Monday, 27 February 2017

 
Crackers! Christmas debate turns into a load of baubles!
Join us now for a ringside seat at last week’s special meeting of BTAC – called to discuss last year’s Christmas lights fiasco.
Ringside might be the best possible word in the context – as by all accounts the lengthy session had more of the circus about it that the council chamber. Certainly there appeared to be no shortage of clowns.
Your guide to the evening is local businessman Darron Abbott, who is keen that the town be seen in a better light this Christmas – although once you’ve read his report, you may feel as we do that this appears increasingly unlikely


W
ednesday 22nd February, 6.30pm, the council chamber – finally we get to find out what went wrong with the with the 2016 Boston Christmas event. The meeting was open to the public, and was billed as not being held to apportion blame, but to move on to the future. 
There were actually some members of the public in attendance – five of us in total, three people from a volunteer organisation, Councillor Jonathan Noble and me.  Not bad for a meeting that had not really been publicised – not even a mention in the great Boston Bulletin.
The chairman, Councillor Nigel Welton, announced that the meeting would be recorded … was this a glimpse of a future of openness and accountability form the council or just to stop the council's officers being able to rewrite history to fit their own needs (but that is a story on its own.)
One thing that was a surprise at this point was the fact that no one from the infamous Town Team were present; instead, the  Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce supremo Simon Beardsley.
Once the pleasantries were out of the way I was allowed to ask my question, which centred on the ownership and the cost of the projectors used for the lighting display, as there seemed real confusion regarding this, and even the agenda notes for the meeting added to the confusion.
The reply came back, but it did not really answer the question other than to confirm that they had not been purchased but did not answer the lease or hire part.
“I then proceed with my supplementary question, in which I asked for a breakdown of how the £35,000 grant (from BTAC)  had been spent.
The reply came back from an officer that the figures had been audited by an independent accountant and all was OK.
There was no offer to make these amounts public. I pressed again for a breakdown; it was then referred to Mr Beardsley who would not confirm that the breakdown would be made available to the public. 
Why would they be reluctant to let us know how they had spent our money?
The meeting then continued mainly with statements from the members of the committee – most of which expressed surprise about the ownership of the equipment. Many of the committee had been given the impression that the equipment had been purchased and would be available for use at other times.
The other point that kept coming up was the fact that the actual display was nothing like that presented to committee by the Town Team. 
There were statements from two senior committee members. Councillor Brian Rush said he had not become involved in the sub-committee to overlook the spending as he knew it would all go wrong and did not want to be part of it. Perhaps if he had been involved it would have meant he would have had to shoulder some of the responsibility.
Councillor Alison Austin apologised for not getting involved when perhaps she should have done – seeming to suggest she had not had time. Perhaps this was to ease her conscience for not having the time to help for the event but being able turn up and ensure she was in most of the photographs!  
The funniest statement of the evening was his worshipfulness Woodliffe, who had seen nothing wrong with the event.  It was marvellous, wonderful. I think he thought the Santa Claus present at the event was the real one.
The gnashing and wailing went on for well over an hour,. During this time to his credit the chairman did state that they were all guilty of neglecting to ensure the money had been spent wisely.
What was becoming apparent was that no one present was confident in allowing the Town Team or Chamber to be allowed to take on the event in the future.
Towards the end of this session, Councillor Yvonne Stevens spoke, being very critical of the Chamber’s handing of the event.
When she finished she was approached by the council's monitoring officer and taken outside, which seemed very strange. She had not appeared to say anything controversial, so why would a council officer interfere, she was only there for guidance.
After a few minutes, Councillor Stevens returned to the chamber. The monitoring officer returned a few minutes later with an A4 sheet of paper and passed it to the chairman.
After reading what was on the paper, the chairman called a break in proceedings to allow refreshments.
The contents of the notes on this sheet of paper will never be known to us, the public, unless in the spirit of openness and accountability shown by Councillor Welton at the start of the meeting he would like to anonymously supply Boston Eye a copy!  I am sure his identity would not be revealed.
Whilst most people’s attentions were being diverted, getting cups of coffee and having a chat, at the other end of the chamber there were obvious discussions going on centred on the contents of the notes produced by the monitoring officer.
Was it the fact that no one wanted the chamber involved; but this is not what had been agreed in some kind of shoddy deal between the officers and chamber prior to the meeting?
The meeting then recommenced, with Simon Beardsley stating the town team had appointed a new chairman who was one of the town’s largest retailers, but whom he declined to name.
They had already had meetings with Pescod Square about their lights and their lighting supplier, and that they had already started planning for the 2017 event.
This was not what a majority of those present wanted, so it was put to Beardsley as to whether the Town Team would like to be involved in community lead team. He did not like this. He “would have to go back to the Town Team and ask them as he could not speak on their behalf.”
Why in hell was he at the meeting if he wasn't representing the Town Team? It seems that if the chamber were not running the show. They were not interested.
In the end, it was resolved that a committee be set up by March under the guidance of BTAC of residents and business, with the chamber if they wished and possibly the Federation of Small Businesses to run the events for the town.
It was also suggested that matched funding of up to £10.000 would be made available by BTAC and that any interested members of the public should contact Janette Collier from the council.
Then on Friday the council issued a press release stating people who are interested should contact the Chamber of Commerce in Lincoln, which was not what was agreed at the meeting!
A ‘phone call to the Chamber of Commerce revealed that lady responsible does not work on Fridays, and would not be able to answer my questions as she was not going to be told she was responsible until Monday.

