Friday, 30 October 2015

It came as no surprise that emotions ran high after Boston Borough Council’s announcement that it had taken us all for a ride with its false promise of a free garden waste collection.
Unsurprisingly, the debate is on-going – and Boston Borough Council is at great pains to encourage us all to take part in a “consultation”

Questionnaires are available either by struggling along to collect a hard copy from Worst Street.
Or you can complete one online.
Or two …
Or ten …
Or twenty …
In fact …you can fill in as many as you like.
A fly in the consultation ointment has been drawn to our attention which appears to let you vote as often as you wish – which of course discredits the entire exercise and makes it worthless … or manipulable, which means that it can be biased towards whoever wants to impose their particular view.
If it wasn’t aware of this already, we hope that Worst Street will take note of the problem – throw away the answers submitted so far, and replace their shonky quiz with something more robust that includes software to prevent anonymous personation … if that’s not a contradiction in terms.


In last week’s issue we expressed disappointment that our MP Matt Warman had entered the debate without apparently being as au fait as he ought to have been. And he added insult to injury as the debate developed on the social networking site Twitter.
He declared that there was “no debacle” in “regrettably” bringing Boston into line with surrounding councils – even though that was not the reason that Worst Street offered for charging.
In fact all that has been mentioned is unaffordability of the scheme against a continuing background of central government funding cuts.
However, things might not perhaps have been so bad had the council dug its heels in a little.
In his apologia for the affair, finance portfolio holder Aaron, Councillor Spencer, said: "No one would argue that things are not tight and getting tighter. The council has done well so far; doing its bit to help the country and, so far, without cutting services, but difficult decisions will have to be made."
We don’t know about you, but we don’t recall being asked to elect our councillors for them to do their bit to help the country.
We seem to recall that they asked for our vote because they wanted to do things for Boston – but they now seem to have changed their minds.
But back to Mr Warman.
Urging people to take part in the council’s unreliable consultation, he added “personally the case is powerful” by which we presume that he meant he favoured charging for the service.
As the debate rumbled on, he became more entrenched.
“I'm not sure asking people who use a service such as this to pay is unreasonable…” he wrote, and when asked “why are you so reluctant to stand up for poor paid locals” responded: “It's not reluctance; it's about asking if the biggest issue low paid face is paying for brown bin!”
The answer to that is a clear no – but when you have little money and someone demands more of it, you don’t sit around grading the issues by importance.
Throughout the debate he remained obdurate, and sadly decided to remain onside with Worst Street.
He found the absence of the word “free” in the manifesto that promised to “continue” the green waste collection – even though the alternative to paying for it is to see the service end – to be “conspicuous.”
Another piece of word blindness was to comment: “I agree public often don't make distinction between new and old administration when no change of control” – presumably supporting the weasel-worded statement from the council in September last year that “the borough council's administration has confirmed that it will stick to its promise and there will be no introduction of a charge for collection in its term of office…”
When he drew us into the debate with the claim that “The eye concedes it was not a manifesto commitment” we decided to tell him that: “What the Eye ‘conceded’ was that Worst Street was lining us up for a promise to be broken.”
Back came the response: “I’m not sure that's fair. Local manifesto (which obviously I don't write) doesn't say 'free'…”
It’s interesting to note the defence of the local Tories whilst pointing out that what they said was “nothing to do with me, guv” – a clear sign of double standards at work.
At this point, we accused Mr Warman of being disingenuous – with the reaction: “I can't believe you are only interested in your version of story, or that you think I can let 'disingenuous' go unchallenged.”
Unchallenged it went – because at this point we declared the conversation closed.
But we stand by the use of the word disingenuous – which is defined as: “pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.”
Our blog last week showed example after example of Boston Borough Council promising a free-forever service – a promise that clearly has been broken, and which Mr Warman chose to overlook … instead, calling it “our” version of the story.
The story is in the public domain.
The untruth is out there.
For some reason Mr Warman has chosen to overlook a great deal.
As a one-time journalist he must surely have heard the edict “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story” – and seems to have taken it fully on board.
Had he bothered either to read our blog – which he dismisses so rudely – or get his researcher to check things out, he might well have decided that discretion was the better part of valour.


