Monday, 23 October 2017


There’s more to making Boston look presentable than just tarting up the shop fronts, and last week’s rant about them was just one side of a multi-faceted problem.
Not least among the items on the list are those that form part of that important snapshot that people get of the town as they park or arrive at the bus station and head for the centre.
Three and a half years ago, the £750,000 St Botolph’s bridge was opened across the River Witham as a glittering replacement for the 40 year-old monstrosity that preceded it.
But take a look at it now.
Once white and shining and a credit to the town, a few years on it is a breeding ground for filth and mould.
Shortly after the bridge opened, Worst Street and Clownty Hall came down on people like a ton of bricks when they suspended symbols of mutual love in the form of padlocks from the bridge for fear that the structure might be damaged.
What sort of damage is steadily being wreaked  by the formation of mould and the inevitable penetration of damp that it brings is anyone’s guess.
Quite obviously it’s no simple task to shin up a ladder every so often and wash the bridge down – although there’s nothing to stop the structure being kept clean at floor level.
However, we are sure that the bridge must at sometime soon be subject to an overall safety check (if not, why not) – at which time some cleaning ought to be possible.

***

Another of life’s little mysteries is the rotting wooden carcase of the punishment stocks.
Their originl home was in the Market Place near the Ingram monument on the site of the old Butchery in its north eastern corner but were later moved to Bargate Green.


The photo above shows on the left the original stocks, back in the days of the cattle market. They were dilapidated then, which is obviously why they were eventually replaced with those on the right – although in an incomplete form.
Since then they have sat there, unlabelled, and declining gradually with nothing to tell people about their history..
Frankly, given their condition and obscure location, they might as well be removed.
If not, they should be returned as close to their original location as possible and properly identified.
Also in the Market Place were found the pillory and the whipping post.
Who knows – reproductions might make an interesting addition to the 'street furniture.'
Worst Street might even consider bringing them back into use!


***

The news that Boston Borough Council's Cabinet has agreed to organise a meeting with Brylaine Travel and Lincolnshire County Council to discuss rerouting the Into Town bus service to avoid pedestrianised Strait Bargate may not be as encouraging as it seems.
Brylaine's Operations Director Malcolm Wheatley has suggested that a bus stop at Fish Hill would enable buses to enter and leave the Market Place without going along Strait Bargate – and on the other side of town could make a U-turn in Wide Bargate.
Whist this seems simple enough, Worst Street – not unusually – is muddying the waters.
Council Leader Michael Cooper said it presented an opportunity to talk about associated matters in the Boston Transport Strategy and perhaps bring some projects forward for completion at the same time.
Whilst he added that the strategy should not delay rerouting of the Into Town service the transport masterplan for Boston covers the years 2016 until 2036 – and given current financial constraints, we can’t imagine anything significant happening for several years to come.
Worst Street quoted Deputy Leader Michael Brookes pointing out that the strategy referred to upgrading the bus station or a new town centre public transport hub and saying that this could be addressed "as a whole, rather than piecemeal".
One problem here is that the previous transport strategy covered the years between 2006 and 2021 – and included improvements to the bus station … something we can’t see being repeated in a hurry
Whilst any consideration of ways to remove the noise, pollution damage and threat created by buses in what ought to be a pleasant pedestrian precinct, we hope that Worst Street will not use pie in the sky dreams of a costly transport hub to kick things into touch.
But there was a laugh to be had in all of this.
Town centre portfolio holder Paul Skinner suggested that further discussion should include cycle routes through the town centre.
Well done, that man.
As if cyclists using footpaths and other pedestrian areas wasn’t hazard enough already, the idea that we ditch the buses in favour of cyclists – who would of course treat shoppers in Strait Bargate with exactly the same respect they currently accord pedestrians elsewhere – borders on lunacy.

***

The unsubtle onward and upward advance by the Boston Town Area Committee – BTAC-ky – along the corridors of power continues unabated.
A snag for BTAC-ky – which used to represent Boston town wards in the same way as parish councils do for the out-of town areas – was that its powers weren’t big enough for its wannabe boot size.
But now, an aspiration to lead on more projects has led to demands for more powers.
At last week’s meeting of the Cabinet of Curiosities it was recommended that the Leader (remember him?) should delegate executive functions up to £10,000 to the committee – whilst this week’s BTAC-ky agenda is discussing the creation of a large grant policy that could award funding of more than £1,000 as well as the existing grant structure which is limited to a maximum of £1,000.
The big scheme would give money to formally constituted community groups and other organisations towards “projects that will have a significant benefit to the BTAC area and to BTAC residents.”
The inclusion of this key phrase is a welcome one – as increasingly over the past couple of years, BTAC-ky has lost sight of this remit and spread its taxpayers’ cash far more widely than seemed fair.
Although a report to the meeting stresses that BTAC-ky will consider eligible applications in light of its budget position and the availability of resources our concern is that – as has already been seen – if the committee finds itself strapped for cash it merely bumps up its council tax levy to meet the difference.
Let’s not forget that in 2016 BTAC-ky approved a council tax rise of 94.6%, followed by a rise for the current year of 185% to meet its ever-expanding ambitions.

