This morning I spoke at Cambridgeshire County Council’s Highways & Community Infrastructure Committee meeting, which was debating the future of the Kora project at the library. Here’s (approximately) what I said:
My name is Phil Rodgers, and this meeting is, to some extent, my fault. The information that has brought us here today was uncovered by me, sitting at home with a laptop one Thursday evening earlier this month.
The reason I was doing this research was because I was trying to understand why the Council had been working so exclusively with this one organization on the library project, and seemingly in such secrecy.
I want to stress that I found no evidence of any improper relationship between Kora and anyone at the council. But I did find out, fairly quickly, that Kora’s lead negotiator had been involved in another enterprise centre project in 2009 that went into liquidation owing a lot of money, and that he had been disqualified from being a company director for eight years.
You now have to decide whether to press on with the Kora project, or whether to rescind the decision that this committee took on 2nd June. The report in front of you quite rightly highlights the reputational risks to the Council of pressing on.
I think one of the most striking things about Cambridge Central Library that has emerged during all this, is the fact that it is the fourth busiest library in the country, with around 850,000 visits per year – pretty impressive since Cambridge is only about the 50th largest city. The Central Library is a precious asset that needs to be safeguarded in a way that people can have confidence in. Given what we know now, I do not think that people will have confidence in a project involving Kora.
For the good of the library, for the good of the Council, and for the good of the people that it serves, I urge you to rescind this decision and find another way to address the very difficult budget pressures that I know you face.
And I want to ask one more thing. Please can we have a more open and transparent process this time. Because I can promise you that whatever happens next is going to be subject to a level of public scrutiny that the Kora project clearly wasn’t ready for.
Update: Thanks to Antony Carpen for filming my statement: