Time and again, we have asked questions about the amount of money being poured into the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre and the Princess Royal Sports Area – and in the case of the PRSA have been told that it is now no longer a burden on the council taxpayer.
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In fact, as long ago as September 2015, the Worst Street website informed us: “A new chapter in the life of Boston's Princess Royal Sports Arena has begun as 1Life takes on full responsibility for the centre.
“Following a contract signing with Boston Borough Council, 1Life now has the go-ahead to arrange repairs and improvements to bring the centre up to an improved handover condition – the final bill to be paid by the borough council. But these costs will be covered by savings made by energy efficiency improvements, some of which are already complete and providing a return.”
Given the number of tales we have been told about the PRSA, it therefore came as little surprise to see from the council’s own spending figures for January that whilst thousands were being spent on the biomass fuel, the December electricity bill was more than £6,000.
In February more big bills for biomass were paid and the electricity bill was more than £4,000.
We recall the promise that using biomass at the Moulder and PRSA would not only save money but earn it over time through selling electricity back to the national grid.
But this appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.
The council’s spending figures for January and February show that a fortune is being paid out – much of it in capital – for top of the range equipment charged against the
Gmlc/Prsa Biomass Installation expense line.
Quite what this has to do with biomass is anyone’s guess – as is who authorised such a huge spending binge.
In January and February we have seen entries for sports equipment costing £125,000, a payment to contractors Bentley and Rowe for the “Boston Sports Initiative loan” of almost £35,000 and “additional works” at the PRSA costing nearly £20,000.
The grand total for all this is almost £180.000 – paid by a council that claims to be short of money!
The Boston Sports Initiative is listed by Companies House as a “private limited company by guarantee without share capital use of ‘limited’ by exemption” – whatever all that means.
It says that the next accounts made up to 31st August 2016 are due by 31st May this year and that the last accounts were made up to 31st August 2015.
But those accounts told us:
On 19th May 2015 BSI's solicitors received a letter from Boston Borough Council (BBC) stating the Council's belief that BSI did not hold tenure of the PRSA other than as a tenant at will under the Building Agreement and giving BSI notice to quit the PRSA and that as from 1st April 2015 BBC was not in a position to continue to financially support BSI.
Boston Borough Council advised that they intended to enter into a new lease of the PRSA with 1Life Management Solutions Limited on 16th September 2015.
It took Boston Borough Council until 23rd March 2016 to formally grant a lease to iLife Management Solutions Limited. In the view of the above the trustees have concluded that as at the period end date BSI is no longer a going concern and consequently these financial statements have been prepared on a 'break up basis'.
As well as company status, the BSI is also registered as a charity which appears to have overlooked its responsibilities and in which millions of pounds of our taxpayer money is invested in the PRSA.
So would someone please tell us what on earth is going on?
Some spin-off now from our last blog’s on Worst Street’s wrongful issuing of a parking ticket to former deputy leader Raymond Singleton-McGuire – which was rescinded only after a traffic penalty tribunal upheld a case against Boston Borough Council for inappropriate procedure and for wasting time and directed the council to cancel the penalty charge notice.
We touched on the shenanigans which followed the 2011 elections that saw Mr Singleton-McGuire disclaim the leadership in favour of Councillor Peter Bedford – himself now a Conservative out in the cold.
Former Councillor Mike Gilbert – who has now created a new political party called a Blue Revolution – e-mailed to say: “I was interested the piece about Raymond Singleton-McGuire in your last post.
“It was a strange period in which – a bit like the recent decapitating of Peter Bedford – Raymond was ganged up on by many of Lincolnshire's Tory great and good. “However what he failed to tell you was that having been ‘whipped in’ brought to heel, as well as promised the title ‘deputy leader’ along with ‘new Tory recruit’ Mike Brookes and to avoid a Coronation for Pete, I stood against Pete for leader.
“Carol Taylor, Mark Baker and a number of others said they voted for me.
“We had to make 5-minute speeches which we didn't hear each other make. The feedback as that Pete was ......well Pete. But still he won. Carol would have heard both speeches
“However, I lost and Yvonne Gunter who counted the votes (with someone else who I don't remember) didn't disclose the result, perhaps understandably.
“My sense at the time was that it was close ... but I don't know how close.
In respect of Pete and Raymond what goes around comes around.
Former Councillor Carol Taylor also sent a comment.
“It was my first time in local politics when elected in 2011. Raymond Singleton-McGuire was an inspiration in the run up to the successful result. I will never forget the jubilation I felt to be part of something so privileged and special, it didn't last very long.
“On the Monday following our election, a post result meeting was held in the council chamber. When I walked in I saw Peter Bedford, Mike Brookes and Raymond but I couldn't understand why.
“I was expecting and hoping to see Raymond as leader with the wonderful Mike Gilbert as his deputy but this wasn't meant to be – and no-one knew anything about the change until that meeting.
With regard to 'Ticketgate' Raymond had suddenly become the victim of a campaign to oust him even by his own political party.
“He was a great financial portfolio holder and was dedicated to saving money to ensure better services for the public.
