Tory county councillors and officers have been talking to KORA for over a year about their opening an Enterprise Centre in Cambridge Central Library, and the Tory Leader of the Council has admitted he knew about a year ago – yet defends the secrecy.
Cllr Steve Count is Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, and last year was the councillor in charge of library services. At this week’s council meeting I asked him how long he had known about the plans to allow KORA to create an Enterprise Centre in the library.
Cllr Amanda Taylor: My question is to the Leader of the Council and it relates to the Council’s plans to allow a private firm, KORA, to take over the third floor of the Central Library which, as the councillor knows, has caused consternation amongst the people of Cambridge.
My question is a simple one and I hope that you will be able to answer it simply:
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AWARE OF THESE PLANS?
Cllr Steve Count: Yeah, thank you, thank you. I couldn’t give you the exact date. I certainly believe that I was the Cabinet Member for Resources & Performance (May 2013-May 2014) so we’re going back quite a while ago when the idea first got discussed. Now after leaving that position … err, not leaving, being kicked out under the new system is more appropriate! … after changing that position, that went to the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee which Roger is chairman of, and plans, I guess, continued to be worked up there. How much involvement before it went to the papers I don’t know, but that’s my total answer I can give you.
Cllr Taylor: As the Leader of the Council now, I would assumethat although Cllr Hickford is chair of the HCI committee, I assume that you still had knowledge of these matters. Do you agree that in hindsight it would have been appropriate to have made these negotiations known to members of this Council more than a week before the committee at which this was debated and agreed?
Cllr Count: No, I can’t support that and I’ll tell you why. The reason I didn’t make anything available to anyone else whilst I was the Cabinet Member is that it never got to the stage that there was a formal proposal on the table. The discussions batted backwards and forwards between us and the officers as to whether it would ever ever ever come to fruition.
Now I know that I lost track of it to a certain degree after it went to H&CI – but there is a confidential element to this and actually building up the business case on whether it was something we would ever want to do was based on that confidential information. You wouldn’t go out and want to start hares running before you could actually know something was going to happen at the end of the day. So no, I think that I’m comfortable in my decision on that.
for the streaming of the council meeting. My question comes 2 h 25m into the video.