Library Enterprise Centre: next stop Council

To:
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive, Cambridgeshire County Council
Quentin Baker, Chief Legal Officer, Cambridgeshire County Council

I wish to request a review of the decision on the Enterprise Centre taken at
Highways & Community Infrastructure Committee on 2nd June, and would like it to
be debated at Full Council, or at GPC, should the quorum of members requesting a
review be lower than 24.

  • Members did not have enough information to make an informed decision:
  • Alternative options to the KORA proposal were not properly researched.
  • Financial projections for KORA had no evidence to support them.

Amanda Taylor

Controversy still rages over the Tory proposals to let out Cambridge Library to a private firm. Proposals were first put to councillors  on the Highways & Community Infrastructure committee in March to allow private firm Kora to take over most of the third floor of Cambridge Library to create an Enterprise Centre. I voted against, but Tory and UKIP councillors banded together to vote the proposal through.

I led a call-in of the decision, leading to the decision being revoked and the Highways committee being asked to reconsider, following consultation and extra information.

So we debated it again this week.

Frustratingly, Tory councillors and the UKIP vice-chair once again banded together to drive through the proposals, despite woefully sketchy information on alternative options and the Kora business plan and financial projections being extremely dubious. With a great deal of work by a campaign group formed from the 38 Degrees petition to save the library, we had hoped to carry the day, but in the end, the vote went in favour of the Kora proposals 7-6.

Colleagues and I have now asked for the Full Council to review this decision, as we not only deplore the impact on the rest of the library operation, but we question the credibility of the financial case that is the raison d’être of this ill thought out proposal. And if it doesn’t make money, why compromise the library service?

We need to get 24 councillors to request a review. If we pass that hurdle, the next one is to get a majority vote at Council to change the recommendation. That will need a simple majority of the county councillors present to vote for a change – 35 out of 69 if everyone attends. A simple majority — but not at all simple to achieve.

We will need some minds to change. Perhaps you can help us by talking to your friends who live outside Cambridge, and ask them to talk to their county councillors?

For background on the proposals, we have produced some FAQs. Please see http://amandataylor.focusteam.org/2015/04/29/cambridge-library-and-the-tory-enterprise-centre-faq/#page-content

Cambridge Central Library to close café and turn third floor over to ‘enterprise centre’

Rural Tory and UKIP county councillors have today voted to convert the top floor of Cambridge Central Library into an enterprise centre run by an outside company (KORA), and to close the café.

Cllr Barbara Ashwood (Lib Dem) opened the debate by saying that while she is generally very supportive of the library service, she could not support this because of the paucity of background information. The report left her none the wiser, and she was not sure what was really meant by entrepreneurs’ lounge, international membership and the KORA Club. More information was needed on KORA and how the services would be reconfigured. She said she needed more detail before she could make this sort of commitment.
Amanda Taylor (Lib Dem) also spoke of the need for assurance about KORA and to know if they are good at what they do. Although independent, if they are located in the library they will be seen as part of the County Council and affect the Council’s own reputation. It would be bad to lose the café, which caters for parents & children and  pensioners, to whom it offers economical lunches – a welcome contrast to commercial outlets in the Grand Arcade. Ironically, bookshops are improving their resilience by augmenting the books sales with cafés, but we are told the County’s library café is losing money. Amanda said that before any decision is taken, there should be consultation with library users as well as a presentation by KORA.

Cllr Susan van de Ven (Lib Dem) described it as an ‘enormous change’ for one of our key public services and that it was our job to ask questions.  On behalf  of residents who had contacted her, she asked what would become of the Cambridgeshire Collection during the interim period before being rehoused in Ely.  She also asked how GCSE and A level students would cope if the library was closed during exam period.   She said she felt it was entirely reasonable to have an opportunity to question KORA before decision making, and felt this was not a decision that should be delegated.

Labour councillor Noel Kavanagh highlighted the risk involved — there are other facilities in Cambridge offering the same services such as the CUP Pitt Building and the University Centre which could be undermined. Any new café might well end up having to be closed at particular times to accommodate business events.

Tory, UKIP and Independent councillors all supported the proposals and talked of the need for assets to pay for themselves and of the potential international links as well as to skills & employment and the opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas.

Cllr van de Ven moved an amendment to the motion calling for a deferral pending a presentation from KORA, which I seconded. Unfortunately we were outvoted on the amendment and the original recommendation went through. 

For a copy of the report to councillors, see here:
http://www2.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/CommitteeMinutes/committee-document.aspx/committees-new/hci/2015-03-17/Reports/8816/150317-5.doc
38 Degrees is running a petition called Don’t privatise the third floor of Cambridge Central Library, in which they highlight the dubious tax arrangements of KORA’s parent company, the Regus Group. It’s already on over 600 signatures.

The new Queen Edith … opening up soon

qe2_3264SmThe new pub on Wulfstan Way is looking more and more like a welcome house, and we are looking forward to enjoying a drink there soon. Another good sign is that the owners have submitted their licence application – have a look here: Queen Edith licence premises licence application and comment if you wish to by 17th March.

The Focus Team was in Wulfstan Way today and by chance, so were Richard and Helen, from the company that owns the pub, and they kindly showed us round. They told us completion could be late April or early May.

