After an outstanding debut there are worrying signs that the “civilian” group which made Boston’s Christmas lights such a success this year may lose key members and see its future under threat.
The group’s efforts this year saw Boston’s best-ever Christmas lighting display and event calendar – putting to shame previous efforts by Worst Street which brought Boston into ridicule last year, when the lack of lights made the town centre resemble one of Clownty Hall’s economy power cuts.
When the group was formed earlier in the year, it declared itself thus: “Christmas in Boston is a small committee formed entirely of volunteers to take on the Christmas lights in town.
“We’re using our resources together and making use of our contacts to make sure that Boston has Christmas lights to be proud of.
“By speaking to local businesses, we intend to produce a plan which has the full support of the local businesses.
“We are offering a variety of options for individuals and businesses to support us.
“While the first few years may be reliant on donations, we expect this to become an on-going annual project by the third year of operation, without donations required.”
The group was created last February as an independent satellite reporting to the Boston Town Area Committee – known to friends and foes alike as BTAC-ky – and was formed by community representatives “jointly with the Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses” … although their role somehow failed to materialise.
BTAC-KY agreed to match any money raised up to a maximum of £10,000 – a target that was quickly achieved and surpassed.
But in the aftermath of the event’s success, rifts are emerging that – instead of seeing the group going onwards and upwards to even greater things in 2018 – could well see the committee fall apart and have to start from scratch all over again.
At the end of last month, the group’s chairman Dylan Taylor – a director and presenter at Boston’s radio station Endeavour FM – polled his Twitter followers, telling them: “I joined a group as Chairman early in the year to complete a project. This is now complete but the group is split,” and asking what to do next.
During the debate that ensued he passed such comments as:
- Clash of personalities and silly games from both sides. Not what I signed up for …
- I've been getting texts and calls every bloody day trying to dictate my moves. I'm my own man. Always have been ...
- There is now an attempt to power grab by various entities. I didn't sign up to this …
- I don't like being made a fool. A report is to be submitted and I don't think anybody realises I will tell all.”
One report has already been circulated from the group’s treasurer, Darron Abbott – who is also not a happy man.
His report highlights several concerns – among them
- The group was unlikely to get paid for one tree as it appears that one/some of the committee indicated that the tree would be free for the supply of goods in kind. “This has not been authorised by anyone on the committee including the chairman. As treasurer I am greatly concerned as the assets of group are being given away.”
- “I have had complaints regarding the group failing to meet the commitments regarding the terms of sponsorship. One person had requested a full refund of £1,500, but after negotiations I have only had to refund £1,000. I wait to see if we have to refund any further amounts ...”
- At present there is a surplus of £3,100, the majority of which it was could be carried over to next year’s event.
- “But,” Mr Abbott adds, “the amount is dependent on the attitude of the team of electricians. In early September it was suggested that the predicted surplus be divided between the committee members for payment for their voluntary time. I was uncomfortable with this and explained that it would not look good when the accounts were produced that showed payment to Committee members. I have concerns that once again certain committee members may request payment for their services when taking down the lights.
- Going forward it has already been declared some committee members will not give their time freely in 2018 and will require payment. “I see their point of view but I have real concerns over committee members setting their own remuneration. If payment is required, in my professional opinion those people cannot be active members of the committee but should quote and tender for the work. As a community group we have to have full openness and transparency. If the committee members insist on remuneration being paid, I will resign … at the AGM.”
It is sad to see two of the leading lights so disillusioned with events.
But we know from experience that there can be appalling teething troubles within newly created groups – especially when a local authority such as Worst Street is involved.
The fact that Christmas in Boston succeeded as well as it did – beyond all expectations, we suspect – shows that despite all the internal wrangling, an outcome was achieved.
By the sound of things, the stumbling block going forward will be the inability of some members of the committee to distinguish between the definition of the word voluntarily and their inbred commercial reluctance to do something for nothing.
If they were to try to think of their voluntary gesture as a form of sponsorship, and made sure that their name was mentioned in that connection to their advantage, then the gift of time and materials would be a payment of its own.
We will keep our fingers crossed.
As a sidebar to recent Christmas light developments, we have been told that claims by Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce that the Boston Town Team’s willingness to get involved were rebuffed, are incorrect.
An e-mail from Nathan Bryant, Creative Designer and Marketing Co-Ordinator for
Christmas in Boston, says: “I write to you as secretary of Christmas in Boston regarding your recent communication with Simon Beardsley from the Chamber of Commerce.
“As far as I’m aware, we have had no formal offer from any chamber member regarding the use of projectors, purchased last year.
“Throughout our meetings, no mention of the Chamber supporting Christmas in Boston has been mentioned by any committee member.
“Our team have had offers from Andy at Popcorn Media but at no point has the involvement of the chamber ever been mentioned, nor contact received.”
Some gloomy news as Christmas approaches for wage earners in Boston.
Official figures Tweeted by Independent/???/ Labour Councillor Paul Gleeson says that average full-time wages in Boston fell this year from £21,837 in 2016 to £21,092 – “which is only £252 more than the average wage in 2011 of £20,840, whereas average rents have gone up by nearly £900 a year.
