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


Monday, 7 January 2019

Although we said that we wouldn’t resume publishing until the 14th, there is so much to report that we are back a week earlier than declared with a bumper blog.

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As always, a couple of stories whilst we were offline rose head and shoulders above the rest.
Most interesting was the breakdown of Boston’s bid to the Controlling Migration Fund, which secured £1,387,503 from the government to fritter away over a two year period.  Whilst we wouldn’t have expected a Donald Trump-style wall around the borough, we were surprised by the ideas that Worst Street came up for disposing of the money… and so were many of our readers.

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One of the most controversial – and expensive – parts of the project was a capital spend of £95,000 on improvements to the fitness suite at the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre. But dwarfing that was an unexplained payment for ‘multi-use game and court facilities’ costing £269,000.
A further capital spend of £100,000 was listed to cover community investment and asset provision – including Christmas lighting.
As is so often the case with Worst Street there is nothing offered by way of explanation or detail.
A good example is the allocation of £60,000 to deliver “an iterative evaluation, ROI (return on investment) modelling and final report for all elements of the funding application.”
For those of us not in the know, iterative design is ”a methodology in which a product is tested and changed repeatedly at different stages of design/development to eliminate usability issues before the product is launched.”
So now we know – it sounds like a damn good way to control immigration to us.

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Another big spend was on Boston Stump’s A Passion for People project – which was allocated almost £80,000 for two members of staff at £18,000 a year over the two year span of the government award.
St Botolph’s Church had already been given lottery development funding of £160k,  which enabled it so secure a £1.17million lottery grant with the balance of the £2.2 million to be raised in ‘partnership funding.’
The plan “is an ambitious project to transform one of this country’s most architecturally iconic churches into a centre of cultural learning, heritage interpretation, all-age people development, musical excellence and community integration. The project will increase the number of visitors, engage tourists, and promote Boston’s heritage to an overseas market.”
It includes the repair of the west face of the tower and tower roof, urgent repair and development of the pews, installation of underfloor heating and the construction, educational interpretation and an activity scheme will also be created, telling the stories of the people of town and church.
Again, it should do lots to control immigration!

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One thing Worst Street loves above all others is buying in staff – hence this massive shopping list for Community Leadership, Advice and Integration. (Multi organisation bid reflected by different on costs)
0.1 FTE (full time equivalent) project lead, 0.4 FTE project manager, 2 FTE community development officers, communications Officer (2 hrs/wk @ £20/hr ) 0.4 admin officer, 1 FTE research and campaign coordinator, 2FTE generalist advisers and 0.5 FTE volunteer manager
The bill for this lot comes to a few quid under £385,000 – the two community development officers alone are on £35,000 each.

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Sorry if we sound a bit thick, here – but how can this spending tsunami be expected to control anything at all when it has been allocated in the way that it has?

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An interesting sidebar to this came when we looked more closely at the Moulder spend.
Regular readers will recall that Worst Street had plans to save money by ‘privatising’ the Moulder, Guildhall and sports services.
But by a happy coincidence, we learn from a pre-Christmas cabinet meeting that ‘securing investment for the gym from the successful Controlling Migration Fund had enabled officers to identify proposed budget savings from a combination of income generation from growth, restructuring of staffing and changes to operational practices and programmes.’
As a result, it was agreed to monitor improvements within the in-house business case based on the financial projections set out in the report, subject to quarterly monitoring in the next financial year.
But  ... as a belt and braces exercise ... the idea of making the Moulder an external operation will go on.

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Whilst the Controlling Migration Fund has come to the timely rescue of the Moulder, the numbers involved in celebrating the success of spending all that money are not exactly persuasive.
Figures given to the meeting said that after the opening of the refurbished gym membership increased by 153 – or 15%.
Scaled up, that numbers the full membership at 1,020 – which to us seems scarcely spectacular.
And again, it would not have that much impact on migrant-related issues – but how fortunate that it allowed Worst Street to cling on the centre pro tem.

