Library computer charges crash

The Conservatives’ decision to charge people for using library computers has been a complete failure.

Computer use is down 55% in Cambridgeshire’s libraries and the charging scheme has raised £4000 against a prediction of £50,000.

The Liberal Democrats and thousands of residents (see our petition) opposed the charges, saying it would both put people off using the computers and fail to raise money. We raised an amendment for the council not to go ahead with charges for computer use, but unfortunately our amendment was not supported by Labour/ Conservative councillors. For the background, see https://amandataylor.focusteam.org/2018/02/18/lib-dem-petition-against-library-computer-charges/.

When the Conservatives proposed bringing in charges for using the computers at libraries we were worried about the reduction of information to people who don’t have computers at home. We also thought that people would simply stop using the computers, just as they stopped parking at the Park & Ride sites when charges were levied there.

This is exactly what has happened: usage has slumped and the money raised won’t even cover the cost of collecting it (c 18K).

Don’t the Tories ever learn?

Liberal Democrat petition against library computer charges

Campaigning against the Library Enterprise Centre plans

Liberal Democrats in Cambridgeshire have launched a campaign to protect free use of computers at libraries.

County councillors last week considered a package of measures for the future of the library service, building on workshops with the public and library campaigners as well as with councillors. The measures included several sensible initiatives, such as improving occupancy of library meeting rooms and co-locating council services — for example, showcasing assistive technology in libraries, providing support to vulnerable people. Other suggestions were to raise income to support the library service by putting on some paid-for events and maximising room income from commercial users. You can read the paper here.

One of the proposals Liberal Democrats object to is charges for use of library computers. The Conservatives are proposing to introduce a £1 charge for using library computers after the first half hour. We believe that the charge will be damaging to people on very low incomes, especially to people applying for jobs – as many employers now require applications to be made on line. People on Universal Credit need to spend time job-hunting, and to prove that they are doing so.

Machines to collect the charges will cost £18,800. You do the sums for how long it will take to recoup the initial outlay. I don’t think the Conservative councillors have!

I also question the raison d’être of the charge, to generate revenue. Experience with bringing in charges for services has shown that usage drops off dramatically. Have Conservative councillors learnt nothing from the fiasco of their petty parking charges at the Park & Ride sites?

The County Council committee responsible for libraries is the Highways & Community Infrastructure Committee, on which I sit. I am one of two Liberal Democrats on the committee; there is also one Labour councillor, one Independent one — and six Conservatives, including the chair and vice-chair.

Liberal Democrat councillor Henry Batchelor proposed an amendment to scrap the computer charges. We were outvoted and the amendment fell, meaning that the charges might still be introduced. We were sorry that the Labour councillor on the committee, Jocelynne Scutt, refused to support the amendment.

Liberal Democrats believe that access to the internet is a key element of equality in the modern world, and that the County Council has a responsibility to provide access to computers to those, who for reasons of finance or where they live may not have high quality internet access in their homes.

The Liberal Democrats have set up a petition opposing the charges.  Over 500 people had signed even before the meeting.  You can sign it at http://www.cambridgelibdems.org.uk/library_computer_charging.

Residents’ parking – make your mind up time for Queen Edith’s

Marshall RoadLast year, I ran an informal survey on parking in the north-west corner of Queen Edith’s — the streets opposite the colleges on Hills Road. Residents there experience heavy commuter parking from the sixth form college as well as Addenbroooke’s, Cambridge Leisure and other businesses. Many houses in the streets there do not have their own drives, so residents struggle to park their own cars in the locality.

My survey resulted in a 2-1 majority in favour of parking controls, including residents’ parking. It has taken much longer to move things on than I would have liked, but  Cambridgeshire County Council will be asking residents if they want a residents’ parking scheme. This will take the form of an official consultation; if there is a majority in favour, the Council will launch the statutory process.

Morley area

Morley area

The streets included will be: Elsworth Place, Rathmore Road, Hartington Grove, Rock Road, Blinco Grove and Magnolia Close, Marshall Road, and the sections of Hills Road and Cherry Hinton Road which adjoin these streets.

Residents will very soon be receiving a mailing from Cambridgeshire County Council outlining the proposals. This will include a map showing the proposals, and there will also be information on display at Rock Road Library. You can respond either using the form provided, or on line.

