Boston Borough Council’s relationships with the people who fund it are often uneasy – but now they seem to be approaching rock bottom.
We say “approaching” as we feel certain that Worst Street will always go that extra mile to kick taxpayers in the teeth if it is at all possible.
At the end of last week, Worst Street announced new sanctions against residents in two streets where their car parking makes life difficult for the borough’s binmen.
We mentioned this last week, you remember – when we commented on the council policy of publishing the number plates of “offending” vehicles on their website.
And we also warned of the possible risks of something like that as well.
Now, Boston Borough Council plans to make it a crime for some people to park outside their own houses – with a fine of £2,500 if they continue to do so.
This will be done using powers available to Worst Street under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.
Registration numbers of “repeat offenders” who leave their vehicles “inconsiderately parked” so that the lorries cannot pass are being recorded.
Drivers will then receive a Community Protection Notice warning and then a Community Protection Notice requiring them to desist.
And if they don’t they will have committed a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £2,500.
The two problem roads mentioned are Horace Street off Carlton Road, and Rose Place off Skirbeck Road.
Both probably predate the days of cars and bin lorries – which are so big the council calls them "freighters" – and Horace Street in particular is typical of many residential roads in the town.
It is already heavily managed by double yellow lines – yet Worst Street now wants to bring its sledgehammer down on those who use the few permitted parking places.
Whatever these bureaucrats declare, the residents of these roads are not guilty of ASB – Anti-Social Behaviour.
All they are guilty of is IBBC – Inconveniencing Boston Borough Council.
And if that can be made a crime, who knows where Worst Street will stop in the future?
Our second sledgehammer story of the week involves one of our “regulars” – local businessman Darron Abbott.
He has long been a thorn in the side of Boston Borough Council because of his refusal to go away if he feels that his concerns have not been properly addressed.
Just over a year ago, Worst Street created a “Persistent and Vexatious Customer policy” and promptly made Mr Abbott a founder member – and perhaps the only member.
This allowed the council to restrict Mr Abbott’s dealings with it – but it has not deterred him in any way.
After a visit to the council offices last week which ended with the police being called, but no wrongdoing being found, Mr Abbott has now been sent to the Worst Street equivalent of Siberia.
Among the new sanctions being imposed are: A refusal to accept his phone calls; a block on access to all of the council’s social media accounts; access to the council permitted via a single e-mail address and – most draconian of all …
“You will not be allowed entry into the Municipal Buildings for any reason at any time. Should you enter the buildings the police will be called immediately.
“The ban from the Municipal Buildings will apply with immediate effect and will be reviewed in six months.”
The background to this is long and complicated – and an ironic twist comes in the fact that Mr Abbott is also a member of the borough’s “civilian” Christmas committee and has singlehandedly come up with many of the plans which will shame Worst Street's Xmas efforts of previous years.
But something which worries us greatly is the assumption by Boston Borough Council that Lincolnshire Police are at their beck and call to throw anyone they dislike out of the municipal buildings – simply on their say-so, and with no legal validation.
Along with the attack on Horace Street and Rose Place residents this is yet another sign of an already dictatorial council descending into uncontrolled tyranny – merely to get its own way.
Occasionally, we encounter reports prepared for Boston Borough Council committee members that make us wonder if we are actually being told everything that’s going on.
Tonight sees a meeting of the scrutiny committee that deals with Environment and Performance, which – rather than scruting – simply reports a shedload of statistics with a few comments attached and hopes that any problems go unnoticed.
Two items stand out head and shoulders above the rest.
They concern CCTV and its effectiveness and the ever present problem of fly tipping.
CCTV first … and according to the latest figures the number of arrests from the monitoring of the borough’s streets has almost halved – from 566 to 303 between 2015/16 and 2016/17.
That’s a fall of 46%.
Look further and you will see that evidence packages provided to the police fell by 39% from 320 to 199.
“CCTV outcome – incidents” (whatever that means) fell from 1,483 to 896 – a plunge of 40%.
Compare this with previous figures, and the latest results make no sense.
CCTV has always been a high agenda item at Worst Street – where love of giving its taxpayers a hard time if possible is second to none.
There is no question that the system is expensive and labour intensive – as Worst Street bragged on its website earlier this year.
“The Boston control room now monitors cameras for the neighbouring authorities of South Holland District Council, East Lindsey District Council and North Kesteven District Council as well as its traditional role of monitoring Boston and Kirton. Our trained operators now have access to approximately 200 live cameras.
“The CCTV system is operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
So what is going wrong?
