Monday, 30 January 2017


A

re we seeing the first steps in a campaign that will see the disappearance of Boston Borough Council?

Don’t hold your breath just yet – but Martin Hill, the leader of Lincolnshire County Council, wants voters polled on abolishing the eight councils in Lincolnshire and adopting a unitary system of government.
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.

  
You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com  
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, 23 January 2017

It seems that
Christmas comes
… but never goes

Just over eleven months from now it’ll be Christmas once again – but it seems that in Boston, we haven’t finished with last year’s débâcle yet.
This time last week we were underwhelmed to hear an interview on BBC Radio Lincolnshire with town centre portfolio holder Paul Skinner – who, in a lacklustre performance if ever we heard one, tried and failed to defend last year’s fiasco and was lukewarm at most about the prospects for something better this coming December.
The best offer he could muster was to hope that things might be better – when frankly, they couldn’t have been much worse.
It seems that there are to be “workshops” to stimulate competition between different shopping areas, and meetings with the Boston Town Team which so cleverly blew more than £35,000 to deliver nothing much for an awful lot.
Meanwhile, B-TACky – the Boston Town Idea Committee which poured the money down the Town Team’s drain–  is holding a special meeting to discuss the event … on a Wednesday towards the end of next month.
The good news – despite fears to the contrary – is that although the meeting is additional to B-TACky’s normal agenda, members of the public will be able to go along, and hopefully offer their own views … but it being stressed that the aim is not to apportion blame.

***

One reasonable question that might be asked concerns the cost of a laser projector to fling images on to the walls of various buildings around the town.
We understand that it was hired for the occasion and will be again at the end of this year.


The dearest projector to hire from a company called Popcorn Media – which has close links with Transported – is a Panasonic PT-DZ870 which costs £1,500 a week to hire – say £6,000 for the duration of a Christmas event.
The same machine can be bought for around £12,000, and would thus pay for itself very quickly.
B-TACky handed the Town Team around £35,000 to “organise” last year’s non-event.
Lights as such were almost non-existent, and Worst Street paid £460 to Doddington Hall near Lincoln to buy the tree (which always used to be donated to the town.)
This leaves around £29,000 apparently unaccounted for.
A good starting point for the B-TACky meeting, wethinks.

***.

An aside to the Christmas lights debate came at last week’s full council meeting, when Worst Street critic Darron Abbott posed a question from the public at the start of the meeting.
But the answers weren’t quite what he expected.
He told Boston Eye:

A
fter reading the submission from Quadranteer, I feel that I must also comment on the quality of answers given by councillors.
I submitted a question regarding the Mayor’s Christmas party, and the council decided this should be the responsibility of ‘Nipper’ to reply.
The usual bland “we will do as we want answer” came back, and then it was time for my supplementary question.
Something seemed to upset ‘Nipper’ – and the answer to my question was more of an angry rant than the dull monotone drone usually uttered by him.
“He set off by saying something about a "bloody idiot taking photos at the event" then carried on that the event “only cost £681;”  “The Mayor’s car is 15 years old,” and “The Mayor’s budget used to be much bigger.”
He suddenly changed direction into what appeared to be a personal attack upon me by producing an e-mail I had  sent over a month ago offering my assistance with the 2017 Christmas event, and saying that I had already lined up some sponsorship.
‘Nipper’s’ response was “with your kind of attitude you do not expect us to let you be involved.”
I have asked for a copy of the transcript of the response, but as usual with our open and transparent council I have been told I will have to wait until the minutes are issued with the agenda for the next meeting.
O
ne thing I find disappointing about ‘Nipper’s’ response is the fact that someone had volunteered to help and had already gained sponsors yet he was prepared to throw that away simply because he personally did not like the person making the offer.

***
  
In his question to the ‘leader’ Mr Abbott said:  “It has been well documented in both local and national press, the lack of festive lighting within the town, which has been put down to a lack of funding being available. Therefore how can the council justify allowing the Mayor to throw a party for all of the councillors, ex-councillors and his pals here in the municipal buildings at the expense of the ratepayers? Should we change His Worship’s title to Marie Antoinette?”
Councillor Bedford’s response – before the rant – went like this: “The Mayor’s Christmas Party has been a tradition of not just Boston but mayoralties throughout   the UK.  It is a small gesture of thanks to those in the voluntary sector, charities and partner organisations who support the work of the council during the year.  As such it should continue as one of our old traditions as long as mayors’ positions exist.” 
All well and good – but we feel that it overlooks the point that among many other “old traditions” the borough has hitherto provided toilet facilities, local street lighting, Christmas lights, and a host of other things that have now been stopped because they are not what Worst Street so pompously calls “statutory responsibilities.”
Supporting the Mayor’s office to the tune of £80,000 a year is also not a statutory responsibility.
It is, however a very nice perk which all councillors will eventually enjoy if they remain in office long enough.
The UKIP surge in the May 2015 elections put an end to a lot of that and has now seen relatively political babes in arms get the first citizen’s job – the present incumbent is a good example. And it  doesn’t do a lot to command respect for the office.

***

Talking of UKIP, the party at Worst Street now has a new leader and another defector.
The leader is Kirton and Frampton ward councillor James Edwards and his deputy is Councillor Yvonne Stevens, who represents Trinity Ward.
Meanwhile, Skirbeck ward member Stephen Ball has left UKIP “for his own personal reasons” and is now what Worst Street describes as “unaligned” so as not to confuse matters with so-called “Independents” who are really Conservatives.
He is the second party member to have been confirmed as leaving the party, with Councillor David Brown joining the Tories last week.
The present party line-up is now: Conservative – 14; UKIP – 10; Independent – 2; Labour – 2; Unaligned - 2
We had hoped when UKIP was elected that the group might have made a few waves once the Tories made power promises to other parties to vote with them so that they could struggle on in control – but regrettably this has not been the case.
What we think might make their opposition more effective would be properly to “shadow” the six members of the cabinet and mug up on their specific portfolios.
If nothing else, this would stop a lot of the bad practice we have seen in recent years from going unnoticed.

***

As Worst Street never tires of telling us, times are hard and money is simply not there to spend on “frivolous” items.
So you can imagine that we raised an Eyebrow when we saw the following items listed on the council’s list of expenditure of more than £250 last November.


The item is listed under the category “Civic Functions. Civic Hospitality” and reads “Sterling silver casket, hand engraved with Borough coat of arms and wording to front panel. £2,269. S T Hopper (Boston).”
So what’s all this about, then?
Another item in the same category is for an “Illuminated Honorary Freedom Scroll £777. Shaw & Sons” – and recently such an honour was awarded to a prominent and hardworking member of the Boston community.
Even so, we wonder whether something similar could not have been found at a price less than the thick end of £1,000.
And did this award also include a presentation of a silver casket costing more than £2,250?
We ask, because silver is the traditional gift to mark a 25th anniversary – such as that celebrated by Council “leader” Pete ‘Nipper’ Bedford in November last year
Some clarification would be nice to receive – but it’s good to know that Worst Street isn’t quite as hard up as it would wish us to believe.

***

 

It’s good to see the supermarket chain Lidl upping the action in its bid to open a new store on land off Westbridge Road next to the Tesco superstore and not far from Alban Retail Park and Oldrids Downtown.
The proposed store will be bigger than the one originally planned for Norfolk Street on the former Bedworld site and will have more parking space. It will also mean farewell to the wilderness that presently occupies the site.
Lidl backed out of the Tawney Street site despite being given permission to build – but with 11 conditions imposed.
At the application stage, the tweakers in the planning department had been exercised about the impact of the store in a so-called conservation area, which “conserved” the derelict Bedworld , a potholed car park, and a modern car showroom with a view of the massive side wall of the Boston Shopping Park.
They even went so far as to suggest that the height of the building be lowered by a few inches so as not to spoil the view of Boston Stump.
Lidl’s response was a resounding nein – the company builds its stores to a cookie cutter design and wasn’t falling for Boston’s tinkering.
At the time of the first application, Independent Conservative Councillor Alison Austin was the member of the planning committee who famously declared:  “We do not have to do this. We should say what we would like done to our town as Boston deserves better."
Councillor Austin is now the Chairman of the Planning Committee – but given the new location of the proposed store among other of the same ilk it must surely be time for her to have a change of heart.
Lidl has set up a special website, where you can download the plans and reports on the store and petition Boston Borough Council to support the application. The site can be found by clicking here

