Agenda item


To answer questions (if any) from members of the public pursuant to Rule 10 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure.

Questions from members of the public must be received by 5pm two clear working days prior to the meeting – the deadline for this meeting is 5pm on Wednesday 22nd June 2022.


The Chief Executive reported there were a series of questions from Councillor Anton Dani.


Questions asked by Councillor Anton Dani pursuant to paragraph 11 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution:-


1.         Can you please give an update on the Council’s current financial position?


Response by Councillor Jonathan Noble


It is too soon into this financial year to predict what the year-end position will be for 2023/23.  However, there are a number of exceptional pressures which are being closely monitored and others more longer term which will need to be considered as part of the Councils MTFS this autumn.


 Energy and fuel costs are being regularly considered with potential pressures such as central government funding, feeding into Q1 and onwards. If these look to become longer term features due to international influences then this will need to be considered as part of the 22/23 budget setting process. Reserves may need to assist if pressures continue and cannot be accommodated in the round during the year.


Income levels – post covid, these again are being monitored monthly and showing continued and steady increases, the issue here will be if they do not return to previous levels. We have a covid reserve to continue to smooth this funding pressure whilst income levels return.


Other key pressures include the potential for pay inflation which would be one of the most significant financial impacts the Council could face. This is currently being closely considered and modelled in terms of potential impacts and will need to be a feature of the MTFS modelling.


Regular updates will be provided to the finance PFH throughout the year. A new financial system is being implemented which will also assist in improving financial management data to service managers regarding their budgets.


Supplemental question asked by Councillor Dani pursuant to paragraph 11.6 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution:-


At what level of increase in energy prices would impact on the Council’s finances?


Response by Councillor Noble


A 30% increase has been allowed for.  As you will recall at the Council meeting in April 2022 approval was given to the use of a covid smoothing reserve to off-set budget pressures.



2.         What is the current value of the Council’s assets and have any assets been disposed of in the last 3 financial years? 


Response by Councillor Jonathan Noble


As at 31 March 2022, the Council’s land and property assets were valued at £39,075,654; no land or property has been disposed of in the last three years.



3.         Can you explain why the Council still refers to the PE21 project which was first instigated fifteen years ago?


Response by Councillor Nigel Welton

As was recently explained at Environment and Performance Committee, the re-development of this area has had numerous names over time. Ranging from the “Modus” proposals of circa 2007, to the more recent ‘PE21’ name which was adopted c2018.


The ‘PE21’ project in its more recent guise having been developed from a One Public Estate piece of work in 2017, and which was subject to public consultation in 2019 on the AR Urbanism proposals which were developed to support Future High Streets and Towns Fund bids.


As a consequence, ‘PE21’ is known locally and within Government, however, as with any masterplan proposal, there is the ability for this to change over-time and it may well come to pass that this applies in this case, particularly if it is possible to obtain funding to kick-start this important project for our town centre.


Supplemental question asked by Councillor Dani pursuant to paragraph 11.6 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution:-


The PE21 project has previously caused damage of the confidence of Boston businesses.  If the bid is not successful can you ensure another name is found.


Response by Councillor Welton


The project name of PE21 is well known in Government. The feedback received from round 1 of the LUF was positive and taken into account when preparing the round 2 bid, including retaining the name PE21.  If it was decided to submit with another name it would not give a good impression.  When the funding is received extensive consultation will be undertaken and at the appropriate time the name can be considered.



4.         As we all know Boston’s population is growing and a lots of EU members are still coming to our area, how does the increase in the population growth rate affect our economic growth?


Response by Councillor Nigel Welton


This is potentially quite a subjective matter and difficult to define without clear evidence. Economic growth can be affected by numerous factors including availability of jobs, skill levels and qualifications, and wider socio-economic factors (eg inflation, Government policy etc), as such it is difficult to draw a clear, tangible link between population growth and economic growth.


I am sure you will no doubt appreciate the make-up of our local labour market, which includes a large proportion of people employed locally in agriculture which is very labour intensive. Feedback we have received from some operators has identified that despite the rising population, there are challenges owing to Brexit, Covid-19 etc with insufficient labour for some activities and also other challenges around skills and language.


We will continue to liaise and work with businesses, investors, education providers and the wider community to ensure that the outlook in economic terms is positive for our town and area; including lobbying for future investment as required.


Supplemental question asked by Councillor Dani pursuant to paragraph 11.6 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution:-


Population growth has a massive impact on infrastructure, what are the future plans to improve this?


Response by Councillor Welton


I have already answered this, it is a subjective question.   Improvements in infrastructure will only be made when there is evidence that it is needed.  We welcome people moving to the town to join the workforce, we need highly skilled people here.



5.         Can you provide an update on the current performance of Boston Market?


Response by Councillor Tracey Abbott


The target occupancy rate for the Markets is to reach 70%, and in Quarter4, the Wednesday Market Place rate averaged at 67.18%, the Green at 66.66% and the Saturday Market at 57.81%.


Supplemental question asked by Councillor Dani pursuant to paragraph 11.6 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution:-


Stickney is running a car boot sale every Wednesday, is this the reason our Market is declining?


Response by Councillor Abbott


I don’t believe so.  Stickney has been mentioned many times, it is a car boot sale rather than a market.  There is nothing that can be done to prevent traders who would usually stand at Boston going to Stickney if they wish to do so.



6.         What financial losses, if any, has the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre incurred since 2019?


Response by Councillor Tracey Abbott


GMLC position for 2019/20 & 2020/21 is known and finalised.

·         2019/20 = a subsidy of £362,781 (combination of both lost income and extra expenditure)

·         2020/21 = a subsidy of £310,145 (combination of lost income and savings on expenditure)


GMLC position for  2021/22, end of year accounts are in the process of being finalised.  The income budget target has been reduced by £314,000 in a COVID smoothing effect as agreed by Council. Therefore, the full cost of service BUDGET (including recharges) increased in year from £897,100 to £1,211,100.



7.         What costs are being incurred for the overnight closure of the Central Park gates?


Response by Councillor Tracey Abbott


BTAC fund the contract for the opening and closing of Central Park on a daily basis.  The current contract ends on the 5th September 2022 and is at a value of £15,262. (6th Sept 2021 to 5th Sept 2022).


Supplemental question asked by Councillor Dani pursuant to paragraph 11.6 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution:-


I understand that instead of two people locking the park, only one person is doing so, is this true?


Response by Councillor Abbott


I am not aware of this, I believe it is two but I wasn’t involved in preparing the contract.  I will find out and inform you.



8.         Since the Government has announced that it would like to ease the bureaucracy regarding al fresco dining, what steps has the Council taken to help businesses in the town?


Response by Councillor Paul Skinner


At this stage, the Council has taken limited steps, principally because it is not a matter within our control. The Council delegated licensing of external seating areas to LCC as the lead body.


In addition, the Council has limited scope to influence the use of buildings, albeit we do where possible encourage new uses that would bring vibrancy, increase footfall and compliment the town centre generally. For example, in the market place, there are only a limited number of ‘dining’ related uses, and it is generally a commercial decision for them whether or not they wish to bring forward outside seating etc.

If more buildings in the market place were to come forward as ‘dining’ type establishments, they could likely to do so under permitted development. Government in 2020 widened the scope for changes of use in planning terms, but bringing together a new use Class (Class E) which sought to provide greater flexibility and support town centres.

As a council, we would be encouraging of such uses, as town centres diversify away from purely retail, however, our ability to influence and facilitate is limited.

We would however welcome the proposed steps to change licensing requirements and remove bureaucracy, and await the detail of the proposals which will no doubt be subject to consultation.



9.         The Council has posted on its Instagram page that it has been granted £2.2 Million from Central Government for the communities, can you assure all of us today that grants will be used for that purpose and nothing else?


Response by Councillor Paul Skinner


Simply - Yes. All Grants we receive have to be used as the rules for the fund describe. We have to set out the purposes in our Investment Plan to Government. If approved, the funds will then be released to the Council to distribute.