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Several views were expressed in a series of Twitter debates in which Councillor Paul Skinner decided to take part – although confusingly  he included the word ‘bubble’ no fewer than five times.
We can only think that as he is the current mayoress – his fellow-councillor wife is the mayor – that there have been some entertaining civic dog-hangings which perhaps influenced his choice of words.

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Another issue that flared up during our absence was the resignation of Councillor Anton Dani as leader of the Bostonian Independents Group to join the Conservative group on Boston Borough Council.
This prompted a press release from the new leader of  BiG – Councillor Barrie Pierpoint –  saying that the group looked forward to Councillor Dani submitting his resignation and stand for re-election at a by-election.


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Boston Eye asked Councillor Dani for a comment – and his response took us aback.
He told us …
“I left the group because I started to feel marginalised, ignored, and made a leader just to make numbers in committees.
“Councillor Rush and Councillor Pierpoint started to make nasty comments towards me which made me feel uncomfortable – during a conversation regarding street drinking, Councillor Rush told me ‘why don't you go and talk to your friends the eastern Europeans?
“I am a British citizen and proud to be. I am not an Eastern European and I do not like to be associated with the street drinkers.
“On another occasion Councillor Pierpoint suddenly stated that he could not understand my e-mails.
“If I took the lead to speak or express my opinion, Councillor Pierpoint would just cut through my speech without even apologising.
“We could not recruit anyone if he didn’t fit Mr Pierpoint’s criteria (they look poor, cannot be trusted, talk too much, etc.)
“I do respect all kinds of people and hate negativity. 
“Lately I found out that if we were able to gain a majority in the next elections, Councillor Pierpoint’s aim was to be the council leader.
“I am very passionate about what I do.
“I love to help and serve people in need: I would love to make Boston great again, I thrive for success, I'm still the same and I will never change my personality, I was elected to serve the Bostonians and I will always do so.
“I sincerely believe that all councillors should put their differences aside and deliver what our beautiful Boston needs.
“For your information Councillor Pierpoint tried to join the Conservative party himself but he was not accepted.

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Later, Councillor Dani added: “During the pressure from the Cabinet for Councillor Rush to resign as Mayor because of the so-called racist comments he posted on his website, I was the only one who stood by him. I defended his corner; I invited BBC Lincolnshire to have an interview so I could clear the air from all the allegations of racism connected to Councillor Rush.
Councillor Pierpoint preferred at that time to sit and watch, didn’t even bother to make his voice heard as he was at that time the Deputy Mayor.
It is painful to think about it, I stood by Councillor Rush when he needed me, he insulted me when I was just a number.”

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As always the great and the good felt compelled to share their Christmas thoughts with us.
Council leader Michael Cooper’s missive listed some of the ‘main events’ of 2018 – including such earth shattering items as the request to residents not to put batteries or electrical items in their wheelie bins, and their support for the campaign to try to get a share a government kitty for new roads to speed up the distributor road scheme for Boston … a campaign about which nothing more has been heard.
Some while ago now we joked that Councillor Cooper’s predecessor, Peter Bedford, appeared to put some sort of curse on good news mentions which appeared to founder not long after he spoke of them.
Has Councillor Cooper inherited this dubious gift?
Not long after he reported that “An announcement from music store giant HMV that it was returning to Boston was greeted with enthusiasm,” came news that the company called in the administrators for the second time in five years – and just weeks after re-opening in Pescod Square.

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It is sadly typical of Boston’s politicians that they see only good news – when acknowledging the bad would at least demonstrate a sense of reality and not treat the taxpayers as fools.
Headlined as A year of vast achievements for Boston, the piece neglected to mention such trivia as the collapse of Fogarty’s with the loss of 200 jobs, the closure of the Officer’s Club store in Pescod Square; a warning that Peacock’s in the same centre might close unless a rental deal could be worked out with the shop’s landlords – an issue affecting the company nationally.
We also noticed that the former Clarks shoe shop in Strait Bargate is back on the rental market ... although it appears to have found a temporary use as a cardboard city ...
Of course, Worst Street would tell us that we must always look on the bright side – but with so many highly paid managers tasked with getting Boston back on its feet, it would be good to hear that they’re actually doing something to earn their keep.

