re we seeing the first steps in a campaign that will see the disappearance of Boston Borough Council?
Simply put this means that in Lincolnshire a single authority would control all the tasks currently undertaken by County Hall and our seven district authorities … of which Boston is the smallest.
According to Councillor Hill – whom we cannot help but imagine sees himself in charge of this political behemoth – huge savings would accrue … perhaps as much as £150m in the first five years.
He says: “The current system of councils in Lincolnshire is one we can no longer afford. A unitary model has successfully been adopted in many areas of the country and has proved to be simpler, better for services, more local and most importantly - costs less to run.
“I believe the current system is complicated, wasteful and no longer financially sustainable. Without change, important local services are already being reduced and even cut entirely.”
We’ve said something similar for years – pointing out that Worst Street has now made so many spending cuts, it is little more than a costly tax collector for the county and the police.
Subject to the approval of Lincolnshire County Council, a poll will be held at the same time as the May local government elections – which Councillor Hill told Boston Eye means that the cost would be “not much.”
Councillor Hill’s move comes soon after his henchpersons in Lincoln and two other district councils rejected the idea of a "Greater Lincolnshire" under the command of an elected mayor – which knocked the idea on the head, as unanimous approval was needed for the plan to proceed.
However, his new cunning plan raises some serious questions about whether such a sea change should also be accompanied by a reappraisal of the job to be done.
At present, there are 77 elected members of Lincolnshire County Council
comprising: Conservative 36, Labour 12, UKIP 10, Lincolnshire Independents 7, Independence from Europe 3, Liberal Democrat 3, Independent 4, Others, 1, and one vacancy.
But this number is set to be cut to 70 under Boundary Commission changes which could take effect in time for the elections.
Of the present total, Boston Borough has seven councillors – three Kippers, two Lincolnshire Independents, one Conservative and one “Independent.”
But this is set to fall to six under the commission’s shakeup.
When the full council meets in Lincoln, the event is webcast, offering a good chance to see councillors in action – or should that be councillors’ inaction?
Certainly, questions from our magnificent seven have been few and far between over time, with “Independent” Councillor Alison Austin being the most persistent, and one-time "independent" ... now Conservative ... Mike Brookes a more distant second.
How they perform in committee is really anyone’s guess – and we note that one lives in Woodhall Spa and is only expected to attend three meetings a year whilst another has attended just two out of the eight recent meetings listed by Lincoln.
We already know to our cost that Boston is somewhere below the bottom of the list when County Hall is doling out its largesse – and if the borough is to be adequately represented in a future slimmer, unitary authority, then we need to try harder.
Watching a full council webcast from Lincoln is a disheartening experience.
Over the years we have noted almost inarticulate representatives struggle to their feet and stumble through their lines like a four-year old with a reading primer.
If we are truly to be represented, we need some sort of quality control during the candidate selection process – especially as we hear rather worryingly that a number of Tories who fell by the wayside at the last borough elections are polishing their dentures to offer flashing smiles for the cameras and have a shot at the county council.
We should not be looking at the mixture as before for the county council elections – especially with the prospect of a unitary authority.
Wherever a wannabe candidate seeks election, if he or she is a party member there should be an interview to see how good – or bad – a councillor they might be.
From now on, we must select only the best people to represent Boston – both locally and in Lincoln.
A unitary Lincolnshire Council would certainly save millions as Councillor Hill has claimed – millions that are being duplicated and therefore wasted across the existing district council structure.
As we have said before, the lion’s share of Worst Street’s spending now that services have been cut to the bone is collecting the council tax and divvying it up between County Hall and Lincolnshire Police.
The savings here could be colossal.
The irony of Councillor Hill’s proposal has not gone unnoticed by Boston Eye reader Paul Cotton, who e-mailed to say: “This is the reader who has lived in Boston for ten years – crickey me!! (sorry but I'm a Yorkshireman.) It looks as though Martin Hill is out to achieve what Boston Eye has failed to do so far and get rid of the incumbents of Worst Street … or would it then become a case of better the devils we know than the devils we don't?
“At the very least, it may make some of them take notice of the ratepayers of Boston, raise their game and act on what is said instead of dismissing advice and observations as criticism.”
As is so often the case our local “politicians” have been left wrong-footed,
When votes were being cast for a Mayor-led Greater Lincolnshire Authority, Boston Borough Council was all in favour, most likely because it thought it might win some more money from the deal.
Leader Pete ‘Nipper’ Bedford went so far as to call the idea “the only game in town.”
MP Matt Warman was also very enthusiastic – and even claimed some of the credit for brokering the offer of a deal.
And neither of them seemed worried about creating a leviathan authority ranging from the Humber to the Wash.
North and North East Lincolnshire are widely disparate counties from the “current” Lincolnshire – supporting an airport, and a range of industries and sectors including food processing, manufacturing, ports and logistics, chemical and oil refineries.
The county now known as Lincolnshire is completely different.
