Thursday, 29 December 2016

We are told that a number of voters in the St Thomas’ Ward – represented by Councillor Alison Austin  have not received a copy of her latest newsletter.
As we have no idea how many have been affected, we attach a copy so that all might enjoy Mrs Austin’s latest musings …

click to enlarge

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com  Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com 


We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston

Friday, 16 December 2016



Anyone listening to BBC Radio Lincolnshire or watching Look North this week would have come away with a depressing sense of having seen it all before, as people lined up to berate Boston Borough Council for its poor showing in the Christmas lights department.
A Facebook page attracted almost 90,000 visitors.
The condemnation was almost universal – and the ensuing news coverage produced the customary blame game that we have heard so often before.

***


Councillor Paul Skinner – who has performed so poorly in the past – again tried to wriggle out through political devices … when for once a simple, brief apology plus a “we’ll try to sort things out better next year” would have got him off the hook.
Instead, we heard that Worst Street had given ample warning that it could no longer finance luxuries such as Christmas lighting, and asked where taxpayers would rather see cuts being made.
We hate to seem repetitive, but the budget to run the mayor’s office is around £80,000 a year.
Shaving £35k from that to pay for the lights would still leave his worshipless almost a grand a week to party with his mayoral mates around Lincolnshire and beyond.
And of course, there is the £100,000 subsidy that sees councillors and staff park for nothing in a perk that no other public employees elsewhere enjoy.
Councillor Skinner also blamed local business for a lack of enthusiasm when asked to stump up towards the cost of celebrating Christmas – tediously reminding us that the council had “no statutory responsibility” to do so … whilst overlooking that neither is it compelled to fund staff parking or the vanity project known as the mayor.
So … if the council has no money for such seasonal frivolity – why did it  get the hapless and hopeless Boston Town Area Committee, B-TACky – to  hand over £35,000 (and pass the buck  as well) to the torpid Boston Town Team, whose inactivity makes a sloth resemble an Olympic athlete?

***

Enter Jenny Elwick – apparently still with the team even though the role of co-ordinator was advertised earlier this year.
Without blaming the council, she blamed the council … stressing that Worst Street waited until August to pass the baton to the Town Team which left scarcely any time to do much.
The lack of what we understand as lights was defended by the use of a laser projector which pumps images on to the wall of various buildings – but to most people it’s not the same.

***

We also e-mailed the Town Team’s Deputy Chairman for Facilities, Daniel Elkington who assured us that the group was still alive and kicking.
“The chamber are hiring someone to do the work in between meetings so next year should be better.
“Xmas lights are the first thing on the agenda for January. This year we got funding from BTAC to do them and front loaded the contract. This means with the same funding next year we will incrementally increase the impact year on year.
“We knew they wouldn't have as much impact as the old lights this year however, the old lights were in the possession of the old company that ran the contract and, sadly, couldn’t be retained.
“The ones that were owned by the town were not safe and were killing the trees so they had to go.
“The other elements to the lights were not taken up by the business community as much as we would have liked. This is nobody's fault really and there are lessons to be learned here.
“After the demise of the BID (which ceased three years ago – Ed)  it is going to take some time to build up a real business community and we will keep working on this as the years go by.
“Believe me; I share the frustrations with the plethora of legacy issues in the town and we will continue to work positively to engage with the business community and get a real sense of pride and ownership in the town, but it will be hard work as those legacy issues have done a lot of damage.
“I fully intend to report back to BTAC on the lights.
“In addition the Boston Business Briefing is going to be even bigger and better this year and we are looking forward to the business awards in February. We are glad the business awards were moved as they really did clash with everything else going off in December and February allows us to give them the prominence they deserve.
“We are also very glad that the Office of National Statistics  has a more accurate position on the population in the town as most funding formulae are largely based on population and we hope that with Experian updating their mosaic profiles of Boston it should be easier to attract more shops to the area.
“Finally, I had a wander around Waterfall Plaza the other day and was quite impressed by the facilities there. We hope that the work done on that development shows that there are innovative individuals willing to invest in the town.”

***

We keep hearing contradictory tales about who is paying whom and for what in this debacle – with Worst Street saying that the bill will need to be footed by business in the coming years, whilst Mr Elkington is talking of “the same funding.”  There are also suggestions that lights are being bought outright on a five year instalment plan.
The plot thickens almost by the day … just as the Christmas gloom deepens.

***

We wonder whether Worst Street has become so complacent in its misdirection that it no longer bothers to disguise things.
We have been told that a new avenue of trees has been planted in Central Park to replace mature trees which had to be taken down due to “safety concerns.”
But in the same breath, we learn that “the multi-stemmed silver birches have been planted on both sides of the path leading into Central Park from Tawney Street where previously a nuisance area had developed with drinkers relieving themselves under cover of the shrubbery which has been removed.”
So what are we talking about – safety or not?
The destruction of public amenities is the kneejerk Worst Street response to “anti-social activity” – by now acres of shrubbery and countless public seating areas have probably been removed because to one bothered to seek any other way to stop street drinking and its attendant problems.
We are also told that the next new tree-planting scheme will be at Burgess Pit, where a “community orchard” is to be developed with apple, plum, pear and cherry trees, plus crab apples for the wildlife.
Is this the same Burgess Pit that was once a no-go play area which even now requires its own dedicated CCTV camera?
It is indeed.
Should  Boston Borough Council deem scrumping to be an offence – and we are sure that if it doesn’t already, then it will do soon – then we expect the crews who man the cameras to be very busy indeed.
But nicking fruit from a “community orchard” might be a tough charge to make stick!