***

We will have to wait and see what happens – but BTAC-ky has given us no reason to believe in it with confidence in the past … and now one of our readers ‘in the know’ says that a political own goal may have upset the applecart.
Our correspondent The Sorcerer writes to say …


I
’ve just heard about a fall out at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee regarding Labour and a UKIP supporter!
It seems that Labour and BTAC Chairman, Councillor Nigel Welton, used a bit of ring craft, with his BTAC Deputy, Sue Ransome.
Councillor Welton's unfortunate and unfair attack on UKIP – naming three former, but now reconstituted Tory turncoats – will do nothing to promote Labour's reputation!
He has, I think, just swung the door wide open for the Conservative group to dispose of him, and his Leader Paul Gleeson. 
The trouble with this is, Councillor Gleeson’s political experience will be sadly missed ... and he only has his colleague to blame!
But maybe Nigel just didn't get it; maybe Paul hadn't told him about the master plan … his Labour Town Council plan.
As any fule kno ... except Nigel that is and the Conservative group ... Labour will never win anything out in the rural Tory heartlands.
Councillor Gleeson knows it – and he also knows that Labour’s only hope of survival is to grab the town wards where the Labour vote has always been strongest.
He has worked very hard to make connections within Boston's immigrant society as well as running BTAC – the Boston Town Area Committee.
He knows that the sprawling estates in and around Boston are the only areas that Labour can win over – also that UKIP’s constant falling out, bickering, and infighting, seriously let down all of the people who voted UKIP.
What Nigel did by sounding off  was put all of that effort at risk – which was a massive blooper.
Why? Because his Deputy Chair on BTAC is none other than original Boston Ukipper Councillor Sue Ransome.
Labour was re-building for the future when two more Ukippers jumped ship.
This is not the first time Kippers have been played for fools by Conservatives in those political games often played out in West Street.
Two banal Vice Chairmanships guaranteed the ruling group five out of the six UKIP votes – or abstentions from what might be the quietest opposition group in history. 
We need to remind ourselves that UKIP very nearly overran the Tory election barricades in Boston Borough in the last election.
The day was only saved by Peter Bedford making a pact with two Labour, and two Independents, and later ‘bribing’ his way to neutralising Sue Ransome, thereby killing of any hope of a change of political direction for our borough.
Now though, we have yet another two once-loyal Kippers absconding to the Tories – whom we might imagine will be repaid with a Scrutiny seat. What about a Noble/Stevens partnership? That would be ironic and a vote winner, I'd say!
But then will Sue survive on planning – after all there is that thing known as political balance, so where will UKIP be in that plot?
This 'councillor' has at last shown just why Peter Bedford’s Con/Lab Alliance for Boston Borough was the worst idea of the century – but it might also be the worst one for the remnants of UKIP, and no help at all to Labour.
S
orry Councillor Gleeson, Councillor Welton really needs to keep his daft opinions to himself. 

***

The Boundary Commission for England has been at it again – this time with a plan to enlarge the Boston and Skegness constituency by the 2022 general election.


The idea is to bring it in line with new population targets and a reduction in the number of MPs.
The Commission aims to reduce the total number of constituencies, and MPs, in England from 533 to 501 – with each constituency having an electorate no smaller than 71,031 and no larger than 78,507. Boston and Skegness is currently a dinky 66,250, so the Commission has proposed taking in the wards of Kirkby la Thorpe, plus South Kyme and Heckington Rural from the current Sleaford constituency, which would beef the numbers up to 71,989.
It seems that the German-born British economist E. F. Schumacher got it round his neck when he penned Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered.
Now, Large is Lovelier seems to be the order of the day.
You can to tell the Boundary Commission what you think of the changes between now and 11th  December and read the proposals and map and comment  at www.bce2018.org.uk.
But don’t expect it to be user friendly – because it ain’t!

***

We believe that more in hope than expectation, Lincolnshire’s councils have banded together to lobby for “a fairer funding deal”.
Clownty Hall claims that if councils here received the average funding for council areas in England, the region (by which we assume they mean the county in this case) would benefit from £116 million extra every year for services.
Among the suggestions as to how the cash could be spent are a by-pass scheme or a “major road improvement scheme” across the area – and don’t forget, we are talking about every year.
A new hospital is also listed – although we didn’t this this was the job of the county council to provide.
Having said that, we doubt that Boston will ever enjoy the benefits of a by-pass or major road improvement as Base Camp Lincoln has convinced itself that we don’t need one.
Further proof of Boston’s position in the Lincoln lists – if ever one were needed –came in a recent pledge by County Council Leader Martin Hill after a £2.5million plan for an eastbound-only overtaking lane on the A17 in Gedney was abandoned.
He is quoted as saying: “The good news is that we’re able to use the money on other parts of the A17 but it’s all subject to government criteria.
“If we could find something that works in South Holland and can get agreement from the landowner in good time, that’s something we could do.”
How different from the time Clownty Hall pledged £11 million for Boston as part of the town flood barrier scheme for a water level management plan that would have opened the town up for more jobs, more visitors and a major economic boost.
However, as this needed further appraisal, Lincoln swiftly grabbed the money back on the grounds that it had no wish to delay the project and the millions disappeared back into the common purse.

