Council library plans on hold after new facts emerge

08:19 Monday 8th June 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Less than a week after a controversial decision was made to convert the third floor of Cambridge Central Library into an enterprise centre, the plans appear to have been put on hold. This comes after reports that the man who was leading the negotiations with the County Council appears to have been banned from being a company director in the UK. Businessman and architect Roger Perrin from Kora is the man behind the scheme. There’s no suggestion that he has done anything illegal or wrong, but there are questions being asked about the County Council’s actions on this. Lucy Nethsingha is the Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the County Council. Morning Lucy.
LUCY NETHSINGHA: Good morning Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So what’s your reaction to what’s happened over the weekend, or what’s been revealed over the weekend?
LUCY NETHSINGHA: Well it has been an amazing fast-moving story in the last week. I’m delighted that the decision to let out the top floor of the library has been reversed. It was a bad decision, pushed through by the Conservative group on Tuesday, and if that’s now not going to happen, that’s fantastic news.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Now this is a blogger, Phil Rodgers, who actually did a bit of digging, and unearthed that Roger Perrin was in fact banned from being a company director in the UK, which seems to have been what’s prompted this slight hiccup in the County Council’s plans. What do you think it shows about the way the County Council has done their research?

LUCY NETHSINGHA: Well it does show a lack of due diligence on their part to really investigate the company that they were planning to go into business with, and this is something that a lot of people have been asking questions about for some time. I was at the meeting on Tuesday, and there were a lot of questions about whether Kora was a suitable partner for this kind of activity. And absolutely all credit to Phil for digging away and finding this information out, because if it has meant that they’ve overturned the decision, that’s fantastic news.
DOTTY MCLEOD: On the other hand though Lucy there’s no suggestion that this man has done anything wrong, or that he’s doing anything illegal in trying to enter this contract with Cambridgeshire County Council.
LUCY NETHSINGHA: No. I think the questions are about whether we can rely on this contract and this work. There are huge questions about whether this is the right route to go down for the Central Library anyway. This is a public space, and I think there are a lot of people who don’t feel that we should be turning this over to a private company.
DOTTY MCLEOD: But nevertheless a decision was made on Tuesday by a group of councillors that it was the right decision, so .. you know.
LUCY NETHSINGHA: But at that meeting there were an a lot of questions about whether sufficient work had been done to look at alternative options, and I think that this new information that’s coming out is continuing to make everybody feel that they have not done sufficient work to look at the alternatives, and they perhaps haven’t done sufficient work to really look into whether the company that they’re planning to go into partnership with can be relied on.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Lucy Nethsingha there, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Cambridgeshire County Council. We have tried to get in touch with the Executive Director for these services, the services that include library services, at Cambridgeshire County Council this morning but haven’t heard back yet. We will let you know of course when we do.