Monday, 27 November 2017

Tongues will be wagging in Worst Street this morning after a major political volte face by former Labour Councillor and deputy group leader Nigel Welton – who has quit the party and applied to join the Conservatives.
Councillor Welton represents Fenside ward – which he won in 2015 – and is Chairman of the Boston Town Area Committee and Vice-Chairman of Environment and Performance Committee.
There were four candidates for the two Fenside seats, and he won the ballot by just one vote – 443 against 442 collected by a Conservative rival.

***

In one sense, this change of horses in midstream should make little difference in political terms.
Councillor Welton told Boston Eye: “I’m in the middle of both parties anyway – I’m on the right of the Labour Party and probably on the left of the Tory party, so it doesn’t really matter which badge I’ve got on so long as I do the job.”
He was a Labour councillor in Hull in the mid-1990s then left around 1998 and only re-joined the party just before the last elections on May 2015.
So is he worried about any political backlash from Worst Street council chamber colleagues?
“I’m not really bothered what people say, to be honest, I’ve got a job to do. It’s about getting on with the work, the things that need doing, need doing … and politically, they can say what they like, but I’m a politician so have got a thick skin.”
What if his change of parties led to calls for his resignation and a by-election?
“They can do what they want; I’m not all that bothered to be honest. I’ve got an agenda and know what I need to do, and I just want to get on with it really.”
Of  his role on BTAC, he added: “We’ve got until April to try to get as much going and doing as we can then it’s up to the committee to decide whether they want me to stay or not.
“They can put a motion of no confidence, they can do what they want – at the end of the day it doesn’t affect what I do. I think that the more people that shout at me, the more determined I am to make it happen!”

***

Whilst there will doubtless be noises for a resignation – simply because there always are – we think there is nothing much to fear, given that such calls have frequently been made in the past, as long ago as the days of the By-pass Independents, and always gone unheeded.
Frankly, it’s heartening to find a councillor who puts his ambitions to make Boston a better place ahead of politics – which is a fault of so many of his colleagues.

***

Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid has said that ‘non-mayoral combined authorities’ in rural areas might be allowed as part of a new devolution framework.
At the same time that we read this, we saw another local report which said that authorities responsible for things like planning applications and bin collections  – which in Lincolnshire means Boston and the six other district councils  should be abolished or merged with the county council.
Think tank ResPublica said the reform would create improvements for business, house-building and public services that are essential to avoid two-tier counties such as Lincolnshire being left-behind
Phillip Blond, director of ResPublica, was quoted as saying: “Single councils at the county scale are the future and we call on the Government to move rapidly to encourage them.”
This served to remind us that early in the year, Lincolnshire County Council called off plans for a referendum at the county council elections in May.
The idea was scuppered after chief executives of district authorities – doubtless fearful of losing their fat-cat salaries – sought legal advice.
However, at the time, it was said that there would still be a testing of the waters “later in the year” when residents’ views would be sought through options said to include a postal ballot, opinion poll or consultation through the council’s website or County News freesheet.
Cough, cough – the year will soon be over.
Has the idea been abandoned after all?

***

We mentioned the other week about the review of mayoral costs and the tightrope that some councillors are walking to try to save money whilst maintaining the “dignity” of the office.
As far as we are concerned, dignity is an individual talent, and over the years we have seen some mayors with more of it, some with less and some with none at all.
But here’s an idea …
It’s been said that the hoi polloi don’t have much understanding of the role of the first citizen; so why doesn’t Worst Street take a leaf from other authorities’ books – and publish a list of mayoral engagements on its website, which  would have the added benefit  replacing an irrelevant story in its so-called newsletter with something that is actually relevant to Boston Borough Council.
Then taxpayers could see for themselves what the mayor does and perhaps gain a better appreciation of the job.