“I would like to thank Raymond as he taught me so much about local politics and gave me the confidence when I needed it most.
“Good luck Raymond, you are so much better than this.”
And another comment from a reader left us hungry to know more.
It read: “If you really want to get the Boston Tories’ ire up, just mention the ‘Coffee Cup Coup’ that took place at the 'Club', the Saturday morning after the unexpected result ... a coup that started within their own weasel-like ranks on the very night of the result.
Sadly, our report last week failed to make any impact on our local media. Although both our local “newspapers” – the Boston sub-Standard and the Boston off-Target – BBC Radio Lincolnshire and Lincs FM were sent advance copies of the blog, none of them felt able to give the story a mention.
Hmmm, let’s see …. Local council wrongly issues parking ticket to own deputy leader …. refuses to rescind it despite promises … blocks victim’s democratic rights to fight the decision to the point where bailiffs are sent in … loses battle only after a long and costly fight in an adjudicator’s court. Are we missing something here, or is our local media in thrall of Worst Street to such an extent that it turns a blind to such disgraceful practices?
By a strange co-incidence, another quote that we saw from Raymond Singleton-McGuire during our researches last week concerned greater openness.
He said: “I have arranged and instigated and hopefully it will be approved, to have cameras in the chamber therefore preventing any future personal bravado or outbursts and to retain the respect and diplomacy expected in a council chamber …
… “I will not tolerate any of the antics that have been associated with Boston Borough Council in the past.”
Cameras in the council chamber – and the live broadcasting of meetings such as other councils do – would have been a splendid idea had it been introduced.
It might have rendered unnecessary the need for minutes such as the following from a recent BTAC-ky meeting
“The Chairman advised that the meeting was being sound recorded.
“The Monitoring Officer asked everyone to be mindful of how their speech would be viewed.”
Despite that: “During the meeting the Monitoring Officer warned Members about use of language and urged caution with respect to the factual basis of statements made.”
Is this really the sort of behaviour we should expect from our councillors?
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From elections past to elections present…
News of a General Election on 8th June – barely a month after the Lincolnshire County Council elections on 4th May – have probably left most of us stunned with political ennui, rather than slavering with anticipation.
It’s early days yet, so we don’t know who will be coming at us from out of the sun to promise us heaven and earth for our vote – although Tory MP Matt Warman has already announced his reselection, and the UKIP candidate last time around, Robin Hunter-Clarke has announced his intention to stand – but won’t say where.
He’d better make his mind up soon – as a likely challenge for Boston and Skegness is on the way from Victoria Ayling.
Ms Ayling stood as a Tory against Labour’s Austin Mitchell in the 2010 election campaign and came within 714 votes of victory.
But by the 2015 election, she was standing for UKIP – ending up in third place behind Tory Marc Jones, who obviously fancied Parliament as a better job than being Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner at the time.
Ms Ayling – who is UKIP’s spokesperson for heritage and tourism and a Lincolnshire County Councillor – then declared herself a virtual shoe-in for last year’s Sleaford and North Hykeham election – but instead opted to come third.
No news yet from Labour’s Paul Kenny as to whether he will stand for a fourth time.
Last time around, after flirting with and then falling out with Lincolnshire Independents and forming her own Pilgrim Party Lyn Luxton polled a meagre 143 votes. She told us that her id on Twitter of @lynluxton4MP does not mean what you might reasonably think – but actually stands 4making peace … and that she is now chairman of Sleaford Conservatives.
At least that’s one deposit saved.
We think we’ll let things settle down for a while before we attempt a detailed look at who’s likely to be whom at election time.
One interesting item of news to emerge though was in a Tweet by Joseph D’Urso – a political researcher for the BBC – whose lists of marginal seats were heavily re-tweeted by Auntie’s Daily and Sunday Politics programme presented by the politically ubiquitous Andrew Neil.
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It placed Boston 13th on a list of the 15 most marginal parliamentary seats in the East Midlands – despite a Conservative majority of 4,336 which represented a clear 10% lead over UKIP.
So, we asked Matt Warman whether he considered his constituency marginal, and were told: “I don't know if there's an official definition of marginal, but any MP is daft to take their seat for granted.”
It shows that – if nothing else in these past two years – Mr Warman has mastered the political art of ignoring questions and delivering the answers that he prefers.
At a local level, we note the appearance of one or two candidates in our so-called newspapers and online.
Independent Boston Borough Councillor Barrie Pierpoint has set up his own Twitter feed and website in his campaign to win Boston Coastal Division on Lincolnshire County Council.
This will be an interesting battle, as it is also being fought by the incumbent Peter Bedford – who has represented Coastal as a Tory for the past 25 years, and who is standing as an Independent against Tory Paul Skinner – plus the current holder, UKIP’s Felicity Ransome, Labour’s Susan Walsh, and political veteran Ossy Snell – another Independent.
Whilst it’s not our place to advise, we did think that Mr Snell’s initial canter out for votes in last week’s papers bearing the headline “My name is Mr Oswald Redvers (Ossy) Snell” lacked something by way of pizzazz.
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