Monday, 27 March 2017


It is said that rare-ish events happen once in a blue moon – but for the Conservative council leaders in Lincolnshire it’s a case of double vision.
Blue Moon number one is the annual council tax increase, which everyone apologises about and makes excuses for but goes ahead and increases taxes exactly as they had planned.
Blue Moon number two is the one that will really affect the political tides in Lincolnshire, as it is the one that will see local elections on Thursday 4th May.
Both affect Boston in one way or another.

***

Blue Moon #1 has seen Worst Street scrabbling to justify a council tax rise that is bigger that it is making out – with a clear willingness to be economical with the truth if that is what it takes.
A recent exchange on Twitter saw the council respond robustly to assert that its claimed figure of an increase of just 9p a week was for the “BORO” part of the bill.
This glibly ignores the conniving of recent months which has seen “non-statutory” duties such a toilet provision, street lighting and the managing of Central Park farmed out to parish levels and – technically – therefore allowing our so-called “leaders” to claim that these charges are “nothing to do with us, guv.”
Doubtless, this leads to much backslapping and self-congratulation in the hierarchy, whose inhabitants think that they have cunningly hoodwinked us into believing their nonsense. Worst Street even tried pinning some of the blame on the drainage boards, declaring that their selfish actions to save our homes, businesses and farmland from flooding swallow up half of the borough’s tax take.

***

What they have actually done – and not for the first time – is to highlight the fact that they think that they can treat us as idiots and get away with it.
The tweets that we referred to earlier came during a debate started by a resident of the BTAC-ky area – whose committee formerly spent a small amount each year on projects within the town centre in the way of a parish council.
But with a sleight of hand that would make an elephant appear nimble-fingered, the “BORO” is dumping hundreds of thousands more by way of charges for these already hard hit residents.
A Band A taxpayer last year paid £8.48 to BTAC.
This year it has risen to £46.63 – which Worst Street claims is a mere 182.5% increase … although it looks like a lot more to us.
By the time you include the demands of County Hall and Lincolnshire Police, the total for the year is £1,084 compared with £976.46 – an increase of £108.28.
Boston Borough Council’s “9p a week” is part of its 2.9% rise – making its demand for the coming year £118.86.
But the bottom line is that out of the £108 total increase, almost another half returns to Worst Street via BTAC-ky – an unfair tax levied on the borough’s poorest wards to fund facilities enjoyed by the whole borough and beyond.

***

So what remains that is now classified as the “BORO?”
Well, the dregs include processing planning applications, sweeping the streets once every few weeks, licensing, the “tomb it may concern” duties at the crematorium and cemetery, and a lot of money thrown at the Moulder leisure centre and – amazingly still – the PRSA.
Most importantly, the biggest remaining role is to collect the council tax on behalf of Lincolnshire County Council and Lincolnshire Police – an exercise that uses the bulk of the £8 million extracted by Worst Street for staffing and the allowances of our councillors.

***

 

On now … to Blue Moon #2.
With elections on the way, the Conservatives will doubtless wish to retain their hold on the county of Lincolnshire.

Click to enlarge
And the campaign appears to have begun with a series of publications on social media with an “Investing in …” theme.
Whilst they are tweeted from “Lincolnshire Tories” they are actually promotional items under the Lincolnshire County Council banner – but perhaps the leadership thinks that it has exclusivity rather than a majority.
Sadly, like so much material forthcoming from the powers that be these days there is certain elasticity with the information provided.
Arriving on our computers at this particular time, and beneath the Tory rather than the county banner, and with the hashtag #VoteConservative4Growth we assume they are meant to persuade us to maintain the political status quo.
However, whilst the last elections were in 2013, the spending covers a period well before that in the case of some of the £32.9 million quoted for Boston.
The list includes the £2m Market Place improvements, which were completed in 2012 and which contained more than £1m from the European Regional Development Fund.
Then there is £1m-plus for things to do with bus services – including the Into Town farce – which date as far back as 2008 and were completed around the time of the last elections.
 But perhaps the most misleading claim is to have spent £11 million on the Boston Barrier economic investment development.
This was never more than an investment of money on paper – rather than one of paper money because – by an odd coincidence just as County Hall became seriously strapped for cash – it was decided that the water level management plan that would have boosted Boston’s tourist trade and improved the appearance of the entire waterscape in the town was kicked into touch.


However there was an upside – the cash most likely went on miles more roads for anywhere else but Boston.

*** 

Anyway, come the election, Boston will have one seat fewer up for grabs after Boundary Commission changes.
We will have six seats instead of seven.
The names that stay the same are: Boston Coastal, Boston Rural, Boston South, and Boston West
The names that vanish are Boston East, Boston Fishtoft and Boston North West.
The new names are: Boston North and Skirbeck.
At no time has Worst Street ever provided a helpful guide in the form of a map to let voters check their addresses against the wards – but they don’t do that sort of thing, do they?
The borough’s current representation at Clownty Hall is: UKIP – 3, Lincolnshire Independents (we’d forgotten about them) – 2, Conservative – 1 and “Independent” – 1 … although over the years there has been much that is chameleonic  about these loyalties.
If you are confused, you have every right to be.
And of the less than magnificent seven, only two that we recall have raised more than one question at full council meetings and some have remained silent. There are also some feeble attendance records to enhance this lack of lustre.  
If nothing else, voters should consider who they want to represent them … and we should know very soon.