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MP Matt Warman, meanwhile, stuck with the big picture rather than local minutiae – but given the job losses mentioned above and the dire state of Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital might have chosen a better intro for his thoughts than to say: “In 2018 unemployment has hit record lows, employment record highs, and it was announced that the NHS would receive the largest single injection of funds in the service’s history.”

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In an end of the year interview, Lincolnshire County Council Leader Martin Hill spread the gloom with a putty knife – talking of financial crisis, the need for NHS improvements, Brexit limbo and a host of other dismal stuff.
But there was a ray of light in the gloom.
A single item list headed “What to look forward to…” quoted “Waiting for funding as well as continuing work on the Lincoln Eastern Bypass and the Grantham Bypass.”
Bostonians will throw their flat caps in the air at that one, we suspect.

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Soon afterwards, a Twitter exchange highlighted the attitude of Clownty Hall towards the idea of a Boston by-pass/distributor road when we had the temerity to tweet the hope that Boston might be next on the road improvement list.
The county’s highways panjandrum Councillor Richard (Bob the Builder) Davies  who represents Grantham West, posted a line bragging about the good news that everyone had rolled over and played dead as far as objections at the enquiry into the proposed Grantham relief road  were concerned (it seems no-one calls them by-passes any more.)


His boorish response to our tweet – “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” was ‘liked’ by the roseate County Councillor Colin Davie – executive member for Economy and ‘Place.’
It was only last June that Councillor Davies claimed Lincolnshire County Council was still committed to a distributor road for Boston. Interviewed at the Lincolnshire Show, he said that the authority still wanted to build the project in order to relieve traffic in the town but needed funding from the Department for Transport.
He said that the county council wanted to deliver the project properly for Boston and was discussing funding with government for the scheme.
“We’re talking to national government about looking towards funding for the next knock on stages.
“In particular there is going to be a bridge near the A52 downtown which is going to be a real challenge to get and that’s the next big hurdle that we are working hard to get over.”
He added that the county council was committed to delivering a “solution that works” to mitigate traffic in Boston.
But shortly before that, Councillor Davie had waxed long and lyrical about the importance of a bypass for Horncastle as part of Clownty Hall’s planned ‘coastal highway’ from the A1 at Newark along the A46 to Lincoln, before carrying on east along the A158 to Skegness.
It would also include the A57 from Dunham Bridge to where it joins the A46 in Lincoln.
He was quoted as saying: “We have so many visitors coming to our part of the world and I don’t want them to be stuck in traffic jams anywhere. I want them to move fluidly through the county. If they want to visit Skegness and then visit Mablethorpe and then visit Louth and come back to Lincoln, then I want them to be able to do it at their speed. He also vaguely hunted at some sort of by-pass for Wragby and suggested new or better roads to Ingoldmells and Chapel St Leonards – both of which coincidentally are in his Ingoldmells Rural ward.
Does anyone else think it strange that not wanting drivers to be stuck in traffic jams ‘anywhere’ seems to mean anywhere but Boston?