***

Readers with long memories will remember the tenure of Mark James as Chief Executive at Worst Street with little if no great pleasure.
It was Mr James who led the planning of the Princess Royal Sports Arena project back in the days when it was known as the DABSI – the Disabled and Able Bodied Sports Initiative – which over the years has seen millions of council taxpayer’s money wasted.
Mr James left Boston in 2002 to become chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council in Wales – where his most high-profile project has been … the construction of a highly-controversial multi-million pound rugby and athletics arena in which the council is a 'joint partner' to the tune of £15 million with the Llanelli Scarlets rugby club.
Mr James is also famous for successfully suing a local blogger, who is now on the brink of ruin – which has earned him a special award – announced in the current issue of Private Eye.

  
***

Last week we mentioned that Boston Borough Council was advertising jobs at the Moulder Leisure Centre on a zero hours basis working  contacted” as and when required.”
Our report mentioned that almost two years ago, Boston Borough Council was asked to consider paying its entire staff the living wage – by Labour councillor Paul Gleeson.
After the report appeared we asked Councillor Gleeson for his views on the council’s pay policy, and he told us: “I am opposed to zero hours contracts wherever they are.”
He said that he would try to get the council to adopt policy of not using zero hours as there should be no exclusivity clause and a minimum number of hours guaranteed
So, what are the chances of getting something done?
Councillor Gleeson told us via Twitter “Nationally the Tories and UKIP have made anti zero-hour noises so (I) may be able to get some support.”
We wait with bated breath.

***

Also last week we commented on the “leader’s” excursion into poetic writing with a New Year’s message which asked us to play Boston up, not down, and told us: “Negativity is the oil greasing the engine of despair which can choke with its black fumes of desolation.
“Let's park that engine in the sidings for 2017 and emerge onto the main line with a modern, sleek, green machine to take us to pastures fresh and new and full of optimism.”
Although we thought at the time that his poetic licence ought to be endorsed, his efforts seemed to have encouraged others at Worst Street.
The haphazard and unhelpful coverage of the Friday 13th flood alerts was mentioned beneath the headline: “When the North Sea growls Boston holds its breath.”
More succinctly it can be summed up in a single word …
Bollocks!

***

Early last week, a reader tried to make an appointment with a local GP surgery.
The answer?
No problem – how did 1st March sound?
It sounded six weeks away – long enough for a serious problem to become incurable or even fatal … and depending on your age, with the possibly of dying in the interim.
Or are we guilty of “greasing the engine of despair"?

***

The other morning we awoke to find that some kind soul has visited the grass borders beside our local footpath and sprayed pink paint circles around the doggy deposits left on the grass.
This must be Worst Street – which for some reason considers such an action as one of “shaming” inconsiderate dog owners into curbing their filthy habits.
We all know that dog faeces contain a parasite which can cause serious illness and even blindness – and quite honestly think that Worst Street is making the situation worse by not simply removing the poop and finding some other way to address offenders.
It’s not long now before we see the creation of a public protection area in which it will be an offence not to clear up after your dog nor to carry the means to do so. The penalty will be fined f100.
However, before they all get too excited in the Municipal Buildings, here’s a cautionary tale of money wasted – something with which our councillors are all too familiar with.


Hopefully, Worst Street will heed the words of the Dogs’ Trust spokesman and not pour too much money down the drain on this silly exercise.

***

Finally …
Whilst we acknowledge that our local police are not quite the scourge of criminals that once they were, we never thought that we would see the day when the fact alone that they bothered to look into a crime made the headlines …
This from the Boston sub-Standard ...


But it’s happened!


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, 18 January 2017

Leader just isn’t
getting the message

Every good political publication has a sketch writer – and today, so do we.
The following was sent in by the pseudonymous Quadranteer after Monday’s full council meeting – which by all accounts bordered on the farcical.
Without giving anything away, we can say that Quadranteer is a Worst Street insider with a detailed and long-standing knowledge of the way the place works and who has an ear close to the ground.