***

After complaints about the apparently off-hand way that Boston’s planners have dealt with objectors to the Quadrant scheme in Wyberton, a number of excuses have been forthcoming from Paul Edwards, the council’s development control manager.
These include  claims that “as a result of unplanned absences and other priorities, the collating of these revisions, getting them onto the website and then organising the over 400 letters (sic) and emails to advise people of this revision took much longer to generate than we would normally have hoped.
“This has resulted in some confusion and uncertainty which was never the intention of the Council and for which I must apologise.”
It seems that technology also bogged the planners down  when: “It turned out that one of the plan drawing numbers included an ‘&’ within it and the system that would have uploaded this onto the website saw this as part of a computer language instruction and it thus didn’t perform what we had asked it to do.”
Mr Edwards concluded: “On the contrary to not alerting the public, this council goes beyond its minimum statutory requirements on publicity of planning applications and in this instance when there is no actual requirement to publicise amendments to an existing application. In addition, I have recently repeated my offer to the Parish Council that I will always be willing to attend any Parish Council meetings to explain the procedure behind this or any other current application(s).
“I do understand your concern about incompetence but please let me assure you that we were aware of these difficulties once people had first brought it to my attention; it was just that I was not quick enough in rectifying it which led to your complaint for which I apologise.”

***



Finally, we were intrigued by a Worst Street decision to extend restrictions on a taxpayer due to the number of complaints and enquiries that he has made.
Worst Street has a condemnatory policy against “persistent and vexatious complainants” who act as they do “to make life difficult for the council or individuals, rather than genuinely to resolve a grievance.”
The response is a communications bar which limits complaints and insists that they are sent only via the hopeless “feedback” address
The “offender” in this instance has had “over 30 complaints and enquiries logged” to date this year – roughly one each working fortnight.
We have seen a number of these – and many of them seem quite pertinent.
The council appears not to like it when people won’t take their response as an answer.
And in this case, it is being claimed that e-mails to the “offender’s” local councillor are being redirected  to the “feedback” system which allows the council’s constraints to be used as a get-out clause.
Open?
Transparent?
Ho, ho, ho!
  

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com  Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com 

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston



Monday, 12 December 2016

Our blog last Wednesday mentioned the Boston Town Team – which has managed to underperform its predecessor, the pitiful Boston Business “Improvement” District … something we would have considered impossible.
After the blog appeared, we were sent a copy of a job advert pictured above for a new co-ordinator for the team.
The closing date for applications was 31st October followed by interviews just a week later.
Dates as close together as these often appear when an appointment has already been decided, and the procedure is mere formality.
Having said that, if an appointment had been made on 7th November, we would have thought that the news would have been publicised by now.
Given the output demanded of a two-day week, it might also have been the case that no-one bothered to reply.
After all, who in their right mind would think it remotely possible to achieve all the requirements of the job in just two working days?
These include: setting up and chairing bi-monthly meetings, recruiting new board members, organising and managing at least four events a year, writing quarterly newsletters, liaising with Worst Street, encouraging town centre businesses to take part in town centre activities and sponsor events and initiatives, producing promotional material for events/competitions, and securing funding for the Boston Town Team.
We’ve seen adverts like this before  – and the bottom line is that they rely on the post holder working however long it take to meet the targets – and in this case it could be considerably more than just two days.
Perhaps the timing of the vacancy goes some way to explaining why the Town Team appears to have done next to nothing where Boston’s Christmas celebrations are concerned  – and we wonder whether there is a co-ordinator in place or not … and if so who they are and what they are doing.

***

Our last blog also questioned whether  local businesses would be able or willing to find up to £8,000 every year for the knock-on costs of celebrating Christmas in Boston now that Worst Street has bunged the Town Team £35k for lighting.
A palpable clue came in a comment from former Councillor Carol Taylor who told us that two years ago she and Councillor Paul Gleeson sought sponsorship for the Christmas celebrations. 
“A big company kindly agreed to sponsor some of the tree lights for two years,” she told us.
“Another sponsorship came from B&Q who supplied 12 Xmas trees, 12 sets of 100 lights and delivered them to the businesses on Church Street.  
"Councillor Stuart Ashton made the wall brackets for them and one of his team and I put the brackets up as well as the trees.
“I paid for the brackets out of my councillor’s allowance.
“The following year only one of the businesses put a tree up – even though they all still have their lights and B&Q would have supplied more trees for with a large discount.
“This street couldn't be bothered and wanted it all done for them.
“Sadly there is a huge disrespect and dislike for Boston Borough Council by Pescod Square businesses and other businesses who will continue to work against the council ... not wanting to work with them for the greater good.
“There are two groups of people who should get off their backsides and work harder though. These are the current elected councillors and the Boston Town team.
"Boston should stop completely blaming the council; it is the businesses as well.”

***

As an interesting sidebar to criticism of Boston’s Christmas tree, take a look at this picture.
This is Heckington’s tree.
This village of just over 3,000 people will celebrate its 150th annual show next year – claimed to be the largest village show in the country ... which regularly draws more than 30,000 visitors.
Boston was once home to the then peripatetic Lincolnshire Show – but when the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society located to a permanent site  in 1959 … near Lincoln ...  never tried to create its own local effort.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

***

Still with things Christmassy – another sign that Boston Borough Council has given up the Ghost of Christmas Past is the absence of a promotional calendar for the town.
Its first effort appeared two years ago – and Boston Eye was among the local organisations to sponsor a page top cover production costs.
As Worst Street was writing the press release, the publication was a major success – and we understand that if certain councillors had paid forall their copies it would have been even more so.
A second calendar appeared last year – although Boston Eye was not invited to contribute … and again helped local charities through its sale.
This year …
Nothing, nada.
The calendar was purportedly a cost neutral production, so its non-appearance this year ought not be due  to economics.
So … it is an oversight, forgetfulness, indifference – something that could form the Worst Street motto.
In fact, in Latin, it sounds even more impressive …. providentes oblivione, neglegentia.

