New leader sets out vision for the future of the borough

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The new leader of Boston Borough Council, Michael Cooper, has given his vision for the future of the borough...

It is a great responsibility to have been elected leader of Boston Borough Council and I have no illusions about the gravity of the position.

Some might well describe it as a poisoned chalice, but I regard it more as a challenge to be met. I am passionate about Boston and the wider borough and I have a gritty determination to make life here better for everyone.

Some well-documented issues have increased awareness of Boston. Some, for a variety of reasons often beyond our control, have not reflected well on us and have been damaging to our reputation.

The truth is that Boston borough remains a safe and pleasant place to live and now, more than ever, we need a new era of positivity. I want to encourage all who live here to join with me in speaking up for the town and borough and helping promote it in the best light possible.

I know that local people have had enough of Boston being portrayed for some of the wrong reasons.

Of course, we have many challenges, and will not seek to sweep these under any carpets. I am up for any challenges which result in Boston being a better place.

The council has set out a broad framework for what it will aim to achieve up to the end of the life of the current administration in 2019/20.

It has been formulated in the knowledge that the council faces severe cuts in Government funding and focuses on main services which are a priority for residents.

Main elements are promotion and support for investment, business development and growth, housing growth and development of tourism, heritage and cultural opportunities; supporting and protecting the most vulnerable; making Boston a safe place to live with quality of life for residents and continuing to provide essential public services.

We will promote and support inward investment and continue supporting housing growth and development of infrastructure.

We have already seized the initiative and written to the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to make the case for upgrading infrastructure in support of economic growth.

We have welcomed draft publication of the Industrial Strategy and recognition for improving skills levels, especially in rural areas and for those who do not go into further or higher education.

We have made the case for innovative tax incentives and not protracted funding programmes to help businesses already delivering research to commercial projects. And we have supported the Government’s commitment to spend £2.5 billion by 2021 on improving flood resilience and defence. Projects in this area, such as the Boston Barrier scheme, are key infrastructure which will minimise the impact on communities and businesses. We have also highlighted the need for improving transport, power supply and digital infrastructure to prepare us for future development, especially given this area’s importance so far as national food security is concerned.

A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t support the diverse range of businesses in rural economies. The council feels that funding support for early-stage ventures and fledgling businesses is sometimes too tightly framed around and focused on existing knowledge, limiting the creation of innovative businesses. We have called for a more flexible approach to maximise, support and nurture local growth, needs and opportunities.

Tourism plays a significant part in the local economy and we must seize every opportunity that comes along and act on it.

We have already acted on our priorities. Some major businesses have shown confidence in the area’s economic resilience – Duckworth Jaguar and Land Rover and Sportsbikeshop, the new mint supermarket and the new Lidl supermarket arriving shortly. The council continues to do all it can to help provision of affordable homes for our young people and families, meeting current targets for affordable homes which already far exceed the target we had for last year, and continuing to provide all frontline services despite the recent years of austerity and funding cuts.

I am always open to constructive criticism and helpful suggestions and you can contact me on 07774 860020 or email me at michael.cooper@boston.gov.uk