For information on residents’ parking in Cambridge, see http://amandataylor.focusteam.org/2016/10/28/residents-parking-frequently-asked-questions/.

Apply days and scary scarecrows

Amanda's apple tree

Amanda’s apple tree

Autumn’s a lovely season, blessed with warm golden colours and sometimes graced by unexpected sunshine. It’s also the time of year when we celebrate that most English of fruits, The Apple.

We have TWO Apple Days in Queen Edith’s (please tell me if you know of more!): one at Rock Road Library Garden and one at the Rock Allotments in Baldock Way.

Apple juicing 2015Both the library and the allotments events had apple presses for juicing apples, plus a good selection of apples to taste. Juicing apples by hand is hard work: you need a lot of apples for what seems like a small amount of juice. The results are worthwhile – though drink the juice quickly while it’s fresh.

I enjoyed tasting some apple varieties I hadn’t even heard of. For example, this morning at the allotments I discovered the Histon Favourite, raised by John Chivers — of Histon.

Scarecrows: Class of 2015

Scarecrows: Class of 2015

The other fun today was judging the Rock Allotments scarecrow competition. Have you noticed these fearsome characters who have appeared in the allotments this week? What crow would even dare thinking about nibbling an apple with one of these fearsome characters on guard?

Councillors have to take hard decisions, and this was a tough one. In the end I had to go for Elsa the Fairy Scarecrow, produced by Raewyn, aged 4. Raewyn’s even donated some of her shoes to Elsa, as well as her sunglasses. And that magic wand will certainly keep any avian marauders away.

The Allotments Society has grand plans for the coming months as they prepare to celebrate their centenary, with a 1918 allotment in preparation, to show what people used to grow a hundred years ago. Watch this space!

 

 

 

CLEC Inquiry: Koragate and what went so wrong

The County Council is conducting an inquiry into procedural mistakes made with the Cambridge Library Enterprise Centre decision (now rescinded).

The Chair of the Council’s Audit & Accounts Committee, Cllr Mike Shellens, has called for submissions from the public as well as from councillors. If you would like to contribute, please email your submission to [email protected] The deadline has been set as 17th August but it is hoped this will be extended, given the holiday period. The deadline is 24th August. For full details of how to participate, see the County Council’s website.

Here is my submission:

Cambridge Library Enterprise Centre

Introduction
I write as a member of the Highways & Community Infrastructure (HCI) Committee. Since May 2015 I have been the Liberal Democrat spokes on that committee, which has responsibility for the Library Service amongst other functions. I was previously spokesperson for libraries in 2013-14 when libraries came under the Resources portfolio.

Background
Some time in 2013 Kora-Regus approached Cambridgeshire County Council with a proposal to create an enterprise centre on the third floor of Cambridge Central Library. Despite being the spokes for most of 2013, I was unaware of the CLEC proposal until it was presented to us in our agenda pack for the HCI meeting of 17th March 2015. This was about a week before the committee meeting at which we were being asked to take a decision. Cllr Susan van de Ven, our spokes at the time, told us that she had only been made aware of the proposal late February 2015 at a spokes meeting. The item had been marked confidential.

Given that officers had been in discussion with Kora since 2013, it is inexcusable that this was kept secret from most members for such a long time, not only because of the lack of transparency but also because we did not have enough information to make a decision. I also question why our spokes was asked to keep the matter secret: how could she possibly have briefed or taken soundings from our group?

I was inclined not to support the proposals for the following reasons:
we had little background on Kora and no evidence of its effectiveness
the case for closing the library café was weak
there had been a complete lack of consultation with library users or the general public

I shared my concerns with Lib Dem colleagues Barbara Ashwood and Susan van de Ven when we met to discuss this and other agenda items – our usual practice before a committee meeting. We agreed on questions which we would put to officers before the meeting, and that at the meeting we would ask to defer the proposal until we had a presentation by Kora and public consultation.

On March 17th , our amendment requesting consultation and working up of alternative options was lost and the CLEC proposals were passed, with 12 members for and 1 against (myself). Three other members (Ashwood, van de Ven and Kavanagh) abstained.