***

Some interesting observations from former councillor Mike Gilbert and founder of the  Blue Revolution Party on last week’s piece about the metal fish sculptures adorning Irby Street, and our earlier comments on the  possibility of the council funding developments at Boston Stump.
He wrote: “I really don't understand the point of the fish.
“I walk past them every day and they have been placed on a wall that is generally in a poor state of repair.
“The scale of the fish is also a problem; they are too small, there is no context or story and there is a mix of sea and freshwater fish – one of which has its tail snapped off.  “Someone told me that the project cost the thick end of £10K which as a local resident I find it hard to believe.
“Anything on the Irby Place path has a scale issue  being flanked by the Stump and the police station … both in their own unique way impressive buildings. 
“There are also the Assembly Rooms and White Hart to contend with – so a few small silver fish lose relevance.
“I have said that the raised bed behind the police station could be used to excellent effect to tell a big Boston story – but there have been no takers.”
“The Stump is my local place of worship, so I have to declare an interest.
“However, I think the church, in general, has to define what it does in a way that makes sense to funding authorities and the public.
“A building will never be a substitute for personal action and contact.
“I have, as a local politician, gone out and knocked doors and talked to people.
“The church seems to avoid this approach to community cohesion.
“People don't come to buildings, even when invited, so activists have to go to them.
 “I'm afraid funding a building or institution and engaging with community cohesion are rather different activities.”

***

Another former councillor – Carol Taylor – wrote from her new base in the West Country to say: “I continue reading your blog which as always is amazing. 
"The latest blog talks about Matt Warman and his question about a teaching hospital in Lincolnshire.
“In the days of my blog, I talked about this on several occasions including the idea that Lincoln County and Pilgrim become satellite hospitals.
“This is what happened in Nottingham, when Queen’s Medical Centre became the main hospital and City and Nottingham General became those satellite hospitals specialising in area such as Orthopaedics for example.
With regard to the Worst Street calendar, which we mentioned last week, and which was the brainchild of Mrs Taylor and another former councillor, we were told: “We had to have all photos etc. in by the end of August to make print for November.
“I know this is the print way, but an online calendar will not work.
“It is just a case of lazy councillors etc. doing things at the last minute to attempt to show that they care about Boston.
But all it does is highlight their incompetence.

***

At last, a decent Christmas lighting event has materialised in Boston – thanks to the enthusiasm and tireless efforts of a “civilian” band of volunteers.
Here’s how the Christmas in Boston group summarised this year’s offer …


Aside from demonstrating the hopelessness of Worst Street’s feeble attempts in recent years, it bursts the bubble named “councillors know best” – which is the image that they most like to see projected.

***
And talking of projections …
Talk of Christmas returns us yet again to the question of what remains of the £35,000 gifted by BTAC-ky last year to the Boston Town Team.
The lion’s share of the cost apparently went on projecting Christmassy pictures on to a few buildings around the town.
Boston Town Team – for those of you who might recall the name but forget the details – claims to be “Working to enhance the vitality of Boston to ensure it reaches its full potential via the promotion, support and delivery of key initiatives as part of Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce."  
It achieves beneath a blanket of secrecy by doing and saying nothing – its last Tweet was posted in August 2016, and its website invited members and non-members along to the team’s annual general meeting in September of that same year.
Since then … nothing.
The Town Team presumably delivered the £35k to its masters in Lincoln – and it wasn’t until one of our local “newspapers” filed a Freedom of Information request that we learned that the organisers had spent £18,500 on just one projection scheme in the town.
A further £6,000 was spent on the second one.
The costlier of  the two stunts used the former Exchange Buildings as its background, and included £14,400 for the projection, £1,350 for the lenses, £750 for the playback, £1,500 for the content creation and £500 to be installed.
An unanswered question remains:  Were the two projectors bought or hired – and if they were bought (which at a combined cost of £25k seems more likely) – then who owns them, and where are they?
Certainly there has been no mention that they might be used this year – although annual “on-costs” were mentioned by the town team on one occasion, plus claims that costs would reduce to £13,860 this year and still further in the following two years – so we really need to find out which black hole is now home to such a large sum of taxpayers’ cash or equipment.
The issue of the projectors found its way on to social media after Thursdays's lights switch-on, and as as result one reader e-mailed us to say that the projectors used last year were back in service that night – to project on to the Stump … this time with Transported footing the bill.
So … who were they hired from?
How much did Transported pay?
A lot of questions need answering here.

***

Still with the theme of where our money is going, we were rather taken aback to see that Worst Street council taxpayers apparently stumped up £5,650 towards  the cost of the recent beach event in Central Park – including  £4,800 to create the sandpit.