Poor Mr Warman. Even though there is no need, he publicly takes sides with Boston Borough Council’s Tory leadership – which must be among the worst in the country in the popularity stakes.
His predecessor, Mark Simmonds, used to stay clear of this sort of stuff ... with the downside that he was “named and shamed” by ‘Nipper’ Bedford for not spending enough time in the constituency.
Whether this influenced Mr Warman, we do not know.
But through his communications with the voters he appears to be leaning too far towards being seen as “our “best mate” whilst at the same time not taking us too seriously.


Last weekend he dug the hole even deeper – with one of his off the cuff announcements following yet another death in the town – which again provoked criticism.
The headline was: “Boston MP voices concern over violence as police launch murder investigation…”
If it sounded familiar it may be because the wording was very similar to the headline back in June that read: “MP: ‘Extremely concerning serious violent crimes’ raised with Home Secretary.”
Talking the talk is one thing...

“I continue to work relentlessly with the Home Office and the police to push for greater local resources so we can tackle the challenges we all know are facing Boston.
“I believe complex issues around housing, anti-social behaviour and violence are all part of one deeply concerning, difficult problem and I will not rest when it comes to making sure they are tackled at every possible level.”

… but we really need to see him walking the walk as well.
Until we do, we shall remain fearful that our MP may be showing signs of early onset AMANTS – the dreaded All Mouth And No Trousers Syndrome often displayed by politicians in particular.


We don’t know about you, but we were less than comforted by the statement issued by “Boston Chief Superintendent” Paula Wood after the latest violence in the town last weekend.
"In spite of this latest tragedy Lincolnshire remains a low crime county with one of the lowest rates for violent crime in the country,” she said.
"This is one of seven very serious offences involving murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or wounding with intent to endanger life in the Boston area this year. These offences and the number of them are very unusual for Boston and the wider county …
"Three offences have resulted in people losing their lives whilst in another four other people were seriously injured or almost died …
"I understand the fears of the Boston community, I am concerned that they are afraid of the risk of their families or themselves coming to harm.
"I would reassure people that all these incidents have involved violence within homes, they are not random attacks and the victims and the offenders are believed to have known each other.
“We need to redouble our efforts and refresh our messages to try to prevent or limit more crimes of a similar nature. I am particularly worried about the part that abuse of alcohol has played in many of the incidents.
"There will be additional police officers and police community support officers on the streets of Boston … 

that'll do it ...

"I would encourage members of the public to approach them with information and to discuss any fears and problems that they may have."
Fine words – but …
We sympathise with the police and their inability to do anything other than close the stable door after the horse has bolted.
As is implied, crimes such as these are almost impossible to prevent – so quite what additional street patrols will achieve is anyone’s guess.
And whilst Chief Superintendent Wood claims to understand our feelings, this does not stop people avoiding certain areas of the town where problems are known to be more prevalent.
This is not us making it up – we have knowledge of such things.
And what of the town itself …?
A few weeks ago we saw West Street closed after a stabbing incident.
In August and September we saw Red Lion Street declared an anti-social behaviour “hotspot” prompting a 48-hour police dispersal order and increased patrols – with another being imposed earlier this month in the town centre.
What this suggests is that it is now too late to turn back the clock in Boston.
The roots of the problem cannot be dug out – and all the police can do is to make token gestures and offer false assurances.


