Lib Dems lead challenge to Tory library plans

Nine Liberal Democrat county councillors have hit back against Conservative plans to allow a private company to take over the third floor of Cambridge Central Library – plans that were voted through by an unholy alliance of UKIP and Conservative councillors plus Cambridge’s one independent councillor, John Hipkin. The Lib Dems have called for the decision to be reconsidered so that councillors can be fully informed about this company and so that consultation with the public can be carried out.

Our request for a review of the decision has been successful and it will be looked at again by a committee of senior councillors on 14th April (10am at Shire Hall). Councillors do not know enough about KORA, the company set to take over the third floor and before we take a decision like this, we need much more information is needed both about them and about how they would be operating: for example, would people have to pay to sit and read in that part of the library under their management in future? We are also also angry that despite the talks having started over 18 months ago, library users were not given a say before such a huge change was agreed. It is after all a PUBLIC library.

There are strong objections to the loss of library space for the public as well as concerns about the Cambridgeshire Collection and the library café.

The General Purposes Committee is being asked to:

“…consider the decision and either:
i) Dismiss the decision review request with the effect that the original decision shall stand, or
ii) Refer the decision back to the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee for re-consideration including a recommendation from General Purposes Committee.”

For the full report click here.GPC library call-in_150414-3a

The committee will also receive a 3,000-signature public petition against the proposals.

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.

Cambridge Joint Area Committee

Since September, I have been chairing the Cambridge Joint Area Committee (CJAC for short) is a joint County/City Council committee that handles a number of traffic-related matters in the City of Cambridge, including:

  1. Determining priorities for the Local Highway Improvement Initiative
  2. Traffic management, parking regulation, cycle and pedestrian schemes
  3. Advising on on-street and off-street parking charges.
  4. Advise on priorities for Section 106 funding for traffic management and other transport schemes
  5. Determining objections to Traffic Regulation Orders
  6. Resolving detailed design issues for traffic management proposals

The next meeting is on Tuesday 22nd 20th January, and councillors will be taking decisions on new parking restrictions on the Accordia Estate, cycle parking in Thoday Street, and pavement café licences in the city centre. To view the agenda, click here.

Favourite Fairtrade place in Cambridge? Please tell!

Watching the Mayor put up the first Fairtrade Cambridge sticker

Yesterday, the Mayor of Cambridge, Councillor Ian Nimmo-Smith, put up the first Cambridge Fairtrade sticker in the Green Coffee Company and gave out stickers to Fairtrade retailers, including the Co-op, Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design and One World Is Enough.

The stickers are sponsored by the Co-operative, which was the first big supermarket to stock Fairtrade goods back in 1992.

Cambridge shoppers are being asked to keep an eye out for Fairtrade goods when they go shopping – and pass on their findings to the Cambridge Fairtrade Steering Group by email (fairtrade.ca[email protected]) or via their blog http://fairtradecambridge.wordpress.com. Having a good list will help us when we come to renew our Fairtrade City status, and we would like to know about anywhere that sells a range of Fairtrade products. Look out for the green and blue Fairtrade mark.

Cambridge has been a Fairtrade City since  1994.

Welcome to The Coffee House

lady and coffee

Welcome to the newest establishment on Wulfstan Way – The Coffee House & Takeaway, which opened last month where E C Sandwich used to be.

There’s a good range of snacks, including various different types of bread with British, Italian, Greek, French and Polish names, all with various tasty fillings, and a range of cakes, many of them seriously chocolatey. They do a takeaway service as well – phone them on 07763 652717.

For drinks, you’re in for a treat. The coffee is freshly ground and there’s also a brilliant choice of teas and tisanes, with the popular classics such as English Breakfast joined by some unusual ones, such as Russian Caravan and Belfast Brew. Served in a proper teapot too. There’s also a range of fruit tisanes and teas – and, as the menu puts it so nicely, ‘Fairtrade to boot’.

With nearby parking and an array of small shops selling everything from speciality cakes to wonton soup, this is a great place to stop off after a trip to the shops or after dropping off children at school, or when you go to collect a prescription.

I wish Lorel, the manager, and the new Coffee House all the best.