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 plans — who knew? Tory Leader knew last year.

Tory county councillors and officers have been talking to KORA for over a year about their opening an Enterprise Centre in Cambridge Central Library, and the Tory Leader of the Council has admitted he knew about a year ago – yet defends the secrecy.

Cllr Steve Count is Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, and last year was the councillor in charge of library services. At this week’s council meeting I asked him how long he had known about the plans to allow KORA to create an Enterprise Centre in the library.

Cllr Amanda Taylor: My question is to the Leader of the Council and it relates to the Council’s plans to allow a private firm, KORA, to take over the third floor of the Central Library which, as the councillor knows, has caused consternation amongst the people of Cambridge.

My question is a simple one and I hope that you will be able to answer it simply:

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AWARE OF THESE PLANS?

Cllr Steve Count: Yeah, thank you, thank you. I couldn’t give you the exact date. I certainly believe that I was the Cabinet Member for Resources & Performance (May 2013-May 2014) so we’re going back quite a while ago when the idea first got discussed. Now after leaving that position … err, not leaving, being kicked out under the new system is more appropriate!  … after changing that position, that went to the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee which Roger is chairman of, and plans, I guess, continued to be worked up there. How much involvement before it went to the papers I don’t know, but that’s my total answer I can give you.

Cllr Taylor: As the Leader of the Council now, I would assumethat although Cllr Hickford is chair of the HCI committee, I assume that you still had knowledge of these matters. Do you agree that in hindsight it would have been appropriate to have made these negotiations known to members of this Council more than a week before the committee at which this was debated and agreed?

Cllr Count: No, I can’t support that and I’ll tell you why. The reason I didn’t make anything available to anyone else whilst I was the Cabinet Member is that it never got to the stage that there was a formal proposal on the table. The discussions batted backwards and forwards between us and the officers as to whether it would ever ever ever come to fruition.

Now I know that I lost track of it to a certain degree after it went to H&CI – but there is a confidential element to this and actually building up the business case on whether it was something we would ever want to do was based on that confidential information. You wouldn’t go out and want to start hares running before you could actually know something was going to happen at the end of the day. So no, I think that I’m comfortable in my decision on that.

See

for the streaming of the council meeting. My question comes 2 h 25m into the video.