***

It’s time once again for another survey “to help organisations tackle hate crime” in Lincolnshire.
The survey is being staged by the county’s Community Safety Partnership “to understand more about the nature and extent of hate crime in the county.”
Hate crime is defined as any incident is motivated by hostility or prejudice towards any aspect of a person’s identity, including race, gender, disability, ethnicity or sexuality
The survey comprises 20 questions such as “Have you ever been the victim of a hate incident or crime?” and  whether this happened in Lincolnshire.
Respondents are invited to speculate on why they were targeted, together with whether this was near their home, on the bus or other public transport, in the street, a shop, or over social media.
Similar questions also asked if respondents have witnessed a hate incident or crime in Lincolnshire, and  concluded by asking in which district the respondent lives plus information on gender, age, ethnicity and health.
Whilst we can see that such a quiz will improve understanding of the problem, quite how it will help “tackle” hate crime is anyone’s guess.
The problem with this sort of thing it that it often encourages people to see crime where none exists – and we well remember that after one of the first “awareness” weeks, allegations of hate crime went through the roof.
Surely, there must be a better way to deal with this sort of problem.

***

One hundred days ago today, we reminded readers that it was one hundred days since Worst Street came under control of a new leader.
At the time, we reported: “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.'”
But, we added: “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.”
If anyone can point to that opinion no longer being valid at the 200 day mark, then please let us know.
If fact if nothing else has happened, the new powers being given to the Boston Town Area Committee have seen the leader and the cabinet’s control and authority considerably diminished.

***


An aggrieved e-mail has arrived from MP Matt Warman about our blog of two weeks ago in which we quoted from a couple of Twitter discussions
He tells us: “While life’s too short to revisit every tweet around the Garfit’s Lane pitch hire, I was under the impression that I had answered the question about whether I approached the Borough Council on the football club’s behalf.
“I quite understand that it’s not always clear which question is being answered, or indeed asked, so just for the record, I didn’t approach the Borough Council in this instance, although I very much see it as my role in principle to facilitate mutually beneficial relationships between, for instance, the council and local sports teams. If ever you want to clarify something, do feel free to email me.
“Secondly, you quote from Twitter (again …) on street drinking saying “Every time something happens in Boston our local MP says we don't have a problem. Oh yes we do – a major one.”
“It is surely worth pointing out that I’ve been campaigning on this issue since before I was elected in 2015, and doing so makes it blindingly obvious I think there is a problem and that it’s part of my job to help sort it out.
“It’s why there’s now a Community Alcohol Partnership, why I’ve raised it, in part in the context of police resources, with both the Chief Constable and indeed Theresa May.
“So if you’re going to criticise me, perhaps you’d be better off doing it for not having solved the problem despite devoting considerable effort to it, rather than knowingly peddling the untruth that I don’t acknowledge this is a serious issue. I will, of course, seek to do all I can to continue to tackle it.”
In our defence, the episode concerning street drinking referred to a problem in Central Park, and quoted a third party. We were reporting criticism – not making it.
No Christmas card for us this year, we guess.

***

This year’s general election saw a new candidate contesting the Boston and Skegness constituency.
Former senior Tory borough councillor Mike Gilbert had become so disenchanted with the present political system that he created his own party to try to bring about change – A Blue Revolution.
The party was approved just in time for the election, and whilst it polled just a handful of votes, Mr Gilbert is now launching an awareness campaign with a series of evening events at Fydell House from now until January.


So, if you’re one of those people who blames politicians for everything but holds the sad conviction that nothing will ever change, you might find it worthwhile going along.

***

 News that four specialist Lincolnshire Police operations officers spent a day at Silverstone race circuit roaring round the track and then playing latest Gran Turismo PlayStation game came just days before Humberside Police got it in the neck for taking over the dodgem ride at Hull fair.
Apparently, the aim of the PlayStation stunt was “to explore whether additional methods could help boost established police training structures,” although thankfully, we are told that there will never be a replacement for traditional training methods.
But it set us thinking …
Less esoterically – but just as important –  is proper training with the use of  police batons – and we thought that the much loved and still highly popular fairground attraction Whac a Mole (above right) might well have an important educational function …


And who knows. One day, Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi’s light sabre might even take over from the humble taser.

***
A visit to Worst Street – a 20 minute slog  at walking stick pace.
Me:  Could I have a roll of blue recycling bags, please?
WS: Have you got a bin?
Me: Yes.
WS: Do you know that you’re not allowed to put recycling bags in it?
Me: Yes.
WS: I can’t give you a roll, but I can let you have four or five.
Me: Exit chuntering.
There’s only one way to avoid an uncomfortable forty-minute round trip to collect five recycling bags next time – not to mention the unhelpful response.
That’s to put any leftover recycling material into the green landfill bin – which under Worst Street’s latest rules is what now happens to shredded documents.
Why do we try to bother to be helpful?