***

In its “account” of the meeting, the Worst Street website informed us that a new group had been formed to include something calling itself Boston More In Common Facebook Group.
On its Facebook  page, the group itself asks “So...what is Boston More In Common? It is a group started by like-minded people to foster a sense of open friendliness between the rich tapestry of nationalities and cultures we are lucky to be home to in Boston, Lincolnshire. .. it is a place that we are trying to create to encourage interaction and integration ... to make us all realise that Boston is now 'Home' to many people, and we are all 'Bostonians' wherever we were born.”
We wait with bated breath so see how this will translate into a stonking display of lights this year.

***

We hear that Worst Street is planning yet another of its pointless “Task and Finish” groups – this time to take a look at on impact of STP on the Pilgrim Hospital.
Until now STP was better known as a go-faster fuel additive but this particular set of initials stands for Sustainability and Transformation Plan – a five year plan to improve quality and develop new models of care; improve health and well-being and the efficiency of services at the Pilgrim Hospital.
Task and finish groups may be established by a scrutiny committee to conduct an in-depth review of any service, policy or issue that affects the borough, which falls under the remit of the committee.
Given that Boston Borough Council seems incapable of running its own affairs, we can only wonder why it has the impudence to believe it can tell others how to manage theirs.
Its track record to date has not been impressive.
In recent years we have seen a report on the social impact of population change in Boston – which has been a source of considerable criticism, a report on the lamentably awful Boston Business “Improvement” District which saw recommendations that were completely ignored, and more recently a rural isolation task and finish group. Whether that achieved anything we have no idea.
Then of course there is the almost forgotten Prosperous Boston task and finish group, which we have dubbed the Preposterous Boston. By an ironic coincidence, as we dictated this sentence, our voice recognition software decided to call it the task “unfinished” group.
When the committee was established in 2015, Worst Street called it "one of the most in-depth studies into what makes Boston tick" aimed at making the town better for residents, shoppers and for those who work and visit here.
The group meets in secret, and does not publish minutes – but we are promised a final report will appear on the borough’s website, which if they are running on schedule should be any time now.
Preposterous Boston’s next update will be discussed on Wednesday a meeting of the Environment and Performance Committee – and a look through the report suggests that most of the things proposed are mere relatively minor aside from a plan for a food festival in September and the introduction of some Big Brother heavy-footedness.
We have no idea where the food festival idea has come from … but Spalding has staged something similar in previous years over two days – and this year is reviewing whether to repeat the exercise due to poor attendance figures.

***

There was also mention of a squad of “environmental enforcement” officers starting work  through a third party organisation this week and a bid by Worst Street to get permission for its first RIPA surveillance operation using a covert camera, in an area subjected to continual fly tipping.
For those who don’t know, RIPA is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 which controls the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance and investigation, and the interception of communications – and was created to fight terrorism and serious crime.

*** 

What we’ve read so far is not particularly earth-shattering but we were pleased to note that the group has at least rattled the cages of the Head of Town Centre, Leisure, Events and Culture, the Town Centre Services Manager, the Principal Museum, Arts and Heritage Officer and the Partnerships and Sustainability Manager.
With all these big names getting involved, success surely cannot be far behind.

*** 

Also in the report, mention is made of concern at a damaged road sign on the A52 approaching the town, which has gone unrepaired for many months.
Whilst members agreed that it reflected badly on the town and needed to be straightened “it was not within Boston’s remit to do so as it was County Highways responsibility.”
Things will never improve whilst attitudes such as this survive.
 Incidentally another damaged is on the A16 coming into town from Wyberton, and that has also been in its present state for many months as well. This is one of the “special” Boston signs, which we would hope the council can do something about.

***

Local websites have been awash this week with the snap below of our Police and Crime Commissioner, his deputy and a couple of other macho characters posing alongside a car that once belonged to a hare courser, and which has been seized and crushed.
Whilst we have no problem with depriving these people of their transport, we wonder whether the vehicles could be put to better use.
We are sure that charities, for example could use a four-wheel drive or two to help them collect donations, or various groups that try to help others.
If nothing else, could the vehicles not be auctioned, and the proceeds used to support good causes?
Whilst it’s now unrecognisable, we wonder whether the vehicle in the photo was once a Vauxhall Courser?

*** 

Tonight’s full meeting of the council will be discussing and voting on the proposed council tax increase for the year ahead. But don’t expect any surprises, or last minute reprieves.
A reader who contacted Worst Street in the middle of last week with a query was told that it wasn’t possible to access council tax information that day “because we’re printing out the bills.”