We requested a decision review by General Purposes Committee. That committee’s 14th April meeting was attended by several members of the public and by Julian Huppert MP, whose support we had sought. A 3,000 signature petition against the plans was presented by Sara Payne. GPC referred the item back to HCI for reconsideration following consultation and more information from officers.

Following the meeting, officers arranged a presentation for councillors by Kora’s Global MD Roger Perrin, and a public meeting on the CLEC on 6th May. The councillor presentation did nothing to allay my doubts about Kora’s competence: I asked Mr Perrin what research he had done into his potential client base in Cambridge and what evidence he had of demand for additional enterprise centre services. He told me that no research had been carried out.

At the end of May, a FoI request response exposed the fact that officers had held no fewer than 37 meetings with Kora. The County responded very late, just a few days before the 2nd June HCI meeting at which the proposals were reconsidered. The series of meetings was referred to during the debate by the public speakers as well as by councillors. Despite robust and well argued opposition from councillors plus the public, the proposal went through again, although this time the vote was close: 7-6 in favour.

We called the decision in again, this time to Full Council. On 5th June, there was another important revelation: a local blogger, Phil Rodgers, published his findings that Roger Perrin, who styles himself ‘Global Managing Director’ of Kora, was disqualified from being a director in the UK and had already had one business fail, leaving over £1.5 million of debt.

This resulted in the proposals being suspended and in the chair of HCI calling a special meeting to review the decision in the light of the new information. The committee met again on 26th June and rescinded the decision. This time the vote was unanimous, apart from the Labour committee member, who questioned whether the committee retained powers to revoke the decision, given that there had been a Full Council call-in. (This is a moot point and should be clarified in our constitution.)

Political and democratic context
This proposal has attracted an extraordinary level of public engagement:
three demonstrations against the proposals outside Shire Hall and Central Library
a 38 Degrees petition with nearly 4,000 signatures
campaign group with over 200 supporters on Facebook as well as petition signatories
Freedom of Information requests
research into Kora
big attendances at council meetings
public speakers
an unprecedented number of correspondence with councillors – email, phone calls and letters
high volume of comments, both in the public consultation and in the library comments book

Despite well researched and presented arguments, opposition to the proposals was on the whole politely ignored by the Conservative members of the committee.

What went wrong?
Leaving aside the merits or otherwise of giving up library space to create an enterprise centre, there were several flaws in process:

Lack of competition
Officers pursued an unsolicited proposal from an unknown company without offering the opportunity to other bidders.

Secrecy
A senior officer signed a confidentiality agreement, which compromised her.
The CLEC proposals and negotiations were not divulged to councillors until as late as possible, despite meetings having been taking place since December 2013.
There had been no consultation whatsoever with the public or even with library users.
The only justification for the suppression of information was that the company had requested confidentiality. The secrecy clearly advantaged Kora as it kept the field clear for them, but the officers should not have agreed to withold information from council members.

Poor reporting
Councillors were expected to take a decision on inadequate facts – there was some sketchy information on Kora, the preferred partner but hardly any on the two alternative options. The financial projections were dubious and, as my colleague Cllr Jenkins showed at the third meeting, did not compare like with like when assessing Kora alongside the in-house options; they also failed to take into account existing income from room lettings. Effectively, we as councillors were not equipped to do our job.

Standards
Kora-Regus has a poor reputation amongst existing users and avoids paying tax in the UK. Although they act within the law, it is questionable whether an organization that avoids paying its taxes is an appropriate partner for a local authority.

Lack of due diligence
The Council should have checked the credentials of Kora and the chief negotiator more thoroughly. Given that it was prepared to commit public money to reconfiguring the library in preparation for the CLEC, the Council should also have researched the viability of the project, or required evidence from the partner company of unmet demand for enterprise centre services and that the projected income would materialize.

Amanda Taylor
Cambridge
August 2015

TIMELINE (including links to minutes and web posts.)

2013
December CCC holds first meeting with Kora

2015
Late February Party spokespeople briefed
w/b 9th March HCI members presented with report for decision on 17th March
17th March HCI committee CLEC #1. Passed 12-1.
14th April General Purposes Committee. 38 Degrees petition presented. CLEC decision reviewed.
28th April Kora presentation to councillors at Shire Hall
6th May Public meeting on CLEC at Central Library
29th May FoI request response reveals 37 private meetings between Kora and CCC
2nd June HCI committee CLEC #2. Passed 7-6.
5th June CLEC suspended after revelations Roger Perrin was serving a disqualification
26th June Special HCI meeting CLEC #3. Rescinded 12-1.

