The legal services department spent £300 with a top national firm of lawyers for advice on something called Chancel Repair Research.
Historically, Worst Street is the Lay Rector of St Botolph’s.
That’s an ancient title, and it makes the holder responsible for the maintenance of the chancel of the church.
The one-time Boston Corporation – now the borough council – acted as Lay Rector from the grant of its charter in 1546.
These responsibilities carried endowments of land – but it would appear that the Corporation disposed of them (like the dock and the housing stock in Worst Street times, we suppose.)
The Chancel Repairs Act of 1932 confirmed the rights of church authorities to require Lay Rectors to provide for maintenance and transferred jurisdiction from ecclesiastical to lay courts, and a number of cases over the years have confirmed that these rights remain in existence and will be enforced.
Roughly every five years, Worst Street allocates around £150,000 for repairs to the chancel.
Its current capital spending programme for 2014/15 to 2018/19 sets aside £28,000 a year for “restoration.”
Way back in 2009, as the Stump prepared to mark the anniversary of work starting on the building in 1309, the church asked Boston Borough Council for a grant of £12,000 to enhance its tourism work during that special year.
To try to smooth the way for this application, the church withdrew an on-going appeal for £11,000 towards its insurance cover for that year.
The council accepted this with open arms – and as far as we know has not contributed to the insurance since.
But it then went on to turn down the application for the tourism grant.
The insurance cover would assist in the event of unforeseen problems in the chancel, but it appears that since then Worst Street has risked a huge bill in the event of some mishap.
History shows us that the council would love to make a major saving by ditching its responsibility to Boston Stump – and we wonder whether this recent innocent-looking entry in its spending accounts indicate that new moves are afoot to make this happen.
Perhaps someone can enlighten us?
Our piece last week about the Preposterous Boston Task and Finish Group – which makes a sloth look like an Olympic sprinter – generated an enlightening response from One Who Knows …
“You are right about past Task and Finish groups,” we were told. "The one looking at Boston BID relied on outside input as did the review of the Social Impact of Population Change in Boston which also ensured that ‘dissenting views’ were recorded so that nothing was lost.
“It is so important to hear all views and to make people genuinely feel consulted.
“Boston has a great heritage and some passionate local experts who understand that heritage.
“But the problem Boston has – like most of the UK – is linking itself into the development of wider western culture, capitalism, industry and trade both at home and abroad.
“Boston has an enviable history, from the Romans through to the Hanseatic League to the recorded history of the 16th and 17th century on to the 18th century with Flinders and Bass, and then the second World War.
“There are local experts in all these areas.
“Britain, Boston and Lincolnshire can rightly claim to have helped the world evolve and create democracy and trade on a truly global scale.
“The secret of success is getting the narrative right and then developing the strategy as a town and borough.
“Looking at retail in an age of the internet is possibly a bit Cnut-like.
“But getting people to come here to visit and move into our town by making us a UK cultural hub is the secret.
“We have to create that narrative and then develop the strategy and our local experts, businesses – and agencies like the Environment Agency and Lincolnshire County Council have a big role here.
“We have to do this whilst retaining the historic and environmental appearance of our borough rather than trying to build out of Boston on farmland simply to stimulate short term economic advantage.
“Councillor Skinner's Task and Finish group is a good idea – but it needs to have a vision beyond car parking, shops and toilets.
After every Lincolnshire County Council meeting, Clownty Hall provides a recording of the live webcast so that we can enjoy it in retrospect.
For many, it is doubtless a welcome cure for insomnia – although others may consider it an invitation to self-termination.
Once upon a time, the impression was given that councillors who wanted to question the executive did so by pressing a button to enter some sort of lottery for selection – although this now seems to have been done away with.
But regardless of the system – even though there are scores of councillors in the chamber – one who wins a place meeting after meeting is the Independent Conservative Alison Austin.
At the meeting on 15th September she came up with some tottering ramble about rail services to Lincoln and the inconvenience of their scheduling, but the regularity of her appearances raises the question of whether she receives some inexplicable preference in the queue – or if they indicate a lack of competition and interest within the ranks of our other Boston county councillors who appear to see their role as sitting on their hands and claiming the benefits.
Answers on a postcard, please.
Councillor Austin’s question – which included an appeal for Clownty Hall to support a call for a direct service between Skegness, Boston and Lincoln during the current franchise consultations – receive the usual dusty response.
But her question was timely coming as the Department for Transport is staging its East Midlands rail franchise public consultation crisply named: Driving Growth in the East Midlands – Connectivity as a Driver for Social and Economic Prosperity … but don’t get too excited.
As is so often the case, the writing appears to be on the wall as far as Boston is concerned.
You may need a magnifying glass, but while the cover of the consultation document includes a map of services – among them Sleaford and Skegness – you will be hard-pressed to locate Boston.
That’s because it doesn’t appear.
From time to time we have taken a look at the problem of absenteeism among Boston Borough councillors – most notably within the ranks of BTAC-ky, which now behaves as a town council for Boston.
It’s bad enough not to attend meetings – as so many member do on a regular basis.
But the recently released minutes of the August meeting show that although just nine of the fifteen members were present – only one … Alison Austin ... was civil enough to send an apology.
This leaves five members who not only couldn’t be bothered to represent the interests of the electors whose votes they sought so ardently but didn’t have the decency to say sorry for their absence.
