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. 

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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,

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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”

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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   
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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com  

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