Monday, 28 January 2019



COUNTDOWN
BEGINS
There are now about four months to the local council elections – which will see all 30 seats at Worst Street up for grabs … and with time running out, we asked representatives from the main parties in contention what their plans were.
The question was broadly the same to all – how many candidates will you be fielding, and details of any specific manifesto pledges if they have been drawn up at this stage. 

***

A bizarrely headed story on WorstWeb – the borough’s website – declared last month “Time to come out from behind the keyboard” and quoted council leader, Michel (sic) Cooper, saying: “I know there are many people out there who are not currently councillors who are very interested in local democracy.
“I have read their views, opinions and ideas on social media about how the council should run and some are very publicly critical of the current council and its elected members. So this is their chance to really stand up and be counted, quite literally. This is their opportunity to really get involved at a working level and make a real difference, rather than criticising at safe distance. I hope they don't pass up on this chance.”
For those that are interested, Worst Street is staging an open meeting at 6pm on Thursday 21st February, in the Committee Room at the Municipal Buildings,

***

WorstWeb tells us that the current political composition of the council is: Conservative – 16, UKIP – 6, Independent – 4, Bostonian Independents – 4  ,,, although that is wrong, and the correct numbers are: Conservative – 17 UKIP – 6 Independent – 4 and Bostonian Independents – 3.

***

Starting with the Conservative ruling group, we e-mailed leader Michael Cooper, who replied: I have forwarded your message to the relevant person within the party.”
A few minutes later, a response came from the Langrick Bubble Car Museum, which Mr Cooper runs and which was signed by his wife Paula, who is a Lincolnshire County Councillor for Boston West.
It read: “I understand you want information about our plans for the forthcoming elections, the local Conservative branch are dealing with the May election candidates and campaign.”
We felt we were getting warmer and asked for an e-mail address for whoever was responsible.
The reply: “Sorry I should have made it clear, either me or Nigel Welton for Boston area” – at which point we also learned that Mrs Cooper was Deputy Chairman of the Boston and Skegness Conservative Association.
So we asked whether at this stage the Tories could say if they were  fielding a full house of 30 candidates and for any specific manifesto pledges if they had been drawn up. We also said that we wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some Conservative councillors would not be seeking re-election – but added that we doubted that this information would be put into the public domain at this stage.
Mrs Cooper replied: “OK, at this stage nothing to report.”

***

Fortunately, other responses were less frustrating.
Councillor Paul Gleeson – currently listed as an Independent, but a Labour Party stalwart – is clearly hoping that the party will be able to reverse its fortunes come Thursday 2nd May.
He told Boston Eye: “Dealing firstly with candidates, we are aiming to put up a team of 30. 
“I have been selected as a prospective candidate for Skirbeck Ward and I am not directly involved in the selection process, but the last I heard we are in the mid-20s and are aiming to finalise the list by early February.  We are also in the process of arranging training sessions for our prospective candidates.
“Developing our manifesto is scheduled for February, so that all prospective candidates will be able to be active in the process as well as the wider party. 
“So, whilst I can't say now what will be in the manifesto I am happy to highlight a few of the issues I would like it to address.
“Starting with the more philosophical ... 
“In my opinion, local government in the area has been too top-down with decisions made by a very small group.  This leads to many councillors, even some in the ruling group feeling they have no input and more importantly a disconnect between the community and the council; people no longer consider it to be ‘their council.’ 
“I will be arguing for the council to abolish the Cabinet model and return to the committee structure so that all councillors will be able to directly influence policy.  
“We then need to put a lot more effort into opening up the decision-making process to the communities the decisions are impacting on.  There are various successful models operated by councils around the country.
“Moving on to the more tangible. 
“Boston has the lowest average wage in the county and one of the lowest in the country.  Wages have basically stagnated since 2010 and for the last recorded year dropped by £700.  Allowing for inflation the situation is even worse.”
At around the time of this response, Councillor Gleeson had tweeted  the wage charts for Lincolnshire.


“The average wage in 2017 of £21,092 when adjusted by inflation back to 2010 becomes £16,477.  Yet we have some of the highest rents in the East Midlands.  “Whilst wages are not something a district council can directly influence, much more effort needs to be put into working with partners to improve the situation.  What is in control of the borough is housing policy; we need to look at increasing the stock of social housing, and the quality and cost of the private rented stock.
“Homelessness is increasing in Boston; we need to ensure we are using all our powers to help people get off of the street into decent accommodation.
“Public open spaces – ensure they are clean and accessible and not being abused.  “Look to introduce a volunteer community dog warden service to help address dog fouling etc.”

