In recent days the papers have been full of Prime Minister “Daisy” May’s first year in office – a milestone marked by a smaller Commons majority and diminished authority twelve months on...
Meanwhile, in Boston, 16th July marked around 100 days since Councillor Michael Cooper was declared the new leader of Boston Borough Council – another of those terms in power that is often reviewed.
In much the same way that Daisy has invented the reverse Pavane – taking one step forward and two back – so Boston’s new leader appears to have overseen a tsunami of inactivity.
Only once has he raised his head above the parapet to launch a waffle attack about the gravity of the position and the challenge it presents and pledging “a gritty determination to make life here better for everyone.”
That was on 1st June – and the same stirring stuff was appeared as “Michael’s Notes” in the give-away magazine Simply Boston July issue with the promise of future monthly columns on the “important topics” in and around Boston.
A similar column “written” by former leader Peter Bedford also appeared in the magazine until his departure – but was nothing more than a repeat of his monthly column from one of our local “newspapers” … and often well out of date.
Aside from that rather predictable entrée, we are still awaiting a main course of some sort.
Nothing appears to have changed in Worst Street.
The same old tired names and faces are running the show with the same lack of imagination and flair, and we have to say that we are starting to doubt that a new leader will be any sort of new broom – despite a specific promise not to sweep any “challenges” under the carpet.
The leadership issue is also one to have exercised our new contributor The Sorcerer – who writes: “I wonder just how switched on the new Leader of the Conservative group really is now that he has at last winkled Pete (the Pill) Bedford, out of the True Blue Corner that he had occupied for longer than he deserved?
“The question ‘he’ needs to engage, is whether this was all his own idea, or whether someone, or something, instigated this long-awaited political tremor?
“I wouldn't mind wagering that a couple of long-serving ‘Pete’s Patsies’ will very soon conveniently ‘choose’ to ‘call it a day’ as well.
“Neither should the origins of the ‘Pill's'’ tenure ever be ignored.
“Surely no one could fail to recal, how much cajoling was done by ‘Mr Moneybags’ Richard Harbord, as he strived to convince Pete the Pill to take the reins of leadership!
“I think I am right in suggesting that a major part of this man's engagement brief was to dig back into his vast ‘professional experience’ with a view to introducing some suitable candidates, whom he might consider capable of taking over his Interim Chief Executive role.
“Some suggested that if Boston as a council moved with urgency given Mr Harbord’s contractual arrangements, we might even have been blessed for a short while with two – yes two – Chief Executives … one very experienced and one very promising!
“But then the sceptic in me began to stir, and I began to wonder if this ‘interim chief’ had already begun to engage in a bit of kingmaking, himself.
“Because I have for a very long time been uncomfortable with the narrowness of the applicant scope which was being used to fill the position.
“It again, is only an opinion, but one cannot help but wonder if the financial qualification, and specification had not been sensitively ‘redesigned’ to satisfy single candidacy!
“Or am I being too suspicious?”
Sweeping things under the carpet – as mentioned earlier – is a long standing accusation of ours where Worst Street is concerned.
And just as bad is the withholding of information to which the taxpaying public is entitled.
Agreed, the punters are allowed to attend most council committee meetings – unless there’s something that the powers that b’aint really want kept secret – but very few do.
It doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested – more likely it’s none too easy to get to a meeting in time after a hard day’s work … or to take time off for a daytime committees, which pose no problems for our largely retired councillors, or those whose only job it is.
But Wednesday’s meeting of the free-spending, money wasting BTAC-ky is breaking new ground by dealing with the agenda entirely through verbal reports.
The business includes policing issues, an update on Christmas in Boston, a report on the use of the Market Place by the Chief Executive and another from the BTAC-ky open spaces sub group.
However, if you want to know what they have to say, you have to be there … or remain in the dark for a month until the minutes are published – unless our local “newspapers” cover the meeting, which is unlikely.
Mention of Central Park reminds us of the new art deco garden created to mark the centenary of the land being acquired from its owner in 1919 – another jam tomorrow anniversary.
These arches cost £11,500, with £10,000 coming from Boston Big Local and Boston Borough Council paying the rest – and whilst it’s a lot of money, the outcome is an attractive addition to the park.
But if the location looks familiar to you, then it should.
Only five years ago it was opened as a lasting legacy to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and was set in a Victorian themed garden built by BTAC-ky at a cost of at least £10,000.
However, BTAC-ky – motto Quod cito acquiritur cito perit (Easy come, Easy go) – failed to take some important things into account.
Shortly after its original opening in June, 2012, it was damaged by two youngsters climbing on the upper tiers of the fountain and had to be taken away to be repaired.
In November, 2012, it was damaged again, only hours after being reinstalled with a new steel structure and concrete reinforcements to make it ‘strengthened and toughened’ – with a total repair bill of £2,000.
Then last year after “continuing vandalism” the fountain was removed and the base used for a planter – and now it has vanished entirely.
Another glittering example of how Worst Street treats our money as if it were confetti.
Now that BTAC-ky has overcome its shyness at pouring our taxes down the nearest drain, it has really grasped the bit between its gums.
A number of events planned for Central Park involve private companies, which means that they are ticket only, and therefore unlikely to be cheap – perhaps even beyond the pockets of many local low wage earners in some cases.
Nonetheless, it was disappointing to read a suggested remedy by Labour group leader (the rest of his group comprises his deputy) – Paul Gleeson.
A local “newspaper” reported his reservations on the price of tickets.
He said: “You can see why it has to be a ticketed event but I would hope we would be able to ensure ticket prices weren’t prohibitive.”
He said he would like to see tickets within the price-range of the ‘average resident of Boston’ and called on BTAC to look towards helping off-set the costs of the event.
Bad call, Councillor Gleeson.
Where does a subsidy like this stop?
Before it was cancelled, the party attracted many thousands of visitors – but of course it was free.
As a for instance, say that someone estimates that 10,000 people would attend this year’s proposed party over two days and that tickets were being priced at £10 each. If councillors felt that a fiver was be nearer the mark, this would demand a BTAC-ky subsidy of £50,000 which aside from being outrageous would open the door to subsidy claims by any other private groups hired to stage events in the park in the future.
Not a good idea, however well-intentioned the proposal.
Still with Central Park life we raised an Eyebrow at a recent item on the Boston sub-Standard which appeared in untimely fashion ahead of next week’s two day the Beach Comes to Boston event.
Beneath the headline “Sandpits full of bugs that cause stomach upsets,” the report warned: “Sand play pits harbour the emerging superbug C. diff that causes stomach upsets and diarrhoea and in rare cases damages the gut, a new study found.
“More than half of all sandpits for children and pets tested were swarming with the bacteria Clostridium Difficile, also known as C. diff …
“… C. Diff causes watery diarrhoea, painful tummy cramps, nausea, dehydration, a fever and a loss of appetite and weight. Serious infections may require surgery to remove a damaged section of the bowel.
“The latest finding was over double the amount of found (sic) in soil in public parks, gardens, playgrounds and other locations around Cardiff in 1996 where it was found in a fifth of samples.”
Should we be worried, given that the Central Park event is really nothing more than a giant sand pit for use by all and sundry?
Well, the research was published in the journal “Zoonoses (yes, really!) and Public Health” by Professor José Blanco of the Complutense University of Madrid, and was based on tests of 20 pairs of recreational sandboxes for children and dogs in different playgrounds in that city.
Not only was it not what you might call exhaustive, it was completely irrelevant to Boston, and nothing more than a pointless piece to fill space on the Standard website.
But for the timing ahead of the Central Park event it was most unfortunate, although we are sure it was entirely co-incidental.
Most local authorities make use of the internet as a way to improve their services – but we wonder whether Worst Street has entirely got the knack.
We recently tried to buy a garden waste collection sticker for our spare brown bin – a facility offered online.
We wanted to buy a second sticker for a spare bin for the service we were promised would remain forever free and which would cost £15 – but after we went through the rigmarole of ordering one were told it would cost £30 – the “forever free” cost of the first bin licence.
We queried this and learned that: “The system that records your request is an external forms package and has no knowledge of your property record, we are able to take your payment for an additional service over the phone or in person at the Municipal Buildings only.”
OK then, the ‘phone it would be, and we rang the dedicated number to order our sticker.
At this point a mystifying answering system took over to inform us that we were second in the queue and could expect to wait 40 seconds to get through to a real person.
At least that amount of time elapsed before we got another message telling us exactly the same thing.
After an identical wait we were only 30 seconds away from an answer – but then slipped back to 40, at which point we decided to try later.
This time we got through straightaway, and placed our order, which was charged against our debit card the next day.
This took place on a Monday – well ahead of the our next collection day on the Thursday of the following week … nine working days later.
When the day dawned we still had no sticker, but a polite note put on the second bin explaining the problem received a positive responsive.
Earlier this year saw the farce when people received shedloads of stickers on top of the one that they ordered – which was brushed off as “purely human error, compounded by a complicated computerised process.”
It seems as if there is still some way to go with this aspect of the Worst Street “service.”
Finally, we hear that New Perspectives, a Nottingham-based touring theatre company, plans to mount a production called Boston Stories – to be told by residents, and then made into a short film and a large-scale theatre production.
Apparently the aim is to tell audiences what it is like to be a Bostonian – and the idea took off at a meal in a Boston restaurant where guests included a Lithuanian community leader, a police officer, a Portuguese shopkeeper, and an IT specialist.
People shared stories that had shaped their lives and the community in which they live and were recorded and to form the basis of the film, and drama.
This has the dead hand of do-gooderness about it from the outset – and we can be fairly sure what the message of the production is likely to be.
We are polishing our lorgnettes in anticipation.
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