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 …
’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.
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?
WS: Do you know that you’re not allowed to put recycling bags in it?
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.
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