***

Sue Ransome – a senior UKIP councillor and Chairman of the Boston Town Area Committee told us: “With regard to the elections, it is all rather up in the air at the present time.  Now we have lost the ‘Johnny come latelys’ that used UKIP to get elected, it leaves the Ransomes and a few others.
“While all this with Brexit continues, perhaps we could even have European elections on the same day as local, and if so will UKIP field a full slate of candidates for the East Midlands?
“This isn’t helped by Nigel Farage now suggesting that he will front a new party if we don’t come out on 29th March. 
“Our nomination papers will probably have to have been submitted to Boston Borough Council before the launch of any new party.  I’m not saying that we would leave UKIP; we will just have to see how it all pans out and play the waiting game.
“I have been asked repeatedly for the last year whether I will stand as UKIP or Independent, and I really can’t answer because I really don’t know. 
“But the one definite is that I will be standing, I really enjoy being a councillor and trying to help the community.”

***

One of the newer parties is Blue Revolution – established by a former Conservative Boston borough councillor and cabinet member Mike Gilbert.
He told us: “Currently, we have two confirmed candidates for BR – possibly one other. I have knocked on every door in Station Ward and generally get a good response, but few want active involvement.
“People know across Boston that the party system doesn't work. It is seen as fettering discussion and engineering needless disagreement and forces through policy without a proper in public debate.
“Even though we are a party in legal terms, we see ourselves a more of a political brand. In Blue Revolution you have values guaranteeing the right to speak, disagree, hold opposing opinions and contradict other brand members.
“If we ever held power at Boston Borough Council it would be a matter for the full council, not the ‘'brand’ what policy should be adopted.
“Blue revolution simply underpins free thinking and free voting. It relies on the power of the spoken and written word to promote an idea. However, it can't become authoritarian because that is a basis for excluding candidates. Anyone who wants to silence or harm others or close down debate will be excluded. The party system as we saw in 1917 and the 1930s is the progenitor of authoritarianism. It's still happening. In BR we are all equals. This brand is not about me or any other person.
“So we want to have confident free thinkers associated with BR, people who respect the views of others even if they disagree with them. We would like to be successful and create this model in Boston where all councillors can feel free of the menace of the party whip.
“Our town is suffering, old systems need challenging and the government and County needs a mirror holding up to it. This won't happen within a party based system.
“So ideally we would remove party political seating. Sit where you like in full council. The ‘leader’ would be chosen by a free full council regardless of who is the major party, as would cabinet. So we would give way to a leader of another party if the council wished it. That is our broad stance – making the council more democratic.
“Locally a policy should not be a political party matter but a matter for full council otherwise it distorts reality and cannot represent all the people. So in BR each candidate has their own ward-based priorities which as a group we would support them with.
“In my case, it is the shameful state of Station Path and holding Network Rail to account for the mess.
“My second policy relates to policing. We need to look at how we police Boston and all other small towns. We have a model for policing which saw the ‘Queens Peace’ largely undisturbed from 11.30pm through to about 8 am from the end of the war until about 1990. Since then things have moved deliberately in the direction of a 24-hour culture based on free market principles. This is ok but you can't police it using a couple of cops in stab vests and car. We need people out and about on the ‘beat’ 24/7. The challenge is paying for it.
Blue Revolution is about 10 years ahead of the curve and hopefully, Boston will again be at the heart of a revolution. As BR is about a long term change we have produced a pamphlet explaining the origin of ‘public power’ and how we need to harness this for the common good. This will be published in February.”

***

Bostonian Independents group leader Barrie Pierpoint was away on business and unable to comment before the weekend – so we will carry his remarks next week.

***

Also next week, we will be offering our analysis of the comments received and out thoughts on how things might end up come Friday 3rd May.

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The idea that Boston may one day get a distributor road as a sop to those who believe the town should have a proper bypass is proving as illusory as the end of a rainbow.

*** 


A report last week said that Lincolnshire County Council’s executive councillor for highways Richard (Bob the Builder) Davies told councillors on a transport scrutiny committee that a letter is being submitted through local MP Matt Warman asking for £1 million to “do the design work” and create a business case for the road.
Mr Davies was quoted as saying “I’m very excited to see what response we get because speaking to Matt he’s extremely confident we’ll get a warm reception.”

***

This is, of course the same county councillor who only a few weeks was flippant about the Boston road plans, tweeting: “Sadly the government doesn’t fund roads like I distribute sweets between my children. It’s up to central government as to whether they will support Boston Distributor Road as they have our other projects across the county”

***

The calls for a road scheme are repeated every time that Boston becomes gridlocked – which sadly is all too often – yet county council traffic surveys claim that a major bypass would be no good because most of traffic starts of finishes in the town, and doesn’t go around it.
Try that one for size.
Despite the fanfare after a petition for funding to be drawn down from a £100 million Government scheme was handed to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling last August.
Boston missed the cut when the first five schemes were announced in October – although the farmyard bottleneck on the Grizebeck Bypass was among the lucky ones.

