It reads a bit like a fairy tale – and the idea is pretty grim(m) as well, if you’ll forgive the pun.
Actually, the tale we have in mind is one of Aesop’s Fables – The Boy Who Cried Wolf – in which a bored shepherd boy shouts to warn villagers that a wolf is attacking his flock just for something to do.
Of course, the day comes when the wolf actually turns up and the boy’s cries are ignored by the people because he’s pulled the same stunt so often before.
Now Boston Borough Council is asking us to consider something similar – only in reverse.
Councillor Paul Skinner, our regulatory portfolio holder, is reportedly asking local people not to cry wolf when they spot anti-social behaviour in the town by reporting them on social media pages.
Instead he wants us to whisper wolf – by reporting bad behaviour to Worst Street and the police instead – which is almost the same as not bothering to report it at all, as both organisations have been frequently criticised for their inactivity in dealing with such matters.
Councillor Skinner told the BBC that social media posts paint an unduly negative picture of the town.
He was quoted as saying: “I can't understand why people would want to be negative. Channel that negativity into actually doing something positive. Dial 101......if it's happening the people in authority need to know.”
By ‘negative’ he clearly means telling the truth – which is a strange position to take. Presumably, the idea is to deceive people into the belief that Boston is a lovely place to live and work by keeping the problems out of the public gaze.
Part of his burdensome portfolio includes licensing and community safety – the former of which plays a part in the growing trend for urinating in the street in Boston, which in turn unsettles peoples’ equanimity regarding the latter.
What Councillor Skinner really seems to be saying is that he would like this matter swept as far under the carpet as possible.
If information about the scale of public drinking and anti-social behaviour remains under the management of the council and the police, then information about its scale and scope can be dismissed as ‘not a problem’ by the authorities in the hope that it will be accepted as such.
The children’s author Rick Riordan got it dead right when he wrote: “It takes strength and courage to admit the truth.”
Perhaps Councillor Skinner should read some of his stuff.
An attempt to play down the bad news bit the biter just the other week after a police report to a council committee disclosed a sudden drop in street drinking incidents with no action against anyone being taken in four months – because nothing was reported.
But the locals said – and quite rightly – that numbers were most likely down because people had stopped reporting street drinking as there was little point.
As for dialling 101 – well the complaints about this service are legendary … long waits, disinterest in allocating a reference number to an alleged offence and when (or rather if) someone turns up to investigate, it is so long after the event that the culprits have usually long disappeared.
Strangely enough, it was Councillor Skinner who proposed setting up a Task and Finish talking shop into the so-called ‘night-time economy’
He was quoted as saying: “If you want to get under these stats rather than just make a noise about it, you do need to be ready for the work.
“There exists a disparity between what people perceive is going on and what is actually going on and this is an opportunity to get under the skin of it.
“The effects of people drinking and perception of whether things are safe … I mean it is relatively safer in Boston to Lincoln believe it or not, but we as a group of people need to engage, have a look and go and see the facts ourselves.”
By the sound of it, he is hoping that the investigation will find that there is no problem – but we suspect that he will be out of luck.
The point of all this is that it is solely the pressure from local people via social media that has brought this proposed enquiry about.
We are sure that nothing would have been done without such persistence by council tax payers – and also think it important to point out that highlighting a particular problem which requires urgent action is not usually defined as negativity.
Clearly, Worst Street would rather pull the wool over the eyes of non-locals and only let them discover what life here is really like after they buy a house or set up in business.
It is the refusal by people in the real world to be fobbed off that has created a long-awaited outcome – though probably not the one that Worst Street and the police would have wished for,
The debate about street drinking and anti-social behaviour certainly struck a chord with members of our local police service – who after four months without any problems tweeted the following just days after the meeting …
What a happy co-incidence – and after such a long time as well …
By unlucky mischance, the idea that Boston has little by way of problems was up-skittled by a report which ranked Lincolnshire towns in order of crimes recorded so far this year.
The statistics – published on the official Policeuk website and collated by the Lincolnshire Live website – claimed that officers in Boston had recorded the largest amount of crimes than any other town in Lincolnshire.
The figures said that 3,622 crimes were recorded between January and June. The most common were violent and sexual offences, with 1,412 incidents, followed by anti-social behaviour with 684 crimes.
Other common offences included criminal damage and arson (280) and burglary (243.)
According to the report, Grantham and Spalding were “not far off” Boston – with Grantham recording 2,716 crimes so far this year and Spalding 2,587.
But in percentage terms these figures are 26% and 28½% lower respectively, and so scarcely ‘not far off.’
Speaking of crime, people often wonder whether councillors get away with murder – and although no-one has tried to date as far as we are aware – the chances are that they would get away with it if Worst Street had any say in the matter.
We’ve reported in the past how little is expected of councillors – despite such pledges as: “We promise to turn up, to represent you and to be honest and accountable in the process.”