Repeatedly, we have been told that Boston Big Local – which has £1m of lottery funding to make the poorer parts of Boston a better place – was funding the event …supported” by partner agencies, listed as Mayflower Housing, Boston Children's Centre, Transported Arts and Boston United in the Community.
So we asked Boston Big Local to explain –  and  Plan Co-ordinator Rachel Lauberts told us: “Boston Big Local did sponsor the Beach Event 2017 in Central Park to the tune of £7,800.
“Boston Borough Council pay all of the bills up front and then invoice Boston Big Local for the total amount, which is why the individual items show up on the borough's accounts.
“Many other organisations along with the Borough Council make contributions to the event, both financially and in kind.”
Whilst this answers the question, it raises another – why does Worst Street act as banker for a separate, unconnected and independently funded organisation?
We understand it performs a similar function for Boston in Bloom.
Any answers from Worst Street, please?

***

As well as the Christmas lights switch-on in Boston, last week also saw the third Illuminate knees-up, where Boston Borough Council celebrates the arrival of the first settlers to America – known as the Pilgrim Fathers.
Even though our own Christmas celebrations should be the focus, they are overshadowed as the lights go on when they do it because the chosen date is US Thanksgiving Day.
And a yo-ho-ho to you too.
This year, £2,000 towards Illuminate came from Worst Street as part of a bid to run a project costing £24,000 – even though an appeal to another organisation  was turned down … and a second bid for Arts Council funding towards £8,000 for a “digital commission” to be projected on to Boston Stump was mentioned at the same time.
This would not now appear to be happening – but if the organisers want to try to rescue it, we suggestion that Boston Town Team might be able to tell them where they could lay hands on a projector.


With all this money sloshing around we were saddened to read the following tweet from BBC Radio Lincolnshire 


Whilst Worst Street has contributed to Christmas celebrations through BTAC-ky, we wonder why the simple gesture of doing away with parking charges proved to be beyond their grasp.
Three years ago, Worst Street Central made a big deal about abandoning charges for the Christmas switch on, when the then portfolio holder for the town centre proclaimed: “This represents a Christmas present from the council to Boston.
“The town has a tremendous varied shopping offer – from small family-owned traditional retailers through to main multi-nationals. With free parking located conveniently close there should be no reason to want to go anywhere else.”
OK, the parking is still free but no thanks to the popwers that bain't – but what a fine gesture and excellent piece of PR for the people if the council had decided not to adopt such a miserly attitude this year.
Humbug!




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, 20 November 2017

As we reported Boston Town Centre Conservation Area’s seventh consecutive year on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk register a couple of weeks ago, we found ourselves wondering – and certainly not for the first time – why it is that Boston Borough Council cannot seem to inspire much ... if anything …at all to help the town improve and prosper.
This week’s blog contains several good – or rather bad – examples of how Worst Street talks the talk, but then rather than walking the walk slumps back in its armchair, puts its civic feet up and takes forty or more winks.

***

There really is no reason for the Conservation Area to be in such a parlous state.
Money to improve it has been available in huge quantities for years, but somehow, the council seems unable to encourage people to take up grants or otherwise improve and enhance their properties.
Most recently – well, more than two-and-a-half years ago – the council announced that in partnership with Heritage Lincolnshire it had received initial support for a Townscape Heritage bid from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the town centre.
“Development funding of £73,000 has also been awarded to help Boston Borough Council and Heritage Lincolnshire progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date totalling £1,069,000.”
We were told that the aim of the project was to make a further investment to the eastern side of the Market Place “continuing the regeneration of the area through the conservation and enhancement of its historic architecture and street layout.”
Anyone notice much by way of change since then?

***

And if you have an even longer memory – as we do – how about winding the clock back eight or nine years, or even more than  a decade, to major regeneration plans for the town.
That’s your teaser for ten – we’ll have more for you in next week’s blog

***

Followers of MP Matt Warman’s speeches to the House of Commons – yes, we realise that we must get out more – will  know that that he has a something of a bee in his bonnet about building a teaching hospital in Lincolnshire – with the idea that this will produce more trained doctors to ease the present shortage in the county.
He’s already tackled Prime Minister ‘Daisy’ May on the subject and last week nobbled Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the issue.


