It is said that rare-ish events happen once in a blue moon – but for the Conservative council leaders in Lincolnshire it’s a case of double vision.
Blue Moon number one is the annual council tax increase, which everyone apologises about and makes excuses for but goes ahead and increases taxes exactly as they had planned.
Blue Moon number two is the one that will really affect the political tides in Lincolnshire, as it is the one that will see local elections on Thursday 4th May.
Both affect Boston in one way or another.
Blue Moon #1 has seen Worst Street scrabbling to justify a council tax rise that is bigger that it is making out – with a clear willingness to be economical with the truth if that is what it takes.
A recent exchange on Twitter saw the council respond robustly to assert that its claimed figure of an increase of just 9p a week was for the “BORO” part of the bill.
This glibly ignores the conniving of recent months which has seen “non-statutory” duties such a toilet provision, street lighting and the managing of Central Park farmed out to parish levels and – technically – therefore allowing our so-called “leaders” to claim that these charges are “nothing to do with us, guv.”
Doubtless, this leads to much backslapping and self-congratulation in the hierarchy, whose inhabitants think that they have cunningly hoodwinked us into believing their nonsense. Worst Street even tried pinning some of the blame on the drainage boards, declaring that their selfish actions to save our homes, businesses and farmland from flooding swallow up half of the borough’s tax take.
What they have actually done – and not for the first time – is to highlight the fact that they think that they can treat us as idiots and get away with it.
The tweets that we referred to earlier came during a debate started by a resident of the BTAC-ky area – whose committee formerly spent a small amount each year on projects within the town centre in the way of a parish council.
But with a sleight of hand that would make an elephant appear nimble-fingered, the “BORO” is dumping hundreds of thousands more by way of charges for these already hard hit residents.
A Band A taxpayer last year paid £8.48 to BTAC.
This year it has risen to £46.63 – which Worst Street claims is a mere 182.5% increase … although it looks like a lot more to us.
By the time you include the demands of County Hall and Lincolnshire Police, the total for the year is £1,084 compared with £976.46 – an increase of £108.28.
Boston Borough Council’s “9p a week” is part of its 2.9% rise – making its demand for the coming year £118.86.
But the bottom line is that out of the £108 total increase, almost another half returns to Worst Street via BTAC-ky – an unfair tax levied on the borough’s poorest wards to fund facilities enjoyed by the whole borough and beyond.
So what remains that is now classified as the “BORO?”
Well, the dregs include processing planning applications, sweeping the streets once every few weeks, licensing, the “tomb it may concern” duties at the crematorium and cemetery, and a lot of money thrown at the Moulder leisure centre and – amazingly still – the PRSA.
Most importantly, the biggest remaining role is to collect the council tax on behalf of Lincolnshire County Council and Lincolnshire Police – an exercise that uses the bulk of the £8 million extracted by Worst Street for staffing and the allowances of our councillors.
On now … to Blue Moon #2.
With elections on the way, the Conservatives will doubtless wish to retain their hold on the county of Lincolnshire.
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And the campaign appears to have begun with a series of publications on social media with an “Investing in …” theme.
Whilst they are tweeted from “Lincolnshire Tories” they are actually promotional items under the Lincolnshire County Council banner – but perhaps the leadership thinks that it has exclusivity rather than a majority.
Sadly, like so much material forthcoming from the powers that be these days there is certain elasticity with the information provided.
Arriving on our computers at this particular time, and beneath the Tory rather than the county banner, and with the hashtag #VoteConservative4Growth we assume they are meant to persuade us to maintain the political status quo.
However, whilst the last elections were in 2013, the spending covers a period well before that in the case of some of the £32.9 million quoted for Boston.
The list includes the £2m Market Place improvements, which were completed in 2012 and which contained more than £1m from the European Regional Development Fund.
Then there is £1m-plus for things to do with bus services – including the Into Town farce – which date as far back as 2008 and were completed around the time of the last elections.
But perhaps the most misleading claim is to have spent £11 million on the Boston Barrier economic investment development.
This was never more than an investment of money on paper – rather than one of paper money because – by an odd coincidence just as County Hall became seriously strapped for cash – it was decided that the water level management plan that would have boosted Boston’s tourist trade and improved the appearance of the entire waterscape in the town was kicked into touch.
