[D]OTTY MCLEOD: It’s a big question facing all of our local councils today. And this is really what the big debate over councillors in Peterborough revolves around, isn’t it? It’s money. It’s what do we need to spend most money on. It’s how do we balance our books. Well each council in Cambridgeshire has its own ideas for solving the funding crisis. They’ve all had their Government funding reduced. How do you make up the shortfall? In Peterborough the City Council’s introduced a charge for garden waste collections, and they’re still hoping to create a green energy park. Cambridgeshire County Council has introduced a charge for their park and ride service. But the brains behind East Cambridgeshire District Council think they have a better idea. Cllr Bill Hunt is the Conservative councillor for Stretham. Bill, what is your plan?
BILL HUNT: Well it’s one of many. We’ve got a total package which includes what other councils want, which is cutting down perhaps on the number of members, cutting down on the amount of committees. But the particular thing we’re talking about today is Assetbank, which is looking at all our properties, and seeing what’s the best use, and can we make more money out of it, or serve the people better. It’s a matter of saying we want to cut down on bureaucracy, cut down on costs, and try and get some money in, or benefit to the public.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So you’re potentially selling off parcels of land. This is what people call selling off the family silver Bill, is it?
BILL HUNT: Oh of course it’s not. It’s looking at bits of land that for example at the moment we’ve got one bit of land that’s just been waste for many years. And it’s doing nothing except growing brambles. There must be a better use for it than that.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Are all of the pieces of land like that? Are they kind of scrubland, or ..
BILL HUNT: No. This is very much the start of this campaign, which has only happened when James Palmer took over as Leader just under a year ago. And we’ve only got two bits of land on the Assetbank at the moment. But it’s not a matter of necessarily selling them. It’s looking to the public to say, what could we best use this land for. At the moment it’s not being used well.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So what kind of offers would you consider? Farms? Or allotments? Or ..
BILL HUNT: Well it’s something that gives best value to the taxpayer. So we’re just open for business. That’s the idea. It might be that we might even be buying some land. Or we might be extending what we own. It’s really a matter of having a website and saying, look, we’ve got the following bits of land, or property. Talk to us. Come with your ideas, and see if we can do something which will give the best results for the people of the district.
DOTTY MCLEOD: I appreciate that you’re not going to, or you’re not planning to sell everything off. But the value of any pieces of land is only going to rise. We’ve seen tiny pockets of land which don’t look like much at all sell for huge sums in Cambridgeshire, because if you can get planning permission, you can put houses on it, then you can make a mint.
BILL HUNT: Well of course we may put planning permission on that land and rent it out.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Right. OK. Ok. I see.
BILL HUNT: It’s not a matter of selling the family silver. That was a plan that the LibDems had to sell Shire Hall and the County farms, and we don’t like that. That is selling the family silver. What we’re looking at is just using our assets to the best.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. And how can people, if somebody has a bright idea for how they might be able to maximise the value of your land, it’s called Assetbank, and it’s online, is it?
BILL HUNT: Yes. You can Google Assetbank, or you can contact Karen Freya at East Cambs , and she’ll tell you what’s going on. At the moment it’s only two sites,, but of course the Council own many more bits of land like this. And it may be in co-operation with people. We’re looking at one scheme at the moment where we may be working with another local authority to jointly develop a bit of land. And it’s just the best use of assets. It’s not just selling off the family silver campaign. That’s not what we do. We’re trying to reduce taxation and have a more friendly attitude towards business.
DOTTY MCLEOD: He is Cllr Bill Hunt. He’s the Conservative councillor for Stretham. And he is open to your ideas. If you think you have a way of using a piece of land that might belong to East Cambridgeshire District Council, and turning a profit, and giving a cut of that to the Council, then he wants your ideas. It’s called Assetbank.