Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Open and transparent?
…you must be kidding

Today Boston’s Cabinet of curiosities approves the budget for the year ahead, and next week the full council will rubber stamp it.
Although some time elapsed between the original proposal for a 1.98% increase and the subsequent recommendation of 2.9% – nine pence a week more for an average band D property … and up by 30%, the deadline for voters to respond remained unchanged – and they had less than a week to react to the new proposed charge.
The reason that Worst Street stuck to the original closing date for the CONsultation was said to be the need to produce a report to today’s cabinet meeting – which at that time was almost a fortnight away.
Worst Street claimed that if it had to move the dates forward, it would miss this meeting and that of the full council– and therefore the deadline to approve the increase.
Although there are eleven appendices to today’s council tax report there is not separate mention of any public response.
So the argument that no delay could be brooked because of the need for a report is just so much tosh.
The report does tell us that under the “golden rules” of consultation, a key point is “adequate time for a response” – which has not been the case on this occasion.
The closest we get is part of the main report which says that: “Following the budget consultation process, twelve comments were received through the public exercise, the majority concerned at the proposed increase, although one response was positive.
“They have been taken into account in preparing this report which is now presented for cabinet recommendation, prior to formal Council approval of the budget and council tax on 29th February.” Note how the words in italics anticipate that the full council will do as it is told.
Interestingly a look back through the Worst Street website and Boston Beano shows that the minimum amount of effort was put into inviting people to take part in the consultation.
An item appeared in the Boston Beano on 29th January – but apparently without a counterpart on the main website which is usually how Worst Street tries to look busy.
And to further complicate matters for any punter wanting to make a comment, the advice is simple: “Read the draft budget report 2016/17 and the associated
appendices …”
The report itself ran to more than 7,000 words over 28 pages, while the appendices run to tens of thousands of words and numbers – and are not what you might call reader friendly.
It all seems geared to making the task of keeping one’s eye on the borough’s roulette ball hard – if not impossible.
A pretty poor performance from a council that claims to be “open and transparent.”

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