Monday, 2 October 2017

 
Be still, our beating heart – Boston may soon have a branch of a Canadian coffee shop.
The firm Second Cup has applied to turn the old Clarks shoe shop in Strait Bargate – opposite Caffè Nero – into yet another beverage outlet selling drinks and food to eat inside or take away.
Our MP Matt Warman is quoted as saying: “I am very pleased that Second Cup is looking to open a branch in Boston. The chain only has a few branches across the UK, so it is great vote of confidence for us that they have chosen our high street to expand.
“It will be a welcome addition to the town, and I look forward to stopping off there if the application goes ahead.”
Certainly, locals will be spoilt for choice – and if Mr Warman wants to avoid accusations of favouritism, he may end up sleepless and in urgent need of a loo if he drinks a coffee at every outlet.
Once upon a time, cafés provided a welcome break during a shopping trip.
Now the shops people used to visit have been subsumed by the tidal wave of coffee shops that is drowning the town.
If the latest addition goes ahead it will opposite another national outlet in one direction whilst in another is Oldrids – which boasts two coffee shops.

***

We tried to calculate how many caffs there are in and around the town centre, but lost count after a dozen or so.
They must now rank as one of the major outlets by type – among other groups such as Poundshops, phone shops, charity shops, betting shops, vaping shops and the like.
What no-one seems to notice is that these places vastly outnumber what might be called “proper” shops.
We have a cluster of clothing shops – mostly at the cheap end of the market; Boots, Marks and Spencer, some specialist outlets and local stalwarts such as Cammacks, Cheers, Coneys, Mountain’s – and of course, Oldrids … which now seems to be transferring its allegiance to Grantham.

***

Soon, there will be no real reason to go into the town centre to shop because so many shops have disappeared over time – to the extent that it is almost impossible to buy fresh fruit and veg outside of a supermarket … a particular irony in an agricultural area such as this … and don’t forget that the local Farmers’ Market pulled out of town due to lack of business.

***

Shopping was one of the early aspects looked at by the absurdly named Prosperous Boston Task and Finish Group – and among the ideas put forward was to stage a food festival – something that happened the weekend before last.
Our worries began in the dying days before the event when Boston Borough Council’s website listed stall attractions as “the Chuckling Cheese Company to Robinsons Ice Cream” – which reminded us of the quotation attributed to Dorothy Parker of “running the gamut from A to B”
More worrying still was the news that – with four days to go – there was still “some space” for traders at £50 a head.
The dictionary is in no doubt as to how a festival is defined.
It is “a day or period of celebration.”
It would doubtless baulk at the scene that we found when we visited: two cheese stalls, a beer stall, a pie stall, accompanied by an ice cream van and a couple of trailers rather than stalls selling speciality drinks.
We were particularly taken with the offer of a “wild beaver pie” – a confection from a Melton Mowbray maker.
For a moment we were taken aback that a culinary use might have been found for a rodent – but on further investigation found that is contained “tender pieces of local beef steak from Leicestershire.in rich Beaver Ale gravy wrapped in a short crust butter pastry parcel.”

***

The question must be asked: Where were our local food producers?
Boston is famed for its sausage. Not far away one can buy all manner of ostrich delicacies. Boston bakers Shephards is one of the best around.
The Maud Forster windmill quite possibly sells them some locally-ground flour.
Round and about we have bakers famed for their plum loaves, specialists producing Lincolnshire chine, Belvoir Cordials, Batemans beers and even Jakeman’s sweets.

***

How was word of the proposed festival put about, how long ago, and were any of these local firms invited to take a stall?
Why were stalls £50? – far better with a first time event to make attendance free.
We can say with come certainty that we think it unlikely that the handful of exhibitors who attended felt that they had got much out of it, and anyone who travelled any distance to view such a poor effort would probably vow “never again.”
All in all, we think that with such a feeble line up (and the fact that it was a first-time event is no excuse) it would have been better  to have cancelled, given refunds and then put some real effort into getting a decent turn out later in the year.
In part such a thought may have crossed someone’s mind, as the application forms for stalls and trailers asked if would be participants might be interested in trading on Monday 25th September for a discounted fee.
That suggested that someone at least felt that a second day’s food festival might simply result in egg on face.
The picture below is of last year’s Melton Mowbray food festival … 
It packs the town out and draws visitors by the ton.
Melton Mowbray has a population less than half the size of Boston.
It is managed by a compact council which unlike Boston is not littered with highly paid staff dedicated to things such as town centre management and event organising.
How come Melton can do it but Boston seems incapable?