As with the question to ‘Daisy,’ the answer was tepid and anodyne – but gave us the usual concerns that if anything were to materialise if would be of little benefit to us in Boston.
Mr Hunt replied: “If I may say so, that question was absolutely beautifully put. I do congratulate the staff.
“I have met the staff of Lincoln hospital, although I have not been to all the hospitals in the trust, and it is very nice to see Ms Lee (Karen Lee, Labour MP for Lincoln) in her place.
“Wherever the new medical schools eventually end up, one of the key priorities will be their ability to get more doctors from areas where we are struggling to recruit.”
What does that tell us?
Wherever the new schools go up, we won't get one in Lincolnshire – but  if by some amazing accident of good fortune one did, it would be an adjunct of the lacklustre Lincoln University.

***

A rare glitch with our wheelie bin collection service reminded us that as October drew to a close it dawned on us that we had no idea when our last garden waste collection was due.
We wrote and asked and got the information we needed – and several days later, the details appeared on WorstWeb … Boston Borough Council’s website, and also feature as a lengthy recorded message for anyne ringing the Worst Street switchboard. What a good thing ‘phone calls are fairly cheap these days..
But still we wondered why this information hadn’t been sent out to brown bin owners by e-mail, rather than dumped everywhere else in the hope that those affected might stumble across it.
When taxpayers signed up for their garden waste collection they found themmselve automatically subscribed to the council’s dire, pointless, and misnamed newsletter.
The pretext offered was to keep us in touch with news that was relevant to out ownership of a garden waste bin – and we can think of nothing more apposite than to let us know in good time when the service was ending. But nothing  was received.
Perish the thought that the explanation was little more than a red herring to boost readership.

***

Talking of red herrings to boost readership, we are hoping that some sort of progress is emerging in our campaign to stop the Boston off-Target tweeting irrelevant stories as being from Boston to boost the number of hits – or visits – that the site receives.
The reason for this is that hits=the modern-day equivalent of circulation/readership=the rates you can charge advertisers.
The Target tweets have been a disgraceful con to achieve this aim – headlining stories such a ‘Fire destroys cottage’ that then link to an incident in Stamford, Lincoln, Gainsborough – and in quite a lot of cases in Nottinghamshire. By the time you realise this, you have already taken the bait.
We tag all of these little ploys as #notabostonstory and point out where they really are.
Refreshingly, this practice seems to have declined in recent days – although it might be because the usual writer is away on holiday.
We’ll keep you posted on progress – and don’t forget you can use the hashtag as well if you want to make your point.

***

Further proof that the Worst Street motto should be Too little, too Late appeared in a WorstWeb item dated 9th November and headed Send us your 'best of Boston' pictures.
It asked: “Would you like to see a photograph of Boston that you have taken and are proud of feature in a 2018 calendar?
“Boston Borough Council is inviting residents to send in their pictures showing Boston at its best.
“Every picture which meets the criteria will be published on the council's Facebook and Twitter pages. A judging panel will select a shortlist of the best and residents will then be invited to choose the top 12 which will feature under the photographer's name in an online calendar available for all to use, download to their phone or other device or print off for free.”
The deadline for entries is midnight on 30th November – and then with a shortlisting process and public ballot to follow, we think that Worst Street will be hard pressed to get the thing done before 2018 arrives.
Worst Street has dabbled in the calendar business before – in 2015, when Boston Eye sponsored a page, and again the following year.
We heard that it was not quite the success story that had been hoped – which we guess is the reason for nothing appearing in 2017.
But this last minute effort is simply a waste of time.
Most ‘phones or computers have calendars anyway and pictures  whilst nice – take up a lot of space on a small screen.
And given the price of printer ink these days, who in their right mind would want to print off a full-colour calendar?
All we are seeing is yet another piece of last-minute half-hearted slapdash thinking from the Worst Street busywork squad.