***

Our recent piece on the quality of local “newspapers” stirred some fond memories for Boston Eye reader Tony Eves, who e-mailed us to say:

Y
our comments regarding the Boston Standard over the past few blogs have been spot on, and the latest reference to twelve reporters and a senior reporter dedicated to local government shows just how devalued a once respected newspaper has become
“That senior reporter you refer to is probably (I hope!) my father, Allan Eves. As a child I remember he used to attend all the council meetings, often until late at night, then spend hours writing the report either in the office in Wide Bargate or at home. He never seemed to express a personal opinion (until 'Spectator' many years later after retirement) but always appeared to know personally most of the local councillors and what they thought.
“As you say, in those days the council and the members were more accountable because there were real people looking at them, listening to them, talking to them and asking questions to their face.
“Sometimes, privately,  he wasn't very complimentary but, publicly,  it wasn't his place to be so.
“Going back even before those times I remember he used to go out reporting - knowing something happened but going out to find out more. I once sat in the car just past the (as was) Sibsey railway bridge one weekend while he talked to someone who had escaped a car accident in a drain.
“Earlier still one of his memories was of visiting the relatives of recently deceased gentleman to record the details of his life then being asked to go into the front room and have a look at the late lamented as he lay in his coffin on the table.
“Sad as it is a newspaper these days seems to rely on items being sent in to them from various social media sources then arranged on a computer generated page with few checks on grammar and spelling.
“And as an afterthought, my mother worked as a reader with Meg Comer  for a few years at the then Lincolnshire Standard so there were plenty of checks  then.
“Apart from the inevitable computer 'spellchecker’ is there anything else these days?”

***

Finally, one of those delightful errors that slip unnoticed through the system. This comes from the Preposterous Boston report on the appointment of environmental enforcement officers and asks why their tasks cannot be combined with those of the traffic wardens.


Or perhaps it wasn’t a slip of the pen after all! 


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, 20 February 2017


Wednesday night sees the Boston festive lights debacle back on the agenda with a discussion aimed at avoiding blame for the Christmas calamity – which could prove difficult – and   seeking a way forward this coming yuletide.
Given that this is being done under the umbrella of BTAC-ky – the Boston Town Area Committee that has turned ineptitude into an art form – we already have a sinking feeling that nothing much will be changing … except perhaps the level of recrimination once this year’s event has passed.
Once Worst Street Central had washed its hands of the responsibility, this poisoned chalice was passed to a combined task farce meant to comprise local businesses, Boston Town Team and BTAC-ky.
BTAC allocated £35,000 towards a Christmas lights project in the town for 2016 “on the understanding that it is a one-off allocation and match-funding will be required in future years” and a small sub group was formed to take it forward, working with Town Centre Portfolio Holder Councillor Paul Skinner and the Boston Town Team.
A proportion of the first year costs were associated with the “purchase of equipment leased to the project” and is it said that the self-same scheme will cost around £15,000 this year.
During a debrief last month it was characteristically understated that there had been “some” negative press, but with a common feeling “that what was done was good, but there was not enough of it.”

***

Identified more closely, the criticisms included the projections not delivering everything they should have, a need for strings of lights in the Market Place and through Bargate and a much more cohesive approach.
Options to be explored to raise funds for 2017 included: a “community projects pot”, Boston Big Local, and crowd funding schemes as well as asking larger out of town businesses for sponsorship.
The meeting discussed lamp-post motifs in the Market Place, string lights through “Straight” (sic) Bargate, and decided to look at a scheme operated by Warwick District Council (see photo below) “where funds were raised through business sponsorship.”
Erm … well not entirely.
The county council and Warwick’s Court Leet – a medieval throwback established in 1554 – have both given grants to the town’s chamber of trade to replace the outdate light bulbs with LEDs, and the chamber won a £20,000 grant from National Grid to continue the process and obtain more lights.
Boston’s starting point is one which doesn’t involve any lights.
However none of this detracts from the splendid display seem in Warwick last year.
However – whilst we know that Rome wasn’t built in a day – we somehow cannot imagine Boston looking anything like this in December.

***

Meanwhile, questions are already being asked about the projector system used last year in Boston.
Some accounts say the equipment has been leased, others that it was hired and yet a third version is that it was purchased outright.
We seem to recall one member of BTAC-ky saying that the projector would be made available for events throughout the year – which suggests that it is owned outright.
If so, it is an excellent opportunity so earn some money from hiring it out, helping other local charities improve their promotions – and getting some practice in operating it so that it may prove more effective this coming Christmas.

***

Boston’s road to nowhere was put into clear perspective when Lincolnshire County Council’s Corporate and Community Scrutiny Committee discussed the Boston Transport Guide for future traffic planning up to 2036.
Councillors were told that whilst the proposed Boston Distributor Road was “very, very important” there was no more than “a chance” that the road “could” make good progress in the coming 20 years and that a completion date beyond 2036 was “very difficult to predict.”
In other words – no one has a clue. Nor do they seem to care.
The concept of the “distributor” road is that it will be built link by link if a developer comes along with plans for housing along the proposed line of the route.
All that’s on the table so far is a plan that may ultimately connect the A16 to the A52/Boardsides road – and it’s already been made clear and that the cost of building a bridge for the project would be prohibitive.

 

In the same week that this debate was going on, Clownty Hall announced a £5m improvement scheme at the A17/A151 Peppermint Junction in Holbeach which could pave the way for up to 650 new homes.
The first phase of Boston’s Quadrant scheme, within which the distributor road is being located, will see around 500 new homes alone, and up to 460 new local jobs.
Why do we let Lincolnshire County Council continue to feed us all this bullshit? And more to the point, why do we keep swallowing it?