  
T
he bitterest looking face in the whole council chamber last Monday evening, was Councillor Claire Rylott, alongside the man who seems to believe that he has a God-given right to mess things up, and then bluster his way out of his own mess by blaming others ... like the Town Team.
Really big questions need to be asked about Cabinet responsibilities and the pretty big pot of money, that Councillor Paul Skinner was given by B-tacky.
He and Her Ladyship adopted a sort of rankling unwillingness to accept their shared blame for these two mess-ups ... nor did they take too kindly to having to answer reasonable questions from those they seem to regard as the “deplorable” opposition!
Perhaps ‘Nipper’ should have told them that the politics of the borough are not theirs to translate.
Nor are they subject to protected transmission in the way they might like to be. ‘Nipper’ really needs to step up to the plate and warn them both that cabinet positions carry serious responsibility – and not as they seem to think as being members of a kind of royal family, above question,  despite  their theory that they have some special entitlement.
Peter knows better than most just how burdensome leadership can be, and the cabinet is thought to be the first step along that very rocky road.
Mrs Rylott believes she has found a way to counter members’ normal practice, and not bother too much to waste much time on her first ‘answer’ to their questions – instead concentrating on getting to the supplementary, and droning on and on about previously unfathomable and less-known facts unrelated to the opening question.
In fact the venerable Mayor seems very keen to suggest brevity is applied to opposition observations, yet some kind of blindness occurs when the questioner queries this drone-some tactic.
Mr Mayor: begin to look around, watch the reactions to your so-called un-politicised position and react fairly!
Meanwhile, questions are mounting on the continuing subject of the effectiveness of some members of the ruling group in the full council.
It surely will not have escaped the notice of even the most loyal of Conservative members and supporters that those whose recent performances were condemned, and were in attendance, are failing in more ways than one in their contributions to win Worst Street debates.
So why then does an organisation such as the Conservatives continue to stick with mediocrity rather than pursue purposeful challenge, and set forth to demand a fairer and better future for Boston by getting a decent leader installed?
Our present leader seemed to show so much glee and surprise when he received a 25-year long-service scroll from the Mayor –  naively, I suggest, he saw this as an accolade, rather than a very strong hint.
Yes, Peter, that award was telling you that some  “friends” whom you may have thought held you in high regard no longer think of you in such a way.
It was a kindly way of telling you to hang everything up, and book yourself and the missus on a very, very long holiday!
One is bound to wonder why the 'Blueys', as one hard-working, but formerly disenchanted Tory, Carol Taylor, christened them, have continued to tolerate the obvious and growing failures of ‘Nipper?’
It is well-known this leader’s position for the greatest part has always been most weakened by his own personal failings rather than those of Conservative policy.
However, the newest and most threatening situation is now more to do with the attitude of those around him that will cause the ship to wobble and lurch in what should now be considered as pretty calm seas!
As always in Boston Borough, when the roar of a lion begins to weaken, whispers abound of new horizons being introduced, mostly by the enemy – and it will probably come to nothing – but it would do no harm for sitting councillors to begin upping their games ... even those who may already have – or are thinking about – deciding to jump and drown, or jump and swim!


 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, 16 January 2017

Here we go again – it’s council tax settling time … which means digging deeper in your pockets to buy less for more.
Boston Borough Council is proposing an increase of 2.86% which it seeks to mitigate by saying that it represents “less than just” 9p a week or £4.68 per household per year.
But of course we also have to pay Lincolnshire County Council another 3.95% which includes 2% for the social care ‘precept’ (there’s another new one) and Lincolnshire police from whom we still await a figure.
Interestingly, the greediest “council” of them all is the Boston Town Area Committee – BTACky for short) which purports to be a parish council for the town centre’s eight wards.
Things looked bad enough last year when the BTACkers chimed in with a precept that was 94.6% higher than the previous year – but for 2017/18 they want a stratospheric 281% increase – of £1 a week on a band D property.
The reason for this is BTACky’s apparent and recent thirst for power and stems from a need to have more say over the way the town centre is “managed.”
Yet by and large the money that the committee plans to spend will not directly benefit those living in the town centre – which was the original idea when the committee was created.
This has easily been overcome by a simple airbrushing of those terms and conditions, so that they long longer apply.
What hasn’t changed is that the town centre wards are among the poorest and most deprived in the borough – and whilst Worst Street managed to mitigate their increase to a “less than just” 9p a week, quite how they plan to present a more than unjust charge of almost £50 extra a year is anyone’s guess.
Most probably, they’ll ignore it – after all we’re only talking about the voters here, aren’t we?