 

Friends of Nightingale Park Open Meeting: 23rd January

Nightingale-Avenue-Rec-OpenThe Friends of Nightingale Park have an Open Meeting on Friday 23 January 2015 to discuss the future of the park. It’s at 5.30 pm to 7 pm, St James’s Church, Wulfstan Way.

City Council officers will be present to answer questions and report on plans for development, especially for the bowling green and pavilion.

Rediscover the Rock Road of 100 years ago

As the chilling stories of the First World War are retold in this centenary commemoration, do you sometimes wonder what everyday life was like in 1914 in this area? Not just for those at the front, but for children, wives and families at home; for land girls, conscientious objectors, and other non-combatants?

The Friends of Rock Road Library have been awarded a £9,500 grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a two year project documenting the area around the Library during the First World War.Since then they have been researching the impact of WWI on the lives of people in this area.

In ten days time, 27th November, the Friends will be opening their ‘Stories from a Neighbourhood’ exhibition to showcase their findings, telling the story of the Rock Road area at war through maps, photographs, biographies, souvenirs and newspaper articles about the people who lived in our houses 100 years ago. The launch event on the 27th will have the bonus of a talk about First World War Cambridge by local historian Mike Petty.

The event starts at 8pm, viewing at 7.30pm.

Get fresh with Rock Abundance: coming to Cherry Hinton Road this Friday

ROCK ABUNDANCE: “One person’s glut is another person’s feast”

Were you lucky enough to catch the Transition Cambridge pop-up stall at Rock Road Library last Saturday? I was, and went home happily with some beautiful sweet peas, a little jar of redcurrant jelly, and a prickly cucumber. The idea is that you take along any spare produce from your garden, and swap it for someone else’s superfluity.

This Friday, the group will hold its second ‘Rock Abundance’ stall outside the Blazing Saddles bike shop at 102 Cherry Hinton Road – that’s on the corner of Rock Road, for those who haven’t already discovered this gem of a bike shop.

It’s a brilliant idea: you just take along any home-grown (or foraged) fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs; and you swap them for your neighbours’ goodies. Even if you don’t have anything to take, you can take produce and make a donation. When Rock Abundance took place at the library donations went to the Friends of Rock Road Library for community events; this time they will go to the Homerton Children’s Centre community garden. Any excess food will be distributed to FoodCycle or other local charities.

sweet peasThe stall is just there for an hour, between 5.30 and 6.30pm on Friday – set up an alarm so you don’t miss it!

Further details: www.rockabundance.org.uk (Facebook: /RockAbundance; twitter @RockAbundance) [email protected]; or telephone Rebecca Jones, volunteer and first co-ordinator: 07792 531 400.

Cutting the tape: Vice-Chair and Mayor join locals to celebrate library transformation

RRL tape Last night, the new Mayor of Cambridge, Cllr Gerri Bird, and the vice-chair of Cambridgeshire County Council, Cllr Sebastian Kindersley, came to cut the tape across the new doors to the library garden and to help us launch the new community room.

We heard from the Friends of Rock Road Library Treasurer James Berry about how the Friends had come into being; standing up for the library when it was under threat, and later working to achieve the improvements that we celebrated last night. We were also treated to a stimulating talk by Mr Owers of NARB Architects on potential future developments at the library.

The library was packed – in addition to our special guests, there were library professionals who had come to look, community development workers, volunteers, Friends, readers galore, several councillors — and as you can see in the picture, the library’s younger members were out in force!

The new community room is currently displaying original illustrations by Arthur Rackham, the artist of Alice in Wonderland and both the creator and inspirer of the Mad Hatter. It is hoped to put on more displays of this nature and ideas are welcome. The room will also be available for use by local groups Monday-Saturday, and booking charges start from just £4 an hour. To book, ring 01223 728530 or email [email protected]

Are you ready for the Tour de France?

le-tour-riders2012In less than seven weeks, the Tour de France comes to Cambridge on Monday July 7th. All very exciting for those who follow competitive cycling – but even if you’re not a fan, have you thought about how you’ll get out about that day?

There are several road closures that day, including Hills Road and Trumpington Road, and many schools are closed for the day, including Morley Memorial, Netherhall, St Bede’s and Coleridge. Schools are announcing changes as I write, so I will update this page as I receive new information. (more…)

Three men in a boat in a library

Three men in a boat

The Friends of Rock Road Library invite local residents to enjoy a dramatisation of Jerome K Jerome’s comic novel Three Men in a Boat – a one-man show by local actor Geoff Hales.

The show is at Rock Road Library and starts at 8 p.m. after a welcome drink. There is no fixed charge but the Friends invite the audience to donate towards their funds, which go back into events such as this.

Geoff Hales read English at Cambridge, went away and came back! He runs his own theatre company, ‘Travelling Theatre’, which performs one-man shows about great writers. He has appeared all over England and in Prague, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Germany and Switzerland.

Three Men in a Boat was first published in 1899 and has never been out of print since. Come and see why!

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The Friends of Rock Road Library support the work of the library and arrange community events to support it. The Friends Group originally came into being to create a garden at the back of the library. See http://rockroadlibrarygarden.blogspot.com/.

They supported the library throughout the period of threatened cuts to its funding.

 

Rock Road Library is on Rock Road, between Cherry Hinton Road and Blinco Grove.