Hills Road cycle lanes: Frequently Asked Questions

Hills Road cycle lanesCambridgeshire County Council’s new cycle lanes on Hills Road have generated a record number of questions and concerns. Here are some of the most common ones:

Q: Why is Cambridgeshire County Council doing this?

A: The County wishes to enhance cycleways in order to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population, which will result in more traffic. The County would like to keep the extra motorised traffic to a minimum and encourage other modes of transport. Similar schemes have substantially increased cycling in other areas, particularly amongst children.

Q: How is it being funded?

A: Through central government’s Cycle City Ambition Fund.

Q: Who approved it?

A: County Council Highways officers identified Hills and Huntingdon Roads as main routes into Cambridge that would benefit from enhancement. The scheme was first presented to Cambridgeshire County Council’s Economy and Environment Committee in May 2014. Councillors deferred it as they were unhappy with elements of the scheme including the floating bus stops, and changes were made. It was passed in July 2014 at the second time of asking, with an undertaking to conduct traffic surveys before and after implementation, an amendment I requested, in order to assess the level of rat-running as a result of the narrower road carriageway. One survey was done last year and another will be done after completion.

Q: Will any trees be felled?
A: The County Council has stated categorically that no trees will be felled. Some pruning of vegetation that encroaches onto the public highway may be necessary.

Q: Will new rubbish bins be provided at bus stops?
A: Providing litter bins is a City Council responsibility. The County Project Team is discussing with City Council about replacement of old bins with new ones and other locations where a new bin may be desirable.

IMAG1839Q: How will works across junction mouths be organised?
A: Junctions are being closed off at weekends to allow works to be safely and quickly undertaken. Letterdrops to residents and advanced warning notices inform those affected at least one week in advance.

Q: How will work on junction mouths of cul de sacs be organised?
A: Junction works to be constructed one half at a time with access maintained into/out of the cul de sac.

Q: Could the concrete layby near Glebe Road be used as a bus stop?
A: This layby is halfway between two other bus stops so if a bus stop went there, the other two stops would be removed, meaning bus users would have a long walk to the next stop.

Q: What consultation took place before this scheme was agreed?
A: The proposals were advertised in FOCUS, as well as via a streetletter from myself to all residents in Hills Road and several of the side roads. The County Council delivered leaflets with feedback forms to a wide local area and held local staffed events in March 2014. Drawings and information on the proposed scheme were put on the County Council website, together with contact details.  The Team also had information stalls at Hills Road VI Form College, Long Road VI Form College and at an Addenbrooke’s Sustainability Event.

In November 2014 the County Cycling Team wrote again to residents inviting them to a pre-construction event at Rock Road Library — an opportunity to find out about boundary issues, construction sequence etc.  This event was well attended by residents of Hills Road. The letter included details of where the final drawings could be seen on the website and asked residents to provide email addresses if they wanted updates on the scheme.

Q: What will happen when there are weddings and funerals at the church? What about hearses and wedding cars?
A: The Cycling Team has been liaising with St John’s Church. During construction, the cycleway works will be left in an appropriate state to accommodate wedding cars and hearses. After completion, wedding cars and hearses will be able to park for the duration of services, as the new cycle lanes are not ‘mandatory’ and there are no loading restrictions attached to the double yellow lines.

Q: Is the width of the carriageway being reduced?
A: Yes, the carriageway width is being reduced, to 6m.

Q: Will there be a loss of grass verges?
A: The roadside verges next to the road will go, but there is a half metre sedum strip between the cycleway and the footway on both sides of the road.

On the outbound side of Hills Road, the verges next to the houses will be largely the same except where space is needed for the floating bus stops.   On the citybound side (the side with the current shared-use cycle/footway) the verges next to the houses are increasing.

