Tuesday, 7 July 2020


Our ever-generous government is sending more money Boston’s way – but a question to be asked is whether we will be able to lay our hands on it.

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A letter to Worst Street offers a grant of £750,000 now to fund capital projects that can be delivered this financial year.
Similar funding has also been awarded to Skegness, which has been given £750,000, and Mablethorpe with £500,000.

***

Funding is being allocated according to population size from the 2011 Census – in this case representing 64,600 people – and works out at £11.60 per head.
As is so often the case, Boston is being gypped from the start as the latest available population figures for 2018 credit us with 69,366 people – worth another £55,000.

***

The drawback is the condition attached to the pay-out. The grant must be used to support capital spend within the Towns Fund guidance.
This fund offers local authorities up to £25 million to develop long-term economic and productivity growth “through investment in connectivity, land use, economic assets including cultural assets, skills and enterprise infrastructure.”

***

The government letter says: “We are particularly encouraging projects that will support towns in responding to immediate challenges, including improvement to or new parks and green spaces and sustainable transport links, improvements to town centres including repurposing empty commercial properties, demolition or site remediation where this will have an immediate benefit.”

***

To unlock the cash the council needs to confirm that this spending is in line with the towns fund framework, will achieve good value for money and the project can be delivered this financial year.
Proposals will be reviewed and the money forked over once it meets the requirements.

***

The letter adds: “When your town submits their town investment plan in their agreed cohort, we will ask you to confirm how you are building on this initial investment.”

***

Our bid for up to £25 million is in the hands of a 26-strong committee of the great and the good known as the Boston Town Deal Board.
As far as we can tell, they last met at the end of January – and there are no clues as to whether they have kept in touch during the pandemic … although this is possible virtually.
The group has a blog – which last featured an entry on 20th March, and a Facebook page where the last entry was posted on Thursday 26th  March  with an “update” that said: “The Town Deal Board meeting due on Friday has been postponed and the team are busy planning how to support our local businesses for when they emerge from this lockdown.”

***

Will this mean a struggle to come up with something by way of seed corn to find a solid, approvable idea where the money can be spent by the end of March?
Even the board admits on its webpage that “Boston has a very short period to put together an effective and ambitious Town Board and develop a vision and Town Investment Plan to potentially access up to £25m.”

***

Who knows?

***

At present, the government timeline to get plans underway remains unchanged since the scheme was announced at the end of last year.


***

Boston has lost out so often before, that we hope that someone, somewhere, will be burning the midnight oil to try to cobble something together.
Individuals have submitted scores of ideas in response to a call for their thoughts – but many are outside the criteria to qualify, which only adds to the pressure to come up with something quickly

***

East Lindsey, meanwhile, tells us that its “local Connected Coast (Towns Fund) Board are in the process of finalising investment plans for each town in a bid to secure millions of pounds worth of funding.”
Let’s hope that being a branch office of Manby soon begins to bear fruit.

***

Do you want the good news or the bad news?
Well, the good news is that Worst Street tells us that the purple bin trial has been a huge success, with 132.5 tonnes of paper and card collected between September 2019 and May 2020.
The scheme was trialled in Boston town, Fenside and Wyberton, and the company that processes the contents of the purple bins reports that the quality has been over 98%. 

***

The bad news …?
It looks as though tht will mean we’re all going to be lumbered with yet another bin – and for some people, there simply won’t be room to store them.

***

And Worst Street of course shares only the good news.
We’re sure that many of you – like us – recall the scores of complaints about the nit-picking that went on when the trials began and bins went unemptied due to the myriad rules about what did or didn’t qualify for collection.

***

Yes, the people involved in the trial have got the idea now – but that still leaves thousands of us with more agony to come if the purple bin scheme goes boroughwide.



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

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Even though the job is now, as they say, a good ‘un, we can’t help but feel that Boston Borough Council’s leadership is by no means out of the woods.

***

The reluctance of many Worst Street councillors to throw in their lot with East Lindsey District Council was reflected last Tuesday when that council was asked re-endorse the tweaked alliance between the two authorities and did so with far less than their previous enthusiasm.

***

First time around in early June, Manby’s 55 councillors backed the plan with 46 in favour, two against, four abstentions and with three absentees – a handsome vote in favour of 46 to nine others.