***

Another item we mentioned last week was the Quadrant application amendment – and the fact that objectors had been given scarcely any time to respond. Not only that, but despite a promise to the contrary, details were not available on the borough website, and the only to view the plans was to travel to the council offices.
Now we learn of another inconvenient little hiccup – inconvenient for the villagers, that is.
Apparently, Wyberton Parish Council did not receive any update or amendment details because they were sent to a previous Clerk who left more than two years ago.
We would have thought that if communications had been sent to the wrong person throughout that time, someone would have noticed, and the mistake corrected – especially with so many borough councillors also “serving” the parish.
So is it a case that for some strange reason this latest change of plan to the Quadrant project was alone in going to the wrong address and causing an unnecessary delay?
Fate forefend.

***

A straw-grasping entry on the Worst Street website, tells us that: “Boston Borough Council's binmen are among the best-known of the authority's frontline ambassadors …”
We wonder how far down the list our local councillors are ranked …

***

Perhaps things might improve if they paid more attention to their constituents.
We noted the minutes of a recent planning committee dealing with declaration of interests.
Councillor Stephen Woodliffe  (he who must be fully worshipped) declared having received e-mails about applications, “but it was his practice not to read them and kept (sic) an open mind.”
So how is his thought process shaped when make-your-mind-up-time arrives?
The only way we can find that objections to applications are summarised is in an officer report.
One that we looked at recently included an objection which was quoted thus: “When we constructed our chalet bungalow, we were required to install obscure glazing to avoid overlooking.”
Presumably there is more to this statement – but if there is, it was omitted, and we fail to see how it served any useful purpose … let alone assist councillors in coming to a decision.
Voters regard their councillor as their eyes, ears and voice in local matters – and to ignore them “to keep an open mind” (when the reverse seems to be true) is to do them great disservice.

***

A new reader e-mailed last week to say:  “After ten years of living in Boston, I recently came across your blog and now look forward to your observations as to the 'workings' of the Boston Borough Council residing in 'Worst Street.’
“My latest observation is the apparent generosity of some incumbent to supply dog owners with 'free’ dog poo bags and to self-congratulate themselves when stocks have to be regularly replenished and the hypocrisy with which we ratepayers are told that it is only fair that green waste bins are paid for by people who use them and not subsidised by people who don't.”   
It’s a good point – and one which reminded us that during the 2013 floods, Worst Street went to great lengths to tell us that it did not provide sandbags whilst employing ample stocks to protect its own property.

***

Whilst we always welcome comments about our blog, a couple from someone calling him/herself “Proud of Boston” will not be appearing. PoB claims not to be a reader – but was “prompted” to take a look by a friend. That’s one we’ve never heard before!
Both comments are lengthy and – doubtless due to the writer’s self-confessed lack of familiarity with Boston Eye – totally fail to appreciate what we are all about.
To publish the comments and then rebut them would be a waste of space and an embarrassment to the sender, so we are not going to bother.
Incidentally, Proud of Boston, “wingers” play in football teams.
We think the word that you were groping for in your harangue was “whingers.”

***
                                                                                
Finally, proof at last that someone in Worst Street reads Boston Eye despite claims to the contrary.
Last Wednesday, our Forgotten Boston feature showed the excessively leafy lane alongside John Adams Way where it runs next to the Cattle Market car park.
Not anymore.
By Friday the path had been cleared – and what a difference our picture shows.
Well done whoever acted so quickly.


You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com  Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com 

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston



Wednesday, 7 December 2016




It seems that the powers that be in Worst Street have become so used to getting flak that they now take the fall for something whether it’s their fault or not.
Our report on last week’s “Christmas” lights event in Boston saw the council take a big hiding for the poor arrangements – see montage, right.
Yet in the days following the event it has emerged that that the people to blame appear to be members of the Boston Town Team – an organisation that makes the late, unlamented Boston Business “Improvement” District seem to have been a treasure trove of ingenuity, enthusiasm and action.
It appears that Boston Borough Council’s Town Area Committee – B-TACky – which has now completely ripped up its own rulebook at the expense of taxpayers living in the central areas, has bunged the Town Team up to £35,000 with which to purchase a lighting scheme..
On top of that there will be on-costs of £7,500 to £8,000 a year but, as B-TACky naïvely believes, “businesses needed to take ownership of this, and the Town Team would work on this.”

***

So, how does Boston Town Team “work?”
Very slowly, by the look of it.
The team held its first open meeting in January last year and then issued a highfalutin’ business plan.
It has thirteen team members – six of whom boast chairman or deputy chairman status – and is an extension of the Lincoln-based Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce.
Its mission statement on Twitter is “Working to enhance the vitality of Boston to ensure it reaches its full potential via the promotion, support and delivery of key initiatives” as part of the Lincolnshire Chamber.
Since May this year, it has published 69 tweets – the last of which appeared in mid-August.
Boston Borough Council is among the Team’s “stakeholders” – a role it clearly takes seriously to part with such a large donation from our hard-earned council tax..
The team also benefited from the demise of Boston BID, when it was handed the £6,000 left in the company’s accounts – which we are sure it has put to good use.
The Town Team website links visitors to “the most recent version of the Boston Town Team Newsletter.”
It is a year old.
This weekend saw Small Business Saturday marked across the country – but not apparently in Boston.
The team failed to answer our Tweet asking what they were doing to reflect this year’s event – even though they acknowledged its existence last year.
Incidentally, neighbouring East Lindsey in common with many local authorities offered free car parking to help boost shopping numbers.
But here it went unremarked by Boston Borough Council. Without even a mention in the borough list of events for December.