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Back to the great and the good – rather than the grate and the goofy – and Chief Constable Bill Skelly’s message included a lament that despite promises of some extra funding, he was still facing having to reduce some of the police services across the county.
By an unfortunate coincidence his announcement came just days after a feature in the Daily Mail about Chief Constables’ pay and expenses.
It reported that “As council tax is raised to fund the forces, police chiefs enjoy a pay bonanza. Nearly two thirds of chief constables from 39 forces earned more than the Prime Minister’s annual salary of £150,402 last year, and tens of thousands of pounds were spent on private healthcare for senior officers.”
Among the country’s 45 forces, just  12 police chiefs had total annual packages worth over £200,000 last year, including pension contributions, expenses and allowances;

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The Mail said Mr Skelly’s pay package totalled £230,000 – including £42,170 for relocating from Devon and Cornwall after he took over the force in February 2017 –£153,101 in salary and a £36,234 pension contribution.
This placed him neck and neck in the pay stakes with Merseyside’s Andy Cooke, who received a pension contribution worth almost £40,000, and a £171,621 salary plus £16,980 expenses for cars.
The only major difference between the two was that Mr Cooke was in charge of 3,484 officers compared with Lincolnshire’s 1,099 – which places it fourth from the bottom in numbers out of the 39 forces in England and Wales.

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Councillor Barrie Pierpoint, whom we mentioned earlier, had some harsh words to say about the cabinet structure – something with which we entirely agree.
He wrote to the Boston Sub-Standard after a columnist asked “Is the cabinet working for us?”
“The answer is simply – NO,” he proclaimed. 
“The Cabinet doesn't work for the electorate – they work for their political party and themselves.
“The Cabinet is a closed shop, with a select few councillors made up of Conservatives and deserters of UKIP and Labour who betrayed their electorate and joined the Conservatives to be promised chairmanships and committee roles. That is unethical and disgraceful.
“The Cabinet is almost officer-led; it doesn't have a strong leadership, has no strategy, no vision, no entrepreneurial style or commercial acumen, and is in disarray, allowing senior officers a free reign (sic – note to Boston Sub-Standard … bring back sub-editors.).
“When we were first elected back in 2015, all the full council meetings were held, and there were plenty of important items on the agenda to discuss.
“This year, full council meetings have been cancelled, and the November full council meeting looked at two committee recommendations and reports, with no real (sic) important matters for discussion.”
Later, he charged: “Today, the full council is about Conservative councillors asking questions of their colleagues who then give them a chance to stand up and say how good they are in their portfolio-holder roles.
“What about the poor public?
“Very few toilet facilities, Central Park being left open all night to be used by undesirables, and other important matters that go against the public interest?
“The cabinet doesn't work for the electorate.”
As we are now in an election year, the letter lurches into campaign territory – but you can read it in its entirety below …

click on image to enlarge

But it echoes much of what we said at the time the Boston Bypass Independents opted for the cabinet system for the most obvious reason that it locked everyone else out of the debate ... a decision that the Conservative group felt was well worth continuing.

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Around the same time, Paul Kenny – a former mayor and a former leader of the Labour group in Worst Street as well as being a spectacularly unsuccessful parliamentary candidate for his party over several previous general elections, told the Sub-Standard: “I have always been critical of the Cabinet system and believe that the council has a duty to understand the needs of its community.
“The cabinet running Boston Borough Council at the present time only listen to their own views and are not an engaging cabinet.
“Over the last four years we have seen a council which is out of touch, with some of its members switching parties with no regard to the electorate who voted them in.
“If they had a moral backbone they should have stood for re-election.
“We now have a new independent group and every member has been a member of other political groups.
“Ironically their political literature (but we are not political) states that anyone elected to their group, should re-stand for election if they leave to join another group. It is political sound-bites in the same way that the Boston By-pass Independence (sic) party stormed into power on a promise of getting us a bypass who then forgot to argue for a bypass.
“When I was elected as a councillor I was very clear about where I stood.
“I was there to represent the ward and make sure that the views of the residents and electorate got heard.
“Yes, I was and remain a member of a political party because I believe if you want things done you have to join like-minded people.
“In May 2019 the electorate will have the opportunity to vote for councillors who will listen and respond to the interests of their communities. If the committee structure is going to work, I don't think it matters whether you are independent or a member of a political party. I think the most important thing is for you to be honest to the electorate. That is how real democracy should work.”

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We’re back next week with some more catching up and news of who wants how much in council tax. Make it a date to join us.



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