There won’t be a blog next week. Despite the odds against it we continue to advance beyond our three score years and ten allocation, and will be celebrating our birthday instead.
Back on Monday 6th November.



You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   
E-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com  

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston



Monday, 16 October 2017


An irony of the marathon task and finish group trying to come up with ways to make Boston more prosperous was that it was sparked by the sight of the former Edinburgh Woollen Mill Shop standing empty.
Two years on, nothing has changed – but at least the building has been tarted up under a conservation scheme partnership between Boston Borough Council and English Heritage which pays 50% of the cost of high quality repairs to historic buildings, 90% of the cost of reinstating architectural features – particularly the installation of traditional shop fronts – and at least 50% for improvements to signage.
Sadly, far too few businesses have taken up the offer, and Worst Street simply hasn’t flogged it well enough.

***

Far and away the worst eyesore in the Market Place these days – and for the past five years – is the former Millets outdoor clothing company, which shut its doors sometime in 2012 and has been in steady decline ever since.
It is for sale at a price between  £150,000 and £450,000 a year depending on the bits you want to buy, or to rent for £25,000 to £40,000 a year – again accordingly … but excluding business rates et al, which will have to be considerable.
The shop is Grade II listed with consent for the conversion of the upper floors into six apartments.
Yet despite this it lurks as a foul monstrosity blighting the approach to the Market Place from Pump Square and Dolphin Lane – part of the medieval lanes that Worst Street has hilariously compared with The Shambles in York.
 A shambles it is.
York it ain’t.

***

The best effort to beautify this eyesore has been to fill the windows with display material promoting Blackfriars – but this does nothing to solve the problem ... and that baffles us.
Repeatedly, Worst Street has boasted of its powers to force property owners to bring their neglected premises up to snuff – but for some reason this disgusting site has been ignored.
From what we can tell, Worst Street prefers to pick on the little taxpayers to force then to make improvements – and if ignored does the work itself and then drags the property owner through the courts to recoup the cost.

***

The old Millets shop must be owned by someone with the wherewithal to make major improvements – but instead lets it languish on the market expecting whoever leases or buys it to foot the bill.
Boston Borough Council is pathetically neglectful in the matter of this property – and must take steps to enforce its upgrading to a point where … if nothing else … it is made presentable and no longer detrimental to the town’s shopping ‘offer.’
And it doesn’t need a task and finish group to debate it – just some effort.

***

Still with empty shops – and further to our recent rant about the invasion of coffee shops,  Poundshops, phone shops, charity shops, betting shops, vaping shops and the like, we offer the photo below as proof in support of our argument that Boston will soon have no 'real' shops left.


Another of our little lanes with two shops to let, and a third – the former Boston Standard offices  –  set to reopen as yet another vaping shop.
Unless those in authority get a grip on this soon, the town centre will be a fit-for-nothing wilderness with nothing to attract shoppers.

***

Details of the moves by BTAC-ky to rid Strait Bargate of the noise, pollution and damage being caused by the Into-Town bus service tend to confirm what most of us already suspected – that inertia rules the day at Worst Street.
Even though the route was imposed by the Lincolnshire County Council when the service started in 2008 at a time when traffic congestion was far worse, no-one has since bothered to question whether it is still necessary now that things have moved on.  
The initial idea was that all three buses would stop at one location so people could swap buses but they didn’t do so. In addition, the cross town traffic that had been envisaged failed to materialise.
It seems that the reluctance of the controlling Conservatives at Worst Street to challenge Clownty Hall over the route – Lincoln says ‘jump’ and Boston says ‘how high?’ – has let things go from bad to worse.
And to be honest, the bottom line appears to be that people are too idle to walk from one end of Strait Bargate to the other – even though the main purpose of coming into the town centre must be to shop.
Having read the report, there would seem to be no real reason why the services cannot make a U-turn at each end of Strait Bargate – aside from the fear at Worst Street Central of disobeying their Lincoln masters.

***

Incidentally, it’s always cheering when a local council shows that it knows its own patch – and very disheartening when the reverse is shown to be the case.
The minutes of the BTAC-ky meeting on the bus service debate made no fewer than six references to ‘Straight’ Bargate – when for centuries it has been named ‘Strait’ Bargate.

***

In a recent piece on Twitter, Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill said that important road projects were progressing well and whilst it could be frustrating if road works delayed journeys, they were a sign of the council’s investment for the future.
He cited Lincoln’s Eastern Bypass – “one of the single most important highways projects in the county in recent years” – and due for completion in winter 2019, adding that Clownty Hall was already working on a business case for the final piece of the ring-road around Lincoln – the North Hykeham relief road.
Other projects worthy of a name check included Holbeach’s Peppermint Junction improvements, and the two-mile southern relief road in Grantham.
“The first phase was finished in August 2016, and we’re now preparing for the second and third stages with completion due in 2020 linking the A52 at Somerby Hill to the A1.
“These projects, and future road developments, will not only help improve safety and traffic flow, but are also vital for economic development unlocking land for development, creating new jobs and boosting the economy.
At the bottom of the list was mention of a relief road for Spalding, “a distributor road for Boston” and improvements to the A158 Lincolnshire Coastal Highway, to tackle congestion at places like Horncastle.
We’ve written about this before.
Whilst everyone else gets bypasses, ring roads and relief roads, Boston is promised a distributor road.
And what exactly is that?
If ever achieved, it will be a forlorn patchwork of roads largely running through newly built housing estates.
The only section that we’re likely to see soon is part of the Quadrant housing development in Wyberton which will link London Road with the A16 – ironically running parallel with the existing rat-run of Tytton Lane East.

