Cambridge Library and the Tory Enterprise Centre: FAQ

Cambridge Central Library: Kora option for an Enterprise Centre FAQs

Liberal Democrat councillors led the way toward securing a public consultation and forcing a reconsideration of options, and specifically reconsidering the officer-recommended Kora option, for an Enterprise Centre at Cambridge Central Library.

The process has been flawed; other options have not been evaluated and the ‘preferred’ Kora option may not stand up to closer scrutiny.

1. How long had officers been negotiating with Kora for an Enterprise Centre on the third floor of Cambridge Central Library?

Since January/ February 2013, according to the County Council’s Head of Community and Cultural Services at one of the KORA meetings.

2. When did councillors learn about Kora’s role and officer negotiations?

Members of the Highways and Community Infrastructure (HCI) Committee first learned about this in the lead-up to their March 17 meeting, when they were asked to make a decision endorsing the officer recommendation to go forward with the preferred option of working with Kora to develop an enterprise centre.

The concept of an enterprise centre had been publicly discussed for many months and was endorsed by committee members, but knowledge of Kora’s role and contractual negotiations was not shared by officers with councillors except for those in the Cabinet in 2013.

3. Did any councillors outside the HCI committee know about the proposals?

The Conservative Cabinet members serving at the time of the inception of the proposal – autumn 2013 (see the Leader of the Council’s response on this). The current cross-party HCI committee came into being in May 2014.

4. Did any councillors challenge the officer recommendation to proceed with the Kora option?

Yes. At the March 17 HCI meeting, Lib Dem Councillor Susan van de Ven proposed an amendment, seconded by Lib Dem Cllr Amanda Taylor:

to defer the decision to develop and Enterprise Centre in Cambridge Central Library, pending receipt of further detailed information on the proposals, including the opportunity to question Kora, and the opportunity for a robust consultation exercise.

This amendment was supported by Cllrs Barbara Ashwood and Noel Kavanagh.

The amendment was rejected by the rest of the HCI committee – all of the UKIP, Independent and Conservative members – who then voted and resolved:

a) to approve the development of an enterprise centre within Cambridge Central Library;
b) to enter into an agreement with Kora (part of the Regus Group) to create and run the Cambridge Library Enterprise Centre (CLEC); and
c) to delegate to the Executive – Director of Economy, Transport and Environment in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Highways & Community Infrastructure Committee authority to approve the final negotiations required to complete this project.

Cllrs van de Ven, Taylor, Ashwood and Kavanagh did not support the decision.

5. Was this decision then challenged?

Yes. Cllr Amanda Taylor led a ‘call-in’ of the decision which was considered by the General Purposes Committee (GPC) on 14 April. The GPC agreed unanimously to send the matter back to the HCI committee on 2 June, and to ask for the public’s views in a consultation exercise.

6. Will the HCI committee consider the other two Enterprise Centre options put forward on 17 March, alongside the Kora option?

That was the expectation and we requested that those options be more fully worked up to create a level playing field – and we are disappointed to see that the officers have still not provided enough details on the other options to enable us to take an informed decision.

7. Will members of the public be consulted on next steps?

Members of the public were consulted on the Enterprise Centre proposals through the library consultation exercise, which closed on 10 May, and a public meeting was held at the library on 6th May.

8. Which councillors take the decision? The Highways & Community Infrastructure Committee: details here.

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.

Morley Memorial School Fête this afternoon

feteToday, Saturday July 6, Morley Memorial Primary School holds its annual school fête.

There is something for everyone: face-painting, bouncy castles and trampolines for the under 8s, arts and crafts for the creative types, and plenty of scope for finding a bargain or something special from the various stalls, which include local businesses such as Phoenix Cards and Orchard Toys.

There will also be a wide range of stalls selling plants, cakes white elephant, books and toys.

Morley fêtes are well known for their great range of international food, with dishes from different parts of the world. This year, the school is welcoming special guests from Inder’s Kitchen.

1.00-3.30pm, Blinco Grove.