At Cambridge City Council’s annual meeting on the 27th of May 2010 Cllr Sarah Brown put the following oral question to the Executive Councillor for Arts and Recreation Cllr Cantrill:
Could the Executive Councillor provide the council with an update on the event that may take place on 5th June instead of the cancelled Strawberry Fair and the status of discussions regarding ensuring that Strawberry Fair is held from 2011 onwards.
Cllr Cantrill, who was formally appointed as the new Executive Councillor responsible for Arts and Recreation earlier in the meeting, responded to say: “It is highly regrettable that the police took the steps that they have which led to the sad position that organisers have cancelled”.
He suggested the council thought there might be more than one unofficial event and activity might not be limited to the 5th of June by saying: “There is speculation that there may be unofficial events on or around the 5th of June”. Cllr Cantrill said that the while the city council has a role in making such events safe the police take the lead role. He reported that the council have “supported police and stakeholders with health and safety, litter clearing, and securing access to Midsummer Common”. If he was referring to previous years or the current year I don’t know.
Cllr Cantrill told the full council that no estimate of the costs of council’s action were available.
Turning to the future of Strawberry Fair Cllr Cantrill reported: “there have been discussions to ensure the fair will take place in 2011 or beyond – and Strawberry Fair continues to be a colourful and refreshing festival”.
Cllr Sarah Brown was then offered her opportunity to ask a supplementary question, but despite the poor quality of Cllr Cantrill’s response she declined and said nothing.
My Comments on Cllr Cantrill’s Answer
Just two days after Cllr Cantrill’s answer at the full council the Cambridge News reported: “Police held a meeting this week with city leaders to reassure them the force had planned for ‘any eventuality’”. I think it was astonishing that Cllr Cantrill failed to mention this meeting in his response. Councillors would be better informed of the position by reading the Cambridge News than listening to the executive councillor responsible answering a question on the subject in the council chamber.
Another key omission from the Cllr Cantrill’s response was any clear position on if the council are actively discouraging any gathering on the 5th of June, or are happy to see some kind of protest event take place.
Despite being asked specifically about the future of the fair Cllr Cantrill made no reference to the upcoming appeal against the City Council’s licensing committee’s decision to give the fair a licence. I asked a public question at Cambridge City Council’s Community Services Scrutiny Committee on the 25th of March 2010 which prompted an assurance that the council would be defending the licensing committee’s decision at the appeal in front of the Magistrates. An reassurance this position was unchanged and, letting councillors and the public know if the council yet knows when the appeal is to be held would in my view have been useful additions to Cllr Cantrill’s answer.
Cllr Cantrill also omitted any mention of the council’s role in prompting the fair to require its own licence for the 2010 event, a subject which is covered in my previous article on the fair.
Councillors, police, press and others have been using the term “Raspberry Fair” to refer to the anticipated unofficial event(s).