Monday, 21 May 2018


Even though the local council elections earlier this month did not involve us in Boston, they ought to have set alarm bells ringing in Worst Street.
That’s because they signalled just a year before the elections on 2nd May 2019 which will see all the seats on Boston Borough Council up for grabs.
You can track how long there is to go with the Boston Eye countdown calendar on the top right of yhe page – which we are sure will bring a frisson of fear to those councillors whose days are clearly numbered.


***

Unlike, for example, Lincoln City Council – where one third of the members are for re-elected each year – Boston suffers in that any major changes in political allegiance means a massive influx of councillors who often have no previous experience of the job that they have been parachuted into.
Examples from recent years include the Boston Bypass Independents’ landslide in 2007 and the 2015 UKIP surge where they tied with the Tories on 13 seats each before almost immediately falling out and fragmenting.

***

This year’s results showed gains for Labour and the Liberal Democrats at the expense of the Tories and UKIP – the latter being the biggest victim, losing 123 seats, and ending up with just three out of the 4,404 contested.
The current make-up of Boston Borough Council is: Conservative – 16, UKIP – 6, Independent – 4, Bostonian Independents – 4.
Given the way things appear to be going it seems reasonably certain that UKIP’s six councillors have the most to fear, followed by the Bostonian Independents (not to be confused with the private wing at the Pilgrim Hospital) – one of whose members, whilst said to be “part” of the group even though he works out of the area – has attended only one out of the eight most recent council and committee meetings … a meagre and measly 12%.
The “Independents” political potpourri – comprises two who have declared allegiance to the Conservatives, former Tory leader Peter Bedford who quit the party when he lost his role, and dyed in the wool Labour councillor Paul Gleeson who needs a group allegiance to retain his committee chairmanship.

***

This doesn’t make the Tories the good guys either. At least one has an attendance record of only three out of the most recent eleven meetings at which he was expected – a 73% absentee rate.

***

We would expect anyone who can’t be bothered to turn up on a regular basis not to seek re-election next year.
We would also expect a number of other councillors to call it a day – if nothing else due to the march of time.
All things being equal we think that there could be as many as 12 new faces at Worst Street in less than a year’s time.
So watch this space – and follow the countdown clock as the election rolls inexorably nearer.

***

Having talked about attendances, the     issue becomes moot when applied to full council meetings for the rest of the year with just three … in July, September and November.
Whilst it could be argued that they are merely rubber-stamping exercises, and therefore not as important as they once were, there seems to be a growing tendency to ease rank and file councillors out of the decision-making process as far as possible.

***

An interesting example of this involves desire to offload the council’s leisure and cultural services on to a private, third party operator  to meet the cuts it needs to make – such has been done with the PRSA.
But a recommendation to develop a proposal with a non-profit organisation with charitable status created by East Lindsey District Council four years ago got a rough ride and was subsequently withdrawn.
During the debate concerns were raised that the proposals should have been subject to scrutiny before being considered by the council and that the number of service areas involved was too wide-ranging.
Whilst the principle of the proposal was accepted, the majority of members who spoke said that alternative options and service providers should be considered, including an in-house company, and that scrutiny was the appropriate first step in such a process, as with all major decisions.

***

Now the report has again appeared on an agenda – and again, apparently without undergoing any preliminary scrutiny process.
This time it popped up for discussion at last week’s meeting of the cabinet of curiosities
Instead of the recommendation to develop a proposal with East Lindsey together with a timeline and a three stage process which would see two more  reports come to the full council during 2018, the new report recommends  inviting expressions of interest by publishing a formal notice in the Official Journal of the European Union, then a timeline, and again, a three stage process which would see two more reports – initially  for consideration by and Overview and Scrutiny (at last!)  ahead of cabinet and full council meetings during the year.
Whilst the original ambition was for “a go live date” of 1st January 2019 it has now been put back to sometime in the first quarter of next year.
As before, the report leaves mention of the impact on staff until the very end, acknowledging that “the council is aware a proposal will have implications for its staff.
“Staff and staff side representatives will be fully briefed and consulted on an on-going basis as the proposal develops and be key stakeholders in the shaping of a final proposal which is in the best interests of the borough council and its residents.”
Whatever Worst Street says, the bottom line is that this is all about savings – in this case around £250,000 – so really, service no longer matters … the council is merely divesting itself of assets to cut its budget.
As is often pointed out when economies are on the agenda, the services provided are largely discretionary – but Worst Street has hoist itself on its own petard after years of lame attempts to improve the health of the borough and stressing the importance of the facilities it is now trying to dispose of.

***

We had a rather frustrating dialogue with a senior member of the council as an aside to a Twitter debate the other day.
The bottom line was that we were told “… it's better to use your talents in a positive way … to be involved … rather than produce criticism from the side-lines.”
An example of the positive use of talent that we were given was attendance at five back-to-back meetings in a single day  with the accompanying snipe … “Look forward to some positive actions promoting this fine and Historic (sic) town of ours.”
As we pointed out – and not for the first time – our criticism has nothing to do with Boston, but the many hapless councillors who run it.
In a previous life, we spent many years working for the BBC, whose lifeblood – as with local councils – takes the form of meetings up the ying-yang.
Looking back, it is hard to recall a meeting that did much more than waste the time of the attendees – and five back-to-back meetings in a single day most likely do nothing more than was five times as much “talent” as does a single meeting.

***

We mentioned last week the uselessness of Worst Street’s sharing of information with the taxpayers – pointing out the only content given out is an agenda a week before the meeting and a scrappy summary of what happened in the minutes accompanying the agenda for the next meeting some weeks later.
As if that isn’t bad enough, the Boston Town Area Committee – B-TAC-ky – is striving to go one further.
The committee which now commands one of the biggest budgets in Worst Street meets on Wednesday  without the customary standing item on police issues and two other agenda items which take the form of “presentations” rather than reports which … means that there is no clue as to content.
Frankly, the meeting may as well be held in secret for all the contribution to democracy, openness and transparency that it makes.

***

Speaking of which …
The anonymous author of the Boston sub-Standard comment column Observer was recently taken to task in a pithy little whinge from Worst Street after he mistakenly suggested that the council – rather than an outside group – organised a recent public event.
However, he made a point with which we heartily agree – and which underlines the dog in the manger attitude adopted by Worst Street when it comes to passing on information.
 Time and again, the only source of information is via the council website – WorstWeb – and as with this most recent example, other information in public areas is conspicuous by its absence.
In these days when the need to inform is integral to good public relations, this sort of attitude simply will not do.

***

Here’s another example of the attitude we just mentioned.


Not quite a timely reminder with less than 45 minutes to go, is it?

***

The Worst Street deadline for expressions of interest to manage this year’s Christmas lighting in Boston has passed with just one submission
Despite the fact that Worst Street did not want a town-wide solution from a single group, the bid is for … a town-wide solution from a single group – in this case the tradesmen who did the job last year and who now call themselves Christmas in Boston 2018.
The idea was for applications for six smaller areas to be decorated and lit    the Market Place and Christmas tree, Strait Bargate, Wide Bargate,  Bargate End Car Parks, the War Memorial, West Street, the traffic roundabouts – at Boardsides, Tesco, Chain bridge, ATS and Spirit of Endeavour, and Wormgate/Pen Street.
It was hoped that this would encourage more groups or individuals to come forward, and better spread the workload.
However, given the infighting over the project in recent months, it would seem that volunteers would rather steer clear than risk a load of hassle, which is a pity.
Much of the reason for such a response can be guessed after the Christmas in Boston 2018 group published an “open letter” (read it in full here) http://newbostoneye.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/is-it-freeze-no-its-flood-of-hidden.html to Boston Borough Council calling for the cabinet’s recommendations to be discarded to let the group complete the project again this year.
The argument “… why should we have to apply again …” was at the core of this, with the vaguely menacing reminder that: “We hold over fifteen thousand pounds worth of lights to put up this year.  Why are you intending to give this (the task) to someone else to light up the town and buy more lights when we have them already?”
The group demanded that the council pay £10,000 set aside for Christmas events from the migration funding grant for 2018/2019 and 2019 /2020, directly to them as soon as possible, to let them plan their “volunteer” work for Christmas 2018.
As an application to stage an event during the time of peace and goodwill to all, it more closely resembles an iron fist in an iron glove.

***

It seems that memories are short in Boston Borough Council's Markets Review Task Group – formerly known as the Prosperous Boston group … or as we preferred in the Preposterous Boston group.
Beneath the headline “Students to give teenager views of markets,” WorstWeb reports that students from Boston schools and academies are to give “insights” into the town's markets from the perspective of the younger generation.
Preposterous Boston spent almost two years long waffling – yet as long ago as September 2016 – it  recommended introducing a young peoples’ market on the lines of a “Teenage Market,” that was first established in Stockport in 2012,  when two teenage brothers put out a call out for young traders and performers and were overwhelmed when hundreds of young people applied to take part.
The markets are now a well-established feature nationally, and there have also been several staged in Lincolnshire.
In July last year, Worst street went so far as to appeal for support for a crowd funding bid to raise £1,000 to help run a market this year and next.
This was organised by the Boston Youth Council – another of Worst Street’s big ideas, in this case from six years ago – aimed at 13-19 year-olds who are “passionate” about young people's issues and who care about living in the borough and want to learn more about local government, democracy and how they can influence decisions.
As this was a project involving Worst Street, the result seemed inevitable – and it was.


So, Preposterous Boston takes two years to complete its task – which ended last October, then waits another six months to explore what young people want from the town’s market … having already proposed an answer which has been seen to lack support.
Words fail us.

***

We’ve lost count of the number of times that people talk about putting Boston “on the map” – which is where it has been for centuries, of course.


Perhaps, then someone might have a word with BBC Look North about their weather map – as we are sure than Boston merits a name check.

***

Last week we  pictured an image of Boston in Bloom if you live in town but not on the lily-walk especially gilded for the competition judges to inspect.
Shortly afterwards – and most certainly unconnected with our comments, the grass was cut …


The picture on the left is of the first bin south of Vauxhall Bridge, with nettles left tall enough that they might sting anyone trying to put their litter in, and a bag of doggy-doo nestling against it..
The brown mess in both photos is the cut grass left to rot.
Perhaps it might have been better to have left it alone.

***

There no Boston Eye next week – because it’s another bank holiday. Join us again on Monday 4th June.



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, 14 May 2018


It’s the same with buses – you wait an age for one and then three come along at once.
Our last issue came out on the morning that the full council was due to meet to give most members a decent pay rise while trying to make it look like a freeze, and councillors were being asked to approve borrowing £20 million over fifty years for the benefit of us – the common herd.
Also on the agenda for approval was a revised code of councillor conduct – which we interpreted as calling them more to account than previously.

***

So how did it all go?
Well, we understand that the first two items were approved – but the conduct issue was put on hold because some members felt that it was asking a little too much of them.
Bless the little snowflakes.

***

Boston Borough Council is rapidly becoming a law unto itself these days, with little if anything by way of challenging or questioning decisions in the council chamber – and even less outside of it in our so-called local “newspapers.”
We are told that they were not in attendance for the full council meeting, and … search as we might … we can find no sign of anything picked up after the event to let the taxpayers know what is being done with their money – which in some cases is funding rises in allowances of between 30% and 150%.

***

Nor can Worst Street be relied upon to keep us in the picture – despite all its hollow promises of openness, transparency and communication.
We’ve made our thoughts about the borough’s website more than clear in the past.
Whilst it purportedly exists to tell us about the goings-on in the council, it mostly carries lightweight stories which are often completely unrelated but serve as pabulum to make the place look busy.

***

No mention appears of the outcomes from the April full council meeting – but then you would expect WorstWeb to keep as quiet as possible about how our money is being spent.
However,  it did deem it important to blag a couple of free goes on the May Fair’s “scariest ride” so that a couple of members of staff could share their opinion of it with us.
The lack of communication and information from Worst Street – coupled with the indifference of the local media is surely just what this council wants.
The only way to discover what the council is thinking is to scour the agendas for its meetings – which appear just a few days in advance.
Then, unless you attend in person, you must wait until the minutes of the meeting are published with the next agenda – with the exception of the most recent full council meeting that we have been talking about.
That meeting was held on 30th April.
The next one – the Annual General Meeting – is on 14th May – but there are no minutes being made available.
Instead, you must wait until at least 9th July, when the next meeting is provisionally scheduled.
That’s ten weeks before Worst Street is prepared to tell you what happened at a quite important meeting.
And don’t forget the minutes are scarcely comprehensive – more like a few scrappy scribbles in crayon on the back of a fag packet which are sure will delight future historians.

***

Even changes to the way the council is run are dropped into WorstWeb without anyone feeling the need to draw attention to them.

***

The last full council meeting recommendations on councillors’ allowances recommended that there should be just one deputy leader – on a much bigger allowance, of course.
Apparently this is going to happen as – on the agenda for rubber stamping at next week’s council AGM – is a revised cabinet structure.


Not only has the role of deputy leader been allocated to Councillor Aaron Spencer, but the man with whom he used to share it – Councillor Mike Brookes – has completely fallen off his perch.
The new cabinet member is Councillor David Brown, who is also chairman of Planning Committee, and represents Wyberton Ward:
Councillor Brookes (remember him?) has been a Boston councillor since 1997 and a Lincolnshire County Councillor since 2009 … almost ten years.

***

Whilst the recent goings-on have been kept from the public at large, our regular readers suffer no such deceit.
One of them – using the appropriate pseudonym Grumpy after the allowance disclosures –  said: “My girlfriend, a career NHS nurse, saw this and could only muster a ‘glad to see that we are all still in it together’ remark as she collapsed onto the couch after another debilitating day spent on her feet.
“These worthless petty bureaucrats really need to wake up and smell the coffee – and stop feeding from the trough they continually seem to be enlarging at every opportunity.”

***

The deadline to bid for a £100 million share of the government’s billion pound pot for road improvements has now passed and again as far as we know – because Worst Street has stayed stumm – the only action apparently forthcoming has been from the Boston sub-Standard.
Its petition received 1,281 signatures – which whilst it is better than previous efforts by the paper – represents around 2% of Boston’s 2011 census population estimate of 64,637 … and suggests that Frank Lee and Mai Deere don’t give a damn.
Worse still, the petition was not a Standard-alone affair.
For want of doing little else, Worst Street  sent at least one senior manager and assistant to stand in the Market Place  and beg for signatures to the Standard petition, whilst MP Matt Warman also piped up – meaning that the efforts of three hands to the pump produced a result of impressive paucity.
Certainly, it’s somewhat at odds with the message from council leader Michael Cooper when he said: “It is vital that we send the biggest, loudest message we can to government that we deserve a share of this new money.
“We tick so many boxes – an opportunity to deal with traffic congestion, a plan for that already at an advanced stage, better transportation in an area vital to the nation's food security, a boost to economic development and job creation, more much-needed housing and a chance to address long-standing air quality issues.”
Such high-flying phrases are all very well – but it would be interesting to know just what Worst Street has been doing apart from waffling.

***

Last week’s bank holiday delivered a harsh lesson about the need to plan properly for new shopping developments.
Although we make it a general rule never to take the car out during these holidays, we had to break that edict for once to head to Boston’s B&Q, on the site it now shares with Lidl and Tesco.
It then took about an hour to get out of the car park!
The reason – which no-one apparently took account of at the planning stage  – was that traffic for all three stores enters via Westbridge Road off the A52.
A left turn off this road takes you to B&Q and Lidl – and the way out  from them is to turn right across the inbound Tesco traffic.
The result of all this on the bank holiday was that traffic leaving B&Q blocked the traffic trying to leave Lidl – in some cases trapping cars in their parking bays – whilst the right turn across the road leading to Tesco was almost impossible to access because of the incoming traffic flow.
A sensible thing to do would be to turn left as if going to Tesco and then follow the road in a complete circle but on the  day that we were there it didn’t appear to occur to many people.
Having said that, it’s not a driver’s job to find a way around the pitfalls created by the planning system – and we hope that someone thinks to take an early look at the problem.
A simple solution is to create an additional exit from the Lidl car park, which would solve the problem in a jiffy.

***

As we reached the closing date for Lincolnshire County Council’s good citizenship awards, Boston Borough Council was talking about doing away with our local equivalent – which has been on the go for almost forty years.
A report to the corporate and community scrutiny committee wailed that the number of nominations received has declined in recent years … from more than ten each year to two or three.
According to Worst Street, nominations are sought from the public, parish councils and borough councillors to recognise the work of individuals or groups who make a significant contribution that has made a difference to their local community.
Yet again we are forced to the conclusion that the root of the problem is Worst Street itself as the problem suggests that councillors are hopelessly out of touch  with the grass roots.
How many readers can remember seeing much by way of publicity for nominations?
What form does the request for nominations from parish councils take?
We have eighteen of them, and a number have borough councillors as members.
Despite the growing lethargy within local communities – it must surely not be beyond the powers that be to come up with at least 20 nominations a year.
And let’s not forget our local charities – they must surely be good for a few names.
Events such as these encourage and empower our communities, and need encouraging rather than disowning.

***

We wonder whether the £20 million loan that we mentioned earlier indicates a change of direction for Boston Borough Council.
It seems that Worst Street’s Cunning Plan is to become a property investor as it believes that there are “significant upside forecasts” towards financial benefits associated with such a strategy.
“These would arise through revenue returns, capital appreciation and the avoidance of future inflated borrowing costs.
“These are prudently valued at approximately £86m over 50 years.”
Jackpot!
Borrow £20m over fifty years at 5% … repay £1m a year in interest over that time and presumably the principal at the end of it … and theoretically have £16m ‘profit.’

***

It sounds too good to be true – and historically, whenever Worst Streets embarks on something that sounds too good to be true … it usually is.
An appendix to the report proposing the loan stunt gives vastly disparate examples … and then only two of them.
West Lindsey District Council has bought an hotel in Keighley – which is outside its district – using its own money and not a loan, and which it reckons will bring in £90k a year.
The second example is of Spelthorne Borough Council – which bought the BP campus in Sunbury-on-Thames in September 2016 for £358m.
How on earth can that be anything by way of help or guidance to Boston?
If the idea of Boston Borough Council running an hotel or something similar stretches your credulity, then how about something different?

***

The council meeting before last which baulked at the idea of Worst Street’s leaders flogging off  Boston’s  leisure and tourism assets to a private operator saw the suggestion withdrawn pro tem.
But whilst the principle of the proposal was accepted, most councillors thought that alternative options and service providers should be considered – including “an in-house company
This from a council that cannot organise a brew-up in a brewery!

***

News now of our erstwhile MP Mark Simmonds – the man who quit parliament four years ago complaining that his combined salary and expenses of almost £120,000 weren’t enough – has just got another job.
Investment company Vertu Capital has appointed him a non-executive director.
Simmonds was foreign and commonwealth office minister responsible for Africa, the Caribbean and UK overseas territories international energy and conflict prevention when he quit.
Currently he holds a number of  international roles, including chairman of the Global Advisory Board of investment platform Invest Africa – and is also chief executive of Mortlock Simmonds … his estate agency company.
Hopefully he is making ends meet by now.
His latest job is the ninth or tenth that he has taken on.

***

The record temperatures of the past few days tend to make us forget that it’s not so long ago that parts of the county were buried beneath snowdrifts, trapping many drivers in their cars.
Reports at the time praised the farming community in particular for turning out to help plough the snow away – and the overworked word heroes was used time and again to describe their contribution.
So we were surprised to see an analysis by BBC Look North last month which told us that whilst …


The amount paid to farmers was getting on for 40% of that.


Certainly, it’s an heroic payment if nothing else!!

***

Finally, the annual hoo-ing and haa-ing about this year’s Boston in Bloom competition is gathering pace.
And whilst it’s nice to see carefully chosen areas of the town receiving colourful and fragrant embellishments – even though many of them are ignored once the judges have visited – we again feel the need to highlight what life is like for our taxpaying residents unfortunate enough to live more than a fag end’s throw from the town centre.



  


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, 30 April 2018

Is it a freeze?
No – it’s a flood
of hidden cash for councillors

Worst Street leader Michael Cooper is being recommended for a bumper pay rise – from £8,070 a year to £13,200.
That’s a 63.5 per-cent increase.
The recommendation comes from the council’s shadowy Independent Remuneration Panel and is on the agenda for tonight’s full council meeting – where it will doubtless be rubber-stamped.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg ... 


Whilst in the past, rank and file councillors have enjoyed generous pay rises as well, this time around they apparently get a pay freeze at their current level of £4,400 a year.
But all is not necessarily what it seems.
Whilst Worst Street’s pay is the lowest in Lincolnshire, having taken into account the average basic allowance across the county’s seven councils, the panel considered that the variance “was within an acceptable tolerance.”
Instead, it decided to concentrate most of the review on special responsibility allowances – which have not been increased since 2012 – “to seek to ensure that those who held such positions were fairly compensated for their time, commitment and responsibilities.”
***

The upshot of this means that although bog standard councillors get a pay freeze, many are still cashing in, as the definition of special responsibility has been stretched to include such things as … attending  a committee meeting ...
For instance, the eleven members of the Planning Committee – excluding the Chairman and Vice-Chairman – will get an extra £600 a year.
The eleven licensing hearing panel members will pick up a new allowance of £50 a hearing and with 6-8 meetings a year dealing with at least one hearing at each may look forward to a nice bonus of a few hundred quid.
The Mayor – whose office is seeing a number of economies – ought to be more than pleased with an increase in allowances from £1,344 to £3,300 –around 150%
Opposition group leaders will get a new allowance of £100 a member – excluding the leader of the group.
After setting the leader’s allowance – will be three times the basic allowance – the panel felt the deputy leader’s allowance should be set at 50% of that – from £4,706 to £6,600 … but that there should only be one deputy leader’s allowance paid.
“If the leader felt it necessary to appoint more than one deputy then they should decide whether to split the SRA between those deputies appointed or to nominate one to receive the whole sum of £6,600 with others only receiving the cabinet members’ allowance,” says the report.
“Only” in in this case is an interesting use of word, as that allowance increases from £3,361 to £5,500 – a hike of 33%.
The proposed allowance will take effect retrospectively from 1st April, and  if approved will be linked to staff pay awards for four years, and be reviewed in a year.
With no apparent sense of irony, the report concludes: “Members are reminded that they do have the option of personally rescinding any increase in allowance, or any allowance in full, if they wish.”
Cue FX: Wings flapping,  pigs oinking.
And equally ironic was the decision not to consider at the outset penalising councillors who failed regularly to attend meetings some just meet the minimum requirement to cling on to office – preferring to reward those who are simply doing the job they got elected for, and calling it a special responsibility.

***

Judging from the behaviour of some of them, it  might surprise you to learn that our Worst Street “servants” are bound by a councillor code of conduct intended “to promote and maintain high standards of behaviour by its members and co-opted members whenever they are acting in their capacity as a member of the authority.”
But that’s on tonight’s agenda as well.
The code is intended to reflect what is known as the Seven Principles of Public Life – defined as selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
Yes, really.
Titter ye not.
The code has just been revised – and ironically given recent events – has seen an expansion of the requirements for members to treat others with respect, equality and diversity.
Without comment, we reproduce some of the guidelines from the code which may or may nor strike a chord with readers.

***

  • Members must not place themselves in situations where their honesty and integrity may be questioned, must not behave improperly and must on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour.

  • Members must not behave towards others in a way which is violent, threatening, malicious or bullying.

  • Members must exhibit (leadership) principles in their own behaviour. They must actively promote and robustly support the principles of leadership, be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs and act in a way that secures or preserves public confidence.

  • Members may take account of the views of others, including their political groups, but must reach their own conclusions on the issues before them and act in accordance with those conclusions.

  • A Member must not act in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing their office or the council into disrepute. This may include; reducing the public’s confidence in that Member being able to fulfil the role of elected representative.

***

Broadly speaking, we have two types of councillor – those who do and those who don’t … the latter of which comprise the bulk of the chamber.
Although these guidelines from the code are just the tip of the iceberg, they cover such important things as failure to attend meetings on a regular basis, and censure those members who raise their hands and rubber stamp the orders of their political masters – even if at heart, they disagree with what they are being asked to do.

***

Another section – and a fairly lengthy one at that – deals with councillors and social media.
Presumably this is to tick all the boxes, otherwise there would be no point in its inclusion given the Luddite stance of almost all Boston councillors towards what has become a vital outlet to share and debate information and opinion – even the code declares that “it is recognised that social media can provide many opportunities for members to engage with the public.”
It’s impossible to produce a reliable figure – but a rule of thumb calculation done for a Local Government Association discussion about councillors and the use of Twitter six years ago calculated that 16% of councillors had a social media account to put them more in touch with their ward members.

***

That figure is probably now much higher – but even at the old rate would see five Boston borough councillors using Twitter to communicate with their voters.
In reality, we can find just one – Boston’s solitary Labour Councillor Paul Gleeson – although his messages by and large have nothing to do with local issues.
Worse still, the latest news on his local party website is the local candidate’s address for the June 2017 general election.

  
Is it really the case that nothing important worth sharing for discussion or debate in Boston has happened since then?
Apparently so.
And what is Paul Kenny up to these days, having stood as prospective parliamentary candidate at the last three general elections?
If in these delicate political times a general election came at us out of the sun, what are his views apropos Boston?
Not that long ago our local “newspapers” carried letters almost weekly which began “Boston’s Labour councillors say …”
Of course, in those days there were a trio not a solo – but voters are still being sidestepped in terms of communication. 

***

We mentioned last week the call by Worst Street for “expressions of interest” from community groups and individuals to work with it on the Christmas event for 2018.
“The power of willing volunteers was ably demonstrated by last year's festive events, culminating in the Christmas lights switch-on” says an entry on WorstWeb.
“You may not want to run a project, but may be willing to offer your skills and time to help out with plans for Christmas in Boston 2018.
“Or you may be a business wanting to light up your street. Your input could form part of a bigger plan.”
This seems to be a sensible idea – as something that became clear last year was the scale of the task versus the number of people seeking to carry it out, when a relatively small number of people found themselves carrying a lot of weight.

***

What is clear to almost everyone is that the council is now looking forward and trying to make a big job more manageable, as well as encouraging more people to get involved with events this Christmas.
Instead of one big project, it  has defined six smaller areas to be decorated and lit    the Market Place and Christmas Tree, Strait Bargate, Wide Bargate,  Bargate End Car Parks, the War Memorial, West Street, the traffic roundabouts – at Boardsides, Tesco’s, Chain bridge, ATS and Spirit of Endeavour, and Wormgate/Pen Street.

***

This is a follow-on to recommendations to the cabinet of curiosities on 4th April which specifically says: “The Cabinet is not seeking to have a town wide solution from a single group.”


***

The only people who seem to have a problem with this is a group involved in last year’s project –  principally the electricians involved – who now call themselves Christmas in Boston 2018.
The have published an “open letter” to Boston Borough Council signed by “chairman” Andrew Lovelace, who says that the  group feels “extremely disappointed  and humiliated” by was has happened.
The letter calls for the council to discard recommendations made on 4th April “and allow us to complete the project again this year” and goes on “Following our success, why should we have to apply again, to do what we did last year? We already have the working document from last year.  This can be amended quite easily for 2018. We hold over fifteen thousand pounds worth of lights to put up this year.  Why are you intending to give this to someone else to light up the town and buy more lights when we have them already? 
“This does not make sense. 
“This also runs the risk of being seen by the public as a misuse of funding and undermines their confidence in the council.”
The group tells councillors that it proposes to be the main hub for all communication with the council and sets out a number of “terms and conditions.”
These include: “The council have ten thousand pounds set aside for Christmas events for 2018/2019 and 2019 /2020, from the migration funding.
“The full ten thousand pounds is paid directly to Christmas in Boston account as soon as possible, to enable us to plan our volunteer work for Christmas 2018.
“Most of this money (80%) will be spent on lights for Boston, with a 10% set aside for any structural reports or pull testing required, with 10% set aside for the main Christmas tree or community Christmas tree which will be sourced locally supporting local businesses.
“We as a community group are representing all the communities of Boston. We are in the best position to decide as a group, where the money for the lights will be best spent on our town.  Together with BMiC (Boston more in common) we are working with all communities as we are inclusive of everyone.”
The “letter” concludes: “We are prepared to work with the council to make our town a better place, lifting the morale for everyone, but we will not be exploited and cast aside. 
“We feel sure that the council have more important things to focus on.  By stepping aside and allowing our group to take over the lights, you will be able to concentrate on other things for the good of our town. 
“In addition, we are a fully sustainable community group.  We consist of experts and professionals working together, with full support from the public and local businesses.”

***

It would take too long to list all the contradictions in a letter that we feel is far more arrogant than appeasing.
It remains to be seen whether Worst Street is prepared to back down and let the tail wag the dog over this issue.
And one matter that needs clarification is: who owns the lights.
The group says that it “holds” more than £15,000 worth of lights, and that to get someone else to take on the task of lighting the town means that they would have to buy more “when we have them already? 
Are they saying that if they don’t get the job that the lights are not available?
Our understanding was that last year’s venture was funded principally by a BTAC-ky grant of £10,000 if the groups raised a similar amount in donations and sponsorship – and that any remaining assets reverted to Boston Borough Council once the project ended.
Answers, please.
  
***

There’s no Boston Eye next week due to the May Day bank holiday. We’ll be back with  again on Monday 14th – but don’t forget we’re always available via e-mail.



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