Friday, 29 January 2016

Week ending

Once again, we end the week with some smaller – but no less important events.
█ More than once, we have raised the issue of officers at Boston Borough Council being paid through private service companies – which allows tax and other advantages ... and meets with increasing disapproval. Recently, a freedom of information request disclosed that three current members of the Worst Street team were employed under these arrangements – charging up to £400 a day for their services. At last, this is coming to an end.  Two of the trio have joined the staff and talks about the third are continuing in the hope of sorting it out before the end of the financial year.
█ Another FoI request has produced reams of paperwork about the £1 million pound loan taken out by Boston Borough Council over sixty years at a total cost of £6,675.000 of taxpayers’ cash for interest alone. What is surprising is that it has repeatedly been claimed that hardly any paperwork existed. We’ve spent hours going through it – and will tell you some interesting things next week.
█ A list has emerged of new companies created last year in Lincolnshire. There were 883 in North Kesteven, 867 in South Kesteven, 686 in South Holland, 531 in Lincoln, 502 in West Lindsey, 485 in East Lindsey and 357 in Boston.
Boston purportedly has an economic development team – so may we ask what they are doing?
█ Whatever next? First, Grub Street conspires to smear Boston over our crime figures. Now it seems that one of the country’s leading think tanks is doing the same. Policy Exchange places Boston at the bottom of the league for integration. The charge was immediately dismissed by our parliamentary wise monkey Matt Warman, who told the Independent newspaper “… this report is based on 2011 data, so it doesn’t reflect the world of 2016.”
█ To enter that world, Mr Warman has risen to a challenge from a Boston Sub-Standard reader to “spend 24 hours with a few of the local families in the most [crime] affected areas.”  Without prejudging the outcome, why do we think that Mr Warman will have a jolly nice stay during which he felt unthreatened and entirely at ease.
█ Finally, we liked this – from the West End Cinema website.

La Triviata … it could only happen in Boston!

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Thursday, 28 January 2016

The archetypal image of a journalist is a sleazy, hard drinking, chain-smoking unscrupulous hack who would sell his own mother for a front page exclusive.
Once upon a time there might have been a couple of characters like these lurking around in their off-white trench coats – but today’s journos are largely the sanitised products of college courses who mostly lack instinct and wouldn’t know a good story if it bit them in the leg.
So we had to smile at Boston’s Borough Council’s hack attack that followed newspaper claims that the borough was the murder capital of the UK.
Never one to snub a flashy headline when it suits, the Boston Beano and website trumpeted: “Murder capital: Tabloid rubbish! Manipulation of statistics smear Boston.”
You’ll get the idea from the following sample: “In an attempt to compare Boston with the likes of Greater Manchester, journalists magnified the town’s actual crime figures to make comparisons based on hundreds of thousands of population.
“This manipulation revealed Boston to have a higher “murderous” crime rate than anywhere else in the country. In fact, for the period under examination, the year ending last September, Boston actually had two murders compared to Greater Manchester’s 38.”
Whilst our MP was also critical of the reports, he agreed the raw data was accurate.
The reports which appeared were extrapolations of the figures for murders and attempted murders to a total that would be found in a population of 100,000 (not “hundreds of thousands.”)
To say – as Worst Street did – that Boston had two murders compared to Greater Manchester’s 38 is irrelevant obfuscation.
Yet again, our so-called “leaders” are unwilling to look problems in the eye – instead, opting for the three wise monkeys approach … believing that if you see, hear, or speak no evil, then no evil exists.
Major elect Stephen Woodliffe  – a member of this club – has spoken of “irresponsible” and shameful manipulation” of the figures.
The council’s use of the word “smear” is also interesting – implying a deliberate action.
Picture the scene.
In a Docklands newspaper office, a drunken hack pulls down his green eye shield, adjusts his plastic shirt sleeve protectors and tells his team … “your target for tonight is Boston in Lincolnshire, Get out your grease guns and start smearing.”
Leader ‘Nipper’ Bedford’s comment that Boston was the first authority in the country to give the police powers to control consumption and possession of alcohol in the streets serves only to underline how great that problem was.
This year’s outgoing mayor, Richard Austin’s, failed attempt to get major support for his “Great Past and a Bright Future” campaign was bang on the money when he said: “"The image and reputation of a place is its most important asset.”
Boston’s image is largely due to the failure of the powers that be to acknowledge and address the problem.
And until they do, nothing much will change.

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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

More work needed
on this video nasty

On the face of it, the Meet the Cabinet stunt seems not a bad idea – but when the leaders of Boston Borough Council get their sticky mitts on it, it sadly becomes a mirror that reflects their exceptional incompetence.
Monday night saw the second such event – less well attended by the public and out of steam after 35 minutes.
It was less well attended by the members of the cabinet, too – with just five of the seven members present.
One of the absentees was on the other side of the world and the other in London – neither of which is a bad excuse.
But given the infrequency of these meetings and their scheduling flexibility, we feel sure that a date could have been found for the voters to meet the entire Insignificant Seven, rather than just 70% of them.
As for  the event itself – whilst it was in colour, the visuals had the jerky, twitching redolence of an early silent movie.
Placing the camera at the back was fine once the operator got the hang of zooming in the “stars” of the show – i.e. the cabinet.
But for the “supporting players” – i.e. the voters who had taken the trouble to attend – the camera showed only the back of their heads for the most part, or an occasional profile.
The sound quality was execrable – and in some instances inaudible.
Perhaps this is due to the in-house microphones favoured by councils everywhere – feeble boxes with stem microphones and lights on the top which must be shut off immediately after a question to avoid problems of feedback.
We are theoretically banned from viewing Boston Borough Council’s Twitter feed by some spiteful Worst Street pygmy – but bans such as these are unenforceable … so we followed the “coverage.”
To try to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, the number of questions listed was stretched to ten – even though at least one question had been split into sections.
Where stunts like this truly fall down is in the presentation.
Worst Street insists that questions are submitted in advance – theoretically to allow the cabinet members who bother to turn up to investigate and come up with the most thorough answer possible.
The inquisitor reads his/her question, and the cabinet member reads his (in last night’s case) answer.
The result has all the spontaneity of a Moscow show trial or a primary school play.
This token attempt at democracy needs a full review before it is cantered out again – assuming that it will be.
If you missed Monday night’s gala premiere, and think our review sounds over critical, there is an inaction replay on the borough website with some noisy computer game adverts to keep you awake.