***

Writing about that reminded us of yet another of the good intentions that pave the Worst Street road to Hell.
Who now recalls Worst Street’s big idea for greater transparency?
It was called Ask the Cabinet – and  there were only ever three … the last of which was almost 18 months ago.
The first involved a session that was webcast, so that electors could watch from home if they wished, and at which those attending in person could submit written requests which gave the cabinet members time to prepare wriggle room and obfuscation before they answered.
That was deemed not to have been a success as it was felt that some people might have felt intimidated by the previous arrangements  so a “more informal, personal and private” session was agreed –  described as “more like a regular councillor surgery” … although we don’t believe that any members hold these any more.
The idea was for residents to turn up to this “first new-style session” without giving advance warning of their questions and be booked in for ten-minute slots with the councillors most appropriate to give them answers.
Whether it worked or not is anyone’s guess, as Worst Street had nothing more to say, and the “first new-style session” became the last– and it was worth noting that some members of the cabinet couldn’t be bothered to attend.
Council leader at the time, Peter Bedford said: “We want to see an interest in what we do, and perhaps what we don't do, and welcome questions on any subject pertinent to the work of the borough council.
“I think this willingness to change and adapt shows we are transparent and open and prepared to give answers to what may be some quite tricky questioning.”
We think that quite the reverse seems to be true and that the Cabinet of Curiosities – interestingly known in German as Kunstkabinett – developed an instant dislike of rubbing shoulders with the riff-raff and being asked to justify their often unjustifiable actions – preferring instead obscurity over transparency.

***

It does seem that whenever Worst Street decides to involve itself with its public, enthusiasm becomes as arid as the Gobi Desert.
Whilst the “civilian” group organising this year’s Christmas lighting for the town is going gangbusters, an item on WorstWeb told a different story.
Beneath the heading Businesses getting into the Christmas spirit it reported: “Businesses in Boston are already getting behind this year's Christmas shop windows (sic) display competition and joining in a new advent calendar promotion …”
And how far behind are they getting, we hear you cry …
Whilst the competition has categories for local and independent or multiple and chain stores or charities – and the closing date is Wednesday – enthusiasm so far seems muted to say the least.
Despite a few duplicate listings, the last report listed just fifteen participants – including Boston Borough Council.
Any guesses as to which category Worst Street will be entered into?

***

Little appears to have changed since we last voiced a few concerns at the way Boston Big Local appears to have been subsumed in to the world of the Great and the Good.
The organisation has £1 million to spend over ten years on projects to benefit a specific area – described at its creation in 2015 as the six “most deprived” of Boston town centre wards  – Staniland South, Pilgrim, Skirbeck, Boston Central, Witham Ward and a small area of Fenside.
Since then, the political map of the area has been redrawn and the names of some wards changed, but broadly speaking little has changed   although the project has spread its wings well beyond its initial remit.
Within days of the Big Local being announced, an officer from the South Lincolnshire Community Voluntary Service made it clear that it was to be independent.
 “There’s no government arm in Boston involved in any of this. It is totally community led.
“This money will not be dictated by Boston Borough Council; it will not be dictated by the SLCVS.  It will be totally dictated by the local community. It is their say where this money is spent”
Despite this, we have noted over time that BBL has taken on many of the tasks previously carried out by Boston Borough Council – and which were once funded by Worst Street Central.
Now, WorstWeb is telling its readers that there are “funds available for community events in Boston and seeking applications in for grants totalling £18,000.
WorstWeb went on: “It is again being administered by Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service (LCVS) on behalf of Boston Big Local …
“ … LCVS will also work with groups to support them to ensure they have the right infrastructure in place to successfully deliver an event.
“LCVS can provide advice and information on governance, volunteering support, support with policies and procedures, identifying and meeting training needs and becoming fit to fundraise and run events.”
So, Worst Street is handling the publicity – even though BBL has its own website – whilst SLCVS is vetting and “supporting” the applicants.
Your guess is as good as ours as to quite how this chimes with the assurance: “This money will not be dictated by Boston Borough Council; it will not be dictated by the SLCVS.”

***

We mentioned last week the worrying news that Worst Street appears to planning some sort of financial involvement with the luvvy group Transported now that the Arts Council has snapped its sequinned purse shut.
Much of the Transported’s contributions have come across to us as self-indulgent and complacent, and a big worry is now that Worst Street has committed itself to the scarcely relevant Illuminate project until 2010 – when no-one from Boston was involved with the voyage of the so-called Pilgrim Fathers – that some pretty large bills are going to have to be met for that alone.
Meanwhile – as if to underline our points about Transported, Boston in Bloom published the photo above  on Twitter
We were told that “Workmen … have been hard at work over the last week adding new metal fish sculptures to the wall along Irby Place…”
Would anyone care to tell us why?



