Media 'mischief making' over council investments

Wisbech from above. Aerial footage shows quiet Fenland town during coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Yo

Wisbech from above. It is the town favoured by the new investment strategy of Fenland Council into housing. Investments were discussed at Fenland Council this week. - Credit: YouTube/Konrad Klich

The media was accused of “mischief making” and in some cases being “wrong” in their reporting of the financial investments' strategy and outcomes at Cambridgeshire County Council. 

The accusations were made by Fenland Council leader Chris Boden answering questions from newly appointed opposition group leader Cllr Mike Cornwell.  

Cllr Cornwell had raised “concerns” by residents over reports of commercial activities by the county council. 

He was worried “this council is going down a similar route”.  

He asked for a public statement “in simple terms, so that the public will understand”. 

Cllr Boden said he was “not here to answer for what Cambridgeshire County Council does” although he was vice chair of the county council committee responsible for investments.  

“However, I have to say I would love to be in the position of the county council as far as its investments are concerned,” he said. 

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Whilst admitting there were issues and not everything was 100 per cent perfect, he was confident of the county’s approach.  

“The sheer quantity of money being generated and will be generated in the future by what is being done, I would love to emulate here at Fenland,” he said. 

With pinpointing any specific or alleged inaccuracies, Cllr Boden continued.  

“Some of the things in the press are wrong, some stated in the press are mischief making,” he said and, in many cases, matters were confidential and not in the public arena.  

Cllr Boden said Fenland had started a bit later than the county and was “put off a bit by Covid-19". 

He said Cllr Cornwell failed to understand the point about commercial work by councils. 

“Almost by definition it will expose us to risk.” he said but argued it was a matter of management.  

It was impossible not to be exposed to commercial risk- the alternative was to put all the council’s money where it would earn just 0.75 per cent interest.   

“We want to achieve a lot better and that must mean having some commercial risk,” he said.  

Cllr Cornwell added: “Maybe reports in the local media are not strictly correct. 

“We have to stop those rumours and go forward.” 

One early investment by Fenland Council’s new business board could be housing, with Wisbech a prime target. 

Last year the council was told 8 per cent gross yield, and 5 per cent net yield, were achievable.