***

After that, it’s all down to whether developers can be persuaded to build new housing in the right places to create a line for the road.
According to current county council documents, it is estimated that the entire distributor road would cost around £100m, and no additional funding is currently available.
Even if there were, the Boston Distributor Road would only provide a new route around the west side of the town, linking the A16 to the north, the A1121 Boardsides and A52 to the west, and the A16 to the south.
Clownty Hall is “looking for other possible funding sources” but points out that as part of the project’s proposed route, there are sections which would require major structures to be constructed over rail, road and water – and funding for these is not currently available.
Don’t hold your breath

***

The Preposterous Boston task and finish group’s final report gave many of Worst Street’s so-called “managers” a chance to blow their own trumpets.
This included a plug for the weekly Boston Borough Council bulletin – unusually named … as so much of its content has nothing to do with Boston Borough Council.
A particularly proud assertion was that the bulletin boasted around 4,000 subscribers.
Whilst it’s a moderately impressive figure for something that is nothing more than a pointless piece of busywork, it’s worth remembering how so many people came to be e-mailed a copy.
When voters applied for a brown garden waste bin, they were asked for an e-mail address – with a promise from Worst Street that: “Your personal contact details … will be used … to contact you should we need to obtain further information … about your application and to notify you of the action we are taking following your application.
“Boston Borough Council may also use your information for other purposes such as to prevent fraud …”
What happened then was that Worst Street subscribed everyone who’d given their e-mail addresses for the garden waste service to the weakly bulletin – and claimed almost overnight to have thousands of readers ,., rather than the 784 it had enjoyed up to that point.
A complaint of a breach of duty under the Data Protection Act was rejected.
Worst Street weasely  claimed: “… you can only carry out unsolicited electronic marketing if the person you’re targeting has given you their permission …
“However, there is an exception to this rule. Known as the “soft opt-in,” it applies … where you’ve obtained a person’s details in the course of a sale or negotiations for a sale of a product or service; where the messages are only marketing similar products or services; and where the person is given a simple opportunity to refuse marketing when their details are collected, and if they don’t opt out at this point, are given a simple way to do so in future messages.
“Given a clear unsubscribe option in the emails, and this was used by many people, we deemed this strategy both legal and an opportune way to engage with the local community.
“This position is further supported in that organisations can re-use personal information for purposes other than what collected for where that purpose may be beneficial to the individual.
“Although a subjective view – it was the decision of the Garden Waste Project implementation team … that the bulletin was not considered ‘marketing;’ rather a mechanism to inform residents … about opportunities, events, and other council related activities to benefit the community.”
Whilst we suppose that contain loads of rubbish – we think that the readership claims made to Prosperous Boston show the true public reaction to the publication.
At the time Worst Street cooked the data books, 15,500 households were signed up to the garden waste service – and presumably most of these gave their e-mail address.
So what the figure quoted to the task and finish group shows is that the bulletin has managed to lose more than ten thousand readers in quite a short time.
How much longer, we wonder before it goes back to its roots, and a circulation of 784?

***

Were we alone in being disappointed to see that among the first duties of Lincolnshire Police’s ‘Mini Police Project’ was a session on the streets with council staff and members of  Mayflower Housing collecting litter along Carlton Road, Taverner Road and around the Fenside Community Centre.
We were told that the youngsters collected a dozen bags of rubbish ranging from empty beer cans and cigarette butts to discarded clothes and crisp packets.
The project leader told a local “newspaper” that: “One of the Mini Police aims is to make the area they live in a better place to be.
“By going out and clearing up litter, they are working with partner agencies to improve their locality, not only for them but other pupils and members of the local community.”
Recently, local council taxpayers chipped in more than £850 towards the cost of establishing the mini police project in two town centre schools.
Somewhat naively, we thought that this was a laudable way to increase understanding of the role of the police at an early stage as part of a child’s education – and we’re sure that many others did too.
Now, it turns out to be an expensive way to clear up litter.
Will we soon be seeing officers and PCSOs on patrol wielding a litter picker and black bin bag rather than batons and tasers?
Somehow, we doubt it.

***

The Boston beach party in August again cost taxpayers money even though it was supposed to have been fully funded by other organisations.
As with last year’s event you and I stumped up £700 for donkey rides – which with no sense of shame, Worst Street charged as “sports development.”
Will they fund the dodgem cars thus for next year’s May Fair?
We think it’s called creative accounting.
In another slightly obscure entry, we paid almost £450 to an outside contractor to water the hanging baskets around Boston Stump – an item charged to “Public Health and Environment.”
Given that the borough employs its own grounds staff, who ought to be able to undertake jobs such as this, we wonder why outside tendering was necessary.