***

But earlier this week, whilst the plan was still passed, the voting was: 33 for, 11 against, with five abstentions and six absentees – quite a different tally of 33 in favour to 22 others.

***

And whilst the Worst Street rulers may think that this is something they can live with; another spanner has been thrown into the works – this time a lot nearer home.

***

At the beginning of the week a former Tory leader, Michael Cooper, quit the Conservative group and now sits with another former leader and fellow Five Villages Ward councillor, Aaron Spencer, in a political category that Worst Street likes to call “not specified”


***

Councillor Cooper was his customary forthright self when we spoke to him after this resignation from the group.
“I’ve gone and I’m never, ever going back,” he told Boston Eye.
“All this dicking about that Skinner’s been doing with East Lindsey and everything else, it leaves me at an absolute loss. I looked at all this years ago; I couldn’t get it to stack up three years ago and it still doesn’t now
“At the end of the day, a man on a galloping horse can see that if you’re going to make 37 posts redundant it’s going to cost more than £750,000, and according to Skinner that’s all it’s going to cost … and he’s got the figures to back it up.”
So, we asked Councillor Cooper whether he intended to remain a councillor.
He told us: “I’m going to stay on at the moment, because I do all the ward work. I enjoy it and I go to all the parish meetings and to me that’s what a lot of it is about.
He concluded: “But as for what’s been going on in West Street … I don’t really like it.
“And the other thing is the interference from the MP.
“I think it is bloody appalling, communicating with everybody on the council nearly, including most of the opposition, and it’s not down to him to interfere in local politics.”

***

Councillor’s Cooper’s departure from the Tory line-up leaves the political balance on a knife-edge.

***

Of course, Worst Street doesn’t like us to know these things – but at least the council website has been amended to display the latest …


***

Ooh err, missus.
Just over four years to go to the next elections, and life looks as though it might get a little difficult for those in the wheelhouse next time they try to tell the engine room what to do.

***

Worst Street has always tottered from pillar to post – being a council under no overall control from local government reorganisation way back in 1973 until the Boston Bypass Independents grabbed surprise control in 2007.
Since then the Tories have held the reins – but now the horse is in danger of bolting.

***

The Montgolfiers in the so-called opposition groups now have their best window of opportunity for ages – but given their performance to date are more likely to defenestrate their chances than let some much-needed light in.

***

A case in point is the news from the Lincolnshire Local Democracy reporter’s coverage of Tuesday’s East Lindsey meeting.
We read: “Boston Borough councillors have issued a barrister’s letter to the authority’s leader setting out their “grave concerns” and threatening a judicial review if they are not addressed.
“They said they were not opposed to an alliance in principle, however, ‘we simply cannot support this alliance in its current form.
“‘Despite asking for answers to our many legal, financial and procedural questions, we have received absolutely no response from the ruling group at this council,’ said the councillors. 
“They said the barrister, Simon Bell, was recommended by the Local Government Association and had already offered advice.
“‘There is no doubt that the proposed Strategic Alliance has been rushed through our council in a matter of weeks’ said the statement.
“‘Our questions about staffing, finances, processes and procedures have fallen on deaf ears, and this left us with no choice but to seek a remedy elsewhere’”.

***

It’s difficult what to make of this.
The issue has been discussed at two full meetings of Boston Borough Council, and despite the alliance being approved – albeit by just one vote – it seems that some opposition members still want to keep the fight going.
We wonder whether not getting answers – and perhaps more importantly for some opposition members, not getting their own way – is actually sufficient to justify going to law.

***

According to the experts, “A judicial review is a way of challenging the decisions, acts (and sometimes the failure to act) of a public body, because it has not acted lawfully.”

***

And on the issue of costs, the warning is clear: “Before you bring a claim for judicial review, you must budget for 2 separate items of expenditure:
“1. your own lawyers’ fees and expenses (which have to be paid in any
event); and
“2. the other side’s legal fees and expenses (which you are likely to have to
pay if you lose the case).
“You may be able to agree a fixed fee with your own lawyer, but you will have
no way of quantifying your opponent’s costs in advance. Those will usually
be the costs of their solicitor and barrister, and any expert or court fees. The
total could amount to £30,000 or more, although this is a very rough general
estimate – the true figure could be much more or less.
“Unless you are very wealthy, or you have a legal expenses insurance policy
that covers judicial review (most of them don’t), you will need to take steps
to cover both your legal costs and those of your opponent.”