We would also take issue with Chief Superintendent Wood’s statement that “Lincolnshire remains a low crime county with one of the lowest rates for violent crime in the country.”
With so much violence in Boston in such a short space of time we Googled “murder capital of the UK” – and found Lincolnshire in third place.
These are the figures per head of the population for last year…

Lincolnshire: “one of the lowest rates for violent crime in the country
Bedfordshire topped this list for 2014, followed by South Yorkshire.
Then – in third place came … Lincolnshire where 12 murders were recorded.
London and the West Midlands completed the “top” five.
Of last year’s murders, it is not easy to find how many were committed in Boston.
You might think that one good source would be the Police UK website which provides detailed local statistics.
Strangely, though, the list of “crime types” offered for comparison does not include murder – although it stoops as low as shoplifting and cycle theft.
Sadly – as we reported last week –  the police hierarchy these days equates efficiency with low cost … as it did after Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary warned that the force required improvement in terms of how efficient it is at” “keeping people safe and reducing crime.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick said, “We remain the lowest cost police force of any in England and Wales. That looks like an efficient police force to me.”
But he would say that, wouldn’t he?
Perhaps the police might like to reconsider in the wake of the Boston experience – which might well help propel Lincolnshire to the top of the next Murder League Tables.


Still, if the police are finding it tough to keep on top of crime Boston Borough Council seems happy to step into the breach.
Another of these boastful pieces in Worst Street’s Goody Two Shoes News (circulation 783, cost £11.06 a day) asks: “did you know that there is a mobile CCTV system in operation, travelling the streets of the borough five days every week?”
It goes on to tell us that the council’s bin lorries are each equipped with four CCTV cameras, “offering 360 degree non-stop recording as they go about their business.”
Whilst the prime function of the spies in the flies is the safety and protection of the crew and the public and improved efficiency and customer service, Worst Street gloatingly dribbles that another useful side effect is to pursue one of its other main hobbies – the persecution of the taxpayers.
“The cameras have already proved useful in providing evidence in cases of driving without due care and attention – one in which an impatient car driver put the bin men in danger by overtaking the lorry on the footpath,” reports GTSN.
Councillor Michael Brookes, Boston’s Portfolio holder for Rubbish- a hotly contested job - said: “The lorries were equipped principally for our own benefit, but the cameras are proving worthwhile in other areas.
“Properly authorised agencies, such as the police, can review the footage to aid criminal investigations, for instance.
“They are all-seeing eyes on the vehicles which travel along every road in the borough where there is refuse to be collected.”
George Orwell’s famous novel 1984 was considered wildly over the top when it first appeared – predicting as it did a dystopian society that spied on everyone, everywhere beneath the warning Big Brother is Watching You.
But 1984 sounds like a nursery rhyme compared with what they get up to in Boston these days.
Our only disappointment is that none of the cameras that abound in Boston has ever recorded any of the countless promises made by Councillor Mike Brookes that our green waste service would never be charged for.


Just when we were beginning to think that Independent Conservative Councillor Alison Austin might not have much of a sense of humour, this appeared on Twitter.

Unfortunately, she neglected to include a left-to-right caption.


The picture came from another of those events put on whether we want them or not by Transported – our local band of luvvies which this week gleefully trumpeted the news that it had been given more money to keep going for another three years.
Transported is now almost at the end of its three year £2.5 million blitz on our patience, and is now to receive another £700,000 to serve up the mixture as before until 2019.
During that time it has Transported Boston – to somewhere like Never Never Land.
We have posters here, there and everywhere – in the streets and on dust carts, we have people in deckchairs slumped around the town centre, whilst other dress as camels or in other comic ways

According to the blurb “Transported aims to break down the barriers preventing people from taking part in arts and culture, especially in rural communities, by finding creative ways to take the arts to where people come together; in market places, food factory canteens, the school gate or village greens.”
And programme director Nick Jones says that the new money "will enable us to carry on important and exciting work ... our work with private sector companies, including art on lorries, has been an inspiration to us and them at the potential value arts can offer the private sector.
“Boston Borough Council have embraced the opportunity to work with Transported to develop exciting and ambitious plans for public festivals that harness high levels of participation and celebrate local history, especially exciting in the run up to the Mayflower 400 international celebration, of which Boston is an important element.
“And of course Transported has allowed thousands of residents to have a go or enjoy great art locally, and we will now focus on work with them to enable them to carry on."
We hate to sound argumentative – but Boston Borough Council’s involvement with Transported is more likely because Worst Street gets something for nothing which it thinks earns it brownie points but in fact makes it a laughing stock.
And we bet that the powers that be are hoping for the arty-farties to get a further extension in 2019 – otherwise who will pay to mark the 400th anniversary of an event that has nothing to do with Boston?