A report to councillors declares: “CCTV outcome trends are down this year but the cause is uncertain and may be positive (less crime) or negative (less crime being detected) so there will be a watching brief this year to improve our understanding of these figures in partnership with the Police (sic).
“For example, we have introduced monthly monitoring of the collection of evidence packages.
“There will also have been an impact due to the implementation of the transformation project but again this is unclear as it is early days so we will continue to monitor these figures in 17/18 to provide a fuller picture.”
We always try to be helpful in cases like these, and can quickly rebut the idea that crime has fallen.
Lincolnshire Police figures for all crime in Boston Borough in March 2017 – the most recent date available – show a total of 483 crimes.
The same source shows that by a remarkable co-incidence the figure for the same month last year was … 483 crimes.
Obviously, less crime is being detected then – or is it?
A recent appeal by Worst Street after plants were stolen and damaged at a number of in town locations asks anyone with information about the thefts and damage, including when it may have occurred to aid review of CCTV film footage to get in touch.
What this suggests is that – whilst cameras may well be providing 365-day round-the-clock security as claimed – they may not be being monitored around the clock … hence the crash in the statistics.
Could this be a saving that we know nothing about?
The deceptively named “transformation programme” is just Worstspeak for cuts – which are mentioned as having had an “impact.”
The only mention we can find of CCTV in the list of budget slaughter is one under the section relating to partnership asset management which reads: “Sharing of annual revenue savings post-payback of investment.”
At the time that Boston was falling head over heels to take over everyone else’s CCTV, questions were raised about how effective the system could be in stretching its self so widely.
Now, it appears that the original plan for Boston to make savings by servicing other authority areas has been diluted and that the money earned will be redistributed
The available information seems to suggest that the human investment in CCTV is being reduced.
This is surely a false economy as there seems little point in having top of the range security if no one is keeping an eye on it around the clock.
This is known as closing the stable door after the horse has bolted and one day we may pay a high price for such a false economy.
And at the very best, Worst Street now plans to waste an entire year monitoring an easily explained change that sticks out like a sore thumb.
On now to fly tipping – a problem that is going through the roof …
… and yet again, Worst Street is in mañana mode.
“The volume and type data indicates that there is a particular issue with unauthorised house clearances and this is being targeted by enforcement action. Sub-categories will be introduced for ‘other household’ and ‘other unidentified’ so that we can have better reporting of what is being fly tipped from 17/18.”
To us, the reporting couldn’t be clearer.
Dumping waste equivalent to a Transit van full increased by 78%.
Dumping waste equivalent to a tipper increased by 172%
Dumping waste in significant amounts – how much more this is than a tipper is anyone’s guess –increased by 71%.
But never fear … there has been “targeted enforcement action” …
Will someone please tell us when the last time was that anyone was taken to court and fined for fly tipping, littering or standing still for more than five seconds by this slothful, disinterested, lackadaisical local authority?
Worst Street is after our views to “inform” a project to “safeguard the future of Boston's Victorian Cemetery.”
The worrying phrase about “safeguarding” the future of the area carries with it the deadly connotation that the place is somehow under threat.
We suspect that this is probably the case and that the murkily named Transformation Policy has a part in this somewhere.
Part of the survey tells us: “Alongside using grant funding to greatly enhance what the cemetery currently offers for visitors, we will need to run some chargeable activities in order to make the long term maintenance of the site sustainable. These might be nature walks, music events or family activities.”
Music events – in a cemetery?
This got us thinking, and we came up with a list of bands and music that might fit in …
Danse Macabre - Saint-Saëns
Thriller - Michael Jackson
Burke and Hare – a musical play
The (tomb) Stones
The Grateful Dead
Dead or Alive
We hope that this will be of some help as a starter for ten.
There was a general election last week – and Matt Warman was re-elected as our Conservative MP.
Finally, with all the news of the past couple of week,s we omitted to mention an item from Horncastle – where the town council voted to do away with its mayor after only eight out of 34 people who responded to a newspaper survey believed that having a mayor was good for the town.
The same survey on Facebook received 54 responses, with 10 saying they “weren't bothered either way.”
The town’s last mayor said the main reason for doing away with the role – which paid an annual £1,000 allowance – was to save money.
"Mayors are expensive in days of austerity, and we need to save every penny," he said.
We have raised the issue of the cost of a mayor for Boston – and whilst we don’t think that it should be done away with entirely, we believe that tens of thousands of pounds could be saved by reducing the number of events staged by other mayors that our incumbent attends.
Perhaps Horncastle has gone a bit too far, though … as according to the BBC news report on the decision “The town's mayor will be replaced by a chair …”
We know that many councillors are a little wooden, but …
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