***

When the increases were first mooted, we sent a round robin to all 14 members of the committee and a number of officers who were also involved.
One of the two replies we got came from the mayor Stephen Woodliffe, whose response had echoes of Marie Antoinette:  “I take issue with your assertion that the extra precept charges will be imposed upon residents of the poorest wards in the town.  The precept depends upon the valuation of the property and not upon its location. Thus, the greatest charge falls on those living in the highest rated band H properties, who pay much more than that of a band A property…
“… Looking to the future, it is my view that a charge of one pound a week on a band D property, and much less for a band A property, for BTAC would be a very reasonable charge to make to ensure that Boston remains an attractive pleasant place to live …”

***

The lion’s share of the money which these ninnies at BTAC are demanding  is for spending on facilities such as Central Park and the town’s toilets – which under the old rules were charged to the council’s central funds as they benefited people from far beyond the town centre area.
The recent moves have served no other purpose than to bail out the leadership by making it appear that their targets for cuts are being met … when they are simply being dumped on to other areas.

***

Whilst the books are simmering nicely, and ahead of the final vote to set next year’s taxes, Worst Street is again offering on of is hapless public “consultations.”
It takes to form of two items – each above a box in which to write comments.
The first says ¨Please read the draft Budget Report 2017/18 (which alone runs to 7,000 words) and the associated appendices, if you have any comments on the draft budget, please comment below …”
The second reads: “We are also keen to hear what you feel the town centre priorities are, please comment below…”
It ends: “Following the public and other consultation processes, the 2017/18 budget will be presented to Cabinet and then formally approved by Full Council in February.”
Isn’t this last line – “presented to Cabinet and then formally approved by Full Council” – something of a giveaway  
It seems to say “We are consulting you – and then doing as we please.”

***

We sincerely hope that all this interest in the town centre after so many hundreds of years will yield a result. Our last blog listed the new management appointments aimed at getting the ball rolling.
Then we have the BTAC chocolate teapot desperate to spend, spend, spend and act as paymaster for the shadowy and secretive Preposterous Boston Task and Finish Group.
But let’s not forget the equally ineffective Boston Town Team.
Fresh from its recent disastrous dalliance with last year’s Christmas lights fiasco – how can £35k produce such a feeble result – an advert has once again appeared for “an experienced part time Town/Event Co-ordinator to manage and promote the activities and events of Boston town.”
And they don’t want much, do they?


With so much responsibility for two days a week and £10 an hour – less than £8,000 a year, is it any wonder that the job has had to be re-advertised?

***

We hear of a similar problem at the Moulder Leisure Centre where they are advertising for casual receptionists at £7.47 an hour, as well as casual swimming instructors and casual leisure attendants at £8.81.
Low though the pay may be the responsibilities are much higher – and   in some cases include supervision and safety of customers using the pools, and security checks of changing areas.
But here’s the catch: “The hours of work are on a zero hour's (sic) basis and you will be contacted as and when required. Work will be over various shifts including evenings and weekends.”
Such contracts are generally condemned for reasons of fairness – despite which huge numbers of employees are now employed using them – 900,000 at the last count.
They are controversial because staff are not able to rely on receiving a set amount of pay, making it difficult for them to plan their finances or to make big purchases such as buying a house – and in extreme cases some employees earn less that £1,000 a year.
Almost two years ago, Boston Borough Council was asked to consider paying its entire staff the living wage – which is higher than the national minimum wage – but rejected the idea by 25 votes to six.
At the time of the debate, it was understood that 45council employees received less than the living wage and it would cost £75,000 to end the practice.
Labour councillor Paul Gleeson said that the average wage for those living in the borough was £3,000 lower than East Lindsey and £5,000 below South Kesteven. But a Tory portfolio holder at the time, Mike Gilbert said: “I’m not sure the way forward is to hike up wages which are paid for by council tax payers.”
Hmmm.