***

So where does all that leave us?
Despite being in control of things Christmassy, Boston Town Team appears neglectful to say the least.
And do we seriously imagine that businesses in Boston will collectively rally round to provide the £8,000 on-costs needed in the future?
And what happens when Transported stops doing the lion’s share of the work in terms of building and creating the Mayflower celebration parades?
We reckon that B-TACky will end up putting is hands in our pockets yet again.
And in that connection, a little more openness and transparency … on which Worst Street claims to pride itself … would be most welcome.
At present we have self-appointed committees meeting unminuted and in secret taking some big money decisions for which we are footing the bill.

***

There’s been some discussion recently about the progress in the plans for the Quadrant project which will see a new “community” stadium built for Boston United Football Club along with houses by the score.
Boston Borough Council recently wrote to objectors to the scheme to say that it has now received “amended details” – and giving them until next Wednesday to submit comments.
Unfortunately, the only way to do so appears to be by a personal visit to Worst Street as – despite the planning department assurance – they did not appear on the borough website when we looked yesterday.
A spokesman for one of the action groups involved says: “My main concern … is that if rumour is correct, there will not be a football stadium, community hall nor community facilities built in the foreseeable future.
“Therefore, as this was an enabling plan, the development should not continue on the west side of the A16 without being referred back as a new application.
“We were rushed into this, as BUFC were desperate for a new home, and it had to start a.s.a.p. for the 2018 season to begin.
“Considering the east side of the new road is now complete there is very little happening. That speaks for itself! After all, planning was sought on the West side and refused in the past, so why is this now continuing?”
Indeed, the original 2014 application makes it clear that “the delivery of a new community stadium for the club … is inextricably linked to the mixed use development on the west side of the A16 since the latter is defined by the applicants as ‘enabling development.’ That is that the mixed use development of housing, retail and commercial, leisure would not be being proposed without the stadium.”

***

Time now for the latest in our series Forgotten Boston.
The first photo might be headlined Can You Believe It?  – and goes a long way towards explaining where the discarded drink tins go after they are emptied in Central Park.


The answer: straight over the wall and into the Robin Hood car park on Tawney Street, where they are left to accumulate.
Recently, Worst Street requested empty cans for an “arts project.”
Well, they could kill two birds with one stone here – get all the aluminium they need and tidy the town as well. 

***

Our second offering is called Leaf Us Alone, and shows the picturesque scene on the footpath beside John Adams Way where it runs beside the Cattle Market car park.
It might look attractive but it also has a deadly potential.
We know from first-hand experience that many of these leaves are survivors from last autumn when they made a pleasant rustling noise underfoot.
A year later they are so dense, that when wet they create the closest thing that Boston will get to a skating rink this Christmas and constitute an accident waiting to happen.


You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com  Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com 

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston



Tuesday, 29 November 2016


There are two sides to every story – or one if you are Boston Borough Council.
Last Thursday’s Illuminate celebration – we won’t bother mentioning Christmas … even Worst Street put the word in quotation marks – was an unparalleled success according to the powers that be.
Words such as “spectacular,” “excitement,” “vocal joy,” and “wonderful” peppered the borough account.
Boston’s town centre Majordomo Councillor Paul Skinner, called the evening "great."
He added: “It shows what can happen when Boston puts its mind to it – we know how to party."
We also heard how the Mayor received “a massive yell of confirmation” when he declared Boston to be "the best town in the world."
But the people footing the bill for the event saw things rather differently.
More than 70 readers of the Boston Standard posted their views on the paper’s Facebook feed in very short order – and almost to a person, they panned the event.
  • I've lived here most my life, and at 41 I must say this is the worst effort I've ever seen for Christmas lights in Boston. It was a waste of my time going into town last night. Never again if this is it!
  • Thank god I didn't drag my kids into town in the cold hardly magical is it!!!
  • Total embarrassment. The council should hold their heads in shame!
  • How tragic!
  • What a load of rubbish
  • What a joke Boston council is
If you involve hundreds of kids in event, you will always get crowds – but once the parade was over, many critics declared that everything went flat.
The whole event had a semi-pagan look about it – with photos that could either have been taken in Boston Market place or at Up Helly Aa.