***

The meeting also heard an explanation why – unlike other places that merit by-passes and major improvements – Boston does not.
Rather in the way that black holes in space operate, Boston apparently sees traffic pouring in from all directions – but not coming out the other side.
In other words, most of the town traffic comes in but doesn’t travel through.
With roads such as the A16 which links Peterborough and Grimsby and the A52 running across to Skegness from the Midlands holiday heartlands of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby, we find this hard to believe.
But because of this the county declares that its strategy is to get people walking, cycling and using public transport rather than using their car.
Aside from the highly patronising standpoint that this attitude adopts, it also ignores the fact that many people cannot walk or cycle much in the way of distance – particularly when weighed down with their weekly shop.
And using public transport means travelling at a time decreed by the buses rather than enjoying the freedom to travel as you please.
The county argument also overlooks the fact that traffic can gridlock at any time in Boston – and not just during runs to-and-from work.
The argument against a by-pass is also an argument against a distributor road, we would have thought.
It would also be interesting to hear the reaction if the Boston solution was applied in other parts of the county – such as Lincoln and Grantham.

***

A couple of blogs ago, we mentioned Worst Street’s enthusiasm to pass the buck whenever the opportunity arises and save a bit of work in the process.
The latest concerns plans to reduce street lighting across Lincolnshire – including Boston.
In its self-styled “newsletter” Worst Street tells us: “Boston Borough Council has received some enquiries about planned reductions in the hours that street lights are lit. This is a Lincolnshire County Council initiative and not Boston Borough Council.”
Well, that’s true enough – and in fairness readers are given some help to steer them towards the information that they need.
Although a Worst Street summary would have been quite useful – none was forthcoming.
But the same issue of the seven-story bulletin goes on to promote five other stories which are also nothing to do with the council.
We wonder when this pointless piece of busywork will be recognised for the waste of time and resources that it is, and when we will see the council getting down to  sharing some specific information about what it is doing and why.

***

The only story of relevance to Boston Borough Council concerns “an opportunity for community groups … to have a professional-looking online presence at no cost.”
At a time when Worst Street is doing less and less, for some reason it has been in touch with a company called interests.me  which allows “individual groups” (sic) to publish to their own webpages or existing website, “and also (sic) to a community website (which would be managed by the council)” …
… “The council is excited at the prospect of community and charitable groups taking advantage of this growing platform, and would use content submitted to feature in the Boston Bulletin and other forms of promotion, such as the council website – and Facebook and Twitter.
Of course they’re excited – the outcome would be more irrelevant content that the council hasn’t had to create and pack its sluggish website.
This is yet more pointless busywork and is really the role of our local “newspapers.”
We’ve said it before – it’s high time that Boston Borough Council’s website and Bulletin told us what’s happening at Worst Street and explained the thinking behind its decisions – and not wasting our time and insulting our intelligence with a load of pointless pabulum.

***


We sometimes wonder whether we let ourselves be over-influenced by statistics.
Last week we heard that Lincolnshire has seen a rise in hate crime of 59 per-cent between July and September 2016 compared with April to June of the same year. 

It is the highest quarterly figure since comparable records began in April 2012, and puts the force at eighth place nationally out of all forces across England and Wales.
Contrary to expectations, there was no sharp increase in racially or religiously motivated crime in the aftermath of Brexit – instead the biggest rise was against disabled and LGBT communities.
Whilst so-called hate crime is to be deplored, before we get too concerned and our police launch Operation Stoppit, we should point out that this huge increase represents a rise to just 78 incidents of hate crime … over three months.
That represents 26 crimes a month – less than one a day in a county of 730,000 people.
And in terms of crimes per head of the population, the figure is just 0.0035 per-cent

***

This week we received some “observations from a Boston Yorkshireman”  –  which we think are well worth reading.

O
n a dank and dreary Saturday morning I ventured in to my adopted town full of optimism and with an open mind as to what I might find. My optimism soon began to diminish when I walked round the corner of Dunelm Fabrics towards the White Hart where I was confronted with empty foreign labelled aluminium beer cans and bottles at the side of the road feet away from a sign indicating a No Drinking Zone and then I noticed the whiff' from Dunelm's staff car park which appears to have become gents toilet No.7.
Proceeding through into what is usually a vibrant Market Place, there was a distinct lack of stalls – and hence shoppers – but this could have been the weather. I crossed the 'pedestrianised' market square avoiding the bus and cars passing through to do my shopping.
I set off to return to my car (Mr Bedford, I have no intention of changing to a bike) over the new pedestrian bridge and near the Jobcentre, yards from the police station had the good fortune to cast my eye over a bin fastened to a tree requesting, yes you guessed it, aluminium cans.
I then drove out of our wonderful historic town along West Street with its multitude of 'colourful' shop fronts (I thought Worst Street planning were going to do something about the spread of these into the rest of the town?).
Whilst driving home I thought ‘why should a small minority be allowed to get away with spoiling the town for the majority of citizens’ –  hence I thought of  Boston Borough Council who need to put right their own failings and also go after and punish the minority who mess the town up for the majority.
It is solutions, then ACTION not words that taxpayers want from the council and if this is done we can reverse the decline of a lovely market town.

***

Have Boston’s traffic wardens taken to hunting in packs?
In recent days they have been spotted on at least three occasions as a slow-moving green trio, and also a couple of times travelling in tandem.
Not only does this seem something of a waste of resources – but they always seem to be in areas where there are little or no traffic problems while parking regulations are flouted willy-nilly elsewhere.
A classic example was last Friday, when wardens patrolled neatly parked and orderly streets – whilst a few yards away in the Market Place cars were line up beside the run of planters and beneath an emphatic parking prohibition sign.
They might as well give up.