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Our former blog is archived at: 
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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

How do we stop
the shopping rot?

On Friday, we mentioned the closure of Morrison’s supermarket in the “Boston Shopping Park” and the Tesco One Stop Shop on Wide Bargate.
Since then there has been news of another possible closure after shoe shop Brantano called in the receivers.
Were the store to close, the outlook will be bleak for the six-acre shopping park which was built in 2006 on the former ASDA site.
The loss of Morrison’s is the key blow, as a supermarket generally creates the footfall that helps the other outlets.
Without Brantano, the site would be left with a bingo hall, a Bath Store, Home Bargains, Sports Direct, TK Maxx, and a Card Factory shop scarcely a magnet for shoppers.
Yesterday, we visited another shopping park – 30 minutes down the road – at Springfields near Spalding, which opened in May 2004, just three years before the Boston development.
What a contrast – 750 parking places costing £1 for up to two hours and £2 for the day – more than 55 shopping outlets and an on-site hotel.
We arrived a quarter of an hour after opening time, and struggled to find a parking space.
The question has been asked before: How is it that just down the road, developments such as this thrive, whilst Boston has nothing remotely comparable?
Allegedly, Boston Borough Council has an economic development team. And, of course, we are seeking a £65k a year Head of Service, Economic Regeneration – a poisoned chalice if ever there was one.
But is all this too little, and too late?
In overall terms, successive administrations have done little for Boston other than write snappy sounding slogans in the endless reports that have been produced.
What of the future?  
It looks as though there is little chance of a new business coming to the former Magnadata site, as the company wants to demolish it and build more than 200 houses.
If the Quadrant proposal goes ahead in Wyberton, hundreds more houses will be built – and many other applications are in the pipe-line around the borough
But where will the occupants of these houses find work?
A final irony that we noted was an application by Kentucky Fried Chicken to remove its existing shop front and reinstate the “historic timber shop front.”
Doubtless, the money to fund this will come from Worst Street’s “partnership” with Historic England to fund improvements to owners or leaseholders of historic buildings with shop fronts in the Market Place conservation area.
The owners of the former Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop have already cashed in on this generous scheme.
But should we not ask why a company like KFC – whose UK and Ireland revenues are almost £1bn – should tart up their shop using our money?

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Our former blog is archived at: 
We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston

Monday, 25 January 2016

It’s criminal that no-one
will be honest about
these figures

The Daily Mirror ruffled a few feathers on Friday when it told readers: “Boston in Lincolnshire is the most murderous place in England and Wales.”
Quoting the latest crime figures to the end of September 2015, the Mirror said: “In Boston there were two homicides and eight attempted murders, with the combined figure coming at a rate of 15 murderous crimes for every 100,000 people living in the area.”
Boston MP Matt Warman told our local “newspapers” the Mirror account was “crazy … scaremongering twaddle” which played “stupid games” with statistics.
The Mirror’s extrapolation that two murders and eight attempted murders represented 15 “murderous crimes” for every 100,000 people overlooks the fact that Boston’s population is around the 60,000 mark.
Whilst Mr Warman said he didn’t deny that there were problems to tackle and agreed the raw data was accurate, he called the Mirror’s use of the statistics “unhelpful.”
He added: “The danger … is they provide evidence to people who want to push a certain agenda ....”
Who these people are – and what their agenda is – he didn’t say.
Interestingly, on the same day that the Mirror published its own slant on the crime figures, Lincolnshire Police did the same thing.
“Crime Reduces in Lincolnshire Bucking the National Trend” trumpeted the headline on the force website.
“Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Gibson says he is pleased that overall recorded crime in Lincolnshire has continued to reduce.
"Overall crime is down by 1% in the year to September 2015, which bucks the general national trend of increases," he says. 
However …
“Our countywide Operation Nova (say NO to Violence and Abuse) is specifically targeting violent crime and we are confident that our multi-agency efforts in this area will result in returning to a reducing trend for the next period of reporting from the 9% increase reported today." However, it is important to emphasise that Lincolnshire has one of the lowest recorded rates of violent crime in the country."
So … picking and choosing:  Lincolnshire Police say crime is down overall – and the Mirror’s interpretation is one that they don’t want to hear.
The police attempt to make the figures look good is another example of the powers-that-be assuming that the people they “serve “are stupid and will believe what  they are told.
It is true that fear of crime is usual greater than the reality.
But in Boston, most of us are in no doubt that violent crime where we live is alive and well and frightening.
It matters not whether it is largely – as our MP claims – “a handful of serious incidents … (which) remain exceptionally rare and almost entirely domestic.”
When the road outside your door is closed by such offences … when armed police are deployed on the streets … the people of Boston are right to be concerned.
And the powers that be are wrong to try to fob us off.

Thursday, 14 January 2016