Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Whilst it’s unlikely that Worst Street’s Boston Town Area Committee – B-TACky – will ever emulate any of the great empire builders of old, members don’t plan to let that stand in their way.
And their weapon of choice is not the broadsword, cannon or blunderbuss – though the latter would be most appropriate – but the council tax demand for the coming year.
Whilst Lincolnshire Council Council would like an extra 1.9% of your hard earned cash, and Boston Borough Council wants 2.9% – BTACky wants to get its sticky paws on a humongous 94.6%.
WHAT? We hear you cry – and rightly so.
It’s true.
The BTAC January meeting which approved all this was a providential session that we are sure the committee took to mean that the God of Underhandedness was on their side.  Although the local press was there for the earlier part of the meeting, the scribblers’ bedtime had arrived by the time the increase was discussed and not a hack was in sight.
The good luck continued, as a February meeting was an ‘extra’ – a session with the Worst Street Secret Society known as the Prosperous Boston Task and Finish Group – and so the January minutes detailing the scandalous increase were not presented.
This meant that the news broke as a fait accompli when the tax bill arrived.
Whilst we call the increase scandalous – which in percentage terms is certainly is – the argument will be that it represents just 66p a month for its 13,000 households.
But a more important issue is – what is it for?
The new BTAC precept will increase its income from £108,000 to £214,000 – and the committee will end the year with reserves of around £50,000.
The constitutional rules governing the  use to which BTAC-ky’s income is spent were set out some years ago in an easy-to-follow guide written by former Chief Executive Richard Harbord – which members should find easy to understand, but apparently don’t.
There are two key paragraphs worth noting.
The first reads: “The purpose of a Special Area Expense Account of course is to allow the Borough Council to provide services in part of its area which elsewhere in the Borough would be the responsibility of a Parish or Town Council.”
And the second says: “Obviously the only items which can legally be charged are items provided exclusively or mainly for its residents. If the wider population use facilities they are properly subject to the council wide Council Tax.”
But January’s meeting decided to ignore this. Apparently the idea was put forward to try to improve the availability of toilets in the town centre, and to accumulate some slack cash in the system so that BTAC can pay for some of the recommendations of the (whisper) Prosperous Boston Committee – 60% of whose members serve on BTAC – on the prosperity of the town, and to help deliver some non-statutory services that might otherwise be lost due to government cuts in local government finding.
It would be hard to find something that it so blatantly wrong and counter to the rules as this – the creation of a piggy bank for the benefit of the council as a hole (i.e. the cabinet) funded by a secondary council tax increase penalising a particular group in the poorest part of the town..

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