Sparks are still flying in the debate about last year’s Christmas lights display in Boston – which was unquestionably one of the best ever.
Sadly though, some aspects continue to rankle – as treasurer Darron Abbott’s report to next week’s meeting of the Boston Town Area Committee will show.
Mr Abbott has already been “sacked” at a Christmas in Boston at a meeting to which he was not invited – the age old policy of shooting the messenger if you don’t like the message.
We also understand that the committee comprising some of those who may have been criticised has been handed the reins for the coming year.
Headlines from Mr Abbott’s report make sad reading …
ome members of the group did not seem to take the responsibility of looking after other people's cash and assets as seriously as others. Cash has been collected and not reached the bank without considerable hard work on my behalf, in one case it was only when I said I would hand the matter to the police did the monies suddenly appear from the relevant committee members.
ommittee members have given away assets of the group to friends and acquaintances without the authorisation of the rest of the committee in return for drinks and food; the total value of these items are in the region of £200 …
have refused to reimburse some committee members for expenses as they have not produced any kind of receipt.
n September 5th a meeting was called to discuss what should happen to any unspent funds.
The agreement with BTAC for the matched funding was that ‘any surplus funds from the £10,000 to be returned to BTAC’
Some committee members were not happy with this and suggested that any surplus be divided between the six committee members as ‘payment for our time.’
I as treasurer was uncomfortable about this as the constitution states all committee members must be volunteers and we had promoted ourselves a volunteers.
I also stated that I would not take my share, but if the committee voted that the funds should be shared I would have to list individual payments in the accounts at the end of the year …
t was accepted reluctantly that no payments being made to committee members. However comments were made to me after this date that suggested all was not well one such comment being "you do realise you are taking food from my baby's mouth."
nother major concern that I had financially was the total lack of regard for sticking to the event plan and health and safety regulations. Thankfully no accidents or incidents happened. But some committee members did not seem to realise that if they had the group would most likely have not been covered by our insurance and then the committee members would have been personally liable.
am extremely disappointed the way the fantastic project has turned sour. I have taken the task of treasurer very seriously and I make no apologies for my actions in protecting the funds and assets of the donors and sponsors.
have sent a cheque for the unspent funds of £2,093.39 to the BTAC lead officer.
Worst Street watchers may well have been surprised at the news that Boston Borough Council's Cabinet is back up to full strength – as its underpowered performance for most of the past two years had seemed little different from before.
After a year as mayor – which took him out of his cabinet role – Councillor Stephen Woodliffe appears to have decided to take it easy and stay aloof from the frenetic world of Boston politics.
A good decision – and one that tended to emphasise his previous impact as a member of the cabinet.
The real question in all of this, though, is why it has taken so long to fill the void created by Councillor Woodliffe.
When he took office in 2016 there really ought to have been other Conservative councillors who could have been asked to step into the breach.
Whilst we accept that this motley rump was pretty hopeless, a few could have been no worse than those inside the cabinet – and yet the leadership tottered on shorthanded.
Not until the defection of Councillor Nigel Welton – in an Evel Knievel-style leap from Labour to Conservative – was a Tory deemed good enough to fill a cabinet post.
If nothing else it says much about the quality of the less than magnificent seven.
A note in support of Councillor Welton has come from former Boston Borough Councillor Mike Gilbert – now the founder of his own national political party A BlueRevolution.
Mr Gilbert writes: “We at Blue Revolution are opposed on the whole to the self-destructive process of binary politics, seeing it as simply a playground game which worked when the British State controlled the world but simply undermines the nation now.
“Whilst Nigel's decision might seem odd going from Labour to Tory, he has acted in what he believes to be the interests of the town.
“Sometimes it is better to go for entryism rather than be in sterile opposition.
“Good luck to him and his plans for Boston Town Centre. We will watch with interest.
“Finally, can we assume Mike Cooper has fired the Starting Gun for the 2019 Borough campaign?
“If he has, it was an inspired subject but a little premature perhaps!”
Clearly, that final reference must be to the Worst Street leader Councillor Michael Cooper’s response to questions at last week’s full council meeting in which he expressed the hope that Boston might get a share of a £100 million road building fund announced by Transport Minister Chris Grayling.
Mr Grayling specifically mentioned Boston – saying he had “no doubt there would be a campaign for the bypass to be an early project.”
Councillor Cooper was reported as saying that he had been in talks with Lincolnshire County Council, whose highway department will be making any application, and local MP Matt Warman.
