Race against time for Cambridge Central Library

Following Tuesday’s meeting of its Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee, Cambridgeshire County Council yesterday (Thursday 4th June) published its Decision Statement – the full document is here, but the key decision about the Cambridge Library Enterprise Centre (CLEC), which councillors on the committee approved by just 7 votes to 6, is this:

clecdec

Publication of the Decision Statement started the clock ticking on the last chance for opponents of the scheme to stop it going ahead. Unless 24 members of the Council ask for the decision to be reviewed, it will come into force just three working days after the publication date, i.e. on Tuesday 9th June. As I understand it, the final deadline is at the end of the working day on Tuesday.

Efforts are currently underway to assemble the necessary number of signatures. But will there be enough to get the decision called in? Here is the current political make-up of the County Council:

cccmakeup201506

The Conservatives are by far the largest party on the Council. Indeed, following yesterday’s emphatic victory in the Wisbech South by-election, they now need to gain just two more seats for an overall majority. Labour and the Lib Dems have both campaigned against the Enterprise Centre, but their combined strength is just 20, four short of the necessary total. The Conservatives have been consistently in favour of the CLEC scheme, though it’s not impossible that there might be one or two prepared to ask for it to be called in. Two of the three UKIP councillors on the committee voted against the scheme on Tuesday, so there may be some UKIP signatures too. Amongst the four Independents, Mike Mason voted against on Tuesday, and group leader John Hipkin said the scheme’s opponents had made a “powerful case”, though added that he would have abstained had he been on the committee. Overall, however, it’s far from certain that the necessary total of 24 signatures can be reached in time.

If the scheme’s opponents do manage to assemble the required signatures, the decision will be reviewed at the next Full Council meeting, which is scheduled to take place on 21 July. Even then, the scheme may well still go ahead – it would then depend on a vote of the whole Council. By that time the Romsey by-election will have taken place, almost certainly boosting the ranks of either Labour or the Lib Dems by one, but it would still take almost all the non-Conservative councillors combined to defeat the large Conservative group.

Who knew libraries could be so exciting?

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