Where monies are then subsequently distributed to project leads, there would be grant agreements and a clear process for ensuring the project aims are met. Full Council, the Cabinet and Scrutiny have a responsibility in the process if the monies are spent on Council projects. This is very similar to the way in which the Towns Fund has operated.


Supplemental question asked by Councillor Dani pursuant to paragraph 11.6 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution:-


When the Council received grants from the migration fund it was used for something else, the community felt it wasn’t used for them.


Response by Councillor Skinner


All funds received have prescribed lines on spend.  The Council has a duty of care to spend efficiently and on a legitimate basis.  Any changes in proposed spend are consulted on with Government.  The Council has a good record in this area.




The Chief Executive reported there was a question from Mr. Wayne Brewster.


Question asked by Mr. Wayne Brewster Dani pursuant to paragraph 10 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution:-


“Fishing is one of the only heritage industries left in the town.  Many local people and indeed many councillors seem to have limited knowledge of the fishing industry and the pressures that we face. What help can you give us which would enable us to promote our presence in the town and make people more aware of the risk of the fishery failing completely, and to ensure the continuation of this industry for future generations?”


Response by Councillor Nigel Welton


Firstly, I would like to thank Mr Brewster a seventh-generation fisherman for his question and for highlighting the issues Boston’s fishing fleet industry faces today.


Mr Brewster, you describe the fishing industry as a heritage industry. Having done a little research, people have relied on the wash for their very existence for thousands of years. That in my mind is truly a heritage industry.


You are right that many people have limited knowledge of the fishing industry. Yes, we see the boats on the quay, we may have friends or neighbours who rely on fishing for their livelihood, but do we really know as much as we should.


As Cabinet Member with responsibility for the local economy, I will use every tool I have to promote your industry and highlight the difficulties you currently face.


Can I also thank you for the presentation you gave last Friday to myself our Member of Parliament and the wider council, which was extremely eye opening, who would have known that you are not only fishermen, but farmers, shepherds and custodians of the fishing grounds, without which there would be no wildlife on the wash.


During this meeting our MP Mr Matt Warman gave assurances that he would be speaking to the minister directly and will report back on progress.


So, to move this forward, I will be writing a letter directly to the Minister responsible for the fishing industry and request a meeting to discuss the following:-


·         Current regulations, the regulation body, and the future plan for the wash fishing grounds.

·         The concerns and difficulties the fishing fleet has.

·         Quick and effective intervention to protect the fishing heritage on the wash.


And finally, I will invite the Minister to come to Boston and see first-hand the devastating effect and demise the current and proposed regulations have on the fishing industry.


Supplemental question asked by Mr. Brewster pursuant to paragraph 10.8 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution:-


Thank you councillor Wellton and thank you all for giving me the opportunity to speak, 


I am pleased with your response and look forward to the fishing industry having a closer relationship with the council and councillors, and would welcome the opportunity for the local industry to speak directly to the fisheries minister if that could be arranged, and any other interventions the council can provide.


The fishing industry supports many individuals and businesses in Boston, the industry has been here for so long that it seems to have been taken for granted,  but over recent years it has been dogged by poor management decisions from its regulators that has threatened the whole viability of the industry in Boston and the Wash as a whole.


 Lincolnshire County Council are a sponsoring body of Eastern IFCA, along with Norfolk and Suffolk councils, and as such there are councillors sitting on the Eastern IFCA Authority making decisions that affect our daily lives and businesses. Could councillor Welton assure me that any councillors who are sitting on this Authority from Boston will not only be there for the benefit of Eastern IFCA  and to sign off anything they wish, but also to represent the needs of the Boston fishing fleet and to make sure it has a viable and sustainable future,?   As we feel some of the recent representation from Boston Council on the IFCA Authority has been inadequate and dismissive of the challenges the industry in Boston face


Response by Councillor Welton


I do not attend IFCA meetings so can’t comment.  However, the Council is supportive of the fishing industry, and will lobby the Minister on your behalf.  I would also like the Cabinet to visit the quay and see the fishing industry in action.  You can also make an application for the Mayor to officially visit. I look forward to working together and will meet in the next 7 to 10 days to write the letter to the Minister and copied to relevant parties.