Tonight’s full meeting of Boston Borough Council will – not for the first time – be looking at disposing of yet another chunk of the taxpayers’ family silver.
This time it’s looking at a deal with a company called Magna Vitae – which means great things of life – and which is a major leisure and cultural service provider for neighbouring East Lindsey District Council.
Magna Vitae calls itself a charitable trust with the mission to provide “an extraordinary range” of cultural, leisure and health related facilities and services that allow local people to live a great life.
The company is regulated by the Charities Commission and Companies House, and any profits are re-invested to develop and improve services for the people of East Lindsey.
Tonight’s meeting is taking the first tentative steps under the heading “alternative delivery arrangements for leisure, culture and community services” – and if the idea takes off, a three phase consultation will be complete by the end of the year.
Working with Magna Vitae has already cut East Lindsey’s costs by £700k with a plan to increase this to £1.5m by 2022/23.
Worst Street’s transformation programme is looking to save £200k rising to £400k.
The services under review include the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre, Heritage, the Guildhall, Tourism, Sports and Play, Events (including BTAC), the May Fair – and not Mayfair as the council persistently and incorrectly calls it – and community support projects including “controlling migration” – for which the council has just been given £1.39m in government aid.
Presumably, any jobs that go with these services will be passed on to the charity to take over.
So it seems that the Moulder Leisure Centre will go the way of the Princess Royal Sports Arena which is run by a company called 1Life – but only after Worst Street stumped up a pile of taxpayers’ cash for repairs and improvements to bring the centre up to an improved handover condition.
Not only that, but the PRSA – like the Moulder – enjoys biomass fuelled heating from systems that cost £¾million to install after some underestimates were adjusted – and which we still appear to be funding at the PRSA two years after the place was farmed out to the private sector.
The PRSA also benefits from a £100,000 solar heating system paid for by taxpayers.
So – over the years we have poured millions into leisure services that we can now no longer afford to operate or maintain which we are now handing over to third parties to enjoy at public expense.
It all makes sound financial sense, doesn’t it? – as did selling of Boston’s council housing stock and the town’s Port – both of which are now profitable in the hands of people who know what they’re doing.
The thing that struck us most forcibly in the report was the news that Worst Street already operates in partnership with East Lindsey District Council on finance, building control, refuse, CCTV and community safety and property services.
Add to that the proposed “Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre, heritage, guildhall, tourism, sports and play events, the May Fair and community support projects” and we wonder whether you would agree with us that it might be a better option for Worst Street to merge with Manby its entirety – and do away with Boston Borough Council altogether!
Now that the flames from Worst Street’s attempted witch burning have died down, the ashes have yielded a new political group which could leave some of those who sought the resignation of Mayor Councillor Brian Rush with more than a little egg on their faces.
For all the crocodile tears of pain shed by councillors, the end result was a feeling that the charges against the Mayor were mostly trumped-up, ill-judged and rooted in personal dislike rather than grounded in any solid political foundation.
Morever, he cannot be sacked.
Even a piece of political prestidigitation by Councillor Richard ‘Dick Dastardly’ Austin to withhold administrative support from the Mayor sputtered out among the faggots piled high for the intended Mayoral pyre.
Within hours of the disastrous emergency Show Trial (definition: a trial held in public with the intention of influencing or satisfying public opinion, rather than of ensuring justice) it was clear that not only would the Mayor remain – but that the council would be honour (!!) bound to support all engagements in the diary up to and including the date of the meeting that tried to kick him out.
As his term of office is up in just a few weeks, the diary is already well stocked with engagements, and since then Councillor Rush has declared that he will make his own arrangements to honour any other requests for a civic appearance.
So after all the expense and bad-mouthing, Boston borough councillors have emerged toothless.
As Councillor Rush aptly declared in a radio interview last week: “We’re looking foolish, aren’t we?; we’re looking foolish.”
And who has more egg on their faces than most?
Council leader Michael Cooper who proposed the motion – and then embarrassed himself further in a botched radio interview – seconder Tory councillor David Brown and the rump of three needed to validate it … the so-called Independent Alison Austin, UKIP’s Sue Ransome, and deputy leader Aaron Spencer.
And let's not forget Councillor Richard Austin as well.
And let's not forget Councillor Richard Austin as well.
An eloquent speaker at the Worst Street kangaroo court was Councillor Barrie Pierpoint, who delivered a stirring defence of Councillor Rush, with support also forthcoming from Councillor Anton Dani.
Now, these two have joined Councillor Rush and Councillor Stephen Ball to form “a new independent group for the people of Boston, putting them first before party politics – Bostonian Independents Group (BiG).”
All four were listed on WorstWeb after the meeting as unaligned – Deputy Mayor Councillor Pierpont did what he called the “honourable” thing and quit the “independent” group comprising the Austins, former leader Peter Bedford and one-time Labour leader Paul Gleeson as he ended his speech.
So, who are the members of the new independent party?
Councillor Rush and Councillor Pierpoint have become well-known to us in recent weeks.
The former represents Staniland Ward, and the latter is one of two councillors for Old Leake and Wrangle.
Councillor Dani is the member for Fenside, whilst Councillor Ball is one of three members for Skirbeck.
In attendance terms, Councillor Rush has attended all lessons in the past year, with Councillor Pierpoint running a close second – having attended 85% of meetings.
Councillor Dani has attended 60% of meetings in the past year – but lurking at the bottom of the list is Councillor Ball, who attended a mere two meetings out of a possible 16 … a wretched 12%, and just enough to remain in office, as failure to attended at least one meeting every six months means automatic exclusion from the council.
If the Bostonian Independents Group is to succeed, it can only do so by making its presence felt – and members who fail to turn up will be wasting their time with the voters.
In an introductory press release, the four have set out a 20-point plan to ensure that the residents in the borough take priority with regards to getting value for money, quality services, and making a difference to Boston.
“The four councillors found that from speaking to the Boston public many residents said they are now getting fed up and tired of the main political parties’ lacklustre councillors, who have no ambition, are stale, lack direction and leadership, and put their party before the local people.”
According to Councillor Dani – who somewhat contradictorily “leads” the “independents” – “We embrace all communities and faiths within our group. We are here to serve the public of Boston, and we will challenge other councillors, officers, and some of the decisions taken by the cabinet – which is a closed shop – on behalf of all the residents in Boston if it is not in their best interests.”
“It’s now time for change, transparency and openness – and put Boston back on the map, ensure local communities are confident about their future, and work with local people, groups and partnerships to promote a more positive, vibrant and flourishing Boston.”
So what are these 20 points?
We’ll not overload you with the full list – as many of them are goals that have already been set – in some cases years ago.
A couple of others are really things over which a political splinter group can have little influence.
But five that caught our eye included banning buses from the town centre due to toxic diesel fumes; continually to push for a road scheme around Boston leading to a bypass, and/or a new bridge over the River Witham to cut congestion; taking back control of the Market Place from Lincolnshire County Council; reducing the powers of the Boston Town Area Committee; and to create a Boston Citizen’s Forum to work with councillors and officers to involve them with consultation, ideas, feedback and improvements to shape the future of their borough, and acting as Boston Ambassadors.
We wish the group well in their efforts – and if we could add a 21st point to their plan, it would be to break new ground by doing away with the unnecessary use of capital letters!
One thing is certain – the role of the Mayor will never be quite the same again … despite the shenanigans of the past few weeks
A meeting of the Worst Street Cabinet of Curiosities has to approved a series of long-overdue economies aimed at bring the role of first citizen into something approaching the 21st century.
These included the arduous demand that the Mayor should drive the civic personage her/himself rather than be chauffeured; a 30% reduction in allowances from £6,000 a year to £4,000 – and a limit on travel to remain within Lincolnshire except in special cases.
In 2015/16, the Mayor attended 187 events and in 2016/17 the Mayor attended 192 events – which is around the same number when we published a Freedom of Information request almost five years ago.
Of those, around 60 involved scratching the backs of fellow mayors … and included 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.
Now – and not before time – it seems that this is to be reined in.
The only disappointment is that councillors have fought so long and so hard to keep their perks and put their own importance ahead the importance of the voters.
One benefit will be that the Mayor of the day will have more time to attend local events – which we are sure will do much to improve the public view of the role within the borough … enhancing civic pride and perhaps even the image of Worst Street Central along the way.
We can only hope.
Yet again the changes to the Mayoral role open the door for a suggestion we made at the end of last year, when we commented: “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 benefit replacing an irrelevant story in its so-called newsletter with something that is actually germane to Boston Borough Council.
“Then taxpayers could see for themselves what the mayor does and perhaps gain a better appreciation of the role.”
One rather sad aspect of the report concerned the annual Service to the Community Awards, which have been presented since 1980.
“In recent years the number of nominations has reduced year on year and in 2017 only one was received,” we were told.
“The cost of making the award was approximately £700 including scroll and reception.
“Noting the lack of nominations it is unclear what value these awards have within the community.”
Know the workings of the Worst Street “mind” as we do, we imagine that the knee-jerk reaction will be to save a few more quid and do away with the awards.
But it would be shameful beyond belief to confess that a borough the size of Boston can find no one to honour who goes that extra mile to help the people where they live.
Someone needs to grasp this concept by the scruff of the neck and give it a good dusting off to some up with worthy nominees – but not the usual ranks of the great and the good.
It’s not difficult – a round robin letter to the borough’s 18 parish councils would be a good starter for ten.
And assuming that the councillors representing BTAC-ky are in touch with their ward roots, they ought to be able to furnish some more.
Our aim should be to be spoiled for choice – not contemplating defeat because of the usual Worst Street indifference.
Early last week MP Matt Warman popped up on Facebook with a 43 second, 127-word progress report on what’s being done to solve Boston’s traffic problems.
He tottered all the way down from his first floor office on John Adams Way to pose at the roadside in an underexposed piece of footage to tell us: “Traffic in Boston has been an issue for a number of years and it’s an issue that I have raised in parliament on a number of occasions – but late last year Transport Secretary Chris Grayling used Boston as an example of how the government’s bypass funds could help.
“So this morning I had a meeting with Councillor Martin Hill, the leader of the county council, Councillor Mike Cooper, the leader of the borough council, and Councillor Colin Davie from the county council as well.
“It’s the latest step in moves to strive to put serious proposals to government on how Boston can finally alleviate these long running traffic problems and it’s something that I will be keeping up the pressure on in parliament and locally as well.”
It’s not what you’d call earth-shattering – and we can’t honestly visualise what, if anything might have been achieved by such a meeting.
And as far as it being “an issue that I have raised in parliament on a number of occasions,” the records of the political website They work for you indicate that of the 296 questions posed in parliament since he was elected, Mr Warman has raised just two about a bypass/distributor road for Boston – in June 2015 and October last year.
That’s almost as many questions as he has asked about same-sex marriage in Bermuda … an issue he addressed earlier this month.
Shock headline: No surprises in Old Leake and Wrangle by-election.
In the way that some people collect car numbers or go train spotting, local farmer Tom Ashton held the seat for the Tories last Thursday – to acquire his fifth Lincolnshire council seat.
The turnout was poor – at 722, it as less than a quarter of the 2,950 who voted in 2015.
The result was: Tom Ashton (Cons) - 536
Joseph Pearson (Lab) - 123
Don Ransome (UKIP) - 50
Richard Thornalley (Blue Revolution) - 13
As well as representing OLaW on Boston Borough Council, farmer Ashton is also a Lincolnshire county councillor for Tattershall Castle, an East Lindsey district councillor for Sibsey and Stickney, and a parish councillor for both Wrangle and Old Leake.
The pathetic turnout will doubtless be blamed on a number of things – but we feel that high on the list should be the fact that neither Boston Borough Council website reminded voters of the event on the day – and nor did either of our so-called local “newspapers.”
Perhaps the Tory leadership at Worst Street felt it would give their candidate a better chance if no-one knew that a by-election was taking place – but what excuse our local bastions of democracy might come up with is anyone’s guess.
Poor forward diarying, laziness or sheer incompetence?
Take your pick.
The Worst Street line-up in the chamber now looks like this…
Conservatives - 16
UKIP - 6
Independents - 4
Bostonian Independents’ Group - 4
We always welcome letters from readers, and were very pleased to receive the following via e-mail.
“The wonderful warm reception I received at the Danny Flear Centre farmers’ dinner on Friday night was absolutely fantastic.
“I think such an outpouring of support proves, yet again, that our farming community also shares the same opinion as most sections of Boston's society regarding our precious right to free speech!
“I will not claim that every single person in attendance agreed with my recent controversial opinion – that would not be fair – but the warmth of the response by the vast majority of those in attendance clearly indicated that they agreed with my right to say what I thought ...
“And guess who actually led the charge.... yes! None other than Matt Warman, MP.
“Well done him ... he is clearly not as precious about such things as our wonderful Boston borough councillors.
“Hip! Hip! Hooray!
“Matt, you get my vote on this one!
“This, incidentally, is the private opinion of a resident of Boston, 'Brian Rush' speaking as a private individual.
Is it the case that even Worst Street felt shamefaced about the assault on the Mayor and the ignominy it brought upon the council?
The picture below is a screenshot from WorstWeb – the borough’s somewhat grimy internet window on the world.
Was it an inadvertent juxtaposition … or an admission byWorst Street that even it had exceeded its normal low standards?
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