We understand that the day began with early activity in the Market Place, because the lights had not been hung on the tree at that late stage.
Mid-afternoon we ventured into town – lured by the promised of a “Christmas Market” and were disappointed to find little more than a glorified array of charity tombola stalls.
We didn’t return for the evening’s events – and by all accounts saved ourselves a wasted journey.
Next year, we wonder whether Christmas will even get a mention.
Last year the spoils between celebrating American Thanksgiving and Christmas were more or less divided.
This year Thanksgiving – which commemorates a celebration by the Pilgrims Fathers after their first harvest in the New World in 1621 – dominated the day.
Next year, we expect Christmas to be side-lined entirely.
Let’s not forget that all this nonsense is leading up to the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers’ arrival at Cape Cod.
And let us also not forget that none of these first colonists came from Boston – their arrival to establish our American namesake began a decade and more later as part of a drive by the Massachusetts Bay Company to encourage colonisation … a far less risky affair that the ordeal endured by the real Pilgrim Fathers.
Check out Sunday’s timely BBC documentary about the voyage of the Mayflower – Boston doesn’t get a mention.
There is also the matter of cost – and of who carries the can in future years.
B-TACKy – Worst Street’s town centre committee – is allocating up to £35,000 towards the cost of all this through an unfair council tax top up imposed on roughly half the people  living in the borough which will cost them and extra £50 a year..
Versions vary – but the latest is that the lights and the none-too-successful laser projector used this year have been hired for five years and that there will be other costs of up to £8,000 a year.
B-TACky’s hope is that the extra money will come from the shadowy Boston Town Team – a do-nothing spin off from Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce.
Now that it would seem that Worst Street has guaranteed a major chunk of the “Christmas” spending, there is no real incentive on the Town Team to do anything at all, as the borough has painted itself into a corner that will see it forced to keep on paying if no-one else steps in.
Meanwhile, we read that the laser light display was intended to continue for a number of nights after Thursday’s switch on.
But it didn’t.
Why are we not surprised?
And what will we do once the 2020 Mayflower anniversary is over.
If it helps the borough’s forward planning department, there are several pagan festivals in December to which we could hitch our wagon.
Try Saturnalia on the 17th, Eponalia the next day, Mother Night on the 20th or Larentalia on the 23rd.
The list is endless – who needs Christmas anyway?

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com  Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com 

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston


Friday, 25 November 2016


One of those quarterly snapshots which ought to send shivers down the spinelessness of the Worst Street “leadership” is currently doing the rounds.
It gives an idea of the popularity of the town centre with shoppers, and tells us a bit about the number of visitors to the town.
Frankly the news is not especially good.
In terms of the town centre, the footfall figures are down by 6% on the second quarter for last year – by 151, from 2,249 to 2,278 … although some scrabbling about comes up with a different figure elsewhere, which improves the pairs of feet falling by 35.
These pedestrian counts are conducted on the third Wednesday of every month for 30 minutes at 10am and 2pm and counts only adult pedestrians excluding people on the buses.
The decline in footfall is following the national trend – but that’s no consolation at all when you realise just how few people are sampling the delights of our shopping centre.


Although it might be comparing things chalky with things cheesy, the not-too-distant Springfields centre near Spalding, claims annual footfall of 2,300,000 and is increasing rather than declining.
And before anyone shouts ‘foul’ by comparing the two, Springfields  has just 55 stores – probably about the same as the central area of Boston … many of which are outlets which used to be in the town until they closed and moved away.

***

The news was none too good on the visitor front either. Although the number of visitors to the Guildhall increased by 2% compared with the second quarter last year it stood at a meagre 5,282 compared to 5,171 … which is barely out of double figures on a daily basis.
And use of the tourist information centre – housed in the same place – was down by 13% as people viewing the tourism page on the council’s website fell by 3%.
We are promised that “a tourism project is underway which will include looking at the website offer.”
About time too.

***

As we’ve said before, the minutes of meetings – when they eventually appear – often make interesting reading.
One such example recently emerged concerning the so-called leadership’s attitude to the UKIP contingent at Worst Street.
We’ve remarked on this before, as – despite a council line-up of Conservative - 13 members, UKIP - 12, Independent - 2, Labour - 2, Unaligned – 1 – UKIP occupies no significant committee roles.
This was highlighted in a question from the party’s group leader Councillor Brian Rush who asked ‘Nipper’ Bedford: “Why did you decide to completely reject all UKIP candidates, for chairs or vice chairs, on influential panels, preferring instead to give such seats to the Conservative party’s arch enemies, Labour?”
The response from Councillor Bedford “Locally, I do not class Labour as arch enemies, but sensible councillors working together for the good of Boston.”
But just in case, he also offered the standard “a big boy did it and ran away” get-out by adding: “I did not make the appointments; it was Full Council.”

***

Clearly, this is not as simplistic as our so-called “leader” would wish us to believe.
The Tories would not enjoy their present position of control without the collusion of Labour and some so-called Independents who are Tories in everything but name.
The crucial point that is being overlooked here is that the people are supposed to matter – that’s you and us, the taxpayers – but are being ignored (well, there’s a surprise.)
Agreed, the UKIP contingent has appeared as mad as a box of frogs at times, with a disappointing performance to boot, but the fact is that the Tories have been so insistent on wreaking their own particular recipes for disaster on Boston that they would probably have done a deal with the devil to cling on to power – which is not what it should be all about.
Many Boston voters supported UKIP, and are entitled to have their wishes reflected through proportional responsibility on committees, and to see what the group might do – after  all, they couldn’t be worse than the current leadership … could they?
To declare that the two Labour members are “sensible councillors working together for the good of Boston” in the context of the question is to say that UKIP members are not doing this, and we are disappointed that our  “leader” should stoop so low as to insult his fellow councillors in the Worst Street chamber.

***

Amidst all this we hear that one of the Tory group would like to throw in the towel, but has been persuaded to hang on until county council election time next May. If the idea is to save the cost of a by-election, then to continue to pay an indifferent and disinterested councillor £350 a month for six months or more is surely just as wasteful and – again – insulting to taxpayers and voters.
Or is it because the leadership fears that a by-election now could cost them their slender hold on power?
Having said that, a quick scan of attendance by councillors at meetings suggests that more than one are borderline members of the money-for-nothing club.
Councillors may claim that their allowances are among the lowest in the country, but many of them are certainly being overpaid!

