April 25, 2022 8.00 pm

Councillor attacks ‘unacceptable’ lack of scrutiny over Boston town deal projects

A new leisure centre, learning centre and refurbished railway station

By Local Democracy Reporter

The lack of scrutiny over Boston town deal projects is ‘unacceptable’, a leading councillor who walked out of the vote has claimed.

Three projects for a new leisure centre, a Mayflower learning centre and the refurbishment of the local train station were recently given the go-ahead by Boston Borough Council.

The schemes, which have a price tag of £21.9million, have now been submitted to the government for approval.

However, Councillor Stephen Woodliffe says there are serious questions about whether the public will get value for money after councillors were denied the chance to ask questions at a scrutiny panel.

He left the council meeting in disgust, along with councillor Peter Bedford.

Boston Borough Council says that councillors had ample time to make an informed decision.

The Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre leisure centre redevelopment will be partly funded by £2.4million from the Boston Town Deal, with the council making up the remaining £4.7million. The other projects will jointly use £12.5million of Town Deal cash and match funding of £6.2million from elsewhere.

The £7.1 million Boston Leisure project will see a redeveloped Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex. | Image: YMD Boon

“It was rushed through in a high irregular manner. I have never heard of it before,” Councillor Woodliffe, an independent, said.

“I was told that the projects wouldn’t be coming to the Corporate & Community Scrutiny Committee, which I chair. Councillors were given a briefing on the same night as the vote instead, which isn’t acceptable.

“There was no opportunity to ask questions, no chance to drill down into the details, and no time to think about it.

“It’s all about making sure the public money is spent wisely and getting good value.

“The council is supposed to be a gatekeeper for public money. Councillors haven’t come up with these ideas, but they are supposed to make judgement on the worthiness of the projects.

“I am not opposed to the ideas themselves. There are some good ideas in Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex development. The railway station I have more questions about. But they should have come to scrutiny given the amount of money involved.

“This is an open-ended commitment to meet whatever the cost of the projects turn out to be. That is worrying for a small council. Other councils have gone bust because they haven’t given enough scrutiny to projects.

“It is quite possible I will be removed as chair of the scrutiny committee at the next council AGM because I have protested this, but it is really important that we ask these questions.”

Boston Borough Council say that members weren’t rushed in making the decision.

A spokesperson for Boston Borough Council said: “The Full Council meeting provided an opportunity for 30 members to review the proposals and there were many questions asked from those councillors who stayed for the whole session that enabled them to make an informed decision when voting on the item.”