It seems that
… 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:
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.
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 …
Early last week, a reader tried to make an appointment with a local GP surgery.
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.
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!
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