***

The talk of a unitary authority for Lincolnshire which would subsume the county’s seven district councils makes sense in many ways – not least in that it would save millions of pounds a year.
From the outset, it has produced the not unreasonable suggestion that if nothing else, it might encourage districts to get their acts together and deliver a decent service – something that is long overdue in Boston at least.
But a plan to sound out and deliver a verdict for a sensible price  now it looks as though that won’t go ahead as it failed to take into account the megalomania and self-interest of the district councils.
Next week’s full meeting of Lincolnshire County Council will discuss a report which says that district chief executives – who were approached with an outline proposal to conduct such an 'advisory poll' on county council election day, 4th May – was to go running to a QC and raise a challenge on a wide range of legal grounds.
And, no doubt, they were enthusiastically aided and abetted by senior councillors within the system.
Whilst County Hall’s legal advice disagrees with the districts, the report says: “It is evident from discussions with the districts that there is no wish on their part to seek a legal compromise on the matter, meaning that resolution of these conflicting positions could only be determined by a court, with all of the attendant expense to the public purse.
A poll of some kind may now take place in the autumn.
What does all this tell us?
Basically, that we have a selfish, greedy bunch of people running some councils who are working entirely for their own benefit and who have wasted our council tax to try to feather their nests for the future.
Out with the lot of them, we say.

***

A couple of weeks ago we had an “Ooops!” moment when we received a complaint from our council “leader” about our reporting of a local “newspaper” item which wrongly named him as the 
respondent to a question when in fact it was someone else.
Well, Councillor Bedford was back again this week, asking:  “Which Cabinet Member lives in Butterwick?  Once again incorrect information to your readers.”
It seems that one of our regular and reliable correspondents had mistakenly thought that Councillor Paul Skinner – the cabinet member responsible for Boston Town Centre – was from Butterwick … when in fact he represents Fishtoft.
We are sure that given the level of interest in the goings-on at Boston Borough Council that many readers are appalled at such a gross desecration of the truth, and that some may well require post-traumatic stress counselling as a result.
Confronted by the error, our correspondent replied: “... the point, surely, was that town issues such as the one in question should quite properly be represented by councillors whose ward has a connection to THE TOWN!'
“Of course everyone realises that the Conservative group were clearly lacking, quality, candidates for cabinet positions!”
Our correspondent has been given 500 lines to write, which say “Fishtoft is not Butterwick” in order to ram the message home and we are sure that it will not happen again.


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, 13 February 2017

Are your councillors
doing their
best for you?
We have gained an interesting insight into the requirements expected of councillors in order that they can be seen to be doing their jobs properly – a list of do’s and don’ts that by and large favours the don’t lobby.
They emerged in a written response from Worst Street after a reader’s complaint about a local councillor which – needless to say – was rejected.
Listing the “requirements of a councillor” the reply said: “There are no formal requirements for a district councillor in terms of a job description or any legal requirements as to how much engagement they must make with their constituents. “Indeed, the only legal requirement for a councillor to attend meetings is that they must attend at least one meeting in a six month period or this will lead to automatic disqualification.”
The Local Government Association is a little more specific.
“A councillor's primary role is to represent their ward or division and the people who live in it.
“Councillors provide a bridge between the community and the council.
“As well as being an advocate for your local residents and signposting them to the right people at the council, you will need to keep them informed about the issues that affect them.
“As a local councillor, your residents will expect you to respond to their queries and investigate their concerns, communicate council decisions that affect them, know your patch and be aware of any problems, know and work with representatives of local organisations, interest groups and businesses, represent their views at council meetings, and lead local campaigns on their behalf.”

***

Whilst that sounds about right, we wonder just how much – or more likely just how little – of the duties suggested are being delivered by our local councillors.
Whilst we taxpayers may have Great Expectations we think it more likely that councillors see themselves in the role of Mr and Mrs Bumble in Oliver Twist and deliver less rather than more.

***

In the Boston Eye ward, several important local issues have emerged recently which have not been communicated in any way, shape or form – other than to appear as agenda items … which very few people take the trouble to seek out.
In one case, we e-mailed the entire BTAC committee membership and relevant officers with comments that certainly merited a reply.
The e-mails went out to a total of 19 recipients.
Just two acknowledged – and one of those was not a reply in the real sense of the word.
After the meeting in question, nothing was received. Nothing was investigated or communicated.
Whatever we were expecting, nothing was delivered.

***

The only conclusion we can draw from all of this is that our councillors have a “we know best” approach – not only that, but adopt a superior position and do not feel obliged to talk to the little people who elected them to office … unless the talk is in a downward direction.

***

As a result, over time we have acquired a council that feels no obligation to tell the voters what it is doing – other than to list a few big decisions.
So-called “consultations” have been a joke for a long while – it’s an easy job to read between the lines of the questions to see that they are designed to generate the answers that Worst Street wants, and nothing more.
So, the councillors don’t communicate; the officers don’t communicate – and sadly, the local “newspapers” publish little about what goes on in the council chamber – mostly preferring to be spoon-fed with the Worst Street account of events.