***


Against this background we learned that our “Leader” has just notched up 25 years as a councillor.
‘Nipper’ Bedford was elected in 1991 – the same year that Boris Yeltsin became president of Russia and a number of coloured spheres said to be UFOs performed an “aerial ballet” over Sibsey – and has represented  the nearby Coastal Ward ever since.
Monday’s council meeting saw him presented with a framed certificate to mark an event that he claimed to have forgotten all about.
The political upheavals of recent years mean that there are now very few long serving councillors in Worst Street.
Certainly, Boston was a much different place in 1991 – and we doubt that anyone would claim it was better now than it was then.
As one whose tenure in office has paralleled Boston’s decline, perhaps Councillor Bedford thought it better to disremember his anniversary rather than otherwise.
Still, who knows – some minor gong for tenacity might even so be in the pipeline.

***

Back to the council minutes … and a classic example of a councillor who thinks that being clever makes him a politician.
Another question – again  from Councillor Brian Rush  was to Councillor Paul Skinner ... portfolio holder of the poisoned chalice known as the town centre.
He was asked a perfectly reasonable and simple question – “where or what became of those very attractive market stalls that were purchased not so very long back?”
Instead of a perfectly reasonable and simple answer, Councillor Skinner changed his name to Alec Smart for the duration of the discussion.
“Since the beginning of the Charter, there have been a number of different stalls used, which version did you mean?”
Councillor Rush:  “Who purchased the stalls and why, and where are they?”
Councillor Skinner: “The Charter dates back to the 1600s and there have been many variations since that time. We are only partly along this journey.”
What journey is that then – and why would Councillor Skinner not answer?
Might it be because the stalls have been sold – or worse still “dumped” like the benches arbitrarily removed by B-TACky.
If so, it would be a case of history repeating itself and would not surprise us. At the time of the London Olympic celebrations Worst Street spent almost £5,000 on buying rather than hiring crowd control barriers and traffic cones – yet some time later was paying to hire barriers for another event.
Perhaps Councillor Skinner might like to relent, and let us know the answer to Councillor Rush’s question about the market stalls – but then again, perhaps he might not.
Perhaps no-one knows where they are and can’t find them.

***

Early in October the Worst Street website congratulated Councillor Aaron Spencer after he was shortlisted for the title of young councillor of the year by something called LGiU – “the local democracy think tank.”
We’d forgotten all about this until recently, and so we checked on the outcome of the nomination – only to find that Councillor Spencer … the cabinet member for cuts … had been unsuccessful.
The fact that there had been no mention of the result was typical of the Worst Street news management – if the story looks good, then publish it … if not, then pretend it never happened.
This from the council that promised “warts and all” information  – yet remains in denial over the decision to hold a public inquiry into the Boston Barrier plan … because it’s not what our leaders wanted to happen.
Interestingly one local winner at the LGiU bash was North Kesteven District Council Leader Marion Brighton, who received the Lifetime Achievement award.
The award is given to a councillor who has shown a demonstrable contribution to local government over a number of years – Councillor Brighton has notched up more than 40 – during which he or she will have contributed considerably to the development of the council and their local community.
Let’s not forget, also, that South Holland’s leader  and Chairman of the Local Government Association, Gary Porter, was last year made a life peer.
It’s good to see some of our nearby district councillors making their mark.
Perhaps it will be Boston’s turn one day soon.

***

A surprise – though not unexpected – was the news that emerged this week that the Pilgrim Party was de-registered at the beginning of the year and is no more.
Mind you, it was never anything much to begin with – a girl band with just four members at its peak, which came eighth out of nine parties at last year’s general election with just 143 votes out of the 43,339 cast.
Still, it’s always a shame when these political eccentricities vanish – though doubtless something else will emerge in 2020.

***


Back on our hobby horse now and a piece of Boston’s history that will be 500 years old next year.
In 1517 Thomas Cromwell (think Wolf Hall) was approached by Geoffrey Chambers of Boston for help in seeking an audience with Pope Leo X to secure funding for the Guild of Our Lady in St Botolph's church.
Pope Leo was threatening to end the indulgences from which the guilds and the church received large sums of money from people who wished to pay for the safety of their souls in heaven.
Cromwell deployed an audacious plan …
He "ambushed" the Pope during a stag hunt near Rome, and knowing of Leo’s sweet tooth persuaded him to change his mind by plying him with sweets and delicacies, and the guild’s finances were rescued.
This was an important event for Boston, which saved the town’s fortunes at a time when they were drying up along with the silting of the river – and the man who achieved it was one of the giants of Tudor England and British history who not only set the wheels in motion to bring parliamentary democracy to the country but also made possible the Reformation which saw Henry VIII take control of the Church.
A few days ago BBC Four TV rebroadcast historian Diarmaid MacCulloch’s 2013 BBC2 documentary “Henry VIII's Enforcer: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell”
The programme featured generous segments filmed in Boston Stump and the Guildhall together with an animated reconstruction of Cromwell’s meeting with the Pope.
Let us hope that someone somewhere has the wit to arrange for a copy of the programme to be shown in both buildings next year, and that more is made of this important event in Boston’s history.
If you missed the programme, and would like to watch it again, you can find if here


***

The nature of our blogging will be changing for a while due to a combination of events between now and mid-December. We won’t be producing our Friday miscellany, but instead will post comments on issues of interest on a one-off basis as they arise – and will let you know via our Twitter page so that you can visit the blog.