Here is a link to the drawings showing details:
On the west side of Hills Road (S to N), from No. 284 to 256, and from 248 to 228, a 800 or 900mm wide strip of footway will be turned into new verge. From No. 226 to Homerton College this strip widens to between 1.4 and 1.6m and then it is about 2.5m wide running past Homerton College. On the east side (S to N),  there are no significant areas of new verge until you get to the block north of Glebe Road, No.s 253 to 247 have 1.2m wide new verges. Re. the loss of those verges on the residence side of the footway, the only real areas where there is loss of verge is near the floating bus stops (and to some extent near crossings) but this does vary depending on the location.

Q: Was Cambridge City Council consulted?
A: The City Council is a statutory consultee for every cycling project within Cambridge.   The Project Team was keen to gain the input of City’s Urban Design team on the Huntingdon Road and Hills Road schemes – a meeting with the City’s Head of Urban Design was arranged before the schemes were approved and, in neither case were concerns raised about the proposals.

Q: Are our streetlights being replaced to facilitate the cycleway scheme?
A: No, the streetlighting on Hills Road is not being replaced as a result of the cycleway scheme but as part of the County’s streetlighting replacement programme – as such, the lighting along the whole length of Hills Road is being updated to conform with new British standards.

Q: At present, the pavement cycleway on the northbound side of Hills Road provides a convenient way of turning into Luard Road. Won’t the new arrangement be more dangerous?
A: The main carriageway on Hills Road will be narrowed to 6m, which should reduce traffic speeds. Equally, the speeds of vehicles exiting side roads should be slowed by the tighter turning movements required by the new scheme.

The Road Safety Audit 2 did not raise any issues about the changes to this junction, nor the removal of the shared-use foot/cycleway. The new scheme (unlike the shared-use foot/cycleway) gives cyclists on Hills Road priority through the junction with Luard Road so there should be a reduction in the number of cycle-related accidents at this location. Less confident cyclists on Hills Road may choose to pull in and wait on the left side of the new southbound 2.3m cycle lane before turning right. The County Council will monitor the situation and may consider installing a central island that would offer cyclists some protection whilst waiting to turn right.

Q: How will it be made clear that vehicles cannot drive across or park on the cycleway?

A: Cycle symbols will be added to the cycle lane and double yellow lines will be painted on the main carriageway (next to the outside edge of the cycle lane) to prevent parking in the new lane. This work should be taking place on the northbound side in  November 2015.

Q: How will the construction for the southbound side of Hills Road be handled?

A: The intention is to keep the citybound shared-use path open whilst the outbound works are carried out – to ensure safety for cyclists and pedestrians during the construction phase. The footpath work will be done first, then the cycleway and ‘Cambridge kerb’.

Q: Whom do I contact for more information?
A: If it is an operational matter, contact Grant Weller at Cambridgeshire County Council: [email protected] If your question is about consultation or general principles, contact Mike Davies: [email protected]

MONDAY 5TH OCTOBER: REPORT ON THE PRESENTATION ON CYCLING SCHEMES AT SOUTH AREA MEETING, ST JOHN’S CHURCH, HILLS ROAD.

Call-in councillors

The following county councillors requested that the Full Council review the decision to allow Kora to open an Enterprise Centre at Cambridge Central Library: 12 Liberal Democrats, 6 Labour, 4 Independents and 4 UKIP.

1. Cllr Scutt
2. Cllr Kavanagh
3. Cllr Sales
4. Cllr Taylor
5. Cllr Manning
6. Cllr Cearns
7. Cllr Mason
8. Cllr Ashwood
9. Cllr Jenkins
10. Cllr Leeke
11. Cllr van de Ven
12. Cllr Downes
13. Cllr Shellens
14. Cllr Williams
15. Cllr Hipkin
16. Cllr Giles
17. Cllr Lay
18. Cllr Divine
19. Cllr Bywater
20. Cllr Ashcroft
21. Cllr Wilson
22. Cllr Nethsingha
23. Cllr Onasanya
24. Cllr Walsh
25. Cllr Crawford
26. Cllr Van De Kerkhove

+ Cllr Gillick, whose request was received after the 3-day deadline

Kora — kaput

rescind On Friday, Cambridgeshire County Council‘s Highways & Community Infrastructure Committee rescinded its earlier decisions to allow Kora-Regus to set up an Enterprise Centre in Cambridge Central Library.

Conservatives on the County Council, who had previously voted through the proposal en bloc (first in March and again in June), this time voted to rescind the decision and for council officers to identify alternatives.