As the recent Cabinet Question Time drew to a close, a clearly relieved ‘Nipper’ Bedford ended proceedings along the lines of … “You now know all our faces … all our names are on the website … you can contact any of us at any time …”
Whilst we never expected to be taking up the invitation so soon, we felt the need to after last week’s blog – in which we highlighted the Worst Street practice of paying officers through their own private companies.
Such an arrangement gives the recipients more favourable terms regarding tax payments and national insurance contributions than an officer employed under the more usual PAYE system – and costs the council far more than it needs to.
So, we emailed Aaron, Councillor Spencer – Boston’s Chancellor of the Exchequer – saying:

In light of the disclosures in today's Boston Eye I am writing to ask if you intend to review the present system under which some officers are paid through their private companies.
From the details issued by your council under the Freedom of Information Act it would seem that excessive payments are possibly being made through buying in services at a cost far higher than necessary.
Bearing in mind your recent comments on the need to save taxpayers’ money there seems to be little justification continuing to operate a system under which the borough council is spending tens - if not hundreds of thousands - of pounds more than it needs to without any extra benefit.

The email was sent at lunchtime last Friday.
When no reply had been received by Tuesday, we wrote again, requesting a response – but answer came there none.
This is arrogant, ignorant … and rude.
But sadly, not unexpected.
What a pity that one of our youngest councillors should feel so out of his depth  that a perfectly reasonable and polite request should be ignored.
We guess that we can expect more of the same.


The old saying that history repeats itself seems never truer when it is applied to UKIP in Lincolnshire.
Readers with not very long memories will recall the debacle that followed the Lincolnshire County Council elections, and which spilled over to muddy the political waters here in Boston.
It might have been hoped that the party would have learned from this – but it has not happened.
From the dizzy heights of almost seizing power at Worst Street, the party has managed the reverse alchemy of transmuting gold into base metal – high drama into low farce.
The most recent example began last Friday, when the party met to elect a new leader after the unexpected resignation of Councillor Sue Ransome after only a few months.
The selection process was supposed to be thoroughly democratic.
All but one member was there for the event after several alternative dates were ruled out by others for various reasons, and the plan was for a secret ballot after a personal presentation by candidates, followed by questions.
Superficially, this seemed fine – except that the absent councillor submitted a vote anyway ... which was duly counted even though it included an unasked for vote for a deputy.
Things went from bad to worse after the acting leader on the night, Councillor Jonathan Noble, apparently decided to retain the role for the evening along with a casting vote which he gave to himself when the ballot split 50:50.
The ensuing uproar ended any further attempts at electing a leader, and within hours a disagreement had become a major schism.
The group itself has now split 50:50, with Councillors Noble and Stephen Raven each leading a faction – a move that surely plays into the hands of what must be a delighted Tory leadership and its Labour and Independent lackeys.
Councillor Noble’s merry band will operate under the banner The UKIP Group ­ – whilst the remaining rump is registering under the official UKIP name.
What a waste of time.
Why it is that UKIP seems more interested in power, status and being the “leader” instead of knuckling down to the important job that needs doing in Boston.
Frankly, we doubt whether many Boston voters who helped elect UKIP supported the party’s national manifesto – except perhaps those who wrongly believed that local councillors had some influence over inward migration.
We think it most likely that they voted for the Kippers because they wanted at best, a change of control on Boston Borough Council, or failing that a strong and effective opposition.
Whilst they nearly got the first, they have lost out badly on the second.
All new councillors ought by now to have done their basic training and have a general idea of how to conduct themselves politically – but it seems that the Kippers failed to attend all lessons, resulting in some sorry ignorance.
The headline from all this which suggested itself to us ran along the lines of “Fractured Ukip Keeps Whinging In The Sidelines.”
Which would also create a descriptive acronym that slips easily off the tongue as well … FUKWITS.


