At Cambridge City Council’s annual meeting on the 27th of May 2010 Cherry Hinton councillor Robert Dryden (Labour) put the following oral question to the Leader of Cambridge City Council Sian Reid (Liberal Democrat):
Has there been any progress with the investigation of restructuring the administration at the Cherry Hinton Village Centre on how it operates this facility to the benefit of the local community
Cllr Reid, who is new to the role of council leader, started by saying that her previous experience not had not equipped her to answer the question so she had researched the position prior to the meeting. She told the council that the SLM contract includes management of Cherry Hinton Village Centre and reported that in her opinion there is a case for re-examining this when the contact ends in 2013. (SLM is the company the council uses to run the city’s swimming pools and some other facilities. The council illegally in my view refused to let me view the contract during the open period for the council’s accounts but has released a redacted version of the contract in response to a FOI request).
Cllr Reid announced something which as far as I know is new. She told the council that: “elected members can attend quarterly meetings with SLM to review their performance”. While this is a welcome step, persuading the council to publish the dates of these meetings and what is discussed at them or even open them to interested members of the public – for example representatives of users of the swimming pools – would be further steps towards openness and transparency. Knowing when the meetings are is crucial so people can encourage their councillors to attend and speak at them.
Cllr Reid reported that Cllr Smith, the ex. Executive Councillor for Community Services, had picked up an issue with particular group (which she didn’t name) about their use of the Cherry Hinton Village Centre.
Cllr Dryden spoke following Cllr Reid’s answer to say that there are other groups with problems too. He said the “Friends with Disabilities” group, which meets on the first Tuesday of every month, has 60 members and is funded by the City Council couldn’t book the centre as SLM make more money booking to another group for the whole day than to them for their half day.
Cllr Dryden complained that in general the people of Cherry Hinton were getting out-priced by other groups who were taking “their” slots.
Council Leader Sian Reid was rather brusque, but possibly genuine, with her response saying that Cllr Dryden’s comments were: “something to be taken very seriously”; however she didn’t make any categoric commitments or promises to take action.