***

We know that our local “newspapers” struggle to fill space around Christmas time but their efforts sometimes reach nonsensical proportions.
This year, we have seen Christmas “messages” from the Vicar of Boston Stump – which is, of course, quite appropriate.
But do we really need messages from the Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, Lincolnshire’s Police and C rime Commissioner, the Chief Executive of LIVES, Boston’s Mayor and the Leader too?
Of course we don’t.

***

Which brings us seamlessly to the leader’s Christmas message in which ‘Nipper’ Bedford asks us to talk Boston up, not down – something that we take to mean to create a less than accurate image of the town by overlooking its problems to create a good appearance that isn’t quite what it seems.
This year, the leader has put his usual crayon aside and written his message with a quill pen in almost poetic terms.
“Negativity is the oil greasing the engine of despair which can choke with its black fumes of desolation,” he croons.
“Let’s park that engine in the sidings for 2017 and emerge on to the main line with a modern, sleek, green machine to take us to pastures fresh and new and full of optimism.”
Aside from the fact that we wonder who wrote this stuff for him, we think that it more closely resembles a fairy tale than a New Year message.

***

It’s been a busy weekend for Councillor David Brown after he switched political allegiances from UKIP to the Conservatives, where he will represent Wyberton alongside the Independent Conservative Richard Austin.
After last week’s move we asked him if he would like to outline his reasons to his electorate, but were simply told: “I have issued a press statement and this will be submitted to the local press for publication in the forthcoming week.”
However, he did share news that on Saturday a team distributed leaflets to around 400 houses in the Wyberton ward and would be doing some more in the coming days.
“I will be holding a surgery at Wyberton Parish Hall, Saturday 21st between 10am and noon. This will give the electorate the opportunity to meet me and discuss any issues they may have.”
He added: “Since being elected May 2015 I have read your blog every week. If the Conservatives were as bad as you portray them, I would certainly not have joined them.”
Given the phoney optimism which characterises the Tory leadership, we sincerely hope that Councillor Brown has not been seduced to switch horses from the viewpoint of an outsider looking in, when we know that a number of Tory insiders looking out have more sympathy with our views than his.

***

Councillor Brown’s defection showed Boston Borough Council as its open and transparent worst.
After we heard the news that a Kipper had gone over to the Tories we looked to the council website for details – but not surprisingly there weren’t any.
The only way to work out who had switched was to check the 2015 election result against the list of councillors – although that wouldn’t work if you ran the check against the council’s now outdated who’s who guide to the wards.
Presumably, Worst Street doesn’t consider it worth telling the 3,117 people who took the trouble to vote in Wyberton that their representation has changed.

***

Finally, we received an e-mail after our last blog from Councillor Mike Cooper, portfolio holder for Housing, Property and Community which read: “Just a few points to clarify your latest musings, there was no cabinet meeting between Christmas and New Year, the offices were closed and we certainly did not meet elsewhere, Why would we?
“The £950,000 that you seem to think the council is spending on the offices is in fact being funded by another department, directly from Government and is NOT anything to do with the Council Budget for Boston.
“Do please print this mail, with my name.”
Happy to oblige, Councillor Cooper – but in reply, we would make the following points.
As the council published the date of the cabinet meeting as being on Wednesday 30th December, we had no reason to believe that this was anything other than the case. Why would we?

 

And if an item lists £950,000 from the capital budget as “municipal building alterations” we take Worst Street’s word for it. Why wouldn’t we?


The problem here is the same as with the previous item – poor communication by Worst Street with the people who pay for it and are entitled to expect better.