It covers 2,687 sq. miles and whilst it has its share of heavier industry it leans more strongly towards agriculture, tourism and the like.
Add the other two Lincolnshires, and you tack on an additional 400 sq. miles – an area larger than South Dakota – which has little in common with its neighbour, and with industries which would unbalance the geography of the “greater” county.
Yet despite these incongruities, whilst our MP and council “leader” went gung-ho in a big way for a jumbo county, they are now declaring, that a much smaller unitary authority would be unmanageable and too large.
Mr Warman lurches from a warm welcome to a tepid “Unitary authorities can be a good idea. A single one for Lincolnshire seems too big to me.”
And for Councillor Bedford, we go from "the only game in town" to a village green kick-about that’s not worth tying your laces for.
Could it be that the big difference is that in the case of a devolved Lincolnshire, the districts would have continued as separate entities with their leaders (and presumably MPs) all remaining important figures – whilst a unitary county would see the districts vanish, and the loss of their fiefdoms for leaders and MPs?
Perish the thought!
We’ve received a belated comment from a reader regarding the on-going debate over Christmas lights in Boston, which seeks to let the Town Team off the hook.
“The Christmas Light fiasco was masterminded by Councillor Paul Skinner and BTAC and presented to the Town Team as a done deal” he writes.
“The Town Team involvement was an afterthought and they had no real input into what the lighting would be.
“The aim is for Town Team to generate more involvement from businesses for 2017 to improve on the 2016 event at no cost for BTAC – although as they have just trebled their council tax income maybe they'll spend some more money on Christmas.”
It was also interesting to read the reaction from the council “leader” to a question from his predecessor Councillor Richard Austin when he asked what the annual cost of a Christmas scheme that “met public expectation” would be in terms of band D council taxpayers?
The ever open and transparent ‘Nipper’ didn’t answer the question, but was “amazed and saddened” by it, for reasons he failed to explain.
He told Councillor Austin that there had been two budgets voted through and that councillors should have asked for a debate at the time or provided an alternative budget for discussion.
Doubtless the “leader” considered this a clever political response – rather than yet another piece of ignorance that shows the leadership in complete denial whenever anything goes wrong.
It also ignores the sad fact that when these budgets were approved, the likely assumption was that the event would be successful and not disastrous.
But when things go right …
Worst Street is a past master at claiming credit where none is due – and its latest piece of tomfoolery has just appeared on the borough website and in the now utterly pointless, worthless, and unnecessary weakly bulletin.
Beneath the banner “New showroom is a feather in Boston's cap” it devotes for than 800 words … to the opening of a car showroom.
Failing completely to curb its almost-childlike hysteria, the report declares: “The imminent opening of a prestigious new showroom in Boston for one of the world's top car marques has been hailed as a feather in the town's cap.
“Councillor Peter Bedford, Leader of Boston Borough Council, said: "No one travelling into Boston on the A16 past the new showroom as it has been under construction cannot fail to have been impressed.
“It is a real feather in Boston's cap that this location was chosen for a new Jaguar Land Rover showroom.”
All this waffle is despite the fact that the address of the new showroom is London road, Kirton – but why let the facts get in the way of a good story?
The overwhelming thrust of the piece is a free puff designed to bathe gloomy old Boston in the reflected glory of an enterprising local business whose achievement has nothing whatever to do with Boston Borough Council
Oddly enough, whilst Worst Street can wax endlessly lyrical about totally irrelevant projects – unless we’re hoping to buy the mayor a fancy Jaguar at a discount – the opening of the new Poundstretcher in Strait Bargate passed unremarked on the borough webpages.
Perhaps that’s because – whilst the old Market Place shop is remaining open … possibly until as late as October … it will then be adding to the empty eyesores abutting what should be the town’s centrepiece.
Speaking of eyesores, at long last it seems that something is being done to tart up the former BT building behind Pescod Square.
Whilst it was never attractive to begin with, its decline from grey to grubby is now being slowly reversed – although a better solution for this exceptionally unattractive monstrosity would be demolition.
Doubtless in its day it was considered a piece of sixties chic – built during the vogue for modernity that saw Worst Street approve the demolition of a centuries old coaching inn to make way for a new Woolworths store – now it is a blot on the landscape and best removed once and for all.
The cynical greed of the megalomaniacs who call themselves the Boston Town Area Committee – BTAC-ky for short – is no better demonstrated than in its estimates for expenditure and income … although none of the latter seems to appear on the list.
Its decision to take over the town’s public toilets and the running of Central Park sees it acquire staffing costs of £81,000 in the first year, a premises bill of £226,000 – an increase of more than 200% and a “budget requirement” of £620,000 which is £400,000 over the current financial year and a rise of £185%.
This monstrous bill is being paid by the council tax from just eight of the borough’s 15 wards – purely because the leadership has reneged on its former responsibility to pay centrally for items which benefited the borough as a hole and the wider area.
It means that the top brass ends up looking good, while BTAC-ky and the parish councils pay the price.
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