***

Speaking of the war on litter, we were told of a second incident in the Market Place which appears to use a costly sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Yet again, a reader told us of  a case where someone dropped an item of litter as they parked their car – and within seconds were confronted by a Worst Street litter squad rushing to the scene in a Worst Street car to ticket them.
The only way this can happen is if the car is lurking elsewhere awaiting a tip from the CCTV, which we have to say seems to be a serious abuse of resources – not to mention a waste of money.

***

But as we’ve said so often before, Worst Street does enjoy criminalising the people who pay its bills.


Witness the above idea of a ‘quiz’ from the council’s Twitter feed.
It’s really rather sad, isn’t it?

***

This week, we’re grateful to the Boston sub-Standard for our unintentional funnies.


Which heroine did the thief have in mind, we wonder – Jane Eyre, Elizabeth I, Scarlett O’Hara, or Joan of Arc … the list is endless.

***

And here’s a reminder not to turn your back on the vet next time you take Tiddles in for a health check.


It’s enough to make your eyes water, isn’t it?
  


You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   
E-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com  

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston



Monday, 9 October 2017

Despite incessant claims that Worst Street is strapped for cash, it looks as though councillors may soon be getting a pay rise.
A seemingly innocuous report to last month’s full council meeting headed Appointments to the Independent Remuneration Panel is slightly more than that in that not only does it make three appointments to the panel – the previous members’ tenure has expired – but it sets the wheels in motion for them to start work on a pay review.
The panel makes recommendations about basic allowances, special responsibility allowances, dependant carers’ allowances, travel and subsistence allowances and co-optees’ allowances – and one thing that can be said with some certainty is that it won’t be suggesting a pay freeze or reduction.
The review involves analysing local and national comparative information, considering the time commitment required for a ward councillor role, and evaluating roles which are eligible for special responsibility allowances.
Given the pathetic attendance record of some councillors, one might think that the review provided a good opportunity to introduce a no play, no pay policy so that failure to turn up for a meeting would mean a reduction in allowances.
Ho, ho, ho.
Ho.
Whoever drew up the rules thought of that one – and made sure that  any deal was wholesale rather than retail ... so that councillors who fail properly to deliver on their election promises are in no
way penalised.
The wording makes it clear that “the panel has no legislative provision to make any recommendations based on an attendance allowance scheme, whereby members only receive an allowance for the meetings they attend, or any form of performance related payment, or for allowances to be linked to the Member Code of Conduct as a form of sanction.”
In a nutshell – those councillors who decided to thumb their noses at their colleagues and their electorate pocket exactly the same wages and get off scot free.
The last pay review was in 2012 and covered a two–year period.
Not being one to do things by halves where self–service is involved, the Boston panel awarded its chums the biggest rise of all the councils – an increase of 28% to £3,052 on the basic wedge ... which has crept up since then to £4,400 a year.

***

There was major criticism of all this – especially from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which said: “With local authorities up and down the country having to rein in spending and many public sector staff facing a pay freeze, those councillors who have awarded themselves an increase in their allowances in defiance of government advice should hang their heads in shame.
At the time, Worst Street – adopting its usual policy of treating taxpayers as if they were idiots – managed to spin the pay rise down to a meagre 2.5% a year using the argument that eight years had gone by since the last increase.
Leader at the time, Peter Bedford said: "There will never be a best time for increases, and there have not been any in Boston for six years. We have slipped further and further behind our colleagues in the other Lincolnshire authorities, and still remain substantially below them.
"It does demonstrate that we represent value for money here in Boston.
"Allowances are there so that no one is denied, for financial reasons, from becoming a councillor. They are recompense for the time that people spend on council business."

***

For longer than we care to remember, the Worst Street argument whenever the councillor slush funds are concerned is that they are the worst paid in the land.
Certainly the allowances are down with the lowest of the low – but the most likely reason for this is that Worst Street is one of the smallest district councils by population ... placed 305th   out of 326, the last two of which are the City of London with 9,400 residents and the Scilly Isles with 2,600.
Small council, duties not onerous – for some members virtually non–existent – so why should they be paid even more?
Rest assured that his argument will not be one to feature when the panel begins its considerations.

***

Certainly, the members sound as though they might be sympathetic.
They are:
Tim Booth – a former policeman who now runs his own caravan and leisure security business and has been involved with community groups for many years.
John Price – a former officer of the council who has a good understanding of the workings of local government and the roles and responsibilities of members in those processes.
Simon Sperring – a former bank manager and teacher in business studies who was a member of the remuneration panel  between 2003 to 2008 and a one–time chairman.