***

We’re sorry that we can’t get too worked up about the news that two more Boston councillors have quit UKIP for the Conservatives.
The defection of Yvonne Stevens and Jonathan Noble, who represent Trinity and Fishtoft, bumps the Tory numbers up to 15 – exactly half of the council – leaving seven UKIP, three Independent, two Labour, and three unaligned members.
Kippers began falling off their perches within minutes of the close of the 2015 local elections, and the latest quitters were both at one time deputy leaders of the group.
There is a long history in Lincolnshire as a whole of dissent within UKIP – and with time steadily running out until the next election for Worst Street in 2019, we feel that some changes might have more to do with alignment for re-electability than with the here and now
Having said that, Boston’s Tory council has not exactly been a glitterball of achievement and good governance so far – so we a cunning plan now could end as the old adage jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire!

***

Talking of the Worst Street Tories, we note that our strong and mostly silent leader Michael Cooper appears to have been at it again.
At the end of May, Councillor Cooper drew some unfavourable attention with a complaint about the language he was said to have used when expressing his feelings over remarks on Facebook by council critic Darron Abbott about Mr Cooper’s non-dom status – he lives in East Lindsey whilst representing a Boston ward.
Read that report by clicking  here 

   ***

Fast forward almost four months from the end of May and another episode has sparked a protest from Mr Abbott to the Chairman of the local Conservative Association, Councillor Paul Skinner.
It reads:

It is with regret that once again I have to write to you as the Chairman of the local Conservative Association.
You may remember I wrote to you earlier in the year, regarding the Leader of the Council’s threat to Smash, my f***king face in, the matter was reported to Boston Borough Council, who took no action because the comments were made outside the Municipal Buildings, but please note no denial was ever offered.
On Sunday at 14.16 I received a text message which you have a copy of. This text seemed to be an attempt to wind me up and provoke me in to some kind of action that would get me in to trouble. Upon investigation this text message came from the Leader of the Council’s mobile phone.



I should not have to remind you that I am unable to contact any councillor or officer as I am on the list of persistent and vexatious complainers which I believe as a councillor you support. Do you not think in the first instance it is a little ironic that the Leader can appear to breach the Data Protection Act to get my phone number to send me harassing and intimidating text messages?
The worst thing of all when I wrote to you earlier in the year no action was taken against Mr Cooper and you seem reluctant to take action once again. By the actions of the local association, other councillors and yourself you are all condoning the actions of The Leader, someone you should all look up to and follow by example.
As a former member and supporter of the Conservative Party, I am very disappointed in the way the Leader’s behaviour is being accepted as the norm.

Initially, mention of “the question on Monday night”  had meant nothing, but after Monday's full council meeting Mr Abbott learned that  one about the cost of handling persisent and vexatious complaints had been asked at the meeting in the section of the agenda allocated to questions from members of the public.
And again, our information is that this member of the ‘public’ was none other than Lincolnshire County Councillor Paula Cooper, wife of the Boston council leader – but a public person in that she doesn’t hold a seat at Worst Street, nor does she live in Boston.

***

Boston Eye asked Councillor Cooper if  he would like to comment.
Initially, he told us: “I’m afraid I haven’t seen the Email from Mr Abbott to Councillor Skinner so I am unable to comment at this point.”
That was last Thursday.
The next day, another e-mail arrived which read: "I'm still at a bit of a loss around this Email Cllr Skinner only has the Email about a Txt Message that Mr Abbott received that he thinks I sent but I most certainly didn't ,but dosen't  (sic) have anything about Any of the Questions asked at Council last Monday .It should be remembered that there are a number of people on the Vexatious complaints register and no single person was named or implied . Also the question was asked by a County Councillor and perhaps your question should be posed to some one (sic) at LCC"