***

The whole business of councillor communication is a can of worms that is long overdue to be opened.
Over the years councillors have held local “surgeries” – but most now don’t bother. The same is true of newsletters to keep voters in touch. A few councillors still issue them, but most don’t bother.
In this age of electronic communication councillors ignore the ease with which they can communicate by e-mail, blogging, Facebook or Twitter.
There was a time when the local Labour group blogged virtually daily –  but a look at their webpages at the end of last week showed that their last entry was a shadow ministerial speech delivered on  24th September last year – apparently in its entirety.
Something else that Labour made into a big issue was to demand that all councillors publish an annual report detailing what they had done in their wards.
To start the ball rolling, they issued their own – but since the 2015 elections saw the party reduced to just two members, a set of a previous member’s reports has vanished.
Of the remainder, Councillor Nigel Welton has not issued a report in the 20 months since his election, whilst the group leader Paul Gleeson produced reports for 2011-12 and another for 2012-13… but nothing since.

***

A little earlier, we mentioned the demise of local government coverage in our local press.
When we worked at the Boston Standard – half a century ago – it boasted a reporting staff of twelve … and included a full time senior journalist who specialised in nothing but coverage of local government news.
It made the councillors and the council accountable – whereas now they are not.
Ironically, grave errors such as these are now being recognised – but as you might expect only in a half-hearted way.
Earlier this month, news publishers and the BBC divulged how £8m a year will be diverted from the licence fee to help plug the ‘democratic deficit’ in local journalism.
The money will fund 150 “local democracy reporters” whose job will be to cover the goings-on at local councils and courts.
Sadly by the sound of it, not much by way of coverage will trickle down to district council level – which we are sure will bring a sigh of relief from the Worst Street mafia.


In another piece of irony, we have read comments by the chairman of the News Media Association and chief executive of Johnston Press, Ashley Highfield, who said: “This ground-breaking partnership will enhance democracy at a local level by increasing and strengthening coverage of local authorities and public services, while maintaining the healthy competition between different news sources.”
The irony there?
Mr Highfield’s company owns the Boston sub-Standard among other Lincolnshire papers – and  over the years, its relentless policy of cuts have seen our local rags reduced to little more than receptacles for official press releases and free puffs.
Gone are the days when reporters went out and about and immersed themselves in the local community.
In recent months, in our strolls around town, we have noted the closure of shops, the departure of at least one long-established local market stall, along with a number of other things which in the old days would have counted as local news.
But somehow, they have not made it into our local “newspapers.”
Enter irony number three … from Mr Highfield yet again.
“Local newspapers in print and digital have a unique and highly trusted relationship with the communities they serve.
“This agreement will enable the BBC to benefit from our first-class local journalism …”
Wethinks Mr Highfalutin’ needs to get out more.

***

Our regular correspondent Quadranteer has written to remind us of an extra public meeting of the borough's BTAC-ky committee on 22nd February.
“The purpose of the meeting is to gauge reaction to, and take note of, the level of disappointment voiced by ratepayers about what they consider an amateur and disappointing Christmas display.
“It is also a response to questions from members of the public to those councillors who were involved in the Christmas lights project.
“A great deal of criticism was expressed by members of the public and in the media regarding the lack of quality and value for money, as well as the disconnect in organisational arrangements that were undertaken alongside the low level of effect, against the high level of costs.
“Attendees are expecting the usual fob-off and whitewash that is usually employed by Boston cabinet members when such failures occur.
“Why did Councillor Bedford select two country-based councillors and present them with portfolios best suited to town representatives?
“One hails from Butterwick, and one from Kirton Holme – so both live about three or four miles out of the Boston town area … yet both hold cabinet posts which would clearly be better suited to councillors who reside in the town?

***

A local-ish newspaper report says that Lincolnshire’s new Chief Constable Bill Skelly described his new job as like “standing on the shoulders of giants in taking on this proud heritage” before going on to thank his predecessor Neil Rhodes for doing “an absolutely fantastic job in getting the police service to where it is today”.
Quite where that was he didn’t say.
After saying that he was “aware” of the issues with migrant workers in areas like Boston, he continued “I’m not aware of anything specific in relation to anti-social behaviour and street drinking.
“But I am aware of the general issues and I don’t see anti-social behaviour as low-level crime because it can have a disproportionate effect on people who feel they are prisoners in their own home.
“Hopefully, we can improve the quality of life for people who otherwise might feel they are being victimised.”
This is known as “talking the talk.”
Walking the walk” is something completely different.

***

We were disappointed, but not surprised to read a letter in a local “newspaper” commenting on the poor state of the nearly new £750,000 St Botolph’s footbridge.
The writer says: “It looked good when new, but is now covered with green algae which rather spoils the look.


“I got in touch with the county council, whose responsibility it is and was told they were aware of the problem but budgeting meant it was a low priority so would probably be another year before they would even think about getting round to it …  what a pity nobody in their extremely well paid jobs thought to cost in the occasional scrub.
“I suggest they repaint it the same colour as the algae so then we shan’t notice!
“There are many things in Boston that public bodies are simply not maintaining, for example the railings along the Maud Foster Drain near the Maud Foster mill haven’t been painted for years and this is in a conservation area, where rates are higher. 
“Interestingly, neither of these are in the remit of Boston Borough Council, who recently fined a private individual for not looking after a listed building; but I feel they should follow their good example set and give these big organisations a reminder of their responsibilities.”
Can you be serious? Boston Borough Council getting tough with Lincolnshire County Council?
Hell will freeze over first, wethinks.

