Brexit factor to play a key role in Boston Borough Council elections this week

Brexit and pressures on communities caused by mass migration continue to top the list of issues residents in Boston want tackling, along with cuts to bus services and empty shops.

People go to the polls in Boston on Thursday
People go to the polls in Boston on Thursday

The concerns are among those raised as all of Boston Borough Council’s 30 seats are up for election when the country goes to the polls for the local elections on Thursday.

The Tories currently hold power in Boston, originally done through an agreement with some of the independent councillors, which was formed in a bid to keep control after the UKIP victory matched their seat numbers in the 2015 elections.

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Full list of all candidates standing in Boston - click hereSince then a number of the UKIP winners have left the party in one form or another.

Ahead of the big day, local people told Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Jaines their view on the street of what the issues in the town need to be fixed.

As you wander around town, it is clear that the national Brexit debate has coloured people’s opinions on politics of all levels.

One unnamed 54-year-old woman said: “I’m very disappointed with Government with regards to Brexit.

“I remember what this country was like before we joined and we were a thriving country to be proud of.

“It’s colouring the local view because you would expect the local powers to be fighting for what we have voted for.

“I feel we were being told to vote in the referendum but they didn’t get the answer they wanted.”

Many still blame previously uncontrolled mass immigration for issues in Boston.

Keith Lindsey, a regular visitor to Boston from Woodhall Spa, said: “With the huge increase (in migrants) there definitely needs to be help, especially with housing and accommodation and jobs. Schools, are full, hospitals are full.

“Both ends of the spectrum, local and national, need to be doing more to tackle the problems.

“Though I know local councils are starved of cash from central government there’s a population demand for it.”

Crime and anti-social behaviour was also a hot-topic, with discussions ranging from street-drinking and shouting in public spaces, up to violent crimes.

An 87-year-old man from Swineshead said: “There have been more murders and crime than I have ever known in my life. It doesn’t feel safe here to walk about at night.

“Just look at the court listings and crime reports in local media, there’s something every week – drink driving, fighting etc.”

Housing was one of the issues raised, with Sally Knowles, 63, from Benington saying: “We need more housing – affordable housing, possibly retirement housing for the over 55s.”

She added that she felt young people in their early 20s needed more social activities.

Living in a village she, like several others, also noted a decline in public transport and a need for villages to be more connected with the wider world.

“The main services seem to finish so early,” she said.

“During Easter weekend it was a waste because there was nothing for those four days and when you live out in an isolated place like Benington you cannot go anywhere.”

Other issues which residents called on candidates to campaign about, included empty shops – tackling high rates and rents – and street lights.

Boston Borough Council is Conservative-led, with the party holding 17 seats. Despite the loss of members, UKIP still has the next largest number with six seats. Elsewhere Independents hold four seats, while three seats are held by the Bostonian Independents Group.

However, in next week’s election, nine of the 30 current councillors are not listed as running again.

They include Conservatives Mike Brookes (Swineshead and Holland Fen), Colin Brotherton (Kirton and Frampton), Ben Evans (Staniland), Dr Gordon Gregory (Trinity) and Claire Rylott (Kirton and Frampton).

Three UKIP – Elizabeth Ransome (Coastal), Stephen Raven (Witham) and James Edwards (Kirton and Frampton) – and one Bostonian Independent Stephen Ball (Skirbeck) will also not be running for a seat.

The other two Bostonian Independents, Barrie Pierpoint (Old Leake and Wrangle) and Brian Rush (Staniland) are running as independents having delisted their parties name for the time being.

Councillor Paul Gleeson is returning to his Labour roots for the election having temporarily become an independent in order to be able to sit on committees.