***

It’s always good to find an explanation that sums things up succinctly and in a way that everyone can understand.
When we read the third and final phase of the long overdue Prosperous Boston Task and Finish Group, we had to admire an update on economic development by the Head of Town Centre, Leisure, Events and Culture on behalf of the Economic Development Manager.
Wisely – and perhaps with  the subtext of a nothing to do with us, guv  the report  made a point of telling readers that it was quoting verbatim.
The opening line set the trend for the rest of the report ...
“It was reported that by way of context, the main raison d’ĂȘtre over the last 11 months for economic development had been to develop constructive relationships with the business community whilst leveraging greater support and focus from county–wide partners and key economic stakeholders to deliver on our economic plan...”
You got that alright?
Good.

***

Apparently, the Preposterous Boston review is now at an end.
Its final recommendations from phase three were about the need to support the on-going sustainability of the Visit Boston website in future financial years and review all its  recommendations in the Spring.
In particular the report called for a corporate policy on advertising to enable income strands through the Visit Boston website for private advertising, and wants another policy covering private sponsorship to support the sustainability of the site.

***

Despite our jaundiced view of Preposterous Boston, there is no doubt that it produced some achievements – principally in the area of improving signage.
But to us the work fell far short of its proclaimed intention to produce “one of the most in-depth studies into what makes Boston tick”  ...  “with far-reaching recommendations aimed at making the town better for residents, shoppers and for those who work and visit here”

***

A major area of concern that remains unaddressed is that of street drinking and problems in Central Park.
One of the most telling responses concerned the issue of dispersal of groups who made people feel intimidated and threatened – particularly in the town and around the bus station.
The police response was to take no action as it was thought that the “threat” felt was probably the  “perception of threat” rather than being the real thing.
The outcome was advice from the police to call 999 – if a threat was made.
There were also complaints of no police patrols/no PCSO support and that CCTV did not seem to be working, neither did calling 101.

***

Ironically in the same week that the report was published we noted a complaint on Twitter about problems in the park.
In part it read: “We went in the park walked about 30 yards looked to the side of me and saw a woman pulling her knickers up after having a wee  ... I jest you not. We started looking for staff in the park ... nobody anywhere. There were three sat on the bench one bloke and two women. He got his todger out and he had a pee in front of families in the park.  We noticed how many people were drinking booze.
“We went into town to see if we could find a policeman ... not one to be found. What a sad town we live in now.
“This needs addressing now. Every time something happens in Boston our local MP says we don't have a problem. Oh yes we do – a major one .
“You can drop litter in town and get fined yet you can go in the park drink and inject drugs in your body and s**t and p**s all over.
“A sad day in the sleepy old town Boston.”

***

Speaking of Central Park – we note the cancellation of the planned Oktoberfest at the end of this month ... apparently because of low ticket sales.
We also noted the eagerness with which Worst Street washed its hand of any connection with the event.
There must have been relief all round after the council painted itself into a corner by declaring that drinking was not allowed in the park and then permitting a seriously drink related event there.
However, a number of comments posted on one of our local “newspaper” websites challenged the council account of things.
Comments took the form of  ... “This was announced as a sell-out not long ago ... You haven't been able to buy tickets since about July because it's sold out! ... It was sold out!!! I couldn’t get tickets for couple of months!  ... Load of rubbish. Something strange I’d say something isn't quite right here ... It's been sold out for some time now, friends of mine couldn't even get hold of tickets due to being sold out ... So you cannot get tickets for it as it said it was sold out and we tried on their website which stated it was sold out ... So someone is telling porkies about what's going on ... We tried to book tickets and it came across as fully booked! ...We couldn't get tickets as it was sold out so something strange has gone on”
Whilst one person may have been mistaken about whether the event was on or off – nine people getting the same message does indeed sound as though something strange has been going on...

***

A message from Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones arrived after our recent piece  concerning the force’s advertising of three admin roles costing £130,000 a year...
“Your recent comments about three new roles being funded are simply inaccurate.
“Two of the three are being funded by five forces, not just Lincolnshire, and they will help provide governance to the £22m a year collaboration work across the East Midlands.
“They will also help all PCCs and Chiefs look for new ways to collaborate and spend taxpayers’ money wisely and improve local services.
“The third role is new and will oversee the multi-million pound commissioning that we have to do around victim services as well as working to reduce demand on policing services appropriately by making sure other agencies pull their weight.
“Building partnerships to ensure everyone’s aims pull in the same direction is also part of the role.
“Mental health issues take up about 30% of police time, working with health to get people the care they need without using police cells inappropriately will make a huge difference.
“The final strand is beefing up crime prevention by working with Trading Standards, RAF, councils etc etc. This is a specialist role that will hopefully save a huge number of officer hours.
“I can’t afford to employ 10 extra cops, but I expect this role to save me at least that in time.”
Whilst we’re happy to clarify matters – we did point out to Mr Jones that we spoke as we saw, and that the job adverts did not spell out that the salary costs were shared.

