Boston Borough Council leader Peter Bedford pens his latest column for The Standard...
Boston borough has been well represented at major meetings of minds from central and local government in the past few weeks.
I know that some critics view our representation at such events as a waste of time, but these are the opportunities we seize to ensure Boston, the borough and its burning issues are placed before the people who matter – and nothing beats face-to-face.
A good example of this is the personal representations we made at the highest levels of Government after the December flood. We made our case, in person, to such as Eric Pickles, the communities and local government minister, and the then environment minister Owen Paterson.
It is no coincidence, I am sure, that when financial support from Government for dealing with the aftermath of the flood arrived, Boston was awarded the lion’s share across the whole country.
In the past couple of weeks councillors and senior officers of the council have attended the Local Government Association’s annual conference, the All Party Parliamentary Local Government Group and the Coastal Communities Alliance.
There was much interest from other authorities in the borough council’s Fly Swat initiative for dealing with fly-tipped rubbish. For the first time three of our recent successful projects were highlighted by the District Councils’ Network – Fly Swat, garden waste collections and our swimming partnership at the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex. These best-practice case studies can be seen at http://districtcouncils.info/ where other councils are invited to see how ‘district councils are changing lives and shaping places’. It is gratifying to see that some of ours are among the best ideas in the country.
The All Party Parliamentary Local Government Group looked at ways in which new technology can be used by local councils to become more efficient to meet the challenge of doing more with less. There is always a cost to keeping abreast of what the latest technology can offer, but in Boston we have invested to keep our CCTV system up to date and are now adopting use of cloud technology to improve communications and ‘thin clients’ to replace desktop computers, helping us keep pace with software improvements and save money as they are half the price of the machines they replace and use much less power and off-site access will be improved.
The Coastal Communities Alliance was an opportunity for all coastal councils to come together for the first time to discuss shared issues such as flood defences, job creation, new development and tourism.
Shared services has been a theme at some of these meetings and Boston has an example of this idea in action. Both the borough council and East Lindsey District Council is now benefiting from savings thanks to a shared refuse and recycling collection services in some areas. Added to our saving is the opening of our new environmental services depot on land the council owns near the port. We have moved the depot from land we used to rent in Fen Road and the savings down the years will be hundreds of thousands of pounds.
We live in uncertain times, but what I can guarantee is Boston Borough Council will never stop moving forwards. Read the council’s annual report at www.boston.gov.uk – to see what has been accomplished in 2013/14.