Cambridge Central Library: huge public outcry

Cambridge Library_VJSThe people of Cambridge have reacted angrily to Cambridgeshire County Council‘s decision to allow a private firm to take over the third floor of Cambridge Central Library to create an Enterprise Centre. A petition launched by local resident Claire Dylan has attracted over 1,300 signatures in just a few days.

The decision was made on Tuesday by a council committee comprising councillors from all over Cambridgeshire. Although most of the councillors representing city wards criticized the proposal, councillors representing the villages in the rest of the Cambridgeshire outvoted us. For a report on how the meeting went see here, and for the council report see here.

We have big doubts about KORA, the company set to take over the third floor of the library, and we need much more information on them and 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 also strongly believe that the library members should have a say in such a huge change, as well as the public of Cambridge. It is after all a PUBLIC LIBRARY.
My colleagues and I 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 call-in has been successful and this will be looked at again by a committee of senior councillors on 14th April (10am).
Huge thanks to all those who turned out today to demonstrate public dismay at the proposals and to meet Julian Huppert MP, who is backing the project.

Advice surgery with an armadillo

armadillo-7657The Liberal Democrats in Queen Edith’s hold a regular advice surgery once a month. It’s my turn this Saturday, and I shall be at St James’s Church in Wulfstan Way between 10.30 and 11.30am. Our surgery craftily coincides with the church’s own coffee morning / bring & buy sale on too, so you can have a drink and a cake at the same time.

Please come with any questions about local issues, or ideas. As a county councillor, I have best access to the county council officers handling education, transport, libraries, social care and children’s services but I’ll do my best to help with any other matters too.

If I don’t have the answers on the spot, I’ll do my best to find out or share your question with someone who knows more than I do.

So where does the armadillo come in?

The Government has given Cambridge £8.2 million of  funding for investment in Dutch-style cycling, with the objective of getting more people cycling. One of the projects the Council is considering is segregated cycle lanes on Hills Road between the Cherry Hinton and Long Road junctions. Others are in Huntingdon Road and Trumpington Road.

I’ve been talking to transport officers at the County Council, particularly about the Hills Road scheme. They’ll be starting a two-stage Royal College Stconsultation on the proposals soon, once options have been costed. Initially they are looking for information on journey patterns, routes etc and will then draw up detailed proposals taking into account people’s comments. They’ll be consulting residents, also businesses and other institutions.

The cycle lanes would be marked by traffic separators, dubbed ‘armadillos’ by cycling afficionados. They keep cars out of the cycle lanes but because they are spaced out they allow cyclists to go into the main part of the road when they need to. Here is an example of them in use in Royal College Street, Camden.

Intrigued, I asked to see an armadillo. I concede it’s a similar shape to the Dasypodidae, and hopefully it’s as tough. It was certainly very heavy, asarmadillo I found out when I carried it home! I’ll be bringing one along to my surgery on Saturday: if you’re interested in the segregated cycle scheme, please call in for a chat.

Second Saturday of the month, 10.30-11.30am. At St James’s Wulfstan Way when they have a coffee morning on, otherwise at the Coffee House.

Lib Dem MP joins fight for fairer funding for sixth-form colleges

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert is to join a cross-party group of MPs to fight for a fairer deal for Cambridge’s sixth form colleges.

Julian has been invited to become a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sixth Form Colleges which has been established to protect the future of the colleges nationwide. With Hills Road Sixth Form College and Long Road Sixth Form College educating thousands of 16 to 18-year-olds in the city, Julian is working to make sure they get fair funding and the same benefits as school sixth forms.

At the moment, sixth form colleges receive less funding per student than school and academy sixth forms. Disadvantaged youngsters attending sixth form colleges do not receive free meals and, unlike schools and academies, sixth form colleges are not reimbursed for their VAT costs. They are also not eligible for any publically funded improvement support.

Now there are fears that if a new proposed funding regime for sixth form colleges is introduced they will face reductions in funding of up to six per cent, far bigger than that faced by all other providers. Despite these inequalities sixth form colleges across the country generally send more young people to higher education than independent schools and a third of these youngsters come from the least advantaged areas of the country.

Julian said. “We are so fortunate in Cambridge to have two excellent state-run sixth form colleges which produce year-on-year fantastic results for our young people. Whether they are studying A levels or vocational courses, our young people are succeeding and going on to higher education.

“These results are being achieved against a backdrop of inequality. It is time the government gave them the same funding and support that other sixth forms receive.”

Defend local pubs and independent shops

On Tuesday 10th July Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, Julian Huppert, will propose new measures to defend local pubs and independent shops from being taken over. Under the current system, councils and local residents often have no opportunity to stop the process.

Julian will ask to bring a Bill preventing the demolition or change of use of a pub or local independent shop without planning permission. Planning permission would also be needed before premises or land could be used for a supermarket.

If you agree that pubs and independent shops need greater protection against being lost, please sign Julian’s petition here.

Liberal Democrats launch petition against web surveillance plans

Cambridge Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert has launched a petition to stop any plans to create a snoopers’ charter. This petition follows a public letter in The Independent from 17 Lib Dem MPs, led by Julian Huppert. The letter called for openness from the Government about controversial proposals to monitor emails, telephone calls and social media. The petition demands a guarantee from the Government that no-one will be allowed to read the content of internet communications, phone calls or texts without a warrant. The petition also calls for “substantially stronger safeguards for civil liberties”.

Julian said “Local Liberal Democrats will always fight for the basic right of every single Cambridge resident to have a private life. I’ve already helped force the Government to publish the new bill in draft form, so it can be scrutinized and amended. This petition, launched by Liberal Democrats across the City, will push the Government to create new safeguards to protect against state surveillance. Lib Dems in Cambridge will do whatever it takes to protect our fundamental civil liberties.”
The petition can be signed at: http://cam.lib.dm/No2NetSnooping