We’ve mentioned cases where complaints against councillors have not been upheld – because in a nutshell the sole requirement expected of them is to turn up for meetings once every six months or face being removed from their seats. Amazingly, they don’t even have to represent the people who elected them
We gained another insight recently after we read of another complaint – again rejected – concerning allegations of bullying by a councillor.
Yet again, with one bound, Worst Street was free, as the reply rejecting the complaint declared: “ … you have made reference to the council’s Bullying Policy ... This is not a supporting document that is included within the Boston Members’ Code of Conduct …
“ … This council is committed to providing a working environment for its entire staff that is comfortable and free from all forms of harassment. The council adopts a zero-tolerance approach towards harassment …
“ …This is not applicable to elected members as they are not considered employees of the council.”
And just to add insult to injury, the reply added: “Turning to the Boston Members’ Code of Conduct, there is no provision relating to bullying or harassment.
“I have received external legal advice on a separate matter that was very clear, unless the code specifically refers to bullying and harassment, where such conduct is alleged and found to have taken place, there will not be a breach.
“Therefore, noting your allegations pertain to bullying and harassment, at this time until the code is amended to reflect such reference, there would not be a breach of the Boston Members’ Code of Conduct.
So, the situation is clear: councillors need to turn up no more than twice a year, do not have to have any dealings with the hoi polloi that elected them, and can rough them up as they wish without any fear of the consequences.
The so-called code was revised last year – for the first time since 2013 – “to ensure its robustness and the promotion of high standards of behaviour expected of members of the council.”
In a nutshell, the council expects members to conform to the Seven Principles of Public Life set out in something called the Nolan Report which looked at the conduct of those in public life almost 25 years ago.
We’ve listed the principles before – they are: Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty, and Leadership.
After its ‘revision’ Worst Street reported: “It was considered appropriate to review the provisions contained within the code to ensure it was fit for purpose and robust and readily upheld those seven principles.
“The current Code … contained those provisions, but required further explanation as to what conduct was acceptable and that which was not “to provide clarity for the public, members and employees.”
Sad to say, but although the Nolan principles said all the right things a quarter of a century ago they are now sadly out of date – and it would be nice to think that councillors would agree with this – and seek a thorough, realistic and up-to-date reappraisal of the way that they should behave.
But why would you bother, when life is so cosy and you can draw your allowance for doing sweet FA if you choose?
Interesting to see the hordes of local Tory luvvies flock from across the county to meet our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he used the Pilgrim Hospital as a springboard for his NHS funding publicity stunt.
Never mind that the hospital has had problems for years – we’d bet that this is the first time many of our local grate and good have been anywhere near the place for a political reason.
Johnson is famous for not telling the truth, being a serial philanderer, avoiding responsibility, dropping innocent people in it, and a host of other things that we cannot mention on a family blog.
But that didn’t stop Worst Street’s self-styled ‘leaders’ from queuing up to smarm for selfies around their new leader.
It’s really rather sad when you think of it – people who apparently hold themselves in so little personal regard that they need a third party to make them look big.
Even more laughable was the way that the meeting was reported on Worst Street’s Weekly Whitewash – the borough’s weakly news bulletin.
The fact that the report was distinctly politically favourable to the ruling Conservative group – and not an unbiased account of what the borough council is doing – we were treated to a quote from leader Aaron Spencer, claiming that Johnson’s visit to Boston “so early in his premiership” demonstrated recognition of the town “as key with regard to the impacts of austerity and rapid migration.”
The report continued: “The PM also met Marc Jones, Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, who is hoping the county will be set to benefit from the promise of 20,000 extra police for the country.
“Councillor Spencer spoke to Mr Jones about issues Boston has had with street drinking (Ed: remember, these are the issues that no longer exist) and recent incidents of alcohol related anti-social behaviour.
“At a meeting with members of the Boston and Skegness Conservative Association Mr Johnson implied support for a Boston bypass when he said: “We Conservatives believe in giving everyone the same opportunities, through education funding, infrastructure funding, better roads including a Boston bypass, and full fibre broadband for all properties.”
Why do the local Conservatives need their own website, when Boston Borough Council will do the job for them?
Marc Jones met another senior member of the Downing Street team when he travelled to London in the same week – none other than Larry, the Downing Street cat … which left him feline so delighted that he posed for a photo.
However, confusion followed when former Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove tweeted in response …
We fervently hope that she was talking about the cat – and not the crime commissioner!
Which finally brings us to our caption competition from last week which pictured Councillors Aaron Spencer and Alistair Arundel.
There were a number of entries – of which the best included … “But, Mr Chairman, we cannot start the cabinet meeting yet. We are not quorate” … and “I don't care what you say, they were there when we left West Street!”
We also liked:
“Spencer: “Is anybody there?
“Arundel: “Knock once for yes and twice for no.”
But then this picture emerged during the Prime Minister’s visit to the Pilgrim Hospital …
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