***

The question that sparked a confrontation between Worst Street Leader Michael Cooper and council critic Darron Abbott turned out to be one concerning the cost of dealing with what the council refers to as people who make persistent and vexatious complaints – one of our local “newspapers” reports.
Mr Abbott is one of a handful of taxpayers who has been awarded this dubious distinction.
And according to Boston’s Chancellor of the Exchequer – Finance portfolio holder Aaron Spencer – it has cost almost £16,000 to deal with “contacts” made since the policy was introduced in April 2016, which he calculated equated to £10,640 a year.
Mr Spencer said there had been 399  'contacts' dealt with under the policy ... which he claimed was more than one every working day – although we calculate the total number of days between April last year and 1st  October this year at more than 500.
This figure applied only to people listed under the policy, and not day-to-day contacts – nor did they come from 399 separate people.
He said the council didn’t have a time recording system, so officers could only estimate how long each contact took – but a reasonable estimate was that “two hours per contact was appropriate'” at an average cost of £20 per hour.
The report said that Councillor Spencer equated the annual £10,640 figure to the council tax of 60 households at Band D, but because almost 50% of council taxpayers are in Band A it would also equate to 90 of those households.
We know that one such “contact” was to ask why a garden waste bin had not been collected – a question asked again when the situation remained unchanged and no reply had been received.
How on earth this can be inflated to £40 quids’ worth of officer time is anyone’s guess.
As the whizz kid in charge of millions of our council tax cash, perhaps Councillor Spencer can explain.
And while he’s about it, could he also detail  some of his calculations.
Boston Eye’s office is a band A property – and we pay £1,080 a year.
Multiply that by 90 and the total is £97,200 which is far in excess of the £10,640 a year that Councillor Spencer has calculated.
Still he is the expert.
Isn’t he?
Although ninety houses sound far worse that a mere nine.

***

Still no more progress on that spat mentioned above between Mr Abbott and Councillor Cooper – although the debate goes on behind the scenes and includes what some councillors appear to regard as clever political manoeuvring.
Watch this space ...

***

Some mysterious goings-on in Worst Street generated a Twitter debate regarding the use of football pitches at Garfit’s Lane playing fields.
Eventually, the developers, Chestnut Homes – who are behind the Quadrant project which includes a new stadium for Boston United – confirmed a new lease to use the football pitches at Garfit’s Lane for their community football teams, but said this had “nothing to do with the Quadrant and the new stadium,” adding that other teams and the public who use the site will still be able to do so.
The event was reported in one of our local “newspapers” after a call from a reader – and a council spokesman confirmed the lease had been discussed outside of official proceedings, but would not go into further details.
For some peculiar reason, local MP Matt Warman wrote on Twitter that the lease was for a year and was for £15,000.
He said that he found out about it because he asked the council, adding: “This sort of use is absolutely standard arrangement for public sports facilities” – but he failed to respond to a tweet asking whether he had gone to the council on behalf of Boston United, and claimed that “if council meetings discuss every football pitch hire they’ll be there a long time – this isn’t controversial or unusual.”
Unfortunately, it appears that this is both controversial and unusual because – whilst the Boston Town Area Committee (BTAC-ky) owns and is responsible for the recreation area – the committee was apparently unaware that a deal had been cooked up to let a third party use it.
We have said for long enough that Worst Street Central (aka the Cabinet of Curiosities) regards BTAC-ky as nothing more than an extension of its bank account to help it evade its core responsibilities.
Now it seems that purloining BTAC-ky land for its own profit has been added to the list.

***

A recent letter to one of our local “newspapers” from Boston’s Mayor Councillor Brian Rush failed to gain publication – which is odd since it concerned the vexed issue of Brylaine buses’ infamous IntoTown service which uses Strait Bargate as a rat run.
Through the auspices of BTAC-ky, of which he is a member, Councillor Rush arranged  for a Brylaine representative  to attend a meeting to explain why the company routed the Into Town service through the Market Place, and specifically through Strait Bargate.
Councillor Rush took part in protests when the service began in 2008 “to condemn the routing of buses through what we considered should have been a sacred pedestrian space, which was then, and still is, a thoroughly unsuitable route for so many 'hourly buses' noisily crawling through this very narrow stretch of paved area in the heart of our town.”
His letter was to tell the newspaper that “after almost nine years, every single one of our BTAC members ... promised to seek the assistance, and co-operation of our cabinet members, by asking them to agree to finally exorcise these smoke breathing monsters from what is thought should be a pedestrian precinct.”
Councillor Rush added: “I must also say how mightily impressed I was by recently elected County Councillor Paula Cooper and her offer of support, and her promise to bring this up for discussion at Lincoln.”
He said that before the meeting he  had begun to lose faith in the councillors of Boston Borough –  “yet here we are with even County Councillor Alison Austin, an original Bypasser, throwing in her support for the ban!”

***

Quite why this went unreported in the first place, and with a subsequent letter doing the newspaper’s job for it being put aside as well, we will never know.
But the issue of buses in Bargate seriously needs addressing and an alternative route found – although we fear that Councillor Rush will not get his wish (even though town centre members of the only wards affected are unanimous) , as the Tory-dominated council bowed to Clownty Hall from the outset, and whilst once appearing to promise to end the rat run, failed to deliver when elected.


You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   
E–mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com  

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston