SENTINEL: Tory clash, UKIP, Banksy, food bank, Quadrant, booze ban


The Standard’s Sentinel columnist offers his weekly take on events in and around the borough...

*The elections are over, long live the elections. Sentinel is not sensing that the party poppers are coming out as you read this but it’s clear that the long build up to next May’s general and borough council elections has already begun. The starting gun appears to have been fired by borough council leader Peter Bedford, who put a cat among the Tory pigeons this week by calling for MP Mark Simmonds to do more in Boston in light of the UKIP threat. The council leader also strayed from the party script by saying David Cameron should get on with an ‘in/out’ EU referendum now, rather than waiting until 2017. Mr Bedford probably fears that a protest vote against Mr Simmonds will also become a protest vote against him and his fellow councillors. He, in fact, will remember the night last May when he and many other prominent Tories fell down like ten pins when hit by the UKIP bowliing ball. It is, of course, easier to knock a councillor out in a ward where just a few hundred votes count.

*Should Mark be worried about his seat? Well Sentinel has previously pondered, slightly unscientifically, that it would take a swing of pretty unheard of proportions. That’s not to say it can’t happen of course, UKIP does seem to be on an upward trend here and its vote is stronger in Boston than anywhere else in the country. But will people vote differently? Will its support be as strong in the Skegness wards? Can the party show that it is more than a one-trick EU protest pony? UKIP has benfitted from being a blank canvas on which everyone can paint their own protest, hopes and fears. By next May we all need to see what their policies mean for our hospitals, schools, roads, economy etc.

*Mark’s clear line this week - first stated to The Standard on a visit to The Stump - has been that he and the party must ‘hold its nerve’. Is that enough? It is, after all, saying ‘keep doing what we are doing’. Sentinel is sure Mr Bedford won’t be delighted by that...

*This week has seen more ‘Boston Banksy’ images popping up across the town - and the news that the council is in talks about removing the images. Sentinel has a little bit of sympathy with the council on this - if they leave them up they stand accused of encouraging anyone and everyone to brandish a spray can and daub design over our walls. However if they take them down they risk being seen as killjoys. So what’s the right way forward? Well, so far, Sentinel notes complains have been very few and far between. The images are in side alleys and they don’t appear to have drawn complaints from the people in the buildings that they now adorn. Maybe that’s because the landlords are out-of-town and unaware but Sentinel reckons we ought to be a little bit more relaxed about this sort of thing. Yes, it’s nice to celebrate and honour Boston’s past, which the council says it is keen to protect, but if we do not consider its present and future then all we will do is foster disenchantment among the young - and young at heart - who have greatly enjoyed a bit of art in the town. Fears of copycat images of a lesser quality are, as yet, unfounded. Why not take a refreshing stance to keep a watching brief and step in if, and only if, it gets out of hand. There are, of course, plenty of other things to divert the council’s images into instead of removing this fact there has been some evidence of them becoming something of an attraction, with people enjoying hunting them all out.

*Sentinel reckons there might have been a few readers guffawing and saying ‘we told you so’ as they read through this week’s story on the decision to back a booze ban for Boston. The report from councillors and police suggested we have a problem that is worse than elsewhere in the county, that the problem occurs where there are more and more off licences, and that there are disproportionate issues with some members of the migrant community. Sentinel can’t help but think that an outright ban will help the police. The current rules on the Designated Public Place Order (DPPO) are too complex to get across to people who do understand them so heaven knows how it translates across the language barrier. But let’s not scapegoat anyone - it is not offensive or racist to highlight an issue but it is if that information is used to tar all migrant workers with the same brush. Also - if you suffer intimidation or anti-social behaviour from a drunken person - is it really any more comfort to know they were born and bred here? Hardly. Once the rules are clearer everyone deserves a fair start and everyone must obey them, irrespective of where they are from. The report also raises issues with the planning rules. It seems as though everyone is acutely aware of an issue with the number of off licences passed but powerless to do anything. Remember the Big Society and Localism agendas that were going to hand down control to people to govern where they are from? We’ve seen no evidence of that at all have we? Sentinel supposes market forces dictate the need, but it does seem odd that, given a proven link to these shops and anti-social behaviour, there seems little that can be done.

*It is both worrying and heartwarming to see the work done by Boston’s food bank. Worrying that there is such a need – and that one couple walked all the way from Sibsey to Boston and back to get a food parcel. But also heartwarming to see the work done by all the volunteers through the church. This is precisely the sort of positive community work in which the church can make a real difference to those in need. It doesn’t preach, it doesn’t demand any religious payback from those who get food - it just offers a helping hand and a perfect example of helping its neighbours. Whether you are religious or not, the church - in this instance St Christopher’s - deserves great praise.

*Ah Brian Rush. Sentinel has great respect for anyone who passionately campaigns for a cause. But, it was a little disturbing to see Mr Rush drifting off into the territory this column mentioned last week about ‘bias’ in terms of The Quadrant. Mr Rush, a former councillor for Frampton, told our dearly beloved fellow Friday blogger the Boston Eye: “I am, I’m afraid, becoming more than a little suspicious of how ‘aspirational proposals’ seem to get plastered across front pages of the local press, so far in advance of being ‘officially presented to officials and elected members including, members of the local Planning Committee.’ That cannot be right.” So does Mr Rush seriously want the details only to be made public AFTER being discussed by councillors? The councillors are, of course, only there to serve us - why shouldn’t the public get to see what’s in the plans first? There’s also been a suggestion, hinted at in that quote and mentioned elsewhere to Sentinel, that the coverage has been unneccessarily positive. The last front page ran by The Standard proclaimed that the Quadrant is the ‘Biggest Plan In A Generation’. Sentinel fails to see how pointing out the size (and size matters, right??) is anything other than drawing attention to the issue. You may think the size is a good thing, as it brings jobs, houses, shops and a new road or you may think it is bad because there are too many houses, the road doesn’t help and iit is in the wrong location. This paper has reported the thoughts of the campaign against the Quadrant at every turn and it is clear that the development must address concerns over location, size, parking, traffic and infrastructure. It is good to see that the parish of Wyberton will get a referendum on the Quadrant. The result may not sway the decision, but it will clear up the strength of feeling in Wyberton - provided that the turnout is sufficient. Mr Rush and his campaign raise very serious hurdles to be jumped before the Quadrant should pass - they should focus on those.

*Rents and house prices could rocket up according to the National Housing Federation. Worrying news if true since Sentinel hasn’t heard anyone suggest wages will rise 46 per cent to match rent increases or 32 per cent to cope with the predicted house price jump...