***

As we have said, the County Council elections are on Thursday 4th May.
The deadline for nominations is 4th April – Tuesday of next week.
Soon after that, we would expect Lincolnshire County Council to let us know who the candidates are …
The deadline to register to vote is 13th April
The postal vote deadline is 18th April
And the proxy vote deadline is 25th April

***

With the possibility of a vote asking whether to make Lincolnshire a unitary authority  in the offing it is more important than ever to elect councillors who don’t just want  the job because they always have been elected … or because they like the cachet that the title attracts … or because they feel that they have some divine right to the job – and the allowances of course.
We have a whole host of duffers posing as county councillors at present.
We also have a window of opportunity to change all of that, and metaphorically “burn the chaff with an unquenchable fire” as Matthew said shortly before quarter past three –  3:12 to be precise

***

Our last blog contained an interesting letter which we are sure that those at the so-called “top” in Worst Street would rather you had not seen – a begging letter to the local “newspapers” pleading for “fair” coverage. This of course meant fair to Worst Street rather than fair to paper’s readers, as it would have been a less than honest depiction of the town and the mess that the council has got us into.
Now, a copy of another missive has come our way – this time from the Quadrant Action Group which has deep reservations about the proposed development in Wyberton which includes hundreds of new houses, shops and a new stadium for Boston United football club.
The letter – sent to the BORO’s Department of Development Services says: “Amongst our group are business people of the town and surrounding area, and they are picking up on rumours that disturb them – such as ‘the stadium is to be built elsewhere’ … or not to the grand scale that was originally granted.
“We have accepted that permission was granted for a community facility, all-weather pitch, indoor sports hall etc., for Wyberton provided that ‘the enabling development’ allowed the land on the opposite side of the A16 to be developed to enable funding for such a venture. 
“Other builders in the past have put in planning applications for this land to be developed, and been refused.
“Can you assure the people of Wyberton that if the community facility, with all its facets, as in the ‘full’ details do not come to fruition, and the residents of Wyberton do not receive the benefits of this facility, that the houses and if any, the retail and commercial will be asked to be demolished?
“May we draw your attention to enabling development 3.10 of the application where it states: The application seeks the delivery of a new community stadium for the club which is inextricably linked to the mixed use development on the west side of the A16 since the latter is defined by the applicants as ‘enabling development’.
“That is, that the mixed use development of housing, retail and commercial, leisure would not be being proposed without the stadium.
“We feel this would be unacceptable practice, and certainly show Boston Borough Council in a very bad light.
“We were given to believe –  and most of Boston too – that the building of a new stadium was so urgent, not granting permission was out of the question.
We await your response with interest.”
We do as well.
The reply will make most interesting reading, we are sure.

***

Finally, our thanks go to Boston’s outgoing mayor Stephen Woodliffe for so kindly gifting us this picture in the worthless Boston borough weekly bulletin.

 

Not since former mayor Richard Austin was pictured with his impression of Kenny Everett’s heavy-handed Brother Lee Love, has such a delight come our way.
Other agricultural areas have their scarecrow.
But Boston has a Mayorcrow.
For once, Worst Street leads the pack!


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, 13 March 2017



The Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come looms large over Boston between now and December as BostonBorough Council continues to demonstrate how best not to run a booze-up in a brewery.
After last year’s Christmas fiasco brought borough-wide condemnation and beyond, Worst Street’ Boston Town Area Committee – BTAC-ky – supported the creation of a community group to “pursue provision of Christmas lights for the town” jointly with the Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses.
When the committee met last Wednesday we expected to see it set the ball rolling.
But Boston Borough Council had already set its own balls-up rolling
The council that makes a sloth look like Mo Farah hadn’t got around to contacting the eleven people said to be interested in helping out – which means yet another delay is in the offing.
And even though the item was on the agenda, only one interested member of the public was there.
Several of those keen to help had talked ahead of the meeting about breaking the mould of previous years and coming up with something new and exciting,
Suggestions included staging the Christmas celebrations on a Saturday rather than the recent choice of a Thursday, and including extra market stalls and some kids’ attractions.
Word must have got round – because the day before the meeting some stodgepots  in Worst Street decided to undermine these efforts by setting the key dates in stone and declaring a broad framework for Christmas
It’s called a pre-emptive strike.
Last Tuesday, the Worst Street Twitter feed told us registration for traders was now open. 


