heckington Show drew more than 30,000 visitors and more than 85,000 attended events in the recent East Lindsey SO Festival.
At the end of this month, there will be a bank holiday weekend festival of food and drink in Spalding.
All around us district councils and enthusiastic groups are organising events both large and small that pull in massive crowds of both locals and visitors alike.
But what does Boston have to offer?
The most recent event was a Vintage A Fayre – a small cluster of stalls mostly selling what looked ... and on occasion smelled like ... second hand clothes – which came and went with little if any publicity and which was purportedly “organised” by Boston Borough Council.
Is that it for this year, then?
We’re now in August – and there is still no word about events for Christmas.
The millions spent on “refurbishing” the Market Place have produced nothing more than a stone wilderness where pedestrians take their lives in their hands if they try to cross it.
This was supposed to be an area of opportunity – a showcase which would see a wide variety of activities taking place on a regular basis.
But clearly, this is not a “priority” like the Boston Gateway project – which can only lead to disappointment once visitors reach the wasteland at the end of the yellow brick road.
Finally, not merely content with taking a month to replace a set of traffic lights, with all the ensuing traffic chaos that this entails, Lincolnshire County Council has decided to make motorists drive through hoops as well.
Tawney Street is closed for the duration of the road works, and diversion signs have been set up to “help” drivers.
Take a look at this example.
If you are driving along Norfolk Street towards Tawney Street, you will see the following sign which reads: “Tawney Street Closed. For Tawney Street and crematorium follow diversion."
So far so good.
This takes you to the traffic light junction with Tawney Street to the right (which is accessible and open to vehicles at this end) and Marian Road, to the left, which leads to the crematorium.
But the diversion is clear – go straight on.
This takes you to the junction of Norfolk Street and Horncastle Road, where you turn right.
You are now approaching the Wide Bargate roundabout junction with Spilsby Road and John Adams Way – and there the diversion ends.
If you don’t know the area, you might wrongly turn into Spilsby Road ... and get lost at this point,.
Or you might wrongly turn on to John Adams Way ... and get lost.
If you head towards Wide Bargate you will reach the end of Tawney Street that is closed to traffic.
But en route you will encounter another diversion sign, which takes you back towards Horncastle Road.
You then turn back into Norfolk Street and shortly return the junction with the open end of Tawney Street on the left, and Marian Road and the crematorium to the right.
SO ... all of this unnecessary manoeuvring returns you to the point where the diversion began.
Many thanks, Lincolnshire County Council!
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