***

Having said that, no-one seems especially fussed about getting a move on.
A recent update of the Boston Transport Strategy – which must be so ancient that it was probably inscribed on vellum – said Boston Borough Council and Lincolnshire County Council would be submitting an outline case to the Government in early 2019 with a Business Case produced in the 2019/20 financial year.
Whether that depends on getting £1 million from Whitehall or not isn’t said.
And another sign of the seriousness with which the authorities are taking all this is the suggestion – made without any sense of irony – that the cash-strapped United Lincolnshire Health Trust should be asked to see if they could provide funding to help improve access to the Pilgrim Hospital.

***

Last week, we highlighted the ineptitude of WorstWeb over a link to a ‘consultation’ on the council’s budget plans which turned out to be dead in the water … even worse the water of the harbour in Boston, Massachusetts.
That link has remained live when it should have been corrected.
However the survey can now be accessed via the council’s ‘rolling’ news agenda at the top of the web page – if you spot it.
Why is it that we wonder if Worst Street would rather we kept our thoughts to ourselves?

***

Little more has been heard about the plan to close Boston’s Marks and Spencer store – and still less from  from the powers that bain't at base camp Worst Street who continue to pretend that it hasn’t happened … as we pointed out last week.
A Facebook group  called  Save our Boston Marks & Spencer was set up soon after the news was announced, and you can find it by clicking here.


Local MP Matt Warman has also been chasing the issue, and rather optimistically reports: “I’ve said I’ll make sure the Council and others look at every possible option, but it’s also important to be clear that there is no quick fix for the high street and that it can’t rely on old business models.
“I also discussed the company’s plan to sublet its Boston branch in the future, should the closure go ahead, until the end of its lease. I will of course do all I can to make sure the site is not empty, although again it will ultimately be down to commercial decisions.”
Just getting the council to acknowledge the latest in the town’s on-going decline will be an achievement in itself.

***

Finally, on a lighter note, we’re grateful to the Lincolnshire Live website – home to the Boston off-Target.
In a feature explaining why more people are going on caravan holidays on the coast this year it reported …



The First Wold War?
How did that fail to make the history books in an otherwise prosaic Lincolnshire?




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, 21 January 2019

Worst Street’s
deafening silence
Whilst the news that Marks and Spencer may be closing our Boston branch with the loss of almost 50 jobs was a shock, to many it perhaps did not come as a  great surprise.
In a news release last Tuesday the company said that the proposal to close the store had not been an easy decision.
But to rub salt into the wound M&S steered us to other nearby outlets including Springfields near Spalding, which we have to say knocks any shopping offer that Boston might believe it has into a cocked hat.

***
But there was some quick reaction.
From Clownty Hall the executive member for economy and “place,” Councillor Colin Davie, said: “Our sympathies are with the 49 staff at the store, and, as always, we will work with our colleagues at the job centre and the local council to support those affected.
“Marks and Spencer is a big presence in the town centre, and we’ll play our part in finding a suitable alternative use for this unit, if the closure goes ahead.
“This news is a reflection of the difficulties currently facing high street retailers across the country.
“The future of our high streets is an issue that the council has looked at extensively, and we are ready to help them to evolve away from the traditional, retail-heavy model towards one that’s more fitting for the 21st century.
“That way we can give them a new lease of life, ensuring our town centres remain vibrant.”

***

MP Matt Warman – despite being in the midst of the Brexit debacle – took time to say: “It's deeply disappointing that they are consulting on closing their Boston store, particularly when the manager assured me recently it was one of the most vibrant shops in the region.
“If the closure goes ahead, I'm assured staff will be offered the chance to work elsewhere in the business prior to any redundancy. I will of course work with the Jobcentre and others to seek to make sure that those employees and their families are found new roles as soon as possible if necessary.
Up and down the country high streets are changing, largely because of the internet. Boston is lucky to still have a popular market, a range of independent shops and a council that has invested in putting on a larger number of events in town. These all encourage more visitors that can sustain businesses, and sit alongside the Government's welcome agenda to slash business rates.
“But ultimately we should all, as I try to do, support our local businesses and traders if we want to see them survive. We will miss big retailers if they go – their future is in our hands.

***

That call was echoed by Richard Broadhead, managing director of Oldrids, who reportedly declared: “It goes without saying that the announcement is disappointing news for many people.
“First and foremost, our thoughts are with those whose jobs are at risk as a consequence of the potential closure of the M&S Boston store …
“This news is further evidence, if any were needed, that retail is changing at an unprecedented rate. Trading is currently extremely volatile, highly unpredictable and is proving to be hugely challenging for many retail companies across the UK, not just in Boston. Retailers are facing significant headwinds and must adapt and take difficult decisions as a result.
“We have been trading from Strait Bargate in Boston for over 200 years and our Oldrids town centre store is a hugely important part of our heritage.
“However, the simple fact is that stores such as our own will only exist whilst people support us by shopping locally.”

***

A subtext to this emerged just over two years ago after South Kesteven District Council approved a 270,000 sq. ft., £100 million designer village south of Grantham next to the proposed Grantham Southern Relief Road which would create 1,500 jobs and bring 130 luxury brand shops to the town.
The plan was preferred over a rival scheme by Oldrids – which called it “a bid to protect the store’s future and an existing 700 jobs.”
A company executive was reported as saying then: “We are part of Grantham, we are important to Grantham and Grantham is important to us.”

***

So where is Boston Borough Council in this debate?
Sitting on its hands with its thumb up its bum and mouth clamped tightly shut apparently.

News such as that from Marks and Spencer is not what they want to hear, so they take a leaf from the ostrich’s book and bury their heads in the sand.
Whilst our MP and Clownty Hall were quick to respond – not that they can probably do much – the silence from Worst Street was deafening.
As we were bedding this edition of Boston Eye down at close of business on Friday (when all good council officers have vanished for the weekend) Worst Street had not said a dicky bird – no comments from senior councillors nor officers.
Why are we not surprised?
We pointed out a couple of weeks ago that with so many highly-paid officers tasked with getting Boston back on its feet, it would be good to hear that they’re actually doing something to earn their keep.
In fact the reverse seems to be the case and they fiddle while Boston burns.

***

Reports are also saying that there is a question mark over the future of Boston's Clinton Cards store after the building’s landlord applied for it to be used as a restaurant.
The application claimed that Clintons had given notice they will vacate the property in April.
“The landlord wishes to be able to market the property to a wider range of potential tenants than retailers, and hence this application. With consent for restaurant use in place, this will allow the premises to be marketed to both potential retail operators and potential restaurant operators alike.”
In response, a company spokesman reportedly said that they were in negotiation to renew the lease.
And while we're about it, let's not forget the question mark still hanging over HMV – which only reopened its shop in Boston a few weeks ago.

***

It seems to be “tell us what you think time” as Worst Street invites us to comment on its draft budget before councillors rubber stamp it at the full council meeting on 25th February.

***

The council website WorstWeb tells us: “The council now wants your views so it can continue to provide the right services for the right people, making sure it is focused on those services that matter most to you and your family, whilst at the same time delivering services in the most efficient way.”
It goes on to say that “It would really help the council if you could read the draft budget report and appendices … 
In the spirit of that helpfulness, we clicked on that link ... at www.boston.gov/budgetconsultation2019  ... as late as last Friday and were taken to the website below.


The harbor? City services?
Are we on the page for Boston, Massachusetts?
We surely are.

***

Eventually, we tracked down the 7,600 word report and ten sets of appendices that accompany it and can say with some confidence that this so-called consultation is a complete waste of time.
Whilst it allows the council to claim that it is being open and transparent and seeking reaction from the taxpayers, we suspect that quite a few of our elected representatives won’t bother to read it either, or will give up halfway through without understanding a word of it.

***

Any council worth its salt in the openness department would have produced an easy to follow summary that would help readers understand the broad brush strokes of the draft.
In the arcane way that councils still present these sort of things the document is billed as “Report of Aaron Spencer, finance portfolio holder (author: chief finance officer)” – conjouring up images of a modern day Jeeves/Bertie Wooster arrangement, with the officer in the role of manservant.

***

As we reported last week, the budget for 2019/20 proposes a council tax increase of 2.99%  – simplified to make it seem insignificant as an increase for an average band D property of just under 10 pence per week, “with nearly 90% of households paying less than this.”
Just wait until the full bill hits your doormat, when you’ll be able to see just how much you are paying in overall terms!
The increase will yield an extra £192,000 for the council’s kitty – and greedy old BTAC-ky will get an extra £25,600 to continue penalising its residents to spend a fortune on the town centre mainly for the benefit of visitors and shoppers from the wider borough whilst leaving the streets of the taxpayers' patches looking like something from a woodcut by Gustave DorĂ©

***

The report looks ahead for the coming five years, and give an interesting insight into its plans for fees and charges  which represent more than 12% of this year's gross income.

One of the outstanding areas for increased charges are leisure services, which will increase by £170,000 by the financial year 2013/24. Whether this will be through increased membership of leisure facilities or merely hiking prices is unclear.


Charges for bereavement service are planned to increase by £122,000 five years from now – or roughly by £25,000 a year.
Anywhere else this would be thought  of as grave robbing.
The cost of collecting trade waste will rise by £102,000 over that time –  another case of shooting fish in a barrel  –  but other charges such as  garden waste collection, parking, market and planning fees remain largely unchanged.

*** 

As this document is supposed to be a consultation, we wonder what it would take by way of responses or suggestion to being about any amendment. Nothing, we suspect.

***
Mention of the full council reminds us that the next meeting is tonight   and guess what? Apparently neither  councillors nor members of the public have tabled any questions for the agenda.

***

Still with be “tell us what you think time,” the Police and Crime Commissioner’s survey that we mentioned last week closed on the 16th  – and as we predicted, people’s fears of crime were being dismissed even before the responses were due in.
As we pointed out last week in the past the survey has made much of identifying our concerns and then promptly dismissing them on the grounds that such fears are imaginary?

***

But last week’s alleged murder in Boston brought matters into a sharper focus. Detective Chief Inspector Karl Whiffen from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit told us: “There are extra patrols in the town today to offer re-assurance to residents.”
It has to be said that if patrols were more in evidence on normal days perhaps more would be done to “reassure” us over fears for our safety. 

***

Meanwhile on BBC Radio Lincolnshire, Deputy Chief Constable Craig Naylor blamed social media for driving a fear of crime.
“Please be careful what you say,” he pleaded. “Try not to ramp up the hate filled comments. Would you say it to someone’s face?”

***

Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones also told the radio station that many people have concerns about crime in Boston but that “the perception outweighs the reality.”

***

And in an interview with the Lincolnshire Live website, Mr Jones said he believed that there was a gap between people's perception of violent crime in the Boston area, and the crime statistics.
Pre-empting the outcome of this year’s punters’ quiz, he said: "We launched a large county wide survey last year and what we found is that fear of crime in Boston was far and away bigger than Lincoln, and yet Boston has far less crime.
"I think all of these things have to be kept in perspective. We don't have many criminals preying on members of the public.
"The problem is that we have got to build trust with people who live there – we have not got significant levels of crime in Boston.
"We live in one of the safest counties in the country and Boston is a part of it.”

***

But the report said that in terms of Lincolnshire constituencies, Boston and Skegness had the second highest number of crimes in the county between December 2017 and November 2018 after Lincoln.
Boston and Skegness figures showed 12,531 crimes committed, of which 3,029 were violent or sexual offences.
In Lincoln, there were 15,034 crimes committed, with 3,324 categorised as violent or sexual in nature.
To be honest, we can’t say that we regard this as being “far less crime” than Lincoln proportionately.
The city’s greater population is declared at 130,000 and Boston’s at just fewer than 67,000 – roughly half the size.

***

And the report went on to say that crime in Boston and Skegness has gone up significantly in the last year “suggesting a worrying trend.”
“There was a rise of more than 2,000 crimes in 2018 compared to 2017 and violent and sexual offences rose by nearly 1,000.
“So if the number of violent crimes isn't off the scale, is it perhaps the nature of the crimes themselves that is leading to the perception that Boston is a violent place?” the website asked.
It quoted Mr Jones: “Tragic incidents have largely been between people who know each other and goes on behind closed doors.
“We need to intervene early enough to stop that from happening."
Later, he is reported as saying he doesn't necessarily believe the shocking nature of the crimes themselves is colouring people's perception of Boston.
“Anything that's horrible will stand out. We saw a fatal stabbing in Mablethorpe in the summer and we haven't got the same fear in that location.
“Crime happens; it doesn't mean that everybody is unsafe.
“It's a hard message to get across, because you either are scared or you aren't.
“For me, I would rather be trying to tackle the perception of crime than the reality of crime.
“There have been a significant amount of people coming in to the area in the last ten years which is unsettling everybody; it will take time to adjust to that."

***

All this waffle comes after two incidents in less than two weeks, which left four people dead.
So is it any wonder that people are ill at ease?
The obvious reason why residents of Mablethorpe are less fearful of violent crime must surely be because it is the exception, rather than the rule.

***

In Boston, we are fearful because violent crime appears to be moving ever closer.
The most recent incident occurred in the street – in the town centre and the public gaze.
How many times over the years have we read of have-a-go-heroes whose valiant attempts to help have seen them become victims?

***

People in Boston are worried for a reason, and to try to give us an imaginary whiff of sal volatile to cure our imaginary ills is to ignore the obvious,

***

Talking of perceptions – what is it about the way Boston is seen by outsiders?
Recently, actor Rob Lowe patronisingly declared after a few days filming the TVcop drama Wild Bill in Boston “The faces here are amazing. The old people look like they are in a documentary about Armistice Day!
“It's that unbelievable, weathered, proud, proper English working class look.”
Last week, in the run-up to the Brexit vote, the Times sent a reporter to Boston “on a freezing cold, drizzly day in the town’s market.
The fact that it was neither especially cold nor drizzly aside, the reporter interviewed a number of people – none of whom was pictured, yet published a photo of a local person that they didn’t bother to interview. 
What might have influenced their choice, we wonder?

***

Last week we reported on the claim that Boston was bucking the trend with new businesses – whilst statistics contradicting that claim were somehow omitted.
The same piece of news on WorstWeb reported that “a project is underway to make Boston an ‘EV charging town’ attracting visitors to a vehicle charging stop-off location.”
Brilliant, we thought, innovative, imaginative.
Then we saw a question tweeted to East Lindsey – which is already doing the same thing – thanks to a £64,000 grant acquired at the end of last year.
It was part funded through the Government’s Onstreet Residential Chargepoint Scheme, with the rest provided by Chargemaster – who are supplying the charging points. The district council is putting £38,000 into the project.
This will make charging points available in Louth, Mablethorpe, Skegness, Alford, Spilsby, Horncastle, Woodhall Spa and Coningsby, with the work scheduled to start last month.
On the same subject, there are already 55 charging points in and around Lincoln as well as Grantham, Sleaford, Spalding and Bourne … the list goes on forever.
Oh, and there are two at the Boston Renault dealership in Boston.
Let this be our refrain – where other Lincolnshire councils lead, Boston is sure to follow some way behind.
And only a few days ago it was reported that seven new charging points for electric cars, which would cost thousands of pounds to install, are being proposed for South Holland, where the district council is looking to install charging machines in Holbeach, Pinchbeck, Sutton Bridge, Crowland and several locations in Spalding.
SHDC hopes it won’t have to pay for the installation. – instead it will bid for funding of up to £7,500 or 75% for the installation of each machine, and will seek to fund the remaining 25% per cent through private sector electric vehicle installers.

***

Our first blog of the New Year  reported some harshly critical remarks by Councillor Anton Dani after his former colleagues in the Bostonian Independent Group called on him to resign to prompt a by-election after quitting as BiG leader to join the Conservative group.
His comments prompted a call for the right of reply from the remaining BiGgers – leader Councillor Barrie Pierpoint and Brian Rush – who declared them to be “misleading, factually incorrect and bordering on exaggeration.”
Their response went on: “Councillor Dani in our opinion was never marginalised.
“He was the Leader, and was kept in the loop with everything, at all times as were all the other members.
“He was a good talker, but really did nothing to contribute to the development of BiG nor its behind the scenes administration/operation.
“He did not contribute to any workload, all of that was done for him.
“I am sorry to say he did lack leadership skills, and preferred to wait for others to make things happen, Anton was a follower not a leader.
“Councillor Rush nor Councillor Pierpoint made any nasty comments towards him at all, like in any group there was harmless and humorous banter amongst ourselves,  and we can only assume that is what he is referring to.
“The comment made by Councillor Dani which he referred was made by Councillor Rush about Councillor Dani, and his "Eastern European friends", this was completely untrue; however what was suggested by Councillor Rush, was that "BiG" through Councillor Dani, should encourage our new residents to join with us, in this new type of politics that is called inclusion and engagement!
“The only reason Councillor Pierpoint ever cut across Councillor Dani was when he would waffle on for ages on topics not related to the discussions at the meeting as he liked the sound of his own voice, everyone was getting bored of it and at one time he was told to get to the point.
“Councillor Pierpoint had no ambition to be Leader and still has not, due to his business commitments and work outside the area.
“Councillor Dani was invited to take the post, as he worked locally, and he accepted, without any issues or questions.
“Councillor Pierpoint has never tried to join the Conservative Party in fact we have since found out it was Councillor Dani who applied to join them in 2015, but was rejected, so he joined UKIP.
“Councillor Pierpoint also supported Councillor Rush whilst he was going through a difficult time in his Mayorship.
“In fact he made a scathing speech at a full council meeting last year against all those councillors who for no real reason attacked Councillor Rush by trying to get him to resign.
“In fact Councillor Pierpoint got a rousing applause from the public at the end of his speech for supporting Councillor Rush.
“So everything Councillor Dani has stated is factually incorrect!
“We need to see fair play and proper justice!
“Again it is he 'the Councillor' who has let his constituents down!
“This councillor, (and some of his colleagues), slagged off other Councillors, for jumping ship from one party to another, and then he did exactly the same as those he condemned.
“Councillor Rush did not want to be the Leader so Councillor Pierpoint has taken on the role till the May elections.
“For the record the Electoral Commission wrote to all BiG councillors stating they would not let Bostonian Independent Group deregister as a political party, which was a mistake and bad advice from the Electoral Commission, because Councillor Dani has not resigned to them in writing.
“Technically and legally he is still the Leader of BiG today and cannot stand in the local elections for the Conservatives or be a member of their Party until he does resign in writing as Leader of BiG.
“As always there are two sides to a story.”
Editor’s note: Both sides have now had their say on this matter, so no further contributions will be accepted.
  


You can write to us at boston.eye@googlemail.com   
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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com  

We are on Twitter – visit @eye_boston


Monday, 14 January 2019


We wrote last week about Worst Street’s long-standing habit of pretending that bad news doesn’t exist by simply ignoring it.
But even we were surprised to see that an extension to this is apparently to be selective where the good news is concerned by cherry-picking what to publish and what not to publish.

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Last week, under the headline Think Boston - Think Business, WorstWeb – the borough’s half-hearted website  declared: “Latest figures show that Boston is bucking the trend for new business and job opportunities.
“Independent statistics reveal that Boston had a positive outcome when comparing new business start-ups with those which went to the wall in 2016. There were 300 business "births" compared to 225 business "deaths," making Boston one of the most successful areas for business in the county.”

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As far as it went this was true. But the report to the council's environment and performance scrutiny committee apparently omitted the full picture.
The report told councillors “over the last two years which we have data from the ONS 2015 and 2016 we have seen a net increase (birth minus business deaths) of 116 new businesses.

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The ONS is the Office for National Statistics – an organisation that we have often consulted in the past.
It has always struck us as being pretty much on the ball, which is why we were surprised to see that its most recent figures quoted were for 2015 and 2016 rather than later.

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So we took a look – and lo and behold, the figures for 2017 had also been published – even though they weren’t mentioned in the report.
Yes: birth minus business deaths in 2015 totalled 50, and the following year were even higher at 65 – giving a total of 115, rather than 116.


But in 2017 they lurched lemming-like over the cliff edge with 250 ‘births’ and 245 ‘deaths’– a fall in the first and an increase in the over the previous two years – leaving a surplus of just five.

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Was a decision to cherry-pick the good years and ignore the bad taken deliberately, we wonder.
We hope not – as the facts always emerge eventually and we are sure that some councillors … and taxpayers as well – will not be happy to think that the wool might have been pulled over their eyes.


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We said last week that we would take a look at what the future holds by way of council tax increases – and whilst those of us who pay on the ten-month instalment plan are currently enjoying a two-month reprieve, rest assured that Mr and Mrs Dandyliver’s son Stan Dandyliver will be dropping you a line soon.
It’s a three horse race – you pay money to Lincolnshire County Council, Lincolnshire Police and in our case Boston Borough Council … which acts as collector and enforcer in the event of non-payment, which is why it needs so many staff.
So far Clownty Hall has come up with the biggest proposed rise of all – almost five-per-cent.
This is made up of a 3% rise in basic council tax – plus 1.95% for adult social care. The rise was proposed by council leader Martin Hill, who said was hoped that this will be the last year that tax has to be put up by such a level. Amen to that.
The council says it will make £18 million in savings next year, and use £23 million from reserves to balance the books.
Councillor Colin Davie, executive member for Economy and “Place,” said it was important to realise  that Clownty Hall has had a significant reduction in its budget from central government.
This is apparently all that needs saying to mitigate such a rapacious charge – ‘the government won’t give us any money so we’ll take it from you.’
The final plans for the county budget will come back to the authority’s executive on February 5th  and go to the full council on the 25th .

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Next to declare was Worst Street which wants another 2.99%. for a budget “designed to meet the council’s challenges and responsibilities, and ensure that the best possible services continue to be provided to Boston’s residents, businesses and visitors” – but only the services that it is compelled to provide!
As with both councils the price rise is presented in pence per week to make anyone harbouring a complaint feel a little petty.
But great oaks from little acorns grow   as do pennies incrementally added to our council tax.
But the fact is that both councils are proposing to charge more for less without giving value for money.

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That leaves Lincolnshire Police's demand. A budget briefing was scheduled last week – to be followed by another on 8th February to “consider and make report/recommendations on the proposed precept.”

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By an interesting coincidence all this money stuff comes at a time when Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones is conducting a survey which includes a warning that if funding is not increased, the force will have to reduce the number of police officers by 60 and police community support officers (PCSOs) by more than 50.
Respondents are asked whether they think the police should have more money – and if so how much.
Regardless of answers, we have to say that this is not the first time that we have heard threats of staff cuts – and last year, Lincolnshire Police walloped us with an increase of 5.8 per-cent for its share of council tax.
We await with bated breath the final piece in the financial jigsaw puzzle

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On now to that police survey – and it seems that Boston is at the bottom of the  enthusiasm stakes when it comes to completing it – prompting Mr Jones to chase us up to get clicking with our opinions.
Boston’s relationship with local law and order has been patchy for quite some time – more often than not because of claims of inaction on issues such as anti-social behaviour, street drinking and the like.
Looking at the survey, we cannot help but wonder how much use it is to fill it in.

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It starts by asking for your age and the district you live in, plus how long you have lived in the local area –  cryptically defined as being “within about a 15 minute walk from your current address.”
The questions tend to be what you might expect thereafter …
The kick-off question asks “How much is your own quality of life affected by FEAR OF CRIME on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is no effect and 10 is a total effect on your quality of life?
“Most of us worry at some time or other about being the victim of a crime. Please indicate how worried you are or aren't about each of the following …” a range which covers the gamut from Very worried, to Fairly worried, Not very worried,  and Not at all worried.
And the array of things which might worry you is equally wide – everything from being raped, having your car stolen, being a victim of online or cyber-crime, being mugged or robbed, a victim of identity theft,  having things stolen from your car,  being  physically attacked by strangers, and having your home broken into and something stolen.

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Participants are also asked about problems in their local area – ranging from noisy neighbours, to burglary, assault, drunken or rowdy behaviour, antisocial street drinking, vandalism, graffiti and other deliberate damage to property or vehicles, and ending with speeding traffic.

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There follow questions about whether anyone has personally fallen victim to any of the above lot and whether they have reported it   and how people would prefer to report crimes in future.
The choice ranges from calling 999 or the hopeless 101, to reporting online at either the police website, Facebook or Twitter or to a police officer in person, to a police station in person (fat chance) or via Neighbourhood Watch or Crimestoppers. 

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Then there’s an exercise in which you can draw up your own budget – which, whilst it pairs up most of the usual couplings, (for example drug abuse and dealing, theft and burglary) puts together others which leave options for choice wide open to whatever interpretation the police wish to make – for instance “Rural and heritage crime (e.g. hare coursing, poaching, lead theft from church roof, etc)” and “Human trafficking and missing persons.”

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Another exercise concerns the imaginary priorities in deployment of five officers when eleven incidents have been called in –  followed by a number of less interesting questions .
But the big one we are left with is …  as we said at the outset …what use is a survey such as this?

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If Lincolnshire Police have a halfway decent record system they will know which problems exist in which areas – so why bother asking people about their fear of crime … something which over the years has been readily dismissed on the grounds that such fears are imaginary?
See next week's blog for some very recent examples...

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We hope that someone, somewhere among the great and the good has drawn up a list of New Year resolutions.



And if anyone among them has responsibilities for highways, pavements and such stuff we would like to remind them that it was two and a half months ago, on Friday 2nd November,  that a car crashed through the pedestrian safety railing and showered vehicles parked behind and below it with bricks and debris.
The picture above was taken just last week.

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We are fairly sure if something like this had happened anywhere in Lincolnshire other than Boston that the mess would have been repaired long ago.
As it is, leaving things in their present state much longer risks yet another accident of some sort.
So how about it, whoever is responsible?

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Still with road matters, in an unexpected burst of largesse, Lincolnshire County Council tells us that “a number of residential roads in Boston are reaching the end of their life and will be fully reconstructed.”
Whilst it gives the impression that at long last Clownty Hall is paying Boston some sort of attention, we learn that the project is expected to cost around £183,000 to rebuild seven roads – about £26,000 per road.
Not quite as generous as it sounds, is it?

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We’re still playing catch-up with our last couple of items.
At the end of last year, Boston Councillor Barrie Pierpoint fired off a stinging attack on Worst Street’s Boston Town Area Committee – wearing his hat as chairman of a local registered charity – Boston Community Transport.
He branded BTAC-ky incompetent and unprofessional” and accused it of “mistreating” the charity after BCT applied three times for a grant of £1,000 to help run the scheme and was turned down each time due to “minor conflicting and nonsensical issues.”
He said the charity was advised to apply and even given advice as well as being told on one occasion that it was a “good application and worthy of a grant” – even though it was subsequently turned down.
The paper smouldered beneath his final attack: “We shouldn’t have expected anything better from that bunch of incompetent amateurs – councillors who clearly haven’t a clue what they are doing.”
“We are caught between the conflicting advice and direction given by the officer working with BTAC and the BTAC panel – both of whom clearly appear to be unprofessional, incompetent and like wasting charitable organisations’ valuable time. 
“We have wasted so much time, effort and resources on this, and our time is money which could have been better spent on helping others.”
“BTAC really got our hopes up each time yet turned down each application with feeble excuses – it really is unacceptable and they should be ashamed of their lack of professionalism.”

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BTAC-ky is usually a soft touch when it comes to giving away our money – and we would have thought it would have become more so since ramping up its council tax take from just a few thousand to a requirement of £680,303 for the coming year.
However this time – regardless of merit, we think we can understand by the repeated appeals for money were turned down


With reserves of almost £30,000 we  as a BTAC-ky taxpayer  would certainly be less than happy to see a grand of our money handed to a group with so much in the kitty.

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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