All well and good, you might think – Boston Borough Council is planning ahead at last.
The the tweet – which was removed soon afterwards for some reason  linked to a web page that promised the involvement from Transported and Boston Stump.
The date – as in previous years coincides with US Thanksgiving Day which can be traced back to a 1621 celebration where the religious refugees from England known as the Pilgrims invited the local Native Americans to a harvest feast after a particularly successful growing season.
We don’t know why Boston Borough Council selected this date – because … as any fule kno … the original Pilgrim Fathers sailed from Plymouth UK in 1620 to a place they named Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts.
None of those original settlers came from Boston or had any connection with it. Our connection with the New World came a dozen years later when people from Boston went out to America on a commercial exploitation ticket and founded the “other” Boston.

***

But for some reason, it suits Worst Street to think otherwise – hence the fact that we celebrate Christmas more than a month early – or do we?
According to Boston Borough Council this year’s event will be held on Thursday 23rd November which is Thanksgiving Day …


… or is it?
 Last week, an alternative date was also being published … giving the choice of two events a week apart.


Clearly Worst Street is setting out as it means to go on.

***

Someone needs to nip this nonsense in the bud.
The third week in November is far too soon to be replacing our own major religious celebrations with a totally unconnected and irrelevant event – merely to establish some spurious link to a celebration taking place in 3½ years’ time.
Despite claiming to have no money, we understand that this year’s event by Worst Street is being organised by the town’s Events Team.
Didn’t know that we had one … certainly, they’ve hidden their blight under a bushel very successfully until now.
So what’s the budget for this?
Whatever happened to the annual sponsorship of a Christmas tree for the Market Place which used to come from local business – but is now paid for by the council?
And after giving an impression that the broadly based thoughts of keen citizens were being welcomed, it now appears that they have been handed the job of arranging the lighting alone – a poisoned chalice with little chance of success.
Not only that but we are told that Worst Street will “assist and mentor” the community volunteers.
We all know what that means – the borough will cherry-pick the good ideas and order the volunteers about as if they are lowly members of staff. 
Plus ├ža change
The job ahead is more than one to do with lights. The whole Christmas celebration was a disaster last year – with Worst Street pleading that it no longer had the money and that in any case the event should be funded and run by local business.
It said that although it had asked local business for help, none came forward. But as far as we remember, that request was made in the papers with no mechanism suggested for businesses to get in touch.
This year again, we note a website with a booking form – but if that is all that is done, then the result will be exactly the same.
Worst Street needs to get out, knock on some business doors, and treat its volunteers with the respect they deserve by giving them a voice in the whole project.

*** 

A key player in the Thanksgiving event is the Transported arts group, which has said that it would prefer to arrange the event on a Saturday.
But Boston Borough Council has rudely told them that they are to work yet again to a Thursday performance.
There’s gratitude for you!
And another listed “partner” – local commercial radio station Lincs FM – expressed surprise at being included …


***

In last week’s blog, we mentioned a Tweet by former Labour councillor and ex-Mayor Paul Kenny, who declared: “I write my own letters to the papers. Tory councillors in Boston get officers to write their letters for them, wasting taxpayers’ money. Disgraceful.”
A few days ago, he raised the issue again, saying …


***


Call it serendipity, but as this tweeting was going on, Boston Eye had sight of a letter that was drafted at the end of last year.
We understand that it was drawn up by the council’s Chief Executive Phil Drury to be sent to local newspaper editors above the signature of the four group leaders at the time.
We can only guess what an editor might make of such a missive or any reaction to the content but this is what the letter said:
Dear Editor.



We hope that this letter finds you well and that 2016 has been a successful and productive one for your publication.
The last year has been an eventful one, has it not?  Each year brings new and varied challenges, highlights and difficulties.
You will know that the council and its partners work hard in the local community to meet the town's challenges and make our lovely borough the best it can be. This we see as a role for all, volunteers, businesses and residents – everyone in fact. Here at the council, we see great examples of individuals and organisations doing and achieving great things day in and day out.
As a council, despite our efforts, we are the first to recognise that we don't always get everything right every time; we do however strive to do our best. But, the purpose of this letter is not to talk about the council but your role in supporting, promoting and fairly reporting.
We accept the right of the media to reflect the community view and write interesting and quality articles about the borough. The council is a prominent organization 1ocally, our letter is not about us but our town, our borough.
Coverage of Boston appears dominated by negative coverage, both in profile and allocated column inches. We are sure that you will contend that coverage is balanced with a mix of good and bad. That is not our impression. Front pages are dominated by the negative. This is a view shared with us by businesses and residents alike who voice concerns about the generally downbeat and negative coverage of the area. We are sure you are very aware of the influence on reputation and image that your newspaper can have. We hope will agree with us that we all have a role to play in contributing to a fair and, dare we say, sometimes promotional portrayal of our borough. The council aspires to see improved housing, growth, economic development and tourism maximisation. We believe that you too have a responsibility and contribution to make in this aim.
We would be delighted to meet with you discuss this matter in more detail and explore how we could jointly support wider Boston in being the best it can be.
To conclude, this letter is not about reporting of the council. We accept the rough and tumble of the media reporting and do appreciate your help in reporting on our releases. This letter is, however, about your role in our area and the responsibility you assume in supporting this wonderful borough.

***

What the letter was undoubtedly doing is the exact opposite to what it claimed.
The use of words and phrases such as “your role in supporting, promoting and fairly reporting …” “a role to play in contributing to a fair and, dare we say, sometimes promotional portrayal …”  “… a responsibility and contribution to make …” – all of this effectively is asking the local newspapers to help sweep the bad stuff under the carpet.
The letter is a clear attack on the role of a newspaper, which is to reflect the community warts and all.
Worst Street would rather that the papers employ some cosmetic surgery.
That serves no one.
The newspapers would not be telling the truth if they went along with the deplorable suggestion that they connived with the council to paint an untrue picture of the borough.
And who would it help?
Is Worst Street naive enough to believe that if the bad news was toned down – or better still in their view omitted altogether – that the town would become a better place as a result?
Apparently so.
Much of what it wrong with Worst Street is the fault of inept councillors and officers.
They fail to keep voters in touch.
They fail to anticipate and employ damage limitation when they cock things up.
They rely on too many “outsiders” to do their work for them.
The list could go on   but we are sure that you could recite it in your sleep!

***

Earlier, we mentioned Paul Kenny’s tweet about the cost of producing letters for the Conservatives.
Whilst the missive to the media was under the imprint of the various group leaders, we are quietly confident that it was a Tory initiative which sought to drag the others on board.
Using ballpark figures based on the Chief Executive’s pay we calculate that the not-terribly-well-written-letter, plus minor revisions and all that sort of thing would have taken at least three hours of his time – and therefore would have cost around £150.
Surely a cash-strapped council such as ours could spend its money on something more worthwhile?
And again … how sad are two of these “groups” whose “leaders” were asked to sign?
The Labour group “leader” commands just one other councillor, whilst the Independent “group” at the time the letter was written comprised Councillors Alison Austin and her husband Richard – the Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson of Boston politics.
And they expect to be taken seriously!

***

When we talk about how poorly our councillors serve us, we must not forget the most recent “fool” council meeting which rubber stamped the council tax for the coming year.
One of our readers attended, and was shocked at the indifference that our so-called “representatives” demonstrated.

I’
ll be brief about perhaps the most important meeting of the year – there’s not a lot else I can be, as the meeting which the public was allowed to attend took less than 45 minutes.
This included the prayers, the formalities and a question from a councillor …
And when we actually got to the budget, a councillor read out a bit obviously prepared by an officer.
The meeting was then thrown open to comments from councillors, and once the tumbleweed had cleared the chamber, – with what appeared reluctance, Councillor 'I wear the trousers' Austin spoke out and waffled on insisting the council must continue to press for further funding from government, but never mentioned the budget.
“Then Councillor 'yes dear' Austin again took the chance to hear his own voice, and droned on about history and heritage.
No mention of the budget.
Labour group leader Councillor Paul Gleeson blamed the drainage boards for the increase in their precept … but failed to mention the budget.
Council “leader” Peter ‘Nipper’ Bedford then read his obviously pre-written statement – with no mention of the budget.
UKIP Councillor Paul Noble then commented – and to his credit actually mentioned the budget and suggested a few areas that could have been cut.
Then the debate was over.
The vote was carried almost unanimously.
What a surprise.
This meeting deals with the one topic that affects everyone in the borough – and the night’s ephemeral performance was the best that our elected representatives could do for us.
There was no alternative budget from the opposition;  no disagreement from the Tory  “Independents” or even the red part of the Conservative party.
Everyone apart from Councillor Noble should be ashamed of themselves for once again bending the knee to the ruling officers and just accepting what they are told to do.

***

There’s no blog next week… we have to be somewhere else for a time. We’ll be back on Monday 27th March.



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, 6 March 2017


It seems that Lincolnshire's district councils may still find themselves evicted from their featherbedded nests despite their objections to the idea of a unitary authority for the county.
County Hall had planned to combine the county council elections in May with a referendum on the idea, which its claimed could save as much as £150m over five years – which works out at £82,000 a day.
It’s a move that makes sense – but would also mean the disappearance of the county’s seven district councils … among them Boston.
So as you might imagine, the reaction among the highly-paid chief executives and well-remunerated councillors was to gang up and blow a chunk of our cash on a QC – a legal sledgehammer to smash what at this stage was not more than a tiny nut, and one which could have cost between £1,000 and £5,000 an hour depending on the seniority of the legal eagle involved.
However, at their recent meeting, county councillors voted to seek taxpayers’ views on the principle of moving to a unitary system of local government through some form of consultation later this year.
Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, Councillor Martin Hill, said: “The local election would have been a good chance to engage with people in Lincolnshire, but rather than doing a U-turn, the county council is facing a chicane as the district councils have put so many obstacles in the way!
“We never had any intention of spending £1m to hold a separate poll in polling stations, as suggested by the district councils, but I am pleased that the council are supportive of asking our residents for their views.
“I stand by the premise that it is right that residents have their say on the future of local government in the county. We should listen to the people we represent, not dictate to them.
“I believe the current system is complicated, wasteful and no longer financially sustainable. Without change, important local services are already being reduced and even cut entirely. The savings could also be used to keep council tax down, helping local families as they struggle to make ends meet themselves.”

***

We only know about Boston – which is one of the smallest local councils in the land … ranked 305th out of 326 by population.
Yet more than half a dozen officers are paid – note that we do not say earn – more than £50,000 a year, among them the Chief Executive on the thick end of £100K.
The council has 280 staff and a wage bill of £8.5 million – and as we have said before, now that the bulk of what the council used to do has been cut  the lion’s share of their work is the administration and collection of council tax for county hall, the police, and the parishes –  plus its own share.
Last year – out of a total Band D council tax charge of £1,503.68 – a total of   £1,128.83 was sent to Lincoln, £201.51 to the police, whilst Worst Street retained £173.34.
This means that Boston’s share of the total is just 11.5% which suggests that if Lincoln and the police were left to collect their own dues, collection costs would fall massively.
Obviously, this will have to happen in the event of Lincolnshire becoming a unitary authority and we suspect that removing the role from the districts will account for much of the £30 million annual saving being quoted.

***

It was interesting to note that after the full council rubber stamped its 2.86% increase last week that the usual smoke and mirrors act was wheeled onstage.
“The majority of households will have to pay less than 9p a week more  towards the borough's share of their council tax.” burbled the  Worst Street website.
Yes … but …
A rise of £4.68 sounds insignificant enough.
But of course people living in the Boston Town Area Committee – BTAC-ky for short – are due to pay an extra £1 a week … £50 a year … a 200% increase … after its megalomaniac members opted to take the job of running the town’s toilets and Central Park away from the central kitty, where it rightly belongs.
Added to that, the county council is increasing its share of the council tax by 3.95% and the police by 1.97% which means that the combined increase on last year’s Band D bill is 8.78%. That's  £132 a year, or £2.53 a week –  a total of £1,635.70.
The Worst Street attempt to make itself look good in all of this just shows how disinterested it is in levelling with its taxpayers and how feeble are its claims to support openness and transparency.

***

Worst Street is a council whose time has come. It is top heavy in terms of costs and staffing, ineffective in its work for the borough – and worst of all, it is complacent.
Whilst we have regularly criticised the treatment of Boston by Lincolnshire County Council, the borough is faring no better under its existing representation – and so long as we can be guaranteed quality representation in Lincoln under unitary status – rather than the half-heart ragbag that we have at present – we might at least hope for something better in the future.

***

The massive rise in council tax has been laughed off by BTAC-ky, which considers it a small price to pay for the committee’s self-aggrandisement.
This is despite the point that the wards that make up the committee’s area have been declared among the poorest and least privileged in the borough.
So it was with interest that we read recently the latest comparison of average earnings between districts.
Boston was bottom of the list on £21,961. Lincoln was next on £24,435, then East Lindsey on £25,020, South Kesteven with £25,159, North Kesteven at £27,183, West Lindsey on £25,463, and South Holland £25,488.
These figures are bad enough when your realise that the national average wage is £27,500 – but the fact that Boston is £5,539 below that and £3,527 below our nearest district neighbours just makes matters so much worse.

***

An excellent example of left hands not realising what right hands have been doing appeared in the report by the Preposterous Boston Task and Finish Group which we mentioned last week.
“Reference was also made to the lack of provision of benches within the town and officer’s (sic) advised that repairs were being undertaken on a number of the benches.”
Among other things, the group requested that: “an updated (sic) be provided on the future provision of benches within the town.”
Is it only four and a half years ago that B-TACky ripped out 30 or more benches all over town to stop them being used by street drinkers in their unsuccessful war on anti-social activity?  It surely is …
And is it the case that once these benches are restored, drinkers will have taken the hint and not return in their droves to use them as beer gardens once again?
What do you think?

***

Boston MP Matt Warman’s latest column in the Conservative supporting Boston Standard mentioned a visit to the town’s recent jobs fair – and whilst he enjoyed the event, he also reported a sinister undertone.

I
t was the first time I was advised that personal security would be a helpful thing at a public event,” he said.
“A specific concern about one individual meant a regrettable cost to the tax payer, and while I didn't want it to get in the way of speaking to each stand it inevitably did have an impact.
“All politicians today know that hectoring and harassment, online in particular, is a part of the job, inexcusable though it is. I will continue to be as available as I possibly can, whether it's as I'm doing my shopping on a Saturday morning or at surgeries and on social media.
“But I would ask individuals to fully consider the consequences of their actions.
The PCSO who accompanied me at the jobs fair was a superb professional and I'm genuinely grateful to him – but I know too that his time should be better spent elsewhere”

We fully agree – and would add that unfortunately, but in rare and extreme cases – individuals have been known to go further, and hope that this disagreeable problem disappears as quickly as it emerged.
We saw precious little of Mr Warman’s predecessor, and would not like to see intimidatory unpleasantness such as this threaten his presence and availability in the constituency.

***

A Tweet by former Labour councillor and ex-Mayor Paul Kenny told anyone who wanted to know: “I write my own letters to the papers. Tory councillors in Boston get officers to write their letters for them, wasting taxpayers’ money. Disgraceful.”
Certainly if it is true, it is disgraceful – and we have to say that after seeing examples of some councillors’ written efforts and comparing them with their “public” writings – that we feel that Mr Kenny is bang on the money.

***

Mr Kenny’s Tweet drew a swift response from one of our regulars who has experience of life inside the Worst Street bubble.

I
t is a rare thing for me to find myself supporting any of our Labour councillors, present or past, such as Paul Kenny, but I never cease to be amazed at the remarkable number of times I have been visiting Worst Street and bumped into PB (the “leader” Pete Bedford) and always around late lunchtime.
I wonder why it always seems to take place at about the same time – midday-ish every month, on 'Fool' Council days!
“One cannot help but suspect, given the time frame for Leader’s responses to members’ questions that this might be a great time of day to get a little practice  –  under instruction of course, whilst  the paid help e-mails answers back to enquirers!
Which brings me to the politics of Labour, and their mind-blowingly hypocritical standards.
I am not at a loss to understand the national party's condemnation of Conservatism, nor even the constant criticism regarding the lack of social integration amongst residents, abhorrence and perceived greed of business owners both men and women – that’s what Labour stands for!
But, here, amongst some of the most socially and economically disadvantaged members of our society, our only two local Labour councillors slavishly support everything the Tories say or do  – upholding everything that is put forward, and swallowing their shallow working class principles in exchange for a 'minor' seat at the Tory banquet.
How can these two dyed-in-the-wool Labourites support such a completely jaundiced and politically opposite dictum as Conservatism.
Do they see no shame in having to tug a grateful forelock to what must be considered the most inadequate Conservative Leader ever, to say nothing of his minions...?

***

Worst Street tells us that the Big Boston Clean-up celebrates its tenth anniversary this year “and will be a part of the national Great British Spring Clean campaign” – a combination that we suggested should have been done some years ago.
However, there appears to be something wrong with the borough’s hourglass – and not for the first time.
Last year, the Big Boston Clean-up was described as being “by royal appointment” in support of the national tidy campaign, Clean for the Queen The campaign included a special clean-up weekend on March 4th–6th 2016 ahead of the Queen’s 90th on  21st April. 
Despite the stupid claim to be “by appointment” when it was not, the borough also stuck to its usual time window and staged the clean up between April 4th–7th – therefore making it part of nothing at all.
And guess what? Despite claiming to be part of this year’s ninth annual Big Tidy Up, which was staged over the last weekend, Boston's clean-up will take place over four days, from Monday, April 10th to Thursday April 13th.

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Perhaps they’re taking their time from the clock above Strait Bargate, which – although the real time was around 11am when our picture was taken, showed it to be 3.05 or 8.25 depending on your direction of travel.

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And finally … when the Big Boston Clean-up does  arrive, is there any chance that this eyesore can receive the bucket and mop treatment?


It’s parked prominently on The Green, and must be seen by hundreds of people each day – doing nothing for the town’s image.


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, 27 February 2017

 
Crackers! Christmas debate turns into a load of baubles!
Join us now for a ringside seat at last week’s special meeting of BTAC – called to discuss last year’s Christmas lights fiasco.
Ringside might be the best possible word in the context – as by all accounts the lengthy session had more of the circus about it that the council chamber. Certainly there appeared to be no shortage of clowns.
Your guide to the evening is local businessman Darron Abbott, who is keen that the town be seen in a better light this Christmas – although once you’ve read his report, you may feel as we do that this appears increasingly unlikely


W
ednesday 22nd February, 6.30pm, the council chamber – finally we get to find out what went wrong with the with the 2016 Boston Christmas event. The meeting was open to the public, and was billed as not being held to apportion blame, but to move on to the future. 
There were actually some members of the public in attendance – five of us in total, three people from a volunteer organisation, Councillor Jonathan Noble and me.  Not bad for a meeting that had not really been publicised – not even a mention in the great Boston Bulletin.
The chairman, Councillor Nigel Welton, announced that the meeting would be recorded … was this a glimpse of a future of openness and accountability form the council or just to stop the council's officers being able to rewrite history to fit their own needs (but that is a story on its own.)
One thing that was a surprise at this point was the fact that no one from the infamous Town Team were present; instead, the  Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce supremo Simon Beardsley.
Once the pleasantries were out of the way I was allowed to ask my question, which centred on the ownership and the cost of the projectors used for the lighting display, as there seemed real confusion regarding this, and even the agenda notes for the meeting added to the confusion.
The reply came back, but it did not really answer the question other than to confirm that they had not been purchased but did not answer the lease or hire part.
“I then proceed with my supplementary question, in which I asked for a breakdown of how the £35,000 grant (from BTAC)  had been spent.
The reply came back from an officer that the figures had been audited by an independent accountant and all was OK.
There was no offer to make these amounts public. I pressed again for a breakdown; it was then referred to Mr Beardsley who would not confirm that the breakdown would be made available to the public. 
Why would they be reluctant to let us know how they had spent our money?
The meeting then continued mainly with statements from the members of the committee – most of which expressed surprise about the ownership of the equipment. Many of the committee had been given the impression that the equipment had been purchased and would be available for use at other times.
The other point that kept coming up was the fact that the actual display was nothing like that presented to committee by the Town Team. 
There were statements from two senior committee members. Councillor Brian Rush said he had not become involved in the sub-committee to overlook the spending as he knew it would all go wrong and did not want to be part of it. Perhaps if he had been involved it would have meant he would have had to shoulder some of the responsibility.
Councillor Alison Austin apologised for not getting involved when perhaps she should have done – seeming to suggest she had not had time. Perhaps this was to ease her conscience for not having the time to help for the event but being able turn up and ensure she was in most of the photographs!  
The funniest statement of the evening was his worshipfulness Woodliffe, who had seen nothing wrong with the event.  It was marvellous, wonderful. I think he thought the Santa Claus present at the event was the real one.
The gnashing and wailing went on for well over an hour,. During this time to his credit the chairman did state that they were all guilty of neglecting to ensure the money had been spent wisely.
What was becoming apparent was that no one present was confident in allowing the Town Team or Chamber to be allowed to take on the event in the future.
Towards the end of this session, Councillor Yvonne Stevens spoke, being very critical of the Chamber’s handing of the event.
When she finished she was approached by the council's monitoring officer and taken outside, which seemed very strange. She had not appeared to say anything controversial, so why would a council officer interfere, she was only there for guidance.
After a few minutes, Councillor Stevens returned to the chamber. The monitoring officer returned a few minutes later with an A4 sheet of paper and passed it to the chairman.
After reading what was on the paper, the chairman called a break in proceedings to allow refreshments.
The contents of the notes on this sheet of paper will never be known to us, the public, unless in the spirit of openness and accountability shown by Councillor Welton at the start of the meeting he would like to anonymously supply Boston Eye a copy!  I am sure his identity would not be revealed.
Whilst most people’s attentions were being diverted, getting cups of coffee and having a chat, at the other end of the chamber there were obvious discussions going on centred on the contents of the notes produced by the monitoring officer.
Was it the fact that no one wanted the chamber involved; but this is not what had been agreed in some kind of shoddy deal between the officers and chamber prior to the meeting?
The meeting then recommenced, with Simon Beardsley stating the town team had appointed a new chairman who was one of the town’s largest retailers, but whom he declined to name.
They had already had meetings with Pescod Square about their lights and their lighting supplier, and that they had already started planning for the 2017 event.
This was not what a majority of those present wanted, so it was put to Beardsley as to whether the Town Team would like to be involved in community lead team. He did not like this. He “would have to go back to the Town Team and ask them as he could not speak on their behalf.”
Why in hell was he at the meeting if he wasn't representing the Town Team? It seems that if the chamber were not running the show. They were not interested.
In the end, it was resolved that a committee be set up by March under the guidance of BTAC of residents and business, with the chamber if they wished and possibly the Federation of Small Businesses to run the events for the town.
It was also suggested that matched funding of up to £10.000 would be made available by BTAC and that any interested members of the public should contact Janette Collier from the council.
Then on Friday the council issued a press release stating people who are interested should contact the Chamber of Commerce in Lincoln, which was not what was agreed at the meeting!
A ‘phone call to the Chamber of Commerce revealed that lady responsible does not work on Fridays, and would not be able to answer my questions as she was not going to be told she was responsible until Monday.

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In its “account” of the meeting, the Worst Street website informed us that a new group had been formed to include something calling itself Boston More In Common Facebook Group.
On its Facebook  page, the group itself asks “So...what is Boston More In Common? It is a group started by like-minded people to foster a sense of open friendliness between the rich tapestry of nationalities and cultures we are lucky to be home to in Boston, Lincolnshire. .. it is a place that we are trying to create to encourage interaction and integration ... to make us all realise that Boston is now 'Home' to many people, and we are all 'Bostonians' wherever we were born.”
We wait with bated breath so see how this will translate into a stonking display of lights this year.

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We hear that Worst Street is planning yet another of its pointless “Task and Finish” groups – this time to take a look at on impact of STP on the Pilgrim Hospital.
Until now STP was better known as a go-faster fuel additive but this particular set of initials stands for Sustainability and Transformation Plan – a five year plan to improve quality and develop new models of care; improve health and well-being and the efficiency of services at the Pilgrim Hospital.
Task and finish groups may be established by a scrutiny committee to conduct an in-depth review of any service, policy or issue that affects the borough, which falls under the remit of the committee.
Given that Boston Borough Council seems incapable of running its own affairs, we can only wonder why it has the impudence to believe it can tell others how to manage theirs.
Its track record to date has not been impressive.
In recent years we have seen a report on the social impact of population change in Boston – which has been a source of considerable criticism, a report on the lamentably awful Boston Business “Improvement” District which saw recommendations that were completely ignored, and more recently a rural isolation task and finish group. Whether that achieved anything we have no idea.
Then of course there is the almost forgotten Prosperous Boston task and finish group, which we have dubbed the Preposterous Boston. By an ironic coincidence, as we dictated this sentence, our voice recognition software decided to call it the task “unfinished” group.
When the committee was established in 2015, Worst Street called it "one of the most in-depth studies into what makes Boston tick" aimed at making the town better for residents, shoppers and for those who work and visit here.
The group meets in secret, and does not publish minutes – but we are promised a final report will appear on the borough’s website, which if they are running on schedule should be any time now.
Preposterous Boston’s next update will be discussed on Wednesday a meeting of the Environment and Performance Committee – and a look through the report suggests that most of the things proposed are mere relatively minor aside from a plan for a food festival in September and the introduction of some Big Brother heavy-footedness.
We have no idea where the food festival idea has come from … but Spalding has staged something similar in previous years over two days – and this year is reviewing whether to repeat the exercise due to poor attendance figures.

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There was also mention of a squad of “environmental enforcement” officers starting work  through a third party organisation this week and a bid by Worst Street to get permission for its first RIPA surveillance operation using a covert camera, in an area subjected to continual fly tipping.
For those who don’t know, RIPA is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 which controls the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance and investigation, and the interception of communications – and was created to fight terrorism and serious crime.

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What we’ve read so far is not particularly earth-shattering but we were pleased to note that the group has at least rattled the cages of the Head of Town Centre, Leisure, Events and Culture, the Town Centre Services Manager, the Principal Museum, Arts and Heritage Officer and the Partnerships and Sustainability Manager.
With all these big names getting involved, success surely cannot be far behind.

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Also in the report, mention is made of concern at a damaged road sign on the A52 approaching the town, which has gone unrepaired for many months.
Whilst members agreed that it reflected badly on the town and needed to be straightened “it was not within Boston’s remit to do so as it was County Highways responsibility.”
Things will never improve whilst attitudes such as this survive.
 Incidentally another damaged is on the A16 coming into town from Wyberton, and that has also been in its present state for many months as well. This is one of the “special” Boston signs, which we would hope the council can do something about.

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Local websites have been awash this week with the snap below of our Police and Crime Commissioner, his deputy and a couple of other macho characters posing alongside a car that once belonged to a hare courser, and which has been seized and crushed.
Whilst we have no problem with depriving these people of their transport, we wonder whether the vehicles could be put to better use.
We are sure that charities, for example could use a four-wheel drive or two to help them collect donations, or various groups that try to help others.
If nothing else, could the vehicles not be auctioned, and the proceeds used to support good causes?
Whilst it’s now unrecognisable, we wonder whether the vehicle in the photo was once a Vauxhall Courser?

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Tonight’s full meeting of the council will be discussing and voting on the proposed council tax increase for the year ahead. But don’t expect any surprises, or last minute reprieves.
A reader who contacted Worst Street in the middle of last week with a query was told that it wasn’t possible to access council tax information that day “because we’re printing out the bills.”

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Our recent piece on the quality of local “newspapers” stirred some fond memories for Boston Eye reader Tony Eves, who e-mailed us to say:

Y
our comments regarding the Boston Standard over the past few blogs have been spot on, and the latest reference to twelve reporters and a senior reporter dedicated to local government shows just how devalued a once respected newspaper has become
“That senior reporter you refer to is probably (I hope!) my father, Allan Eves. As a child I remember he used to attend all the council meetings, often until late at night, then spend hours writing the report either in the office in Wide Bargate or at home. He never seemed to express a personal opinion (until 'Spectator' many years later after retirement) but always appeared to know personally most of the local councillors and what they thought.
“As you say, in those days the council and the members were more accountable because there were real people looking at them, listening to them, talking to them and asking questions to their face.
“Sometimes, privately,  he wasn't very complimentary but, publicly,  it wasn't his place to be so.
“Going back even before those times I remember he used to go out reporting - knowing something happened but going out to find out more. I once sat in the car just past the (as was) Sibsey railway bridge one weekend while he talked to someone who had escaped a car accident in a drain.
“Earlier still one of his memories was of visiting the relatives of recently deceased gentleman to record the details of his life then being asked to go into the front room and have a look at the late lamented as he lay in his coffin on the table.
“Sad as it is a newspaper these days seems to rely on items being sent in to them from various social media sources then arranged on a computer generated page with few checks on grammar and spelling.
“And as an afterthought, my mother worked as a reader with Meg Comer  for a few years at the then Lincolnshire Standard so there were plenty of checks  then.
“Apart from the inevitable computer 'spellchecker’ is there anything else these days?”

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Finally, one of those delightful errors that slip unnoticed through the system. This comes from the Preposterous Boston report on the appointment of environmental enforcement officers and asks why their tasks cannot be combined with those of the traffic wardens.


Or perhaps it wasn’t a slip of the pen after all! 


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