“Boston is well-placed to build on the distributor road approach it has adopted with the support of the County Council, to argue for significant highways investment and I for one will continue to press hard for a good outcome for Boston.
“I can’t say we’re going to start building a bypass within the next two years, but the big thing is finance, and finance is there.
“If we can get things ready to go I would hope to see something within the next five years.
If we can get started within that time frame that would be a good move.”
Time will tell whether we are looking at a positive step forward or yet another slice of pie in the sky.
But one immediate obstacle would appear to be financial.
Whilst we are apparently seeking a slice from a £100 million kitty, the County Council has already declared that this selfsame sum would be the total cost of the project.
Another potential problem is the recent announcement by Clownty Hall of plans to move forward on the idea of a £200 million Lincolnshire Coastal Highway taking in the A46 from west of Lincoln through to the A158 to Skegness, along with the A57 from the county boundary where it joins the A46 in Lincoln – something which may well strain Mr Warman’s loyalties to the Boston half of his constituency.
The fact that Boston is still a popular route from places such as Nottingham, Leicester and Derby via Grantham to Skegness seems entirely overlooked at Lincoln Head Office.
A date of 22nd February has appeared for the by-election caused by the resignation of
Tory Councillor Maureen Dennis – a member for Old Leake and Wrangle since 2003.
Councillor Dennis was one of those rare gifts to a ruling party – someone who kept schtum, attended all lessons, did as she was told, and rarely spoke.
Our insider columnist, The Sorcerer tells us: “With as much respect as one could dare to apply, Maureen's resignation could never be considered the biggest ever loss to the Council!
“In all my years of watching, I doubt I ever heard her speak at a meeting, except once when she put her hand up to agree to something ... then after a rummage in her handbag, she suspiciously flattened out a folded page, and like someone hearing the words for the first time, slowly read out all the reasons, why she was agreeing 'with the proposer!'
“Everyone knew she could be relied upon to support anything that the Conservatives proposed, but not without a cursory glance, at the 'main man's' hand at the time.
“Someone suggested that we could save time if all Conservative councillors’ right wrists were tied to a wooden bar so the leader could 'raise' all hands at the appropriate point.
“Councillors loved it, because it saved wasting time reading project papers!”
One interesting idea doing the rounds after Councillor Dennis resigned was that it might be possible to seize the by-election moment and to persuade some of our absentee representatives that it would be a good idea to throw in the towel at the same time.
Nothing seems to have come of this though, as these people are copper-bottomed in office unless they miss meetings for more than six months.
Meanwhile the reverse political pavane (one step forward, two steps back) that is coming to typify the Worst Street council chamber continues apace.
We learn that former council leader Peter Bedford has joined the “Independent” Group on the council.
Councillor Bedford stepped down as leader in April last year in ran without a political banner in May’s county council elections.
We take this to be another of those manoeuvres whose aim is to improve chances of committee membership – given the historic relationship between Councillor Bedford and his new “Independent” colleagues, we can think of no other reason.
Back now to The Sorcerer for a a witheringlook as last week’s full council meeting – and a call for Worst Street to deliver is promises on openness and transparency …
And a better way to record what goes on in meetings.
he full council meeting that took place on Monday, in terms of incidents, was a real collector’s piece ... and frankly it got myself and our crib team players arguing the toss on Tuesday evening about how things were unfolding since the newbies dumped long standing Councillor Pete the Pill!
Jeremy suggested that ‘unfolding’ would not be the word he would have used ... but decency prevents repetition!
The general confusion following that meeting seems to have been instigated by a Pantomime-like scene stemming from a single public question.
As Boston’s Political Pantomimes tend to do, the discussion disintegrated into farce!
The first question....is written and posted.
The respondent considers the question; (having earlier had professional “advice”) … responds in writing two hours before meeting ... and subsequently reads the response.
Bated breath .... followed by a supplementary question – and back to the leader who engages in a degree of pontificating babble … long pause – but ’because I do not know the answer to that question I will pass it over to the Legal Department sorry, Monitoring Officer ... who will respond’
Monitoring Officer reddens, stutters, stammers and promises to review…
Stunned silence ... questioner stamps angrily out of the chamber.
It is events and conditions such as those described above which might at any time be called into question, and it is such failures that demand the provision of permanent recording of all meetings.
It is likely that all voters like me think that all council meetings are recorded.
Many are, but strangely I did not realise that the full council rarely is!
In fact I cannot recall a minute clerk ever being present on my visits.
The only explanation I could unearth was that unless something had a real public interest, it was felt there was little point.
Excuse me, it is a public meeting that means the public are entitled to open and free access... and the minutes of that meeting are public property which means we can all read them! Yes?
Full council is the most public of meetings, as it should be. No appointment is needed, to attend, and access is open to the public.
The only caveat to this is that questions from the public have to be ‘written’ and presented days before the meeting.
It is true as well that others think that having someone sitting somewhere in the chamber, ‘writing down everything she/he hears’ is perfectly adequate ...
I do not!
Given the advances and simplification of technology alongside the growth in litigation there is now have an even greater demand for accuracy when dealing with matters in the public interest.
Would it not be thought reasonable to ask bodies such as Boston Borough Council, why they as public service providers have chosen to rely on the ‘observational and interpretational’ skills of a paid, but not infallible, stenographer?
So cynically it begs the question, what good reasons could anyone have for operating such an unreliable system ... or should we restructure that to a different question to pose to officers, such as, why would anyone ‘not want’ to do so!
The problem is that this council has adopted a Cabinet of Mysteries.
Their ignorance is easily confused as innocence, but in reality is more likely to be based on the Conservative love of avarice.
We know that most of the effective decision-making powers are jealously guarded Cabinet items ... which I for one expect to have been afforded a degree of careful selectivity!
The consequence then is such ‘items’ never get exposed to all of the voting public’s light of day!
To overcome objections at Scrutiny, or Council, the ‘policy proposal’ gets marked up for noting ... which in effect means no questions or objections will be heard, but nor can opponents claim not to know about them!
This method of ‘openness’ is of course a perfectly legal system of governance and in the right hands and allied with the right advocacy can be very effective for ambitious administrations.
But it also can be an ideal, anti-democratic vehicle for un-resisted glory grabbing!
So with those thoughts in mind the questions we have to ask ourselves and others are these:-
· Left to their own ‘intelligence and experience’ how capable do we think this present tranche of ‘servants’ are?
· How impressed/unimpressed were we by the performance of the Leader Michael Cooper, whose stumbling and stuttering performances, at Full Council on Monday was the stuff of farce?
· How sure can the public be that the thoughts and words attributed to him in press statements are in fact his alone?
He clearly was unable to deal with what was a reasonably simple question from a member of the public.
So how confident can we be that he is the right man to lead this council?
I would not expect the now very well paid Chief Executive, or better still, the Council’s ‘Legal Beagle’, to go along with that observation.
But it would be a novel experience for these two occasionally to leave their ivory towers for a few minutes and come down to earth and give us a clear – less councilspeak – explanation about why they seem to consider it acceptable at what must be the most important public meeting of all – the full council.
It seems bizarre for us to not have the facility to properly record – if only for accuracy and of course posterity – events as they unfold.
Why is this?
Without wanting to rake up a stench I can recall one really good reason why the people of Boston should demand to be allowed to ask ‘really awkward questions’ of officers.
It is a taboo subject I know, but can anyone recall the details provided about something tagged the State Street Loan in council circles?
Time after time the question comes back to haunt us, and asks “where did a massive heap of Boston’s dosh go all those many years back!
The last we heard was from Councillor Gordon Gregory – who has as yet failed in his promise to get to the bottom of the particular mystery.
All he actually uncovered was a similar heap of questions which came from someone before him asking for details
That particular promise was a year or two ago now, and we have not heard a dicky bird since!
I know it’s a moot but still valid point even now – but just imagine if back then equipment such as the stuff on the market today had been available when the Mysterious Missing Million completely disappeared?
Maybe, just maybe, we would have known where it went. Well could it happen again? Maybe.
So I am yet to be convinced by the details of these two long standing historical ‘myths.’
The first being who the heck was Jack the Ripper, and the other is, how does anyone mislay one million pounds, back in the 1990’s without a single person tripping over it, or noticing the sudden appearance of a top of the range hansom carriage!
Facilities such as this would, I think, be of interest to local residents, and in any case the voting public could at least get to keep an ear cocked, and listen to what is actually being said, instead of having to rely upon “the interpretations” of the council.
For some reason, an officer was employed to dash from mouth to mouth so that questioners and responders could be heard across the chamber!
I seem to remember not long back when a goodly sum of ratepayers’ money was spent, on what the spin doctors at the time described as “state of the art” microphones.
Indeed such equipment, even in those halcyon days, would be considered, run of the mill, rather than state of the art.
Symbolically however, if one was to measure the operational lifespan of the last troublesome batch we purchased, maybe the sales splurge “cheap as chips” would have been the one to apply!
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