You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com  Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com 

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston



Friday, 18 November 2016



Things just don’t seem to be going well for the powers that be in Worst Street lately.
After last week’s announcement of a public inquiry into the plans for a £100 million flood barrier for Boston,  something that the leadership – especially  ‘Nipper’ Bedford – was anxious to avoid, comes  bad news about what Bedford has called “the only game in town” … the creation of a “super-Lincolnshire” governed by an elected mayor.
It would now appear to be a case of “match postponed” after Lincolnshire County Council Leader Martin Hill said that he would honour the 43:17 vote against devolution taken by County Hall and not support the multi-million scheme.
He is quoted as saying: "Since county councillors voted, I have discussed the issues again with the government, but was told that a mayor is still regarded as a ‘must’.
"In considering my position on the deal, I have absolutely at the forefront of my mind the views of the 4,000-plus residents who took part in the recent consultation.
"Although 59% of respondents said our councils should pursue greater funding and powers from the Government, 49% opposed the idea of a Mayoral Combined Authority, compared to the 47% in favour.
"I share their concerns about a directly elected mayor, with all the extra costs involved.
"With such a strong vote against the proposal from county councillors across all political parties too, I am minded not to support a directly elected mayor for the region based on what is currently on offer."

***

‘Nipper’s’ view by contrast appears to be that anything that provides Boston Borough Council with money for nothing is a good idea – rather than sitting down with his henchpersons and coming up with some real leadership and some tangible ideas.
Since the Tories were handed the keys to the Worst Street council chamber by the Bypass Independents five and a half years ago, they have simply bowed to the demands of head office time and again – cutting service after service without ever looking at ways to try to introduce new money into the town, or even trying to fight the rot that has steadily been setting in.
All of which makes ‘Nipper’ not a “leader” but a “follower”

***

Worse still, Boston seems slowly to be dying without any efforts at resuscitation from the powers that be.
Monday saw the news that the town’s Marks and Spencer store might well be on the list of those to be closed as the company looks to regroup.
The list  was compiled by retail analysts the Local Data Company, whose director Matthew Hopkinson said whilst there were 35 towns or cities with more than one store, others “vulnerable because the town centre is already in serious decline”  included Blackpool, Bolton, Boston, Hereford, Mansfield, Stoke and Sunderland.
Meanwhile, at the weekend at sign appeared in the window of the town’s Clarks shoe shop, saying: “We're closing late November but you can still shop with us. For your nearest Clarks store please visit www.clarks.co.uk."
This comes less than six months after Clarks opened a brand new £150,000 shop in Gainsborough – of all places.
The closure also comes three months after we were told that Boston Borough Council was “helping Clarks explore other options in the town.”
With friends like that, who needs enemies?
Earlier this week we walked from the Town Bridge through Emery Lane where – after the dismal Cash Generator windows – we found empty store after empty store … whilst those that hadn’t closed completely were still shut well after normal opening hours.
This medieval street – together with Dolphin Lane – is regularly touted by Worst Street optimists as a haven for small independent shops, and has in the past been likened to the similar lanes that draw visitors to York in their millions each year. 


***

We think that one of the big problems is that much of the commercial property in Boston may well be in the hands of absentee landlords.
A recent planning application for a major town centre shop disclosed that the owner/applicant was based in North London.
And again we are indebted to the satirical magazine Private Eye for its list of UK properties owned by companies in offshore tax havens.
In Boston these include: 22, Strait Bargate, which belongs to the Galante corporation of the Netherlands Antilles; 17b, Wide Bargate (Suleiman Capital Corp, British Virgin Islands, registered in 2005 and bought for £877,565); 94, to 102 (even), West Street Retail Park, (BNP Paribas securities services trust company, Jersey, registered 2010 and bought for £5,195,852) Sleaford Road Medical Centre, Boston West Business Park (Medicx Properties VI Ltd Guernsey, registered 2012 and bought for
£3,212,104); Malcolm Farm, Frith Bank (Madox Holdings, Guernsey, registered 2010 and bought for  £1,150,000.)
Even the smallest places are not immune – to whit Haltoft End Service Station – acquired by Silversmith Holdings Inc of the British Virgin Islands in 2006 for £119,000.

***

Is it any wonder, then, that we have so many neglected empty shops when they are merely a tiny entry on a big balance sheet, and not worth selling because a tenant will appear eventually?
Tell that to the owners of the former Millets and Edinburgh Woollen Mill Shop.
And when the QD store in Strait Bargate closed, a company spokesman said: “We came up to negotiate a fresh rent position with the landlord and unfortunately were not able to come up with a commercially viable solution.
“We did present some proposals to the landlord but frankly they turned them down.”
The premises are now being advertised for  rental at £195,000 a year – or £16,250 a month … exclusive of business rates, which could be as much again.
Not only that, the property comes with a new 15 year lease with “reviews” (i.e. increases) every three years and with the tenant paying the cost of all insurance and repairs.

***



At the start of this week’s little effort, we mentioned Boston Borough Council’s turning of a blind eye to the news of the barrier inquiry.
Last week we could but speculate – but have since had it confirmed that whilst at least one of our local “newspapers” did seek a comment, it was “directed” to “speak directly with the Environment Agency.”
This from a council which claims to pride itself on “openness and transparency.”
Surely, a request to respond to a decision affecting a crucial local project – one which the council had insisted should not be delayed by such trivia as an investigation to see if it was fit for purpose – ought to have generated a formal reply.
Not in Worst Street!

***

Last week we mentioned one of our favourite committees – B-TACky, which exists solely to make life even more miserable for taxpayers who live in the town centre – when it actually sat back and listened to an idea to create a cycle path alongside the bus route that it currently ruining Strait Bargate.
Now it is working on another Cunning Plan.
In support of a desire to “see a reduction in the quantity of grassed areas which are closely mown” – i.e. reduce grass cutting to save money – committee members are thinking of converting unused space into “a more naturalised area” which is allowed to grow … with planting of  fruit trees and wild flowers to enhance the  areas. Not only that, but “additional benches, outdoor exercise equipment and basketball hoops” have also been suggested.
All of this is being discussed at a time when areas of Central Park are being further massacred to reduce opportunities for shrubbery to be used as a lavatory or hiding place in which to drink.
Only a few days ago, Worst Street told us that grounds staff have also removed shrubbery from around a bench near the sorting office in South End where there had been "constant complaints about street drinkers congregating and leaving drink-related litter behind.”
Mention of benches reminds us that four and a half years ago B-TACky was busy tearing up benches all over town to stop them being used as al fresco bars.
At a rough count, at least 30 benches were removed in the fruitless battle on anti-social activity in Boston – and now the council is thinking of reinstating such seating in these proposed areas of bucolic bliss.
Even now, we can scent disaster in the making in the same way that sharks can smell blood in the water.
Benches … fruit trees … wildflowers …
Such temptation.
And the cost of buying new benches must certainly go a long way toward  diminishing the saving in mowing the grass – which of course will become even more attractive to people who let their dogs foul such open spaces.
And don’t imagine that Worst Street will have been prudent enough to keep the scores of benches they ripped out in case they were needed for a rainy day.
Sometime after the seats were removed in their scores, an approach for some to be relocated on a local allotment was dismissed on the grounds that they had all been “dumped.”
We are quite sure that this doesn’t mean sold for their scrap value – rather “dumped” on someone who would himself make money by doing what the council couldn’t be bothered to do!

***

The retired hack in us cannot resist the lure of a potentially big news story.  So, as we returned from our Sunday shop and found that a major police operation had closed Freiston Road and Main Ridge, we Tweeted the news and copied it to the editor of the Boston sub-Standard – which we joined for a brief time as a reporter half-a-century ago this year.
Back came the reply: “Will ask the weekend team to have a look into it” – and so we waited with interest.
Sometime later a “report” on the Standard website rehashed our Tweet in a somewhat sceptical way and said that the police would not reveal more as the operation was on-going. “Updates” were promised.
Eventually, we suggested to the Standard that for “updates” they would do worse than visit the Boston off-Target which had sourced the entire story – including pictures – from social media, whilst the Standard weekend “team” apparently twiddled its thumbs.
In terms of police activity in Boston, this was clearly a mega incident.
All those years ago, word would have reached the Standard and – fate forefend in 2016 – someone would have been sent out to take a look … together with a photographer.
The Target did what most papers  do these days – cobble together tweets and pictures from the public domain, whilst the Standard weekend “team” couldn’t even manage that.
It’s been said that Boston town centre is in a serious decline.
It’s also said that that thriving local newspapers are synonymous with a thriving town.
Enough said. 
***

Last week we listed the then known candidates for  next month’s  Sleaford and North Hykeham by election – made less interesting by the  climb-down of former Boston election contender Robin Hunter-Clarke.
The UKIP candidate is now that well-known “I’ll stand anywhere where you might vote for me” wannabee Victoria Ayling – perhaps because she was the only Kipper left who wanted the job
The full list of candidates is:
Victoria Ayling – UKIP
David Bishop – Bus Pass Elvis Party
Jim Clarke – Labour
Paul Coyne – Independent
Peter Hill The Iconic Arty Pole – Monster Raving Loony Party
Caroline Johnson – Conservative
Marianne Overton – Lincolnshire Independents
Ross Pepper – Liberal Democrats
Sarah Stock – Independent
Mark Suffield – Independent. 

***

Finally, in common with local councils everywhere, Boston spent the day Tweeting its activities as part of an event called Our Day.
This involved such riveting details as opening the park gates in the morning and locking them at night, and opening the council offices and closing them at night and … are you awake there? Pay attention!
Of course, we weren’t supposed to read all this as – a long time ago – we were barred from reading the council’s tweets or from following it.
Such a serious step usually follows improper behaviour of some sort – but in our case we have only ever visited the page and never posted any comments … which makes the action one of petty and insecure spitefulness merely because we dare to criticise Worst Street in our blog.
Nonetheless, we managed to follow the day, which at some points was padded out with non-council stuff just to make it seem busier.
There was also such helpful information as: “The Leader of the Council is currently attending a GLLEP ESIF sub-committee meeting discussing applications under EU funding.”
That’s good to know. We hope that alphabet soup was on the lunchtime menu.
We also heard that IT equipment was being set up “for tonight’s council meeting” and that the caretaker had locked up for the day after it concluded.
Did this meeting really take place? 
Not according to the council’s own calendar which showed no-meetings scheduled for  Tuesday 15th. Perhaps the day didn’t look exciting enough – or could our “open and transparent” council be hiding meetings from us? Fate forfend!

***

But just to demonstrate a sense of humour, Worst Street tweeted the picture below – beneath the message “Stand-off in Boston Cemetery. Magpie comes beak to nose with a resident squirrel.”


Twitchers among you will doubtless  be as disappointed as we were at the absence of the magpie.
  

You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com  Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com 

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston