Monday, 16 October 2017


An irony of the marathon task and finish group trying to come up with ways to make Boston more prosperous was that it was sparked by the sight of the former Edinburgh Woollen Mill Shop standing empty.
Two years on, nothing has changed – but at least the building has been tarted up under a conservation scheme partnership between Boston Borough Council and English Heritage which pays 50% of the cost of high quality repairs to historic buildings, 90% of the cost of reinstating architectural features – particularly the installation of traditional shop fronts – and at least 50% for improvements to signage.
Sadly, far too few businesses have taken up the offer, and Worst Street simply hasn’t flogged it well enough.

***

Far and away the worst eyesore in the Market Place these days – and for the past five years – is the former Millets outdoor clothing company, which shut its doors sometime in 2012 and has been in steady decline ever since.
It is for sale at a price between  £150,000 and £450,000 a year depending on the bits you want to buy, or to rent for £25,000 to £40,000 a year – again accordingly … but excluding business rates et al, which will have to be considerable.
The shop is Grade II listed with consent for the conversion of the upper floors into six apartments.
Yet despite this it lurks as a foul monstrosity blighting the approach to the Market Place from Pump Square and Dolphin Lane – part of the medieval lanes that Worst Street has hilariously compared with The Shambles in York.
 A shambles it is.
York it ain’t.

***

The best effort to beautify this eyesore has been to fill the windows with display material promoting Blackfriars – but this does nothing to solve the problem ... and that baffles us.
Repeatedly, Worst Street has boasted of its powers to force property owners to bring their neglected premises up to snuff – but for some reason this disgusting site has been ignored.
From what we can tell, Worst Street prefers to pick on the little taxpayers to force then to make improvements – and if ignored does the work itself and then drags the property owner through the courts to recoup the cost.

***

The old Millets shop must be owned by someone with the wherewithal to make major improvements – but instead lets it languish on the market expecting whoever leases or buys it to foot the bill.
Boston Borough Council is pathetically neglectful in the matter of this property – and must take steps to enforce its upgrading to a point where … if nothing else … it is made presentable and no longer detrimental to the town’s shopping ‘offer.’
And it doesn’t need a task and finish group to debate it – just some effort.

***

Still with empty shops – and further to our recent rant about the invasion of coffee shops,  Poundshops, phone shops, charity shops, betting shops, vaping shops and the like, we offer the photo below as proof in support of our argument that Boston will soon have no 'real' shops left.


Another of our little lanes with two shops to let, and a third – the former Boston Standard offices  –  set to reopen as yet another vaping shop.
Unless those in authority get a grip on this soon, the town centre will be a fit-for-nothing wilderness with nothing to attract shoppers.

***

Details of the moves by BTAC-ky to rid Strait Bargate of the noise, pollution and damage being caused by the Into-Town bus service tend to confirm what most of us already suspected – that inertia rules the day at Worst Street.
Even though the route was imposed by the Lincolnshire County Council when the service started in 2008 at a time when traffic congestion was far worse, no-one has since bothered to question whether it is still necessary now that things have moved on.  
The initial idea was that all three buses would stop at one location so people could swap buses but they didn’t do so. In addition, the cross town traffic that had been envisaged failed to materialise.
It seems that the reluctance of the controlling Conservatives at Worst Street to challenge Clownty Hall over the route – Lincoln says ‘jump’ and Boston says ‘how high?’ – has let things go from bad to worse.
And to be honest, the bottom line appears to be that people are too idle to walk from one end of Strait Bargate to the other – even though the main purpose of coming into the town centre must be to shop.
Having read the report, there would seem to be no real reason why the services cannot make a U-turn at each end of Strait Bargate – aside from the fear at Worst Street Central of disobeying their Lincoln masters.

***

Incidentally, it’s always cheering when a local council shows that it knows its own patch – and very disheartening when the reverse is shown to be the case.
The minutes of the BTAC-ky meeting on the bus service debate made no fewer than six references to ‘Straight’ Bargate – when for centuries it has been named ‘Strait’ Bargate.

***

In a recent piece on Twitter, Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill said that important road projects were progressing well and whilst it could be frustrating if road works delayed journeys, they were a sign of the council’s investment for the future.
He cited Lincoln’s Eastern Bypass – “one of the single most important highways projects in the county in recent years” – and due for completion in winter 2019, adding that Clownty Hall was already working on a business case for the final piece of the ring-road around Lincoln – the North Hykeham relief road.
Other projects worthy of a name check included Holbeach’s Peppermint Junction improvements, and the two-mile southern relief road in Grantham.
“The first phase was finished in August 2016, and we’re now preparing for the second and third stages with completion due in 2020 linking the A52 at Somerby Hill to the A1.
“These projects, and future road developments, will not only help improve safety and traffic flow, but are also vital for economic development unlocking land for development, creating new jobs and boosting the economy.
At the bottom of the list was mention of a relief road for Spalding, “a distributor road for Boston” and improvements to the A158 Lincolnshire Coastal Highway, to tackle congestion at places like Horncastle.
We’ve written about this before.
Whilst everyone else gets bypasses, ring roads and relief roads, Boston is promised a distributor road.
And what exactly is that?
If ever achieved, it will be a forlorn patchwork of roads largely running through newly built housing estates.
The only section that we’re likely to see soon is part of the Quadrant housing development in Wyberton which will link London Road with the A16 – ironically running parallel with the existing rat-run of Tytton Lane East.

***

After that, it’s all down to whether developers can be persuaded to build new housing in the right places to create a line for the road.
According to current county council documents, it is estimated that the entire distributor road would cost around £100m, and no additional funding is currently available.
Even if there were, the Boston Distributor Road would only provide a new route around the west side of the town, linking the A16 to the north, the A1121 Boardsides and A52 to the west, and the A16 to the south.
Clownty Hall is “looking for other possible funding sources” but points out that as part of the project’s proposed route, there are sections which would require major structures to be constructed over rail, road and water – and funding for these is not currently available.
Don’t hold your breath

***

The Preposterous Boston task and finish group’s final report gave many of Worst Street’s so-called “managers” a chance to blow their own trumpets.
This included a plug for the weekly Boston Borough Council bulletin – unusually named … as so much of its content has nothing to do with Boston Borough Council.
A particularly proud assertion was that the bulletin boasted around 4,000 subscribers.
Whilst it’s a moderately impressive figure for something that is nothing more than a pointless piece of busywork, it’s worth remembering how so many people came to be e-mailed a copy.
When voters applied for a brown garden waste bin, they were asked for an e-mail address – with a promise from Worst Street that: “Your personal contact details … will be used … to contact you should we need to obtain further information … about your application and to notify you of the action we are taking following your application.
“Boston Borough Council may also use your information for other purposes such as to prevent fraud …”
What happened then was that Worst Street subscribed everyone who’d given their e-mail addresses for the garden waste service to the weakly bulletin – and claimed almost overnight to have thousands of readers ,., rather than the 784 it had enjoyed up to that point.
A complaint of a breach of duty under the Data Protection Act was rejected.
Worst Street weasely  claimed: “… you can only carry out unsolicited electronic marketing if the person you’re targeting has given you their permission …
“However, there is an exception to this rule. Known as the “soft opt-in,” it applies … where you’ve obtained a person’s details in the course of a sale or negotiations for a sale of a product or service; where the messages are only marketing similar products or services; and where the person is given a simple opportunity to refuse marketing when their details are collected, and if they don’t opt out at this point, are given a simple way to do so in future messages.
“Given a clear unsubscribe option in the emails, and this was used by many people, we deemed this strategy both legal and an opportune way to engage with the local community.
“This position is further supported in that organisations can re-use personal information for purposes other than what collected for where that purpose may be beneficial to the individual.
“Although a subjective view – it was the decision of the Garden Waste Project implementation team … that the bulletin was not considered ‘marketing;’ rather a mechanism to inform residents … about opportunities, events, and other council related activities to benefit the community.”
Whilst we suppose that contain loads of rubbish – we think that the readership claims made to Prosperous Boston show the true public reaction to the publication.
At the time Worst Street cooked the data books, 15,500 households were signed up to the garden waste service – and presumably most of these gave their e-mail address.
So what the figure quoted to the task and finish group shows is that the bulletin has managed to lose more than ten thousand readers in quite a short time.
How much longer, we wonder before it goes back to its roots, and a circulation of 784?

***

Were we alone in being disappointed to see that among the first duties of Lincolnshire Police’s ‘Mini Police Project’ was a session on the streets with council staff and members of  Mayflower Housing collecting litter along Carlton Road, Taverner Road and around the Fenside Community Centre.
We were told that the youngsters collected a dozen bags of rubbish ranging from empty beer cans and cigarette butts to discarded clothes and crisp packets.
The project leader told a local “newspaper” that: “One of the Mini Police aims is to make the area they live in a better place to be.
“By going out and clearing up litter, they are working with partner agencies to improve their locality, not only for them but other pupils and members of the local community.”
Recently, local council taxpayers chipped in more than £850 towards the cost of establishing the mini police project in two town centre schools.
Somewhat naively, we thought that this was a laudable way to increase understanding of the role of the police at an early stage as part of a child’s education – and we’re sure that many others did too.
Now, it turns out to be an expensive way to clear up litter.
Will we soon be seeing officers and PCSOs on patrol wielding a litter picker and black bin bag rather than batons and tasers?
Somehow, we doubt it.

***

The Boston beach party in August again cost taxpayers money even though it was supposed to have been fully funded by other organisations.
As with last year’s event you and I stumped up £700 for donkey rides – which with no sense of shame, Worst Street charged as “sports development.”
Will they fund the dodgem cars thus for next year’s May Fair?
We think it’s called creative accounting.
In another slightly obscure entry, we paid almost £450 to an outside contractor to water the hanging baskets around Boston Stump – an item charged to “Public Health and Environment.”
Given that the borough employs its own grounds staff, who ought to be able to undertake jobs such as this, we wonder why outside tendering was necessary.

***

Speaking of the war on litter, we were told of a second incident in the Market Place which appears to use a costly sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Yet again, a reader told us of  a case where someone dropped an item of litter as they parked their car – and within seconds were confronted by a Worst Street litter squad rushing to the scene in a Worst Street car to ticket them.
The only way this can happen is if the car is lurking elsewhere awaiting a tip from the CCTV, which we have to say seems to be a serious abuse of resources – not to mention a waste of money.

***

But as we’ve said so often before, Worst Street does enjoy criminalising the people who pay its bills.


Witness the above idea of a ‘quiz’ from the council’s Twitter feed.
It’s really rather sad, isn’t it?

***

This week, we’re grateful to the Boston sub-Standard for our unintentional funnies.


Which heroine did the thief have in mind, we wonder – Jane Eyre, Elizabeth I, Scarlett O’Hara, or Joan of Arc … the list is endless.

***

And here’s a reminder not to turn your back on the vet next time you take Tiddles in for a health check.


It’s enough to make your eyes water, isn’t it?
  


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, 9 October 2017

Despite incessant claims that Worst Street is strapped for cash, it looks as though councillors may soon be getting a pay rise.
A seemingly innocuous report to last month’s full council meeting headed Appointments to the Independent Remuneration Panel is slightly more than that in that not only does it make three appointments to the panel – the previous members’ tenure has expired – but it sets the wheels in motion for them to start work on a pay review.
The panel makes recommendations about basic allowances, special responsibility allowances, dependant carers’ allowances, travel and subsistence allowances and co-optees’ allowances – and one thing that can be said with some certainty is that it won’t be suggesting a pay freeze or reduction.
The review involves analysing local and national comparative information, considering the time commitment required for a ward councillor role, and evaluating roles which are eligible for special responsibility allowances.
Given the pathetic attendance record of some councillors, one might think that the review provided a good opportunity to introduce a no play, no pay policy so that failure to turn up for a meeting would mean a reduction in allowances.
Ho, ho, ho.
Ho.
Whoever drew up the rules thought of that one – and made sure that  any deal was wholesale rather than retail ... so that councillors who fail properly to deliver on their election promises are in no
way penalised.
The wording makes it clear that “the panel has no legislative provision to make any recommendations based on an attendance allowance scheme, whereby members only receive an allowance for the meetings they attend, or any form of performance related payment, or for allowances to be linked to the Member Code of Conduct as a form of sanction.”
In a nutshell – those councillors who decided to thumb their noses at their colleagues and their electorate pocket exactly the same wages and get off scot free.
The last pay review was in 2012 and covered a two–year period.
Not being one to do things by halves where self–service is involved, the Boston panel awarded its chums the biggest rise of all the councils – an increase of 28% to £3,052 on the basic wedge ... which has crept up since then to £4,400 a year.

***

There was major criticism of all this – especially from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which said: “With local authorities up and down the country having to rein in spending and many public sector staff facing a pay freeze, those councillors who have awarded themselves an increase in their allowances in defiance of government advice should hang their heads in shame.
At the time, Worst Street – adopting its usual policy of treating taxpayers as if they were idiots – managed to spin the pay rise down to a meagre 2.5% a year using the argument that eight years had gone by since the last increase.
Leader at the time, Peter Bedford said: "There will never be a best time for increases, and there have not been any in Boston for six years. We have slipped further and further behind our colleagues in the other Lincolnshire authorities, and still remain substantially below them.
"It does demonstrate that we represent value for money here in Boston.
"Allowances are there so that no one is denied, for financial reasons, from becoming a councillor. They are recompense for the time that people spend on council business."

***

For longer than we care to remember, the Worst Street argument whenever the councillor slush funds are concerned is that they are the worst paid in the land.
Certainly the allowances are down with the lowest of the low – but the most likely reason for this is that Worst Street is one of the smallest district councils by population ... placed 305th   out of 326, the last two of which are the City of London with 9,400 residents and the Scilly Isles with 2,600.
Small council, duties not onerous – for some members virtually non–existent – so why should they be paid even more?
Rest assured that his argument will not be one to feature when the panel begins its considerations.

***

Certainly, the members sound as though they might be sympathetic.
They are:
Tim Booth – a former policeman who now runs his own caravan and leisure security business and has been involved with community groups for many years.
John Price – a former officer of the council who has a good understanding of the workings of local government and the roles and responsibilities of members in those processes.
Simon Sperring – a former bank manager and teacher in business studies who was a member of the remuneration panel  between 2003 to 2008 and a one–time chairman.

***

It’s always good to find an explanation that sums things up succinctly and in a way that everyone can understand.
When we read the third and final phase of the long overdue Prosperous Boston Task and Finish Group, we had to admire an update on economic development by the Head of Town Centre, Leisure, Events and Culture on behalf of the Economic Development Manager.
Wisely – and perhaps with  the subtext of a nothing to do with us, guv  the report  made a point of telling readers that it was quoting verbatim.
The opening line set the trend for the rest of the report ...
“It was reported that by way of context, the main raison d’être over the last 11 months for economic development had been to develop constructive relationships with the business community whilst leveraging greater support and focus from county–wide partners and key economic stakeholders to deliver on our economic plan...”
You got that alright?
Good.

***

Apparently, the Preposterous Boston review is now at an end.
Its final recommendations from phase three were about the need to support the on-going sustainability of the Visit Boston website in future financial years and review all its  recommendations in the Spring.
In particular the report called for a corporate policy on advertising to enable income strands through the Visit Boston website for private advertising, and wants another policy covering private sponsorship to support the sustainability of the site.

***

Despite our jaundiced view of Preposterous Boston, there is no doubt that it produced some achievements – principally in the area of improving signage.
But to us the work fell far short of its proclaimed intention to produce “one of the most in-depth studies into what makes Boston tick”  ...  “with far-reaching recommendations aimed at making the town better for residents, shoppers and for those who work and visit here”

***

A major area of concern that remains unaddressed is that of street drinking and problems in Central Park.
One of the most telling responses concerned the issue of dispersal of groups who made people feel intimidated and threatened – particularly in the town and around the bus station.
The police response was to take no action as it was thought that the “threat” felt was probably the  “perception of threat” rather than being the real thing.
The outcome was advice from the police to call 999 – if a threat was made.
There were also complaints of no police patrols/no PCSO support and that CCTV did not seem to be working, neither did calling 101.

***

Ironically in the same week that the report was published we noted a complaint on Twitter about problems in the park.
In part it read: “We went in the park walked about 30 yards looked to the side of me and saw a woman pulling her knickers up after having a wee  ... I jest you not. We started looking for staff in the park ... nobody anywhere. There were three sat on the bench one bloke and two women. He got his todger out and he had a pee in front of families in the park.  We noticed how many people were drinking booze.
“We went into town to see if we could find a policeman ... not one to be found. What a sad town we live in now.
“This needs addressing now. Every time something happens in Boston our local MP says we don't have a problem. Oh yes we do – a major one .
“You can drop litter in town and get fined yet you can go in the park drink and inject drugs in your body and s**t and p**s all over.
“A sad day in the sleepy old town Boston.”

***

Speaking of Central Park – we note the cancellation of the planned Oktoberfest at the end of this month ... apparently because of low ticket sales.
We also noted the eagerness with which Worst Street washed its hand of any connection with the event.
There must have been relief all round after the council painted itself into a corner by declaring that drinking was not allowed in the park and then permitting a seriously drink related event there.
However, a number of comments posted on one of our local “newspaper” websites challenged the council account of things.
Comments took the form of  ... “This was announced as a sell-out not long ago ... You haven't been able to buy tickets since about July because it's sold out! ... It was sold out!!! I couldn’t get tickets for couple of months!  ... Load of rubbish. Something strange I’d say something isn't quite right here ... It's been sold out for some time now, friends of mine couldn't even get hold of tickets due to being sold out ... So you cannot get tickets for it as it said it was sold out and we tried on their website which stated it was sold out ... So someone is telling porkies about what's going on ... We tried to book tickets and it came across as fully booked! ...We couldn't get tickets as it was sold out so something strange has gone on”
Whilst one person may have been mistaken about whether the event was on or off – nine people getting the same message does indeed sound as though something strange has been going on...

***

A message from Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones arrived after our recent piece  concerning the force’s advertising of three admin roles costing £130,000 a year...
“Your recent comments about three new roles being funded are simply inaccurate.
“Two of the three are being funded by five forces, not just Lincolnshire, and they will help provide governance to the £22m a year collaboration work across the East Midlands.
“They will also help all PCCs and Chiefs look for new ways to collaborate and spend taxpayers’ money wisely and improve local services.
“The third role is new and will oversee the multi-million pound commissioning that we have to do around victim services as well as working to reduce demand on policing services appropriately by making sure other agencies pull their weight.
“Building partnerships to ensure everyone’s aims pull in the same direction is also part of the role.
“Mental health issues take up about 30% of police time, working with health to get people the care they need without using police cells inappropriately will make a huge difference.
“The final strand is beefing up crime prevention by working with Trading Standards, RAF, councils etc etc. This is a specialist role that will hopefully save a huge number of officer hours.
“I can’t afford to employ 10 extra cops, but I expect this role to save me at least that in time.”
Whilst we’re happy to clarify matters – we did point out to Mr Jones that we spoke as we saw, and that the job adverts did not spell out that the salary costs were shared.

***

The question that sparked a confrontation between Worst Street Leader Michael Cooper and council critic Darron Abbott turned out to be one concerning the cost of dealing with what the council refers to as people who make persistent and vexatious complaints – one of our local “newspapers” reports.
Mr Abbott is one of a handful of taxpayers who has been awarded this dubious distinction.
And according to Boston’s Chancellor of the Exchequer – Finance portfolio holder Aaron Spencer – it has cost almost £16,000 to deal with “contacts” made since the policy was introduced in April 2016, which he calculated equated to £10,640 a year.
Mr Spencer said there had been 399  'contacts' dealt with under the policy ... which he claimed was more than one every working day – although we calculate the total number of days between April last year and 1st  October this year at more than 500.
This figure applied only to people listed under the policy, and not day-to-day contacts – nor did they come from 399 separate people.
He said the council didn’t have a time recording system, so officers could only estimate how long each contact took – but a reasonable estimate was that “two hours per contact was appropriate'” at an average cost of £20 per hour.
The report said that Councillor Spencer equated the annual £10,640 figure to the council tax of 60 households at Band D, but because almost 50% of council taxpayers are in Band A it would also equate to 90 of those households.
We know that one such “contact” was to ask why a garden waste bin had not been collected – a question asked again when the situation remained unchanged and no reply had been received.
How on earth this can be inflated to £40 quids’ worth of officer time is anyone’s guess.
As the whizz kid in charge of millions of our council tax cash, perhaps Councillor Spencer can explain.
And while he’s about it, could he also detail  some of his calculations.
Boston Eye’s office is a band A property – and we pay £1,080 a year.
Multiply that by 90 and the total is £97,200 which is far in excess of the £10,640 a year that Councillor Spencer has calculated.
Still he is the expert.
Isn’t he?
Although ninety houses sound far worse that a mere nine.

***

Still no more progress on that spat mentioned above between Mr Abbott and Councillor Cooper – although the debate goes on behind the scenes and includes what some councillors appear to regard as clever political manoeuvring.
Watch this space ...

***

Some mysterious goings-on in Worst Street generated a Twitter debate regarding the use of football pitches at Garfit’s Lane playing fields.
Eventually, the developers, Chestnut Homes – who are behind the Quadrant project which includes a new stadium for Boston United – confirmed a new lease to use the football pitches at Garfit’s Lane for their community football teams, but said this had “nothing to do with the Quadrant and the new stadium,” adding that other teams and the public who use the site will still be able to do so.
The event was reported in one of our local “newspapers” after a call from a reader – and a council spokesman confirmed the lease had been discussed outside of official proceedings, but would not go into further details.
For some peculiar reason, local MP Matt Warman wrote on Twitter that the lease was for a year and was for £15,000.
He said that he found out about it because he asked the council, adding: “This sort of use is absolutely standard arrangement for public sports facilities” – but he failed to respond to a tweet asking whether he had gone to the council on behalf of Boston United, and claimed that “if council meetings discuss every football pitch hire they’ll be there a long time – this isn’t controversial or unusual.”
Unfortunately, it appears that this is both controversial and unusual because – whilst the Boston Town Area Committee (BTAC-ky) owns and is responsible for the recreation area – the committee was apparently unaware that a deal had been cooked up to let a third party use it.
We have said for long enough that Worst Street Central (aka the Cabinet of Curiosities) regards BTAC-ky as nothing more than an extension of its bank account to help it evade its core responsibilities.
Now it seems that purloining BTAC-ky land for its own profit has been added to the list.

***

A recent letter to one of our local “newspapers” from Boston’s Mayor Councillor Brian Rush failed to gain publication – which is odd since it concerned the vexed issue of Brylaine buses’ infamous IntoTown service which uses Strait Bargate as a rat run.
Through the auspices of BTAC-ky, of which he is a member, Councillor Rush arranged  for a Brylaine representative  to attend a meeting to explain why the company routed the Into Town service through the Market Place, and specifically through Strait Bargate.
Councillor Rush took part in protests when the service began in 2008 “to condemn the routing of buses through what we considered should have been a sacred pedestrian space, which was then, and still is, a thoroughly unsuitable route for so many 'hourly buses' noisily crawling through this very narrow stretch of paved area in the heart of our town.”
His letter was to tell the newspaper that “after almost nine years, every single one of our BTAC members ... promised to seek the assistance, and co-operation of our cabinet members, by asking them to agree to finally exorcise these smoke breathing monsters from what is thought should be a pedestrian precinct.”
Councillor Rush added: “I must also say how mightily impressed I was by recently elected County Councillor Paula Cooper and her offer of support, and her promise to bring this up for discussion at Lincoln.”
He said that before the meeting he  had begun to lose faith in the councillors of Boston Borough –  “yet here we are with even County Councillor Alison Austin, an original Bypasser, throwing in her support for the ban!”

***

Quite why this went unreported in the first place, and with a subsequent letter doing the newspaper’s job for it being put aside as well, we will never know.
But the issue of buses in Bargate seriously needs addressing and an alternative route found – although we fear that Councillor Rush will not get his wish (even though town centre members of the only wards affected are unanimous) , as the Tory-dominated council bowed to Clownty Hall from the outset, and whilst once appearing to promise to end the rat run, failed to deliver when elected.


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, 2 October 2017

 
Be still, our beating heart – Boston may soon have a branch of a Canadian coffee shop.
The firm Second Cup has applied to turn the old Clarks shoe shop in Strait Bargate – opposite Caffè Nero – into yet another beverage outlet selling drinks and food to eat inside or take away.
Our MP Matt Warman is quoted as saying: “I am very pleased that Second Cup is looking to open a branch in Boston. The chain only has a few branches across the UK, so it is great vote of confidence for us that they have chosen our high street to expand.
“It will be a welcome addition to the town, and I look forward to stopping off there if the application goes ahead.”
Certainly, locals will be spoilt for choice – and if Mr Warman wants to avoid accusations of favouritism, he may end up sleepless and in urgent need of a loo if he drinks a coffee at every outlet.
Once upon a time, cafés provided a welcome break during a shopping trip.
Now the shops people used to visit have been subsumed by the tidal wave of coffee shops that is drowning the town.
If the latest addition goes ahead it will opposite another national outlet in one direction whilst in another is Oldrids – which boasts two coffee shops.

***

We tried to calculate how many caffs there are in and around the town centre, but lost count after a dozen or so.
They must now rank as one of the major outlets by type – among other groups such as Poundshops, phone shops, charity shops, betting shops, vaping shops and the like.
What no-one seems to notice is that these places vastly outnumber what might be called “proper” shops.
We have a cluster of clothing shops – mostly at the cheap end of the market; Boots, Marks and Spencer, some specialist outlets and local stalwarts such as Cammacks, Cheers, Coneys, Mountain’s – and of course, Oldrids … which now seems to be transferring its allegiance to Grantham.

***

Soon, there will be no real reason to go into the town centre to shop because so many shops have disappeared over time – to the extent that it is almost impossible to buy fresh fruit and veg outside of a supermarket … a particular irony in an agricultural area such as this … and don’t forget that the local Farmers’ Market pulled out of town due to lack of business.

***

Shopping was one of the early aspects looked at by the absurdly named Prosperous Boston Task and Finish Group – and among the ideas put forward was to stage a food festival – something that happened the weekend before last.
Our worries began in the dying days before the event when Boston Borough Council’s website listed stall attractions as “the Chuckling Cheese Company to Robinsons Ice Cream” – which reminded us of the quotation attributed to Dorothy Parker of “running the gamut from A to B”
More worrying still was the news that – with four days to go – there was still “some space” for traders at £50 a head.
The dictionary is in no doubt as to how a festival is defined.
It is “a day or period of celebration.”
It would doubtless baulk at the scene that we found when we visited: two cheese stalls, a beer stall, a pie stall, accompanied by an ice cream van and a couple of trailers rather than stalls selling speciality drinks.
We were particularly taken with the offer of a “wild beaver pie” – a confection from a Melton Mowbray maker.
For a moment we were taken aback that a culinary use might have been found for a rodent – but on further investigation found that is contained “tender pieces of local beef steak from Leicestershire.in rich Beaver Ale gravy wrapped in a short crust butter pastry parcel.”

***

The question must be asked: Where were our local food producers?
Boston is famed for its sausage. Not far away one can buy all manner of ostrich delicacies. Boston bakers Shephards is one of the best around.
The Maud Forster windmill quite possibly sells them some locally-ground flour.
Round and about we have bakers famed for their plum loaves, specialists producing Lincolnshire chine, Belvoir Cordials, Batemans beers and even Jakeman’s sweets.

***

How was word of the proposed festival put about, how long ago, and were any of these local firms invited to take a stall?
Why were stalls £50? – far better with a first time event to make attendance free.
We can say with come certainty that we think it unlikely that the handful of exhibitors who attended felt that they had got much out of it, and anyone who travelled any distance to view such a poor effort would probably vow “never again.”
All in all, we think that with such a feeble line up (and the fact that it was a first-time event is no excuse) it would have been better  to have cancelled, given refunds and then put some real effort into getting a decent turn out later in the year.
In part such a thought may have crossed someone’s mind, as the application forms for stalls and trailers asked if would be participants might be interested in trading on Monday 25th September for a discounted fee.
That suggested that someone at least felt that a second day’s food festival might simply result in egg on face.
The picture below is of last year’s Melton Mowbray food festival … 
It packs the town out and draws visitors by the ton.
Melton Mowbray has a population less than half the size of Boston.
It is managed by a compact council which unlike Boston is not littered with highly paid staff dedicated to things such as town centre management and event organising.
How come Melton can do it but Boston seems incapable?

***

We’re sorry that we can’t get too worked up about the news that two more Boston councillors have quit UKIP for the Conservatives.
The defection of Yvonne Stevens and Jonathan Noble, who represent Trinity and Fishtoft, bumps the Tory numbers up to 15 – exactly half of the council – leaving seven UKIP, three Independent, two Labour, and three unaligned members.
Kippers began falling off their perches within minutes of the close of the 2015 local elections, and the latest quitters were both at one time deputy leaders of the group.
There is a long history in Lincolnshire as a whole of dissent within UKIP – and with time steadily running out until the next election for Worst Street in 2019, we feel that some changes might have more to do with alignment for re-electability than with the here and now
Having said that, Boston’s Tory council has not exactly been a glitterball of achievement and good governance so far – so we a cunning plan now could end as the old adage jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire!

***

Talking of the Worst Street Tories, we note that our strong and mostly silent leader Michael Cooper appears to have been at it again.
At the end of May, Councillor Cooper drew some unfavourable attention with a complaint about the language he was said to have used when expressing his feelings over remarks on Facebook by council critic Darron Abbott about Mr Cooper’s non-dom status – he lives in East Lindsey whilst representing a Boston ward.
Read that report by clicking  here 

   ***

Fast forward almost four months from the end of May and another episode has sparked a protest from Mr Abbott to the Chairman of the local Conservative Association, Councillor Paul Skinner.
It reads:

It is with regret that once again I have to write to you as the Chairman of the local Conservative Association.
You may remember I wrote to you earlier in the year, regarding the Leader of the Council’s threat to Smash, my f***king face in, the matter was reported to Boston Borough Council, who took no action because the comments were made outside the Municipal Buildings, but please note no denial was ever offered.
On Sunday at 14.16 I received a text message which you have a copy of. This text seemed to be an attempt to wind me up and provoke me in to some kind of action that would get me in to trouble. Upon investigation this text message came from the Leader of the Council’s mobile phone.



I should not have to remind you that I am unable to contact any councillor or officer as I am on the list of persistent and vexatious complainers which I believe as a councillor you support. Do you not think in the first instance it is a little ironic that the Leader can appear to breach the Data Protection Act to get my phone number to send me harassing and intimidating text messages?
The worst thing of all when I wrote to you earlier in the year no action was taken against Mr Cooper and you seem reluctant to take action once again. By the actions of the local association, other councillors and yourself you are all condoning the actions of The Leader, someone you should all look up to and follow by example.
As a former member and supporter of the Conservative Party, I am very disappointed in the way the Leader’s behaviour is being accepted as the norm.

Initially, mention of “the question on Monday night”  had meant nothing, but after Monday's full council meeting Mr Abbott learned that  one about the cost of handling persisent and vexatious complaints had been asked at the meeting in the section of the agenda allocated to questions from members of the public.
And again, our information is that this member of the ‘public’ was none other than Lincolnshire County Councillor Paula Cooper, wife of the Boston council leader – but a public person in that she doesn’t hold a seat at Worst Street, nor does she live in Boston.

***

Boston Eye asked Councillor Cooper if  he would like to comment.
Initially, he told us: “I’m afraid I haven’t seen the Email from Mr Abbott to Councillor Skinner so I am unable to comment at this point.”
That was last Thursday.
The next day, another e-mail arrived which read: "I'm still at a bit of a loss around this Email Cllr Skinner only has the Email about a Txt Message that Mr Abbott received that he thinks I sent but I most certainly didn't ,but dosen't  (sic) have anything about Any of the Questions asked at Council last Monday .It should be remembered that there are a number of people on the Vexatious complaints register and no single person was named or implied . Also the question was asked by a County Councillor and perhaps your question should be posed to some one (sic) at LCC"


***
On Saturday, we replied: 

"It appears that my e-mail to you may have conflated two sets of information, which might have led to your sense of loss.
The first is the issue of the text to Mr Abbott – which according to the screenshot supplied came from mobile number XXXXX XXXXX – which is listed as being yours on the council’s website  …
… There is only one question to ask here – and that is whether you were the sender of the text.”
If not, the next has to be how your ‘phone came to be used.
The second piece of information concerns the “question” mentioned in the text.
Mr Abbott had no idea what it referred to, but was told after Monday’s council meeting that your wife had posed a question about the costs of dealing with persistent and vexatious complainers during the section of the meeting allocated to questions from the public.
At this stage, the meaning of the text became clearer to Mr Abbott, and prompted him to write to Councillor Skinner to complain that the text “seemed to be an attempt to wind me up and provoke me into some kind of action that would get me in to trouble.”
You say in your reply that the question was asked by a county councillor.
My questions here are:
A: Was that Councillor Mrs Cooper?
B:  Was the question pre-submitted in any form – as it apparently took the meeting by surprise, and were you aware that it was to be asked?
C: Was the question submitted under the “Questions from the Public” (Section F section of the agenda?)
If so being a County Councillor is irrelevant.
I’m anxious to publish an accurate account of all this, and so look forward to your replies with interest."

***

Our deadline passed without any reply – but if we hear more, we will let you know next week.
However, it has been officially confirmed to us that Mrs Cooper was indeed the questioner at last week's full council meeting  and that her query was raised in  the 'public' section of the meeting.


***

We’re told that it was like an episode from The Sweeney ....
Man heading for Ladbrokes in the Market Place discards fag end on the ground before entering the shop.
Alert CCTV operator clocks this appalling crime, and within minutes an unmarked Boston Borough Council car squeals into the area, and parks beneath a ‘no parking’ sign outside the shop so as not to delay the issue of a £75 fine.
All well and good – after all littering counts as anti-social behaviour.
But was such a large sledgehammer needed to crack such a small nut?
Not only that, but the enforcement squad failed to notice a cluster of street drinkers who were also in the area.

*** 

Despite the huge success of the “civilian” group that has worked so hard to give Bostonians a Christmas to remember this year, worst Street is still grudging in its praise – perhaps because the council ballsed things up so badly last year and can’t abide the success of others.
The thrust of a piece on WorstWeb – the borough’s website – sees what’s being done by arty-farty group Transported dominating the story.
The borough and Transported are still banging the Illuminate drum to mark the forthcoming 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers arrival in America which has nothing to do with Boston.
This year we are promised a lantern parade and “innovative light-based artworks reflecting the themes of freedom and liberty in the historic setting of the sweeping Market Place.”
Whether all this will now happen is anyone’s guess – as we reported last week that Transported had failed to find a huge chunk of official funding.
The real stars of this year’s yuletide will be the team organising the lighting – including Christmas trees at roundabouts on all main roads into Boston – and who have raised thousands of pound locally rather than passing the begging bowl to the likes of Worst Street, BTAC-ky and Boston Big Local.
Meanwhile, Worst Street is boasting free car parking in all Boston Borough Council-run car parks after 4pm on Thursday 23rd November – sponsored by Hoppers jewellers.
Presumably, what that means is that Worst Street takes a ballpark stab at how many cars it thinks will come into town without paying, and Hoppers foot the bill.
Even at Christmas the Worst Street policy is taking rather than giving!

***

A few days ago we were introduced to the new Lincolnshire Police logo – which has either been produced at no extra cost by the graphics department or designed in-house for just a few hundred pounds, according to which report you read
In an interview, Chief Constable Bill Skelly is quoted as saying that the logo is part of bigger plans to secure better funding from the government.
Lincolnshire Police is currently the worst funded per head of population in the country and the new logo demonstrated it was looking to the future, he said.
"It is my view they will invest in someone looking forward, rather than someone just maintaining what we have," he said.
"It is about saying this is an organisation that will use your money well."
We don’t know about you, but the new logo says nothing much at all.
Yet according to the police, it is designed to be

Forward looking
Promote a sustainable force
Re-states our commitment to PRIDE (professionalism, respect, integrity, dedication and empathy.)
Re-states our traditions (by retaining helmet, cap and flag badges)
Is not dismissive of our past.

However cheaply the logo has been produced, the fact is that by the time it starts appearing in the coming months on noticeboards at police stations, on police cars, the force website and letterheads, the cost certainly has to run into many thousands – for something that looks as though it was drawn up on the back of a fag packet

***

Finally, this week’s less than dubious taste media award is shared honours even between our local “newspapers.”


The above from Lincolnshire Live – home of the Lincolnshire Echo and Boston off-Target, which tries to lure Boston readers to it site by posting stories that turn out to have nothing to do with Boston – lends a whole new definition  to the meaning of the word best
… whilst the heading below ...


... suggested either a swoop on a cluster of zombies or a group of people in custody who are unlikely to escape!!



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