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, 4 January 2017



For a council that claims to have no money, Worst Street will certainly be flashing the cash in the months ahead.
A report to an apparently unscheduled cabinet meeting held between Christmas and the New Year – and missing from its general meeting list – asks that updated capital programme plans to spend more than £3.5 million in the remainder of the 2016-2017 financial year, which ends on 30th April are noted.
When we came across it, we were reminded of the now commonplace political ploy of burying bad news at a time when no-one is looking – but surely, that couldn’t be the case here.
There are several items that stand out – all involving huge sums of money – and all are projects where spending has not yet begun.
Far and away the largest is £950,000 for “Municipal Buildings alterations
Have we missed something – or did plans to tart up Worst Street to the tune of almost a million pounds slip us by?
We must have missed it, as according to the report, the table indicates the approved capital programme for the year
Then there is “PRSA Investment” – to the tune of £840,000.
An identical sum was mentioned in January 2015 – to be used to get the PRSA up to scratch so that it could be leased out.
In September of that year a full repair and renew lease for the site was signed with sport, leisure and recreation “experts” 1Life “relieving borough council tax payers of any future financial responsibility.”
1Life was given the go-ahead to arrange repairs and improvements to bring the centre up to an improved handover condition – with the final bill to be paid by the borough council … although we were told that those costs would be covered by savings made by energy efficiency improvements.
All of this was announced in the financial year 2015-2016.
So – have things been carried over because the work has not yet been done, or are we looking at a second, identical, payment?
At the time of the 1Life deal our so-called leader ‘Nipper’ Bedford said: “This points the way to a successful future for the PRSA at minimal cost to the council taxpayer.”
Perhaps a few words of explanation might help make matters clearer.
The third really big item is £440,000 for “East Lindsey DC CCTV” – which Worst Street is going to monitor for our neighbours.
Early reports about this were quite specific that “a total of 97 CCTV cameras are in use in the area and East Lindsey District Council is investing £425,000 to upgrade them all.”
Quite right too, so why does the figure appear on Boston’s spending programme?

***

It seems as though Boston Borough council is planning some New-ish Year’s resolutions for 2017 if our reading between the lines (which is the only way to do it with Worst Street) is correct...
We made the discovery when we were asked about Worst Street’s new management structure – and realised that we knew little if anything about it.
If readers with long memories cast their minds back a year they will recall the council’s fruitless search for a Head of Service: Economic Development and Growth – “a high profile appointment … (with) responsibility for providing strategic, visionary and organisational leadership in all aspects of inward investment, growth and wider regeneration and economic development for the Borough.”
Not just a high profile job either – a highly-paid one at £65,000.
This being Worst Street, the advert was placed at exactly the wrong time to generate a good response – between Christmas 2015 and the 2016 New Year – and it was not until the summer that the post was re-advertised – this time at a downgraded salary of £45k for the job of “leading” on economic development.
Then all was silence – aside from the sound of cash registers ringing in the office of the recruitment firm Veredus which charged Worst Street’s taxpayers more than £16,000 for advertising and its time involved in getting nowhere slowly.
Now, though, we note that the management cauldron has been given a big stir – with a host of unannounced changes which took effect at the start of October last year.
click to enlarge
IN comes an Economic Development Manager reporting directly to Chief Executive Phil Drury – just as it said in the original advert.
Clive Gibbon comes to Boston via Fenland District Council where he worked between 2006 and 2014, leaving to run his own consultancy firm between his Fenland departure and Boston arrival in September last year.
IN comes Phil Perry as Head of Service, town centre, leisure, events and culture – appointed in July last year from a similar role in South Holland.
The new line up is more streamlined, and sees some changes of title for other staff  – plus the disappearance of one of the borough’s longest serving and most senior managers, Steve Lumb … who retired in October last year after 18 years in Worst Street.
Hopefully, these changes are being made with some sort of aim to pull Boston up by its bootstraps – or at least by its shoelaces.
Certainly, there enough people are being paid to do it.
But as is so often the case with Boston Borough Council – whilst we taxpayers foot the bill we are not deemed worth telling what is going on – and major changes like these should have been announced.

***

That’s it from us for now – we’re off to the sun-kissed beaches of Norfolk for a spell and will be back around mid-January.


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