***
On Saturday, we replied: 

"It appears that my e-mail to you may have conflated two sets of information, which might have led to your sense of loss.
The first is the issue of the text to Mr Abbott – which according to the screenshot supplied came from mobile number XXXXX XXXXX – which is listed as being yours on the council’s website  …
… There is only one question to ask here – and that is whether you were the sender of the text.”
If not, the next has to be how your ‘phone came to be used.
The second piece of information concerns the “question” mentioned in the text.
Mr Abbott had no idea what it referred to, but was told after Monday’s council meeting that your wife had posed a question about the costs of dealing with persistent and vexatious complainers during the section of the meeting allocated to questions from the public.
At this stage, the meaning of the text became clearer to Mr Abbott, and prompted him to write to Councillor Skinner to complain that the text “seemed to be an attempt to wind me up and provoke me into some kind of action that would get me in to trouble.”
You say in your reply that the question was asked by a county councillor.
My questions here are:
A: Was that Councillor Mrs Cooper?
B:  Was the question pre-submitted in any form – as it apparently took the meeting by surprise, and were you aware that it was to be asked?
C: Was the question submitted under the “Questions from the Public” (Section F section of the agenda?)
If so being a County Councillor is irrelevant.
I’m anxious to publish an accurate account of all this, and so look forward to your replies with interest."

***

Our deadline passed without any reply – but if we hear more, we will let you know next week.
However, it has been officially confirmed to us that Mrs Cooper was indeed the questioner at last week's full council meeting  and that her query was raised in  the 'public' section of the meeting.


***

We’re told that it was like an episode from The Sweeney ....
Man heading for Ladbrokes in the Market Place discards fag end on the ground before entering the shop.
Alert CCTV operator clocks this appalling crime, and within minutes an unmarked Boston Borough Council car squeals into the area, and parks beneath a ‘no parking’ sign outside the shop so as not to delay the issue of a £75 fine.
All well and good – after all littering counts as anti-social behaviour.
But was such a large sledgehammer needed to crack such a small nut?
Not only that, but the enforcement squad failed to notice a cluster of street drinkers who were also in the area.

*** 

Despite the huge success of the “civilian” group that has worked so hard to give Bostonians a Christmas to remember this year, worst Street is still grudging in its praise – perhaps because the council ballsed things up so badly last year and can’t abide the success of others.
The thrust of a piece on WorstWeb – the borough’s website – sees what’s being done by arty-farty group Transported dominating the story.
The borough and Transported are still banging the Illuminate drum to mark the forthcoming 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers arrival in America which has nothing to do with Boston.
This year we are promised a lantern parade and “innovative light-based artworks reflecting the themes of freedom and liberty in the historic setting of the sweeping Market Place.”
Whether all this will now happen is anyone’s guess – as we reported last week that Transported had failed to find a huge chunk of official funding.
The real stars of this year’s yuletide will be the team organising the lighting – including Christmas trees at roundabouts on all main roads into Boston – and who have raised thousands of pound locally rather than passing the begging bowl to the likes of Worst Street, BTAC-ky and Boston Big Local.
Meanwhile, Worst Street is boasting free car parking in all Boston Borough Council-run car parks after 4pm on Thursday 23rd November – sponsored by Hoppers jewellers.
Presumably, what that means is that Worst Street takes a ballpark stab at how many cars it thinks will come into town without paying, and Hoppers foot the bill.
Even at Christmas the Worst Street policy is taking rather than giving!

***

A few days ago we were introduced to the new Lincolnshire Police logo – which has either been produced at no extra cost by the graphics department or designed in-house for just a few hundred pounds, according to which report you read
In an interview, Chief Constable Bill Skelly is quoted as saying that the logo is part of bigger plans to secure better funding from the government.
Lincolnshire Police is currently the worst funded per head of population in the country and the new logo demonstrated it was looking to the future, he said.
"It is my view they will invest in someone looking forward, rather than someone just maintaining what we have," he said.
"It is about saying this is an organisation that will use your money well."
We don’t know about you, but the new logo says nothing much at all.
Yet according to the police, it is designed to be

Forward looking
Promote a sustainable force
Re-states our commitment to PRIDE (professionalism, respect, integrity, dedication and empathy.)
Re-states our traditions (by retaining helmet, cap and flag badges)
Is not dismissive of our past.

However cheaply the logo has been produced, the fact is that by the time it starts appearing in the coming months on noticeboards at police stations, on police cars, the force website and letterheads, the cost certainly has to run into many thousands – for something that looks as though it was drawn up on the back of a fag packet

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Finally, this week’s less than dubious taste media award is shared honours even between our local “newspapers.”


The above from Lincolnshire Live – home of the Lincolnshire Echo and Boston off-Target, which tries to lure Boston readers to it site by posting stories that turn out to have nothing to do with Boston – lends a whole new definition  to the meaning of the word best
… whilst the heading below ...


... suggested either a swoop on a cluster of zombies or a group of people in custody who are unlikely to escape!!



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