It seems that every chance they get these days, our so-called leaders in Worst Street moan about the cuts that they must make to preserve services if at all possible.
But there are a couple of potential savings that they repeatedly choose to ignore for some unimaginable reason.
Staff and councillors still get free parking if on business – something that is said to cost about £100,000 a year.
The last time that this was challenged the official line was that staff were not being charged as it was thought they had “faced enough hardship” recently.
That was in 2010 - £300,000 ago.
The other potential for savings must be in the cost of the Mayor and office – which is around £80,000 a year.
There is no doubt that the title does not have the importance that it once did – and if could easily be cut back to a minor ceremonial role and would save tens of thousands … especially if the social civic functions were curtailed.
Amusingly some years ago when a scrutiny committee last looked at this, it produced the memorable line “cuts might make the public feel that the borough had no future.”
The council doesn't have to fund things like this.
They are termed discretionary – just like the green waste collection service and the provision of public toilets that the council is so keen to dispose of.


As we strolled into the Market Place last Friday, we were surprised to stumble across an additional market. It appear to be a cross between a continental market – we bought some excellent Old Dutch cheese – and a day out for demonstrators of wonder machines that chop or polish things as if by magic until you get them home.
We thought that this was strange as we had read nothing about it. After a lot of searching we discovered an entry for a Continental Market on the Thursday and Friday in Boston Borough Council’s Facebook page, - but nowhere else.
As this is Boston, there is no need to ask why this was so poorly promoted.
And talking of the Market Place – another thing we noticed was that is still littered with planters
A plan by the council was for previously unmentioned “further improvements” to replace them with fake cast iron bollards – nothing’s too good for us taxpayers – over a period of time.
We were told: In order to minimise disruption these works will be undertaken just a few bollards at a time over a period of two months.”
Work started on Monday August 24th – which by our reckoning is two months … and a week ... ago.
So has the plan been shelved?
Or has Boston Borough Council misinformed us?
Perish the thought that they should tell us something that wasn’t true.


Many years ago we created our own version of the Borough Coat of Arms, which we felt more accurately depicted life in the Worst Street council chamber – along with a re-worded motto.
Many recent readers may never have seen it – and we feel that there is now no better time to give it a second outing.

 It rings horribly true even now – doesn’t it?


As we all know, American Thanksgiving Day is coming at the end of November, when Boston will be staging an all-out celebration to replace Christmas.
Last year at around this time, we were being told of a gift from Boston Borough Council in the form of free parking in the run up to the festive season.
And yes, that promise was delivered.
But nothing has been mentioned to date as our picture below shows – although we hope that Worst Street's inclusion of Magnadata among the supporters is the result of a carelessness by our slapdash council harking back to last year, when the company contributed to the lights.

If not, we imagine that former Norprint employees who are now on the dole might have an opinion.
Like the Christmas carol, all is calm at the moment – which makes us wonder if a parking "present" will be yet another saving for our cash strapped council.


Speaking of which … a reader who last week made the journey to Manchester for a football match was astounded at the price of parking.
Trafford Council – a local authority district as is Boston – was making charges ranging between 20p for an hour to a maximum of £2 a day. And Blue Badge holders could park for free.
It also apologised for increasing the all-day charge from £1.70 back in June.


A report in the Goody Two Shoes News (circulation 783, cost £11.06 a day) told us that for the fifth year in a row the “PRSA hosts Special Olympics athletes.”
But why choose Boston, we hear you cry?
Well, the GTSN breathlessly informed us: “Athletes, coaches and parents always ask for this event to be held at the PRSA as the track and facilities are perfect for athletes with a disability.”
Has Worst Street forgotten so soon that before it was renamed the PRSA, the facility began life as the DABSI stadium – an acronym for Disabled and Able Bodied Sports Initiative.
It not so much a case of getting all of a twitter because one small group of special athletes visit for one day, once a year – but rather begs the question why do so few use it so infrequently, when the arena was purpose built with such events in mind.