However there was an upside – the cash most likely went on miles more roads for anywhere else but Boston.
Anyway, come the election, Boston will have one seat fewer up for grabs after Boundary Commission changes.
We will have six seats instead of seven.
The names that stay the same are: Boston Coastal, Boston Rural, Boston South, and Boston West
The names that vanish are Boston East, Boston Fishtoft and Boston North West.
The new names are: Boston North and Skirbeck.
At no time has Worst Street ever provided a helpful guide in the form of a map to let voters check their addresses against the wards – but they don’t do that sort of thing, do they?
The borough’s current representation at Clownty Hall is: UKIP – 3, Lincolnshire Independents (we’d forgotten about them) – 2, Conservative – 1 and “Independent” – 1 … although over the years there has been much that is chameleonic about these loyalties.
If you are confused, you have every right to be.
And of the less than magnificent seven, only two that we recall have raised more than one question at full council meetings and some have remained silent. There are also some feeble attendance records to enhance this lack of lustre.
If nothing else, voters should consider who they want to represent them … and we should know very soon.
As we have said, the County Council elections are on Thursday 4th May.
The deadline for nominations is 4th April – Tuesday of next week.
Soon after that, we would expect Lincolnshire County Council to let us know who the candidates are …
The deadline to register to vote is 13th April
The postal vote deadline is 18th April
And the proxy vote deadline is 25th April
With the possibility of a vote asking whether to make Lincolnshire a unitary authority in the offing it is more important than ever to elect councillors who don’t just want the job because they always have been elected … or because they like the cachet that the title attracts … or because they feel that they have some divine right to the job – and the allowances of course.
We have a whole host of duffers posing as county councillors at present.
We also have a window of opportunity to change all of that, and metaphorically “burn the chaff with an unquenchable fire” as Matthew said shortly before quarter past three – 3:12 to be precise
Our last blog contained an interesting letter which we are sure that those at the so-called “top” in Worst Street would rather you had not seen – a begging letter to the local “newspapers” pleading for “fair” coverage. This of course meant fair to Worst Street rather than fair to paper’s readers, as it would have been a less than honest depiction of the town and the mess that the council has got us into.
Now, a copy of another missive has come our way – this time from the Quadrant Action Group which has deep reservations about the proposed development in Wyberton which includes hundreds of new houses, shops and a new stadium for Boston United football club.
The letter – sent to the BORO’s Department of Development Services says: “Amongst our group are business people of the town and surrounding area, and they are picking up on rumours that disturb them – such as ‘the stadium is to be built elsewhere’ … or not to the grand scale that was originally granted.
“We have accepted that permission was granted for a community facility, all-weather pitch, indoor sports hall etc., for Wyberton provided that ‘the enabling development’ allowed the land on the opposite side of the A16 to be developed to enable funding for such a venture.
“Other builders in the past have put in planning applications for this land to be developed, and been refused.
“Can you assure the people of Wyberton that if the community facility, with all its facets, as in the ‘full’ details do not come to fruition, and the residents of Wyberton do not receive the benefits of this facility, that the houses and if any, the retail and commercial will be asked to be demolished?
“May we draw your attention to enabling development 3.10 of the application where it states: The application seeks the delivery of a new community stadium for the club which is inextricably linked to the mixed use development on the west side of the A16 since the latter is defined by the applicants as ‘enabling development’.
“That is, that the mixed use development of housing, retail and commercial, leisure would not be being proposed without the stadium.
“We feel this would be unacceptable practice, and certainly show Boston Borough Council in a very bad light.
“We were given to believe – and most of Boston too – that the building of a new stadium was so urgent, not granting permission was out of the question.
We await your response with interest.”
We do as well.
The reply will make most interesting reading, we are sure.
Finally, our thanks go to Boston’s outgoing mayor Stephen Woodliffe for so kindly gifting us this picture in the worthless Boston borough weekly bulletin.
Not since former mayor Richard Austin was pictured with his impression of Kenny Everett’s heavy-handed Brother Lee Love, has such a delight come our way.
Other agricultural areas have their scarecrow.
But Boston has a Mayorcrow.
For once, Worst Street leads the pack!
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