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, 13 November 2017

It’s always rewarding when something that you campaign about ends up with a result.
Over the years, we have mentioned time and again the cost of the office of The Mayor of Boston – and at last, it seems that the message has got through.
Whilst it’s almost eighteen months since the council’s “transformation” programme identified target savings of £90,000 by 2020 from the civic and mayoral budget, it is only now that a report has surfaced to debate “Mayoral Protocol for Attendance at Events Provision of Transport and Use of Mayoral Allowances.”
Regulars will remember that some while ago we published details of a former first citizen’s engagements over a 12-month period – some 200 in all.
Of these, around 60 involved scratching the backs of fellow mayors … often involving quite a bit of time and travel in the process, and including such exotic items as a trip to Lincoln for the mayor’s “Whisky Tour?”
Nor were the jollies confined to the county – the year saw civic visits as far afield as Kings Lynn, Peterborough, Wisbech, Fenland District Council in March, Cambs, plus Melton Mowbray, Downham Market and Newark.
Our report concluded: “Frankly, we think that many engagements could be done away with – especially those that do nothing more than allow the mayor to swagger around with his peer group.
“In Boston, we think that this could save around £20,000 a year – whilst collectively, across the legions of other councils who are staging events for their own self-aggrandisement, the savings could run into hundreds of thousands.”
Now it seems that the message has got through.

***

The protocol proposes that the Mayor will be given transport and a chauffeur for all engagements within the borough area “to recognise the standing of the position of first citizen and the importance people place on having the Mayor attend their events.”
But outside the borough a limit of six non-charity events a year held by civic heads for which officer support and transport will be provided.
Support will not be provided for non-civic events unless there is a “significant” benefit or importance attached to attendance.

***

It’s a good enough starter for ten – and it is to be hoped that other districts will follow Boston’s example … which as we have said could save hundreds of thousands of  pounds.
It’s now proposed that the Civic Review be referred to an Inquiry Day open to all members at some future date.
Amazingly, the report says an officer will bring figures and “indicative” costs to the session – as past costs were not recorded.
Some members have already expressed views – and you won’t be surprised to learn that in a brief summary of their comments, the word dignity appears no fewer than four times … along with a soup├žon of  honour and privilege.

***

Other comments included the claim that councillors spent a significant amount of their own money in the role and it involved a considerable commitment of time and effort with few benefits, so it needed to be “an attractive proposition.”
Another suggestion was that the Boston Town Area Committee – BTAC-ky (motto: “We’re going to spend, spend, spend”)  and parish councils could be asked to fund the role and businesses could also be asked to assist.
We’ll restrain ourselves from any comment on that one.
It has to be remembered that whilst the role of Mayor is one that is worth having for councillors, it no longer has the cachet with the people that it once did.
It is also worth noting that whilst the role in the past has been associated with length of service, loyalty and commitment to the voters and their wards, recent political disruptions such as the election of the Bypass Independents and UKIP mean that many councillors have only a few years’ service which must diminish the role somewhat.

***

Speaking as we were of BTAC-ky just now, we’re sorry if you get bored occasionally with our invectives against the newly-styled Boston Town Council – the former penny ante ‘area committee’ whose eyes have become bigger than its mouth.
But that’s not going to stop us pointing out the reckless approach to its so-called responsibilities that will heap financial penalties on thousands of people living in some of the most deprived and poorest areas of the town.

***

For some time before its recent elevation – in the days when it was simply the Boston Town Area Committee – the machinery was in motion to reinvent it to take over spending which was normally the responsibility of Worst Street Central.
WSC was – and still is – the political straitjacket known as the council cabinet comprising just six people who take decisions regardless of the wishes of the thirty members of the council and the 60,000 people they supposedly represent.
Since the goalposts began to be moved, the Tackies have taken on the cost of providing public toilets, and the running of Central Park – to cite two major examples.

***

 

At their meeting last month, the Tackies continued their on-going pursuit of the contents of taxpayers’ wallets.
We’ve mentioned before that the way the meetings are structured these days means that if members of the public want to know what’s going on, they can no longer find out from reading the agenda ahead of the meeting.
In an interesting reverse ferret of Worst Street’s promises regarding transparency, BTAC-ky’s business at meetings is almost always done via verbal reports on the night – so unless you attend in person, you have wait a month to read the minutes … which are of course Worst Street’s sanitised account of events, and not the reality.