***

Our last blog reported our unsuccessful attempts to get a ban on Boston Eye accessing Boston Borough Council’s endlessly entertaining Twitter pages lifted – and promised that we would continue to pursue this staggering piece of ineptitude.
But there was no need to worry.
The day after our blog appeared, we received an e-mail that read: “Dear Boston Eye,
You are once again free to access the Boston Borough Council Twitter feed.
Regards, Customer Services Boston Borough Council.”
Well, it was only two weeks since we wrote ...


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, 6 February 2017



The Boston Transport Strategy 2016-2036 is a grand piece of waffle and given that we will be long dead by the time it reaches its sell-by date is of mere passing interest.
However, it must be said that history has shown that  documents such as these are merely exercises in “what if” – as the period that they cover is so long that ideas formulated in 2016 may well be pointless, impracticable or unaffordable during its lengthy lifespan.
This, however, hasn’t stopped Lincolnshire County Council and Boston Borough Council – both of them past masters at time and money wasting – from churning out thousands of words and gung-ho phrases that instinct tells them is the bread and butter of such documents.
We searched for the vital keywords bypass, by pass and by-pass to make sure that we didn’t miss the chance of finding at least one mention, but without success.
And there was just one result for the so-called distributor road that it’s suggested can take the place of a by-pass.
“The councils will continue to work with developers to deliver elements of the Boston Distributor Road (BDR), which in the long term will provide a western link road between the A16 in the south of the town and the A16 in the north, and serve new developments to the west of Boston.
The councils will work together on the feasibility (including traffic modelling, design and funding) of delivering elements of the BDR and associated projects that cannot be brought forward by the private sector alone.
Modelling has indicated that a new East-West Relief Road (BEWRR) from the A16 Spalding Road, across the River Witham to Skirbeck Road, could generate traffic benefits.
Further investigations will be made into these benefits as well as the potential impacts of the scheme to confirm whether proposals should be developed further.”
If ever anything screamed of  nothing at all, or at the very least a thin spreading of jam the day after tomorrow, then that was it.
A report that still regards the disastrous Market Place “improvements” as a step forward and thinks that the answer to Boston’s road problems is to force us to cycle everywhere instead of drive is simply not worth taking seriously.

***


However, there are still areas where the powers that be can wreak mischief.
The report talks of increasing  pedestrian/cycle connectivity by building new bridges or upgrading existing ones across South Forty Foot Drain, the Maud Foster Drain at Windsor Crescent, and Old Maudie again at the Hospital Lane/Norfolk Street crossing.
This latter bridge is of particular historic interest.
It is one of three cast  in 1811 to span the Maud Foster, which were probably designed by the famous Scottish engineer John Rennie,
Although Vauxhall Bridge was replaced by a road bridge in 1924,  another at Cowbridge remains ... along with that at Hospital Lane which is still in its original condition except for the footway resurfacing.

 

They were constructed by the nationally important Butterley Company, of Ripley in Derbyshire, and in the middle of both sides of the supporting girder is stamped “CAST AT BUTTERLEY 1811”
Incidentally, the Butterley Company was famous for the iconic cast iron arches of St Pancras Station but also for Vauxhall Bridge in London. We imagine that its namesake in Boston was a much easier task! 

***

The bridge across the Maud Foster Drain at Windsor Crescent is a fairly modern eyesore as well as being in the wrong place – but the 200 year-old Grade II listed Hospital Lane Bridge is a different kettle of fish.
It was listed in 1990 because of its historic value and original condition – and to see it appear on another list – one which suggests a possible “upgrading” is sheer heresy, and unworthy of any consideration whatever.
Nor is any suggestion of building a new bridge nearby, as this would blight the view of the existing one.
But as Boston’s heritage has been blighted before by thoughtless council decisions,  we hope that someone, somewhere, will take a tough stance against any suggestions that might impact adversely on this interesting item of industrial history.

***

Incidentally, our researches into all of the above have uncovered an important anniversary which it is still possible to plan to recognise.
In 2018 it will be 450 years since the original Maud Foster drain was cut in 1568 … from Cowbridge to the Haven.
In 1631 it was inadequate, as there was widespread flooding in both fens, which resulted in a commission to enlarge the Maud Foster and build a new outfall.
Given our hysteria about irrelevant anniversaries such as the Mayflower landing at Plimoth in which no one from Boston was involved, isn’t it now time to start celebrating some of our hugely important local historic events and achievements?

***

The political ninnies who comprise the Worst Street gaggle known as the council have given their cauldron yet another stir – we seem to have had one almost every week in recent times.
Since none of this makes any difference, we cannot see why they bother – although usually there’s a committee place (or better still a chairmanship) in it for someone, somewhere.
According to the Boston sub-Standard – and we write this with our fingers crossed, for reasons that will become clear later – the hitherto ‘unaligned’ Old Leake and Wrangle councillor Barrie Pierpoint has “thrown his towel in with the authority’s two independent councillors.”
Mr Pierpoint is quoted as saying: “I felt they have good organisation the two of them and it felt natural to join them.”
He added that joining the Independents also allowed him to join committees.
‘Nuff said there  other than to remark that "throwing in the towel" means conceding defeat, when we are certain that Mr Pierpoint intended to throw in his "lot" with Clan Austin.

