On Friday, Cambridgeshire County Council‘s Highways & Community Infrastructure Committee rescinded its earlier decisions to allow Kora-Regus to set up an Enterprise Centre in Cambridge Central Library.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