I’ve blogged before about the enthusiasm with which Cambridgeshire County Council’s Commercial & Investment Committee (C&I) goes into secret session. As it does so a lot of debate which should really take place in public takes place in the absence of the scrutiny which it deserves
Last Friday’s C&I committee seemed like it would be fairly typical: a modest public agenda and then two secret items the first of which related to a proposal to acquire an industrial unit in St Ives in connection with the planned relocation of the Library Service.
It’s quite right of course that C&I considers such an acquisition but it became clear from a public question and from emails received from officers within the library service that there were unanswered questions about the suitability of the proposed site for the library service and that these had not been addressed by the committee responsible for the library service viz Communities & Partnerships (C&P). Furthermore the relocation is driven by the Cambs 2020 project which is also overseen by C&P and would have to fund the costs of the relocation.
I made the point that it’s not C&I’s role to ‘second guess’ the decisions of other committees. So in this case where there was no C&P decision to second guess then it should be referred back to that committee for its support.
The committee therefore agreed, and this was all done in open session after hearing the public question, to make any support for the acquisition conditional on C&P explicitly endorsing the site as being suitable for the library service.
All well and good and as we moved into the secret session we would therefore add the appropriate wording to the decision statement to reflect the above. I have no doubt we would have done so but gremlins got into the Microsoft Teams works and the meeting had to be abandoned/adjourned. It’s due to resume next week and I just trust that it will not have had a change of heart.
This should now mean that the practical decision (is this a good site for the library service?) can now go to C&P where it can be properly debated in public because there are no financially sensitive items to discuss. Fingers crossed.