The running order on council papers lists those attending, followed by the minutes of the previous meeting and then apologies for absence.
Could we suggest the inclusion of a fourth section?
Ignorant Sods – accompanied by the names of those whose indifference shames the whole of Worst Street.
Is it now the case that at long last the local holders of the purse strings who give “free” grants (i.e. cash from us taxpayers or national lottery entrants) are beginning to see the Emperor’s New Clothes aspect of some of the arty-farty ideas being bounced around?
At the end of June, our favourite cultural freeloader Transported rattled its begging bowl at BTAC-ky for £5,000 towards the £24,000 it wanted to celebrate in November the approaching 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers’ arrival in America (in 2020) aboard the Mayflower – something that has nothing to do with Boston.
“Our hope is that BTAC will join … as key delivery partners … to build the scale and ambition of the Illuminate event, embed it and its impacts in the cultural calendar of the town and ensure local ownership and pride grows as our spectacular festival grows…”
Figures for the event looked thus:
As well as all that, Transported also put in a second bid for Arts Council funding towards £8,000 for a “digital commission” to be projected on to Boston Stump.
Transported sprang into existence in 2012 with a mission to focus specifically “on parts of the country where people’s involvement in the arts is statistically significantly below the national average.”
It began with lottery funding, which has reduced over time and now needs to source a level of outside funding.
As was to be expected, BTAC-ky simply nodded through the £5k contribution – after all, if ever it runs short of cash it can simply turn on the taxpayer tap by upping the council tax of those unlucky enough to live in its catchment area.
As that stage it failed to notice that – as we pointed out at the time – an amount that might have been as high as £32,000 was being planned to fund a single event for a very short time. Not only that, but an event that has little relevance to Boston … as many people know.
In these cash-strapped times, we are certain that a sum such as this can be put to much better use.
But at least Boston Big Local showed a little more common-sense and refused the request for £5,000 towards the project – which has seen the entire house of cards come tumbling down.
We hope that it will be the thin end of a much needed wedge to stop money being poured down the drain of frivolous and short-lived pieces of entertainment.
After its huge investment in fancy off-road vehicles and a squadron of drones to catch hare coursers, we thought it ironic that recent press and TV reports credited Norfolk rather than Lincolnshire Police with being the pioneers.
But police and crime commissioner Marc Jones is not intending to stand still – and is being quoted as saying that Lincolnshire Police is aiming to be the "greenest" force in the country as it trials electric cars.
The Nissan LEAF is currently on test as a community car rather than a hot-pursuit vehicle.
Mr Jones is quoted as saying: “I’m ambitious for Lincolnshire Police to become the ‘greenest’ most sustainable force in the UK …
“… I want to see the vehicles used by the force keeping pace with operational requirements but also with changing technology to ensure pollution and fuel use is kept to a minimum.”
From small beginnings the hare coursing squad rapidly expanded to include a couple of £8,000 quad buggies and a fleet of fancy cars as well as two drones.
What will follow the non-pursuit Nissan, we wonder?
Are we perhaps just a short step away from a £100k Tesla which covers 0-60 mph in just 4.8 seconds?
Certainly, the money seems to be there.
Currently the commissioner’s office is advertising for a Partnerships and Delivery Manager paying up to £58,000, a Regional Collaboration Manager on a pay ceiling of £43,000 and a Regional Performance Analyst on a top whack of £30,000.
Three admin posts paying a total of £130,000.
With the average starting pay for a Lincolnshire policeman at £25,000, this would fund five operational officers, who must surely be worth more than three pen-pushers.
Yet despite all that, Lincolnshire Police managed to squeeze a contribution of £850 towards the cost of establishing a mini police project in twoBoston schools which is nothing more than a PR stunt – and a not very original one at that.
Further details of grants such as this used to be freely available, but can now only be obtained on request to the BTAC-ky Grant Administrator, such is the Worst Street transparency.
Not for the first time, Worst Street has not only failed to take advantage of an opportunity offered to it, but kicked the gift horse in the teeth along with the taxpayers as well.
For years, the free local magazine Simply Boston, which reaches 17,000 homes around the area, has given the Boston Borough Council leader a free monthly column.
This was seldom the case – as the magazine was fobbed off most of the time with a repeat of a column provided for the Boston sub-Standard – often published some weeks earlier, without any editing to keep it in-date if required.
In July, the first column under the new leadership saw “Michael’s Notes” promising the same thing on a monthly basis – something that we said at the time we doubted would happen … and which proved to be the case. After Councillor Cooper's first column, which repeated a piece written for the Worst Street website, we have since been offered “updates” from local councillors “sharing” what was to happen over the following few months.
This promise was more or less delivered in the August edition by town centre portfolio holder Paul Skinner but by September, the plot was beginning to unravel.
“Martin’s Notes” saw housing portfolio holder Martin Griggs’ by-line over a piece that was little more than a mission statement/propaganda puff on the Worst Street housing policy and a summary of the progress of the council’s rogue landlords’ project since 2014.
The October issue is out at any time, and we doubt that Worst Street will clamber out of the idle furrow that it has ploughed for itself.
In a sense, this is a self-inflicted injury by Simply Boston – as it fills a considerable amount of space each month with the dire hand-outs that the council laughingly calls “news.”
But wouldn’t it be nice if they could put their heads together and devise something informative, entertaining – and above all useful and helpful for the people of Boston to read?
Don't hold your breath.
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