***

We have no idea how wealthy our councillors are – but we sincerely hope that they are not of the mind that because they consider this issue so important, they would expect the taxpayers to foot the bill.

***

The deal with East Lindsey is set to cost the thick end of £1million in the coming year, and as far as we are concerned, that’s more than enough.

***

Finally, a lot has been said over the years about the problems of homelessness and rough sleeping here in Boston – but it’s taken the Coronavirus pandemic to really bring things home.

***

Boston Borough Council’s most recent expenditure list shows the amounts paid out for hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation.
For the month of April alone – which will be the first of several – the payments top £50,000.


Good news for the homeless ... but even better for local property businesses. And we can’t help but wonder who would have been occupying all these rooms had they not been needed by Worst Street.


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

Friday, 26 June 2020


Exactly six months before Christmas Day, the leaders of Boston Borough council last night got an early present when their plan to form an “alliance" with East Lindsey District Council squeaked through by a single vote.

***

It provided another excruciating webcast for those of us with time on our hands and showed just how far Worst Street has to go before it can present itself as a half-way decent council.

***

To the listener, the audio was a blend of that old children’s’ favourite Sparky’s Magic Piano, with councillors taking turns to sound like the enchanted instrument, and an audition for soundalikes to reprise the catchphrase of the well-known thirties’ comedian Sandy Powell – can you hear me, mother?

***

For the viewer, it seemed as if a cleaner at that great comedy film company Ealing Studios had swept up the out-takes from the editing room floor and randomly spliced them together to produce a spoof of pictures in the style of the Blair Witch Project.

***

To spare you a lot of pain, we’ll keep this short and sweet – though the event itself was long and sour … as have been other previous meetings.

***

It was never going to end in anything but tears for the opposing councillors, who – despite repeatedly pulling myxomatotic rabbits from their battered top hat – again failed to deliver the magic that they needed on the night.

***

Of the more vocal members, Councillor Anne Dorrian  as usual tried her best to pour sand into the  fuel tank of the leadership limousine with an imaginative final amendment which suggested that the present Boston Chief Executive stayed on pro tem to work alongside the man named to take over his job from 1st July – something that we are sure would have led to many happy hours of chat at the water cooler.

***

The Austins were in there too – reprising their triple act first seen at the last meeting when the addition of Councillor Viven Edge caused so much consternation.
This time there were no masks – instead what Councillor Alison Austin referred to as a game of “musical chairs” as the trio swapped seats to appear in front of the camera as their turn was called. It helped that Councillor Edge’s trademark – wearing a hat at all times – made recognition that much easier.

***

Interestingly, just one councillor was absent – and what a difference that made. Former leader Aaron Spencer – the man who went from being In Our Face to In Disgrace completed the hattrick by being Lost In Space last night.

***

At the last meeting (the one that saved his bacon as he was on the brink of being ‘sacked’ for not attending council for six months) he supported an amendment to delay the alliance for even longer than that so councillors could do what they do best – talk about it a lot.
That – coupled with an unhelpful abstention – saw the motion succeed … after which the proposed alliance plan was withdrawn, to be tweaked and re-presented to last night’s “extraordinary” meeting in what narrowly proved to be an acceptable form.
This creates a scrutiny “framework” to let Worst Street “shadow” the evolution of the joint officer corps, and gives the council .an option to end the alliance after 12 months by giving three months’ notice on 1st April next year if they don’t like it.

***

There was also the addition of a “bribe” of free parking until Christmas if the deal went through – which attracted surprisingly little comment last night.

***

At the end of the night – made longer by a comfort break for some of the more delicate bladders among the older members of the council, no doubt – the voting nudged itself just far enough for the leadership to claim victory … by the sliver of one vote.

***

Had Councillor Spencer been there and voted as he did last time the result would have been a draw – and there is no doubt that a casting mayoral vote would have sent things the way the leaders wanted, although probably not what they would have liked, as that would have been an even more hollow victory.

***

When push came to shove, the Tory drones who make up the majority toad the party line – and yes, we do know that that is not the correct spelling.

***

So – a win in extra time – but definitely no Man of the Match award ... though Councillor Dorrian came pretty close.

***

The opposition made many of the right noises and had some good arguments. But by and large they struggled to communicate the passion needed to fire the emotions of those who might have been persuaded to waver and defy their Tory masters.

***

The architect of this project would appear to be deputy leader Nigel Welton who – despite being handicapped in his efforts by his boss – stuck to his guns throughout … although we would have rather heard fewer threats.

***

Whilst we are broadly in favour of an alliance between Worst Street and another council – or perhaps even two – this has not been a great night at Worst Street.

***

The ruling group has limped away with a paper victory; a lame duck vote – one that must leave East Lindsey deeply concerned at how things will go forward, and make any other councils that might be asked to consider an alliance in the future think long and hard about whether it would be worth it.
We sense a rocky road ahead, as we believe that given the myriad concerns expressed by the opposition, they will be looking for ways to torpedo the alliance rather than see it sail proudly into port.

***

And whilst it has been interesting to watch the debates on our home computers, we wonder whether this will continue now that lockdown is drawing to a close.
It should do.
Meetings are not easy to attend for a lot of interested observers of local democracy – and the minutes that emerge weeks later reflect nothing of what has really happened.
Especially, they do not indicate what our councillors are really like – something that may well come back to bite them at the ballot box at the next local election.

***

For that reason alone, we suspect that our representatives will be more than happy to disappear back down their respective rabbit holes where scarcely anything that they say is seen and heard by the people who elected them.
It’s a move that should not be allowed.



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

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Worst Street’s ruling group are nothing if not imaginative when it comes to trying to get their own way with the plan for a strategic alliance with East Lindsey District Council.

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After seeing their bid to get the deal signed, sealed and delivered  by 1st  July brought to the brink of delay, they backed down and withdrew the motion – then did some behind the scenes wheeling and dealing and have now amended the proposal to try to make it palatable to non-Tory members.
The move is on the agenda at an extraordinary meeting called for Thursday, which will be broadcast over the internet – and if you want to watch it live, you can  register to do so by clicking here 

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To cut a long story short – and we need to, because the full council meeting that debated the issue on 10th June lasted 4 hours, 43 minutes and 34 seconds – the new Cunning Plan is designed to win over some doubters.

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In a nutshell, an amendment creates a scrutiny “framework” to let Worst Street “shadow” the evolution of the joint officer corps, and gives the council .an option to end the alliance after 12 months by giving three months’ notice on 1st April next year … or nine months after the date the alliance becomes operative, whichever is the latter.

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Quite how that will placate the majority of councillors who forced through a motion to delay the merger for a minimum of six months to allow for detailed scrutiny and discuss of the plan is anyone’s guess.

***

Unless you factor in some less than subtle pressure which we think borders on blackmail.

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In recent days the issue of free parking has come to the fore – with our neighbours in South Holland, East Lindsey and South Kesteven all extending free parking for the time being to speed recovery in their town centres.

***

Contrast that with Boston, when – as soon as a date for shops to reopen was announced – we heard town centre portfolio holder Chelcei [sic] Sharman trumpet: “We have managed to hold car park charges off as long as we can to help residents and local businesses, but as businesses start to reopen we feel it is the right time to reintroduce normal parking fees.”
Come again?
What that says to us is that Worst Street didn’t bother to charge for parking when the shops were shut and scarcely anyone went into town – but once business resumed, saw the chance to shoot fish in a barrel by turning the parking meters back on.

***

That little piece of transparent greed was exposed for what it was once other districts kept their parking free.
Cue Cunning Plan II.

***

In a letter dated 19th June, Boston’s deputy leader Nigel Welton wrote to MP Matt Warman in response to his open letter to all councillors urging them to back the Manby alliance.



And tucked between the lines came the opportunity to play the parking card for all it was worth …

 

***

Interpretations may vary – but our view is that it is a move to compromise opposition to the motion before Thursday’s meeting.
Put simply it says: “Vote for the deal and we’ll give you free parking. Block it for six months as you voted last time and you’ll get the blame.”

***

If nothing else, it’s certainly open and transparent!

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Your guess is as good as ours when it comes to wondering quite how opposition councillors will handle this little ‘gotcha’.
If they stick to their guns over wanting fuller scrutiny, they will assuredly find themselves taking the fall for denying drivers who use the town centre an extension of free parking.

***

Already, the word is that opposition has been compromised by the offer to allow members to “shadow” – i.e. tinker with – the officer structure, and provide a ‘get out of jail free’ card if they don’t like the ways things are going. Frankly, we doubt that much will happen with these concessions unless something truly major is taken against.

***

So, are our “leaders” quietly confident about getting their own way on Thursday?
Some say they are – but we remain unconvinced that things will yet go as smoothly as they would like.

***

Whilst we support the idea of an alliance with another authority as a means of both securing and enhancing Boston’s future, we cannot go along with the ham-fisted and transparently obvious moves by the leadership to get its own way, regardless.
The more it seems to seek to suppress scrutiny and debate, the more convinced will people become that something is going on that the powers that bain’t don’t want us to know about.

***

Thursday 25th – Just in …

On the day of the meeting, we have received an e-mail from our long-standing contributor ‘Scanner’ – someone who is ‘in the know’ when it comes to Boston Borough Council, and who writes:

“I see that the proposed amalgamation of East Lindsey District Council and Boston borough Council -- at first claimed by our Council Leader not to be a merger but just an alliance– has not been decided, after a series of almost farcical meetings that stalled the campaign. There are several questions that should be answered.
“Which council minute gave our staff permission to spend 18 months carrying out the investigations that led to this report?  How many staff were involved, and how much time did they spend, at what cost and what expenses did they incur?  Also, did other duties suffer because of this?  If this did not affect their normal duties, are they surplus to our requirements (see below)?  If no full council permission was forthcoming at the time, surely this exercise was illegal?
“What was the breakdown of the saving?  I’m sure Councillor Skinner claimed that most of the staff at the sharp end were safe – so this £1.5 million each year (originally £1.8 million) is be saved only by cutting staff and their on-costs at officer level.
“It is proposed that our BBC Chief Executive is replaced   by East Lindsey’s Chief Executive.   I have no idea of his capabilities but I would respect him more if he had to defend his appointment against other candidates.
“Mr Drury is not on £1.5 million p.a., so this cannot be the only saving.  Let’s suppose there are, say, twenty officers that cost £150,000 pa, each. Sacking ten would save that sum. Logically, therefore, whatever the number of officers dismissed, those remaining must do the new work as well as what they were already doing. If this is the case they must, at present, be under-used. Why do both councils employ so many? It doesn’t need a merger to sort that problem out!
“We have not been advised where that the merged base will finally be. I expect it will be in East Lindsey and we will have a small office in West Street as a consolation. How many councillors will represent us, have even the councillors been told? We must be in a minority given the respective sizes of the areas. Even in these days of better communication, there’s nothing like face to face confrontation and I don’t think East Manby’s very easy to reach from Boston.  Note. too, that Lincolnshire County Council now has no office in Boston.
“Finally – the most important question of all to our councillors …what has happened to transparency and public consultation?” The investigations began over 18 months ago – behind closed doors. The decision was admitted publicly in the newspapers only two weeks before it was to be made. Was this deliberate?  It is only the result of indecision by some councillors that the matter was not a fait accompli by now. I see that some residents in East Lindsey have, belatedly woken up to this proposal and are voicing their discontent.
“Surely, the public are entitled to have their say on changes that will have such an important effect on their lives? We have a Conservative government preaching local accountability and transparency. But it seems that local Conservatives have tried to push through important decisions without telling the public (and most councillors?) the detailed plans – only dangling the lure of saving £15 million (or is it £18million?). Aren’t we intelligent enough? Deliberately giving no time for opposition to their plans?
“Lincolnshire County Council may be on the side-lines, waiting to gobble up the whole of the county. (Out goes LOCAL and transparent government.  In comes ‘Big is Beautiful’). That’s no excuse for local turkeys to vote for Christmas.
“At least us mere morons should have a vote on the County Council’s and the Government’s   ideas for local participation and democracy, but will we?”  

 SCANNER

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 

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Protests over the Boston plan for  a strategic alliiance with East Lindsey District Council have now emerged in that authority – in an open letter to residents from SUDS ... the Skegness Urban District Society.

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Their group leader, Councillor Danny Brookes, says in an e-mail to other group leaders: “The Suds group feel that this is an underhanded way of dealing with this situation and changing the deal but not changing the deal is clearly a disservice to all our councillors and residents, as we did not vote to give Boston a get-out clause and this would have definitely changed the way we voted.
This deal needs to be fair and above board. Doing this will definitely put us on guard for any future dealing this council feels it wants to push through”.

***

The letter doesn’t mince its words – demanding that the proposed merger between Boston and Manby is brought back to the council so that councillors and residents are not feeling “conned and lied to”.

***

The full letter says …




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

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Even though they’re probably punch drunk from their last meeting, Worst Street councillors are rolling up their sleeves for a second round of verbal fisticuffs in a second attempt to drag the proposed alliance with East Lindsey District Council off the ropes and back into the ring.

***

Without going into all the dismal details, the council meeting of 10th June ended after 4¾ hours with the plan being withdrawn after opponents supported a move that would have seen it delayed for a minimum of six months for everyone to have a good old natter about it.

***

Withdrawing the proposal spared it from being automatically shelved for at six months under the rules.
The difference may seem trivial – as many things about Worst Street are these days – but there was always the chance that if resubmitted after the delay, another six-month embargo could have been imposed.

***

Now, Worst Street leaders are seeking a compromise that they presumably believe will see the deal go through.
In a second extraordinary meeting this year – which tends to redefine the meaning of the word extraordinary more than a little – two tweaks have been made.

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The meeting on Thursday 25th will be told: “Consultation with councillors from outside the administration indicated that the proposal could be made acceptable by incorporating an amendment … which would provide this council (but not ELDC) with the option of ending the alliance after 12 months and by devising a scrutiny process that runs alongside the implementation of the arrangement to inform any such decision.”

***

So, some wheeling and dealing by the leadership has seem some opponents change their view.
Who are these people?
Who knows – but a look at how the voting differs from the last meeting will give some clues.

***

The whole thing balanced on a knife edge last time – or actually, a Viven Edge as regular readers will recall.

***

But given the fickleness shown last time, who can say whether the Tory leadership move will be enough?
Time will tell.

***

Of greater concern is the fact that something that a couple of weeks ago was declared crucial to the long-term survival of Boston as a council and critical for the good of the taxpayers, has now become a declaration that “Well, we’ll nose around it for a few months and if we don’t like the smell we’ll throw it out of the window.”

***

Presumably, the confidence among our so-called ‘leaders’ is such that they believe that these first few months will bring about a Damascene conversion for the waverers and that we will all live happily ever after.

***

If they’re wrong, the cost to the taxpayers will be immense – but that’s never been of great concern in the past so why start bothering now?

***

Later this morning, Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman added his threepenn'orth to the debate in an open letter to Worst Street.
Here's what he had to say ...





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

Thursday, 11 June 2020

The virtual hands in the air at last night’s full meeting of Boston Borough Council were not waving – they were drowning.

***

After months of discussion and recent short-term attempts at persuasion, councillors spent hours debating the proposed merger with East Lindsey District Council – which had simultaneously been debating the same proposal and approved it by 46 votes for, two against, four abstentions and with three councillors absent.

***

But Boston – as is so often the case – delivered its customary turgid performance before collapsing at the final hurdle.

***

Whilst it seemed that quite a few favoured an alliance, the issue in Boston was the timing.
The proposal called for it to take effect on 20th July – in just over five weeks’ time, when our current chief executive Phil Drury would be paid off and other senior Boston officers would assume roles within a merged council.

***

But an amendment before last night’s meeting called for things to be delayed for at least six months so that everyone could have a good old natter about it first.

***

What followed was as masterclass in how not to hold a meeting – especially when the taxpayers were able to follow the whole thing live, and if they missed it watch it later on YouTube.

***

To cut a long story short – the vote on the amendment tied 14:14 after it proved impossible to obtain a response from Councillor Viven Edge.
Mayor Anton Dani then cast his deciding vote against the amendment, which meat that the debate defaulted to whether or not to vote for the proposal.

***

Cue uproar.

***

Demands to have another crack at contacting Councillor Edge to get her vote were denied, because the mayor’s casting vote had closed the matter, so councillors rambled and haggled over other ideas – eventually deciding to amend the defeated amendment by changing the talk time from six to seven months … which made it err, a new amendment.
Are you following it so far ...?

***



Amid all this came the disclosure by a face-masked Councillor Alison Austin, that an equally masked Councillor Edge was with her – a claim confirmed by twirling her computer to present the ‘absent’ councillor on-screen.

Quite what we make of this in these days of Covid-19 is for others to decide.

***

So, the amended amendment was put to the vote – but not before a warning from deputy leader Councillor Nigel Welton, that approval would kill the proposed alliance “dead in the water” and that a six-month delay would render it null and void.

***

Well, seven months, actually – but if all of the wasn’t bizarre enough for you, and final twist was yet to come.


***

The amended amendment went through – and no sooner had the vote been declared than Councillor Welton proposed that the original motion – the one for the strategic alliance, remember (we’ll be asking questions afterwards) be withdrawn.

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That was approved – and so hours of debate by the cabinet, the corporate and community scrutiny committee, the chief officer employment panel as well as last night’s dog-hanging – not to mention months of time talking between the two councils was just so much waste of time.

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It’s the second time Boston has been down this route – the first was more than a decade ago when it pulled out of a three-way merger with South Holland and East Lindsey at the eleventh hour.

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Then, things just went on much as before – although the two councils that combined back-office services declared the move to be beneficial.

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Certainly, there now seems little chance that Boston will ever be considered as a future partner by anyone.
As we have often said, it is one of the smallest local authorities in the country, which makes it expensive to run – and which puts it at risk when economies are being considered higher up the chain.

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Boston’s track record as a council is not impressive, either – and despite all the talk of its status and heritage by councillors last night, we think that it won’t be that long before the writing is on the wall for the borough.

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Despite the dissatisfaction over the timescale for the alliance, if you are drowning, you don’t ask a would-be rescuer to wait six months before handing you a lifeline.

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In sporting terms, last night’s meeting relegated Boston to somewhere near the bottom of the Also-Ran Local Council League – with no hope of a play-off in sight to spare them from disaster.

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East Lindsey – quick off the mark as usual – published its reaction to the Boston debacle this morning.

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“The proposed Strategic Alliance - a plan that would have saved Boston Borough Council and East Lindsey District Council £15.4m over the next 10 years through a shared workforce - will not be progressed at this time.
“Whilst East Lindsey District Council strongly supported the proposal when it met last night, Boston Borough Council withdrew the item from its agenda after a number of hours of debate.
“The Leader of East Lindsey District Council, Councillor Craig Leyland, said: "It is disappointing that Boston Borough Council didn't agree to enter into a strategic alliance. East Lindsey District Council is a strong, stable and successful organisation and we will continue to work hard to improve services to our communities, whilst continuing to explore further partnership working opportunities that add value to what we do."

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And an East Lindsey councillor e-mailed us to say: “Well, was I watching Billy Smart’s Circus or Boston Borough Council?
“What a sham. Should the officer at least have rung Councillor Edge who went off line. This would have stopped a casting vote.
“As one councillor suggested, contact should have been made with her.
“In fact, she had made an attempt to vote and indeed had gone to another councillor’s house to vote.
“I must cancel my Netflix subscription and pay to watch Boston Borough Council instead”.

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Whither now?
We suspect that all that’s left is for Boston taxpayers to grin and bear it whilst our hard-earned cash is spent on redundancy payments and the like.

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Finally, we cannot end without commenting on the overall quality of the meeting.
Despite almost fifteen years of reporting on the to-ings and fro-ings at Worst Street this is the first chance we have had to see our “representatives” in action.
And what a shower, as the late Terry-Thomas would say.
Some of them were barely articulate, while others – some of them long enough in service to know better – failed to grasp how the meeting should be run.

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It was overall an unedifying experience which left us appalled by what we saw, and sapped what little faith that might have remained in our representatives still further.

Extra:  2pm

The decision not to go ahead has annoyed Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman, who tweeted: “It’s a profoundly short-sighted decision that risks making the council unsustainable,
“I hope they will reconsider it as soon as possible.
“Taxpayers deserve efficiency above partisan politics.”

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Meanwhile, sources in East Lindsey have expressed dismay over the Boston meeting.
Not only are people unhappy with the outcome, one member called the decision to try to intervene in the role of the proposed joint chief officer “a disgrace” whilst another comment said that Boston residents deserved better from their councillors.

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However, it is felt at all might not be lost.
Something opponents of the alliance failed to take on board was that as the motion to adopt it was not defeated, it can be brought back to the table quite quickly.
Had it been defeated, the rules say that it could not have been raised again for six months.
But as opponents didn’t push a vote, it’s thought that we could see it back on the agenda sooner rather than later.

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Again, observers at Manby believe that opponents in Boston completely ignored concerns for the future and hope that they may still come to their senses … as they believe that joining forces would create a line in the sand where future attempts at devolution are concerned.


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