***

Once in a blue moon, our local ‘newspapers’ drop by to see what’s going on – and without boasting, we like to think that their attendance may have something to do with our criticism of their usual and indifferent absence.

*** 

The  Tackies’ October meeting heard an update from Boston Stump’s Team Rector Alyson (call me Aly) Buxton on the Passion for People Scheme, which is currently short of a paltry £365,000 of match funding to secure a £1 million-plus lottery grant to mount the £2.1 million project.
The scheme includes repairs to the building, the pews and the under floor heating – and plans for porch doors inside church  so that the outside doors might be opened fully without creating draughts, as well as creating a visitor centre and educational interaction and activity scheme to tell the story of the town and the church.
Tackies were beside themselves at the news.
Even though they would not be empowered to throw their taxpayers' money away in even larger quantities than in the past until later in the meeting – they simply could not wait.

***



One local “newspaper report told us: “A number of councillors agreed the committee should support the endeavour.
“Councillor Brian Rush praised the work the church does saying: ‘What a wonderful iconic building we have and I think we undervalue it and I would really like to see it being top of the pops of our contributions.
“‘I think it pays back to Boston well in advance of what Boston pays to you.
“‘I think we do owe a debt of gratitude for both the tourist contribution of the church and everything else that goes along with it.’
“However, he did urge councillors not to get too carried away with BTAC funding. “Councillors suggested that the church apply to the committee's ‘Large Grants’ scheme, which they were due to confirm later that night.
“Councillor Paul Gleeson said the council ‘should be looking to make a donation for this year and next year’ and asked for a report.”
Later, one-time mayor and BTAC spending enthusiast Councillor Stephen Woodliffe was quoted as saying: “Without the Stump we would have a serious issue attracting people to the area, so we have a vested interest in protecting the Stump.”

***

Whoa there!
The phrase vested interest is an interesting one.
The Oxford dictionary defines it as “a personal reason for involvement in an undertaking or situation, especially an expectation of financial or other gain.”
Meanwhile, the Cambridge dictionary interprets the phrase to mean “people or organizations that have a financial or personal interest in a business, company, or existing system.”
And Collins dictionary says: “If you have a vested interest in something, you have a very strong reason for acting in a particular way, for example to protect your money, power, or reputation.”
Whichever way you cut it, the BTAC-ky motives are questionable – and seem nothing more than a cynical attempt to buy visitors to Boston.

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Is this something that we should be doing?
Granted, tourists spend money in the town – but many of our commercial outlets are national companies, whom we are sure will be delighted to increase profits at the expense of council taxpayers in the town.
Yes, in the town, because the cost of boosting the Stump will be met from taxes on householders in just eight of the borough’s fifteen wards.
Whilst the meeting heard that the church parish has committed to £329,000 to help the shortfall, the contribution pales into insignificance when compared to the increase in Church of England assets in the past year of 17.1% on a portfolio worth £7.9 billion – that’s a profit of £1,350 million pounds.

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On that basis, it would seem that the CofE is perfectly capable of making up the difference – rather than the BTAC-ky residents whose incomes in many cases border on the breadline.
Whilst figures were not mentioned, the context of the suggestion for a payment was within the new large grant scheme – which lets the committee to give away up to £10,000 without any challenge …and in the case of one councillor it was proposed to make a pay-out for not just one year … but two.
It would be hard to imagine that the BTAC-ky spendthrifts were considering anything less than the maximum – which could be as much as £20,000 … equivalent to the entire tax haul from a street of 20 houses in their patch.
And let's not forget that Boston taxpayers already pay the church £25,000 a year  under an ancient law that goes towards the maintenance of the chancel.

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By now, we expect to have been branded as the Antichrist blogger of Boston – but just hang on a minute.
Once upon a time, BTAC-ky had a clear-cut constitution which would have made such payments impossible.
But by careful rearrangement of the goalposts, Worst Street Central has slithered many of its bills on to the gullible Tackies – allowing it to keep its hands clean when higher taxes would be needed, and instead dumping the cost on the poorer, deprived areas.
And the Tackies, feeling flattered and self-important, have fallen for it.

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Important as St Botolph’s Church is to Boston it is first and foremost a place of worship and secondly a tourist attraction – or so we would have thought.
Committees such at BTAC-ky should be non-denominational – what might members of other churches feel about such unrepresentative support?
Despite the tinkering with its role – one section of the BTAC-ky guidelines remains at its core.
“BTAC supports initiatives that have a direct benefit and positive impact on Boston’s town centre neighbourhoods and communities.”
Its members would do well to keep this in mind.

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Care is particularly important as it looks as though another shedload of money will be heading Stumpwards after the announcement of a £1.39 million grant from the Government's Controlling Migration Fund, to promote “community cohesion.”
Boston Borough Council Leader, Councillor Michael Cooper, emerged from hibernation to declare: “We’ve been awarded this money in recognition of the impact that migration has had locally.
“Our partnership will focus on doing things that our residents have told us are important to them.
“We will use the funding to bring people together in various ways including through sport, events and making the most of our physical assets like St Botolph's Church.
“We will extend the availability of advice services, enforcement capacity, community leadership and volunteering opportunities and importantly, we will support the development of English language skills to support people communicate effectively with public services to help save time and money and increase efficiency and effectiveness."
Another strong and silent councillor – Martin Griggs, Portfolio Holder for Communities – added, "This is excellent news for Boston. The funding will allow the council to continue and expand our award winning work to tackle rogue landlords and improve housing locally.
“It will also enable us to work with the Stump on their 'A Passion for People' project', to help improve English language skills across the migrant community, as well as improving integration between the various communities who call Boston home."
With two cabinet members and BTAC-ky on board, Christmas has certainly come early for Boston Stump this year!

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Whilst it’s early days – the award was only announced last Thursday – we sincerely hope that Worst Street will avoid the toxic practices of earlier years, which have seen money poured down the nearest drain whenever possible
Around seven years ago Worst Street was awarded a £52,000 government grant to improve the look of the town by tackling the problem of empty shops.
After a series of staggering blunders, most of the money went down the drain, and was shrugged off  by an officer reporting that because the extra money came from a grant, there had been no extra cost to the council, and that lessons had been learned … as if that made everything all right.

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The sum involved then was a drop in the ocean compared to last week’s hand-out.
But let’s not forget the borough has also received £1million to fund the Boston Big Local project – which is draining away in unmemorable dribs and drabs, and will be gone in a few years with nothing to show for it.
Then there is the arts’ project they call Transported – which has waded through millions in recent years to little effect – and which looks as though it will be underpinned financially by we taxpayers over the coming four years.

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As we said, this latest windfall is in its early days – but we will bet that it will involve a generous staffing structure running into tens of thousands before any other decision is taken.
Echoes of BTAC-ky – whose first act on getting more power was to establish two new staff appointments.
Watch this space as they say.
But if nothing else, any contribution from Worst Street Central to the Stump should make BTAC-ky’s mania for giveaway redundant.

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Finally – and appropriately in a sense – our Man in the Know who writes under the pseudonym The Sorcerer marks a hat trick of contributions on a sporting theme …

R
umours abound that The Football Stadium might be a dead duck – although who would have guessed that could happen?
No doubt sincere apologies for the undeserved and abusive comments that were made might soon be winging their way to the people who were labelled stadium protestors!
But when asked about this new development, they suggested that their main concern was always the unsuitability of the location – never the project, or the on-going ambitions of the club!
How have those once ‘signed up and nailed down’ businesses failed to appear?
Will people not be tempted to ask if any of it was ever about football – and not all about bricks, windows, and roofing tiles?
But if Boston United are really serious about a new home they might resurrect their interest in the area around the Dabsi ... sorry … the PRSA.
How many of us remember that once upon a time the magnificent but abandoned idea of a Sports Village was being widely circulated?
But we cynically suspect that there may yet be very awkward questions to be answered in that neck of the woods as well.
If we could dismiss all that, and ‘transfer’ the stadium – lock , stock, pattern and design – to within a bus stop walk of the PRSA/Rugby Club, would it not confirm what many have been advocating for years as the best place to build a football stadium … large, medium or even small!
The up side – Boston United would have a new home.
The Rugby Club would have a new neighbour.
The nearby Boston Enterprise Centre business park might become more active – helping the town to progress in a better direction.
All we need is a few people to swallow their pride and give it a shot.
Ah …
A
nd one last tip ... let’s keep Boston Borough Council out of the discussions!


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