Whilst it may not have been such a good week for our current MP, things continue to look up for his predecessor.
This week it was announced that Mark Simmonds had been appointed a non-executive director to the board of African Potash.
Simmonds is a former Foreign and Commonwealth Minister for Africa and a spokesman for the company said:  "We are delighted to welcome Mark to the board. His significant political experience, particularly within Africa, will be invaluable as we continue to roll-out our integrated fertiliser operations.”
By our reckoning this is the eighth appointment taken up by Mr Simmonds since he left parliament at the May election.
We cannot help wonder whether Boston might have been in a better state had he spent more time here and less in Africa in recent years – a view that puts us dangerously in agreement with ‘Nipper’ Bedford.


Finally, a message from the Editor, Malcolm Swire.
“At 6-15 this morning, I chalked up my three score years and ten – which is an excellent time on the road of life to consider where the signposts are leading.
I’ve been writing Boston Eye for the better – or worst – part of a decade in the hope that it might offer an outlet of some sort which would improve the quality of governance in Boston.
Sadly this has not been the case.
In recent months I have become even more bitterly disappointed at the increasing obduracy, ignorance and disregard shown by our local councillors towards the people who elected them, and what seems an almost wilful attempt to run the borough into the ground.
As the years have advanced and my health has declined in proportion, the time has come to appraise things.
Producing Boston Eye demands a lot of my time, sometimes as much as four days a week – and I have to decide whether to continue to spend around half of whatever remains of my life writing it is worth it.
The decision I have reached is …
My blessings on those faithful readers who have supported Boston Eye over the years, and followed it so loyally.
My thanks to former council leader Richard 'Papa Dick' Austin and his successor Pete 'Nipper' Bedford for making it all possible.
And a list like this would be incomplete without a mention of our local "newspapers – the Boston sub-Standard and the Boston off-Target.
Between them, these upholders of truth and openness have steadfastly taken at face value whatever has been supplied to them by Worst Street –  without question.
Seldom, if ever, in recent years have they questioned what were clearly bad decisions by Boston Borough Council.
In fact some weeks  huge amounts of the "news" that they carry is supplied by the council and printed often unedited ... sometimes even under their own reporter's byline.
As a journalist for more than half a century their behaviour fills me with shame.
Lastly, after the blessings, my curses on the numbnuts who made Boston Eye necessary in the first place – and who will doubtless gloat with victory when they read these words … without realising that they are the losers, not the winners...

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  1. An excellent edition this morning NBE although your footnote has left me feeling quite depressed and in a state of despair. Boston is going to be so much the poorer without your objective, erudite and always thoroughly researched comment. I have no doubt that the Worst Street 'disingenuous' who have so assiduously and recklessly mismanaged this Town and abused it’s voters, will be breaking out the champagne. More the fool them - their ignorance and arrogance is very apparent to those who take an interest in such matters. More people than they give credit for, methinks. Well done for fighting the cause for so long and in the face of such difficult challenges. We salute you and the entire Team Malcolm – you have earned a respect among the voters of Boston that those in Worst Street can only dream of. All the very best - Steve.

    1. "We sympathise with the police and their inability to do anything other than close the stable door after the horse has bolted."

      The stable door is still intact - but the stable has disappeared ...

  2. Thank you for 10 years of holding this appalling local 'authority' to account, Malcolm. It has been much appreciated! Best wishes, Neil.

  3. Thank you Malcolm for your weekly laser beam look at the Useless Silly Billies of Worst Street, they will be breathing a huge sigh of relief now not being held to account each week.

  4. R.I.P. Boston Eye. Epitaph: "Tell it like it is!"
    You will be sorely missed. If there's a new issue
    that really gets your fingers itching - feel free to alert
    us with a one off Christmas special?
    Arnie Schwarz... might encourage us with an 'I'll Be Back!'
    Otherwise enjoy your retirement.

  5. Will miss your weekly blogs but please don't drop the Twitter account !