The figures come from the Valuation Office Agency and the Office of National Statistics – and show that despite all the claims that business is moving into the area, it is the wrong sort of business in terms of the benefit to local people.
What can be done to address the problem is anyone’s guess – but clearly something must happen to address this anti-social problem for residents.
The figures have appeared as the announcement that the £100 million Boston flood barrier has been approved and will begin construction next year.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: "Not only is this fantastic news for the 14,000 home and business owners who will be better protected from flooding – Boston's new state of the art defences will help attract investment, benefitting the wider area.”
Her words were echoed by Worst Street leader Councillor Michael Cooper, who declared: “This is a truly massive investment in Boston, and a truly massive investment in confidence in Boston as a place to live, do business and grow families and businesses.”
Whenever announcements such as this are made, so are comments such as those above.
In the past year or two, various new business announcements have been interpreted to be the first tottering steps on the road to a bigger, better and brighter Boston – but somehow, this never seems to happen.
Whilst the barrier is a big step forward for the safety of the town – its subtext for promotion says little more than “Come to Boston, where is doesn’t flood as badly as other places.”
What we need now is a marshalling of the costly resources in places such as Worst Street, Clownty Hall, and the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership to get their act together and seize on the barrier as a focus to promote Boston to the wider world.
Then, perhaps, we might see blather become business.
Another politician who was quick out of the traps after the announcement of the barrier’s approval was Councillor Martin Hill – leader of Lincolnshire County Council.
He tweeted: “Very pleased that the £11 million contribution from Lincolnshire CC has helped the scheme get approved. It will be great when the town is fully protected from floods.”
Erm, excuse us?
The £11 million “contribution” from Clownty Hall was committed as part of a water management scheme for the project.
This would have maintained high water levels so that “a safe and reliable non-tidal link” could be created to form phase 2 of the Fens Waterways Link – the biggest waterway enhancement project in Europe.
Joining the Fens Waterway Link was hailed as a potentialyly major economic and tourism boost for Boston – which would make it a stopping place on a route which connected the cathedrals at Lincoln, Peterborough and Ely.
However, this needed further appraisal work, and following a Lincolnshire County Council Executive decision in February 2015 and a Project Board confirmation in spring 2015 it was agreed that the work surrounding WLM should not delay the tidal flood defence project.
Water level management was removed from the the Boston Barrier project and the county council “separated” their £11million contribution.
The last report we could find said that Clownty Hall was “reviewing how best to invest the funding to maximise its regeneration impacts and to allow additional fund raising opportunities to be identified.”
Note the absence of any mention of Boston!
Part of the problem with trying to turn blather into business is that so many people talk the talk – and then do nothing further.
For instance, last weekend marked the fifth annual Small Business Saturday – “a grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to 'shop local' and support small businesses in their communities.”
The event was marked in various places around Lincolnshire – but nowhere could we find anything happening in Boston … despite claims that we thrive on the variety of our small specialist shops.
This is not the first time the event has passed unremarked in the town, and we think it high time that our powers that ba’int started some sort of diary so that we could stay on top of every chance to promote the town, however small.
It’s not as though we lack the resources.
Recently, WorstWeb – the council’s website told us of more funding for community events in Boston and extra cash for town centre maintenance.
The sum involved is £86,000 of existing spend plus another £40,000 to include a new post of events assistant and £12,000 existing support plus £41,000 for two new posts for town centre maintenance.
Until recently, when Worst Street listed its departmental and management structure – it helpfully indicated the number of staff in each officer’s fiefdom.
Using the figures given the last time that this was done we estimate that four officers between them covered the sort of work that is now being enhanced – with a staff of more than 100 to carry out the necessary tasks.
And we really need more, do we?
Meanwhile some good news for Granthamians but not for Bostonians could be announced tomorrow when South Kesteven District Council is expected to approve a £100 million designer village just south of Grantham next to the proposed Grantham Southern Relief Road.
The 270,000 sq. ft. development will create 1,500 jobs and bring 130 luxury brand shops to the town.
The bad news is that the plan has been preferred over a rival scheme by Boston retailer Oldrids – which when announced was described as “a bid to protect the store’s future – and an existing 700 jobs.”
The move by Oldrids Downtown’s proposed a 220,435 sq ft scheme with 107 outlets, a purpose-built home and garden centre and an indoor leisure complex.
At the time a company executive was reported as saying: “We are part of Grantham, we are important to Grantham and Grantham is important to us.”
But now that things look to be taking a different direction, might the company perhaps consider a return to its roots and investment here in Boston where it started out in 1804.
The worrying line in the report that caught our eye was that the Grantham development was needed “to protect the store’s future – and an existing 700 jobs.”
The closure of two Oldrids stores in Lincoln and Gainsborough was announced earlier this year, so things are obviously not looking good, and the latest look at the retailer’s Companies House entries also paints an unhappy picture.
In the circumstances, a major investment in Boston would be unlikely – although it might help rescue the Quadrant project and provide a rival attraction to Springfields in Spalding.
