08:20 Wednesday 3rd April 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[R]ONNIE BARBOUR: The Liberal Democrats in Cambridgeshire have released their manifesto as we head towards local elections. They’re promising to stop cuts to bus services, contribute to the cost of a rail link to Wisbech, improve pavements and street lighting, plus look after the young and the elderly. So how are they going to pay for it? Kilian Bourke is Leader of the LibDems opposition on the County Council. Kilian good morning to you.
KILIAN BOURKE: Morning Ronnie.
RONNIE BARBOUR: There’s a lot of things you’re going to do there, and of course manifestos are famously, you know, people like to put their dream sequence together, but how will you pay for those if you get in?
KILIAN BOURKE: Well there’s a section of our manifesto called Paying For It. So we’ve tried to set that out. Two of the bigger things we would do to fund our priorities are to sell Shire Hall, the Council’s excessively grand in our view headquarters, which cost a million pounds a year to maintain. We’d sell an extra 4% of the county’s property portfolio. And we would invest this capital in green energy. So we would build one windfarm, and one solar farm, and that would bring in £2.5 million a year in revenue, which we could fund better basic services with, and make it easier for people to get around.
RONNIE BARBOUR: If you close County Hall you would have to pay for a new building, wouldn’t you?
KILIAN BOURKE: No you wouldn’t. This is something we looked into in some detail before putting it in to our alternative budget. So lots of staff have been laid off, and the neighbouring building, Castle Court, there’s lots of extra capacity in it. If you walk around you can see that for yourself. So we’d move a lot of staff next door into the much bigger Castle Court building, which is part of the Shire Hall campus.
RONNIE BARBOUR: This is a very conservative county, apart from Cambridge. Do you think you’ll ever be in power in the County Council?
KILIAN BOURKE: I think it’s very possible. I don’t think it’s going to happen tomorrow, but there was no overall control just a few years ago. I think we have very good councillors in South Cambs and South East, and also increasingly in Fenland, and I don’t think it’s out of the question. If you look at what’s happening to the Conservative group, they’ve councillors defecting to Ukip, councillors becoming independent. There’s an unaligned Conservative group as well. So I think they’re in a bad place going into these elections.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Do you think the electorate .. because the Liberal Democrats have their own problems anyway as other parties have, but the Coalition issues .. do you think when it comes to local elections people put aside national politics and actually think carefully about what they’re voting for locally?
KILIAN BOURKE: I think the truth is it’s always a mixture. But if you are a group that locally have strong messages and a clearer vision for the County, people pay attention to that. On the other hand, if you don’t have a vision, then councillors tend to drift in and out with the tide. And I think the LibDems in Cambridgeshire certainly have a very clear visions of what we want to do for the County.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Any thoughts on the A14 upgrade?
KILIAN BOURKE: Look, an A14 upgrade is urgently needed. We’ve always said that we need to address the safety issues that are there. Our priority is to sort out the Huntingdon by-pass, the Girton Interchange, and then to address safety issues and to improve throughput. We think that a downsized scheme would be a better solution for the County, instead of massively increasing capacity, and we would push for a properly multi-modal solution as well.
RONNIE BARBOUR: So you’re saying you wouldn’t help with the funding of the upgrade.
KILIAN BOURKE: What we’re saying is we would try to negotiate with Government a somewhat downsized scheme. We’re not saying we would try and stop it. Cambridge City Council is not standing in the way of the scheme. It’s saying it will contribute to mitigating the effects on the city. But the Huntingdon by-pass needs to be sorted out, the Girton Interchange, and after that safety issues. So that for us would be the top priority. Local government is facing the biggest spending cuts of any area of public spending, and we don’t think it’s reasonable to be asking for a big extra contribution from local taxpayers on top of tolling and general taxation.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Kilian Bourke there. The elections take place at the beginning of May, and as always BBC Radio Cambridgeshire will be your number one place for coverage of the elections. So when we have a full list of those running we will let you know.