Councillors from the Liberal Democrat, Labour, Independent and UKIP groups had opposed the Kora plan on the grounds of inadequate evidence as well as its impact on the library service. We were especially angry about the clandestine way in which the Kora project was pursued by officers. An Freedom of Information request by Paul Lythoge revealed that there had been 37 secret meetings between the council officers and Kora. A confidentially agreement had effectively suppressed information from members of the Council charged with responsibility for the library service.

The decision was first taken in March. I opposed it, but the Tories and the UKIP vice-chair voted it through. I was successful in leading a call-in resulting in the decision being reconsidered on 2nd June. This time I was not the only councillor to vote against as the vote was 6-7; again, the BluKip band rubberstamped the officers’ proposals.

It was only when the Kora MD was exposed as being in the middle of a disqualification by the investigative local blogger Phil Rodgers that the Tories withdrew their support.

Tory Cllr Steve Crisell described himself as “embarrassed, disappointed and angry” and vowed to investigate individuals concerned, but acknowledged the “goodwill and ideas” of the library campaigners.

The committee passed a motion to rescind its previous decisions and also:

“To request the Executive Director of ETE to identify alternative options for increasing income at Cambridge Central Library by working with Central Library staff, an elected members group and library users to explore all options which may include developing a cultural and educational centre for Cambridge and the County”.

Koragate – the latest

Liberal Democrats on Cambridgeshire County Council continue to defend Cambridge Library against the Council’s proposals to let Regus subsidiary Kora open an Enterprise Centre on the third floor.

The call-in of the Highways & Community Infrastructure Committee (HCI) decision succeeded and the LEC proposal went to the County Council’s General Purposes Committee (GPC) in March. Cllr Roger Hickford proposed a motion instructing HCI to consult, provide more information and then reconsider – and that is what was passed. What was missing was further work on alternative options to Kora.

The Library Service did consult, with two presentations by Roger Perrin, MD of Kora: one for councillors and one for the public. They created a new section on the LEC as part of the general library consultation, which was extended to allow time for people to have a say on the LEC.

An energetic and determined group of campaigners has been working on raising awareness and lobbying councillors, as well as carrying out research. One campaigner, Paul Lythgoe, submitted an FoI request to flush out the Council’s dealings with Kora. It was answered – much later than legally required – and revealed a copious series of meetings between officers and Kora.

There was a strong public attendance at the HCI committee meeting on 2nd June, with speakers raising concerns about probity and transparency as well as about the uncertain financial case – the anger at the loss of library space almost eclipsed by the fury at the way in which the decision was taken. Despite stellar performances from the public speakers and from Cllr David Jenkins, who gave us a presentation showing the flawed methodology behind the officers’ figures; the proposal was agreed for a second time – this time by 7 votes to 6. Jocelynn Scutt (Lab), Mike Mason (Ind), Gordon Gillick (UKIP) and Peter Ashcroft (UKIP) voted with Lib Dems Barbara Ashwood and myself, while UKIP’s Peter Reeve voted with the Tories to allow the proposal to sneak through.

We called it in again, this time to Full Council; working with Labour as well as with the library campaign group. We were advised by the Council’s Chief Legal Officer that it was not possible to re-call it to H&CI for a third consideration, as that would be an ‘abuse of process’. But from our point of view, Council would provide the opportunity to explore procedural issues such as secrecy, lack of competition, and procurement protocols.

In the middle of all this came yet another dramatic revelation. Phil Rodgers, a Lib Dem member, discovered that Roger Perrin, who styles himself ‘Global Managing Director’ of Kora, is disqualified from being a director and that he has already had one business fail, leaving over £1.5m of debt.

We continued with the call-in to Council, which succeeded, closing on 26 names from all four opposition parties, including some councillors who had previously backed the proposal. There will be a special council meeting, probably on 9th July, to review the motion. However, the HCI chair Roger Hickford has reacted by calling a special meeting of HCI to consider the LEC – surprising this is allowed, in view of the ruling we were given before. House rules?

I believe we still need to take this to Council because the Kora case has highlighted some deep faults in council practice, that need to be addressed at a higher level than one committee – especially as that committee has been found wanting twice on this issue.

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