***

Perhaps we are losing track of this … but it seems that the original so-called Independents did a deal to back the Tories to keep them in power at Worst Street after the 2015 election – acquiring an important committee chairmanship along the way.
Similarly with the Labour group – which political rookies might wrongly assume to be ideologically opposed to the controlling party.
Much of what has been done appears to have been with the sole aim of blocking any attempt by UKIP to have a say in the running of the council – despite the fact that voters in their droves elected UKIP councillors to represent them.
We have said many times that at this meagre level of government, party ideology is immaterial and that what is most important is that councillors work together for the good of Boston and its residents.
Quite clearly, the Conservative leadership has failed in this respect, as have the closet Tories who claim to be independent.
Labour has sold out as well, whilst helping tie the hands of a party that is far more popular with the voters.
Worst Street seems now to be in the hands of councillors who by and large are members of the Selfservative Party and care little for the people who elected them.
And isn’t it more than a little sad  when we read that Labour with just two councillors names them as leader and deputy whilst the “Independents” with three members declare one of them a leader and the rump as deputies.
But we guess that it makes them all feel important.

***

From time to time, Worst Street publishes statistics about its performance in relation to its dealings with the public.
Thanks to these, we know how quickly it takes the council reception to answer a ‘phone call and how many of the much resented Freedom of Information requests they receive.
But one sector that seems to have escaped evaluation is what happens when taxpayers contact the council via its “info” e-mail link.
In recent weeks, we have sent the council three e-mails.
The first two – written with our voter’s hat on – concerned  car sales taking place at the roadside, and damage to a piece of street furniture which we considered a potential danger to passers-by.
In the first case, we received a reply telling us that on-street car sales were nothing to do with Boston Borough Council and passing on the address and e-mail of Lincolnshire County Council so that we could write to them instead.
In the second case we receive no response – but the damaged litter bin in question was removed within days.
So, what’s wrong with that?
Public image is the cornerstone of any good council’s communication policy – or if not, it should be.
In the case of the first e-mail, the reply ought to have explained that the problem could not be dealt with by the council, explained whose responsibility it was, and ended “I have forwarded your e-mail to the appropriate department at County Hall and asked them to deal with the matter you have raised. Thank you for drawing it to our attention”
Polite, efficient, helpful – going the extra mile for a concerned citizen.
It cannot help but improve the council’s image in the eyes of a taxpayer.
The second e-mail should have been responded to. It would not have taken hours to thank the sender and to say that the issue would be dealt with as soon as possible.
Again, it’s good public relations – something that’s sadly lacking in Worst Street.

***

Then third e-mail was sent from our Boston Eye address about our long time ban from accessing Boston Borough Council's Twitter account.
We wrote: “The usual reason for this is to bar annoying people who send bothersome tweets.
“At no time when it followed Boston Borough Council on Twitter did Boston Eye post any critical or derogatory comments – and we feel that it is high time someone recognised this and removed what is an unfair and unreasonable censorship.
“I look forward to hearing that Boston Eye is once again free to access your Twitter feed.”
We actually received a reply this time – even though it was tagged as “potential spam.”
It read: “Thank you for your recent email. Please accept this response as confirmation that it has been received.
“Our email messages are picked up on a daily basis during the normal working week. If appropriate, we will forward your email to the relevant department to deal with.”
There was no doubt about the appropriateness of the message but so far  after a two week silence   no-one has had the courtesy to reply.
We will continue to pursue this staggering piece of childish ignorance ...

***

Ouch! Our last blog included an item based on a report from the Boston sub-Standard giving the response to a question said to have been asked of council leader Peter Bedford, and which prompted some adverse comment from us.
Subsequently, Councillor Bedford e-mailed to say: “Your piece taken from the Boston Standard about Councillor Richard Austin asking me a question in Full Council was totally incorrect; he asked it of Councillor Paul Skinner. Had he asked me he would have been given a direct answer straight away.”
He added: “I will not waste my time on the Standard but thought you ought to be aware of the mistake.
“Fair criticism I take every day without concern, but incorrect things I do object to.”
Sorry about that – but we stand by our comments about the nature of the response, as there is far too much political clever-dicking around from some senior councillors who should know better.
And we also have some qualms with the line that says: "Fair criticism I take every day without concern, ...

***

Finally, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s national Dog Poo Week in Boston – the start of yet another enforcement campaign that promises to fine dog owners £100 for the heinous crime of walking their pet pooches without a bag in their pocket to clear up after it.
And just one day after the new law came into force, the Worst Street website babbled excitedly: “Dog walkers appear to be getting the poo bag message. The first batch of pet owners approached by Boston Borough Council's enforcement officers were all able to show that they were equipped to clean up after their dogs and fully aware of their responsibilities.
“A simple flourish of a plastic bag saved them from receiving a £100 fixed penalty notice.”
If ever something sounded stage managed, that was it – and as always with its doomed-to-failure campaigns, the poogooders overlook a couple of crucial facts.
The first is that whilst someone may be carrying a bag to save themselves a fine, there is nothing to say that they will use it.
And the second is that the sort of people who leave such mess in the streets and on grassed areas are not the ones who will suddenly develop a sense of civic pride and do the decent thing.
The only concrete result to date is a negative item in the Sun on Sunday which is bought by 1,500,000 readers each week and so probably read by more than five million people …


Despite the pleas by our local politicians to talk Boston up and not down, it appears that Worst Street hasn’t lost the ability to shoot itself in the foot.


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