A few issues ago, we reported the enthusiasm of various Worst Street councillors to throw money at Boston Stump.
Member of BTAC-ky declared themselves keen to hurl as much as £20,000 in the church’s direction, whilst the announcement of £1.39 million grant from the Government's Controlling Migration Fund, to promote “community cohesion” was declared to a chance 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."
So you may not be surprised to learn that we raised an Eyebrow at a BBC report last week that said: “The historic Boston Stump has been given an early Christmas present, with the National Churches Trust awarding the landmark building £40,000.
“The grant to St Botolph's will be used for urgent repairs to the roof and clock and to refurbish the kitchen.
“It's thought the repairs will allow parts of the church, including areas of the tower, which are currently closed due to health and safety concerns, to re-open.”
Surely, there are a few problems here regarding priorities.
Whilst everyone has been falling over themselves to throw money at a tweely-named project, behind the scenes urgent repairs are needed to the roof whilst other parts of the building are unsafe in terms of public access.
Last week’s blog drew comment once again from former Boston Borough Councillor Carol Taylor, who remarked on a couple of items …
“Prime Minister’s Question Time is an opportunity for an MP to ask or clarify an issue for his/her constituents.
“How sad and embarrassing to see Matt Warman waste this valuable time by congratulating a councillor for joining the blueys as if it was some kind of achievement.
“This councillor could have worked just as well by continuing to be a Labour supporter and at the same time serve the people who elected him into office.
“This councillor has done this for his own personal gain. Thank goodness he wasn't in 'The House' when MW declared his admiration for him.
“Looking at the video, I thought MW was going to lick his boots.
“Brownie points for Mr Warman? I agree, from his nose of course!”
And if that wasn’t enough, Mrs Taylor also had a go at last week’s party allegiance swaps which saw veteran Labour man Councillor Paul Gleeson announce as an independent to save his chairmanship of a key committee.
“Is it possible for someone to sell himself for 30 pieces of silver twice?” asked Mrs Taylor. “Councillor Gleeson is a very educated man and a great orator.
“How sad to see him join the Independents just to keep his chairmanship of a committee.
“Boston Borough Council and the good people of Boston have lost a great local politician – and for what?”
Which brings us seamlessly to another contribution from our Worst Street insider known as The Sorcerer.
After last week’s detailed and often withering analysis of the mixed bag that makes up out council, our columnist has turned the limelight on to the manoeuvrings by former Labour councillor Nigel Welton, who has switched to the Conservatives, and dyed in the wool Labour man Paul Gleeson, who has joined the so-called Independents to save his political skin.
f there is one thing I admire about Labour Councillor Paul Gleeson it is his loyalty to his politics.
Since his arrival at the Heart of Cabbage Land, he has maintained a highly dignified and effective presence.
Politically speaking, Councillor Gleeson might even be considered as the most effective Labour councillor that Boston has ever had – and I need no reminder of whom others might think more deserving.
But are we able to say the same for what many will consider the most disgraceful behaviour ever of ‘Labour’ Councillor, Nigel Welton?
Somehow I don't think so....
The people of Fenside should be out on the streets – banging their blue plastic wheelie bin lids and demanding his immediate resignation – and regardless of one’s politics they would be right.
Let’s face it; there is no way that enough Fenside electors would ever have voted for him had he stood as a Tory!
So let us not fool ourselves …
This is a blatant and disgraceful abandonment of the people of Fenside and their political principles.
The Fenside electors now have no Labour representation – which is unforgivable!
Fact: Conservative Party members are duty-bound to uphold and defend only Conservative policies and principles.
Fact: The Labour Party ought now to find ten residents who voted Labour at the last election to present a vote of no confidence in this ‘elected representative’ and demand a by-election.
Perhaps some historian would like to remind me of the last time a Tory actually won a Fenside seat.
There have of course been other jumpers and switchers – but I hazard that none have made such a wide and damaging leap as this.
From Labour to Conservatism is the widest political canyon!
It could also be argued now that Councillor Gleeson can no longer remain on any scrutiny or decision-making panels.
Right is right!
He should also have some awkward questions to answer given his merger with the so called happy couple of miscreant Bypassers, who themselves are loosely supplemented by one Councillor Pierpoint – a man who may well hold the record for the shortest-ever UKIP election victory.
Throughout all of this we are bound to question the desperation within the ruling group.
Are they no longer able to say no to some of the latest bunch of so called dumpers, jumpers, and grunters?
I hate to tell you that all of this is destructive to the borough, but highly suitable for officers – not council workers – just officers.
hy would they be in favour of taking back our Market Place ... given the cushy number they have secured for themselves?
Finally – a note about some seasonal publication changes.
Next week we will be publishing our annual Christmas card, and that will be the last blog for this year as we take an extended break.
Our first publication of the New Year will be on Monday 22nd January and we look forward to you joining us then.
Obviously, in the event of something startling happening between those dates, we’ll let you know – and remember we’re available via e-mail throughout that time.
You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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