Love Cambridge Partnership Fails to Fulfill Promises

Screenshot of the Membership Application form for Love Cambridge
As of the 1st of April 2009 the Love Cambridge Partnership took over running City Centre management from the City Council. The primary argument for establishing a new organisation was that private companies would be more willing to contribute funds to an organisation independent from local government and not subject to local government bureaucracy. Love Cambridge has a wide potential area of operation from organising events in the city centre, such as a the Christmas lights switch on, though promoting the city’s shops to city residents and beyond. The group will also take on responsibility for pedestrian signage, and will seek to influence transport policy, policing and a range of other areas.

I have been concerned about the potential loss of democratic influence, and I applied for the position of residents’ representative on the new board offering to champion openness, transparency and inclusivity from the inside. My application was rejected. Many assurances that residents will have opportunities to stay in-touch with and influence what the new organisation does were given in the run-up to the city council spinning-out the new organisation. Cllr Cantrill, speaking at a residents’ briefing at Gonville hotel on the 9th of February 2009 said that anyone who was interested would be able to join Love-Cambridge as a member.

The new Love-Cambridge website has been up for two weeks now, and there has been a membership application form available for about the last week. The membership application form, which is only available as an online-form does not enable independent individuals to join as it contains a compulsory “Organisation/company” field.

In addition to the web-form the membership page of the website states that membership is open to:

“any person, business or organisation who is interested in promoting the Objects of the Company and in the opinion of the Directors has the ability and status to contribute to the promotion of the Objects of the Company”.

This suggests that board members are to vet potential members, assessing their “ability and status”, prior to accepting them.

At Cambridge City Council’s Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee on the 16th of March 2009 I asked Cllr Cantrill some questions about the new organisation. Cllr Cantrill said that it would operate to the council’s standards of openness, pointing to the fact Love Cambridge will be audited. While the council holds open public meetings Mr Sandison, the chair of the new organisation has told me that he will not be holding public meetings, they will be members only.

At that meeting I also drew attention to the fact that neither the council, or Love-Cambridge have publicly identified the representatives of various groups appointed to the board. I think doing this is critical to the operation of the organisation.

I have written to the residents’ representative, Nicola / Nikki Morrison pointing out that this restriction of the membership is disenfranchising city residents, and it is therefore firmly within her remit, as the advocate for residents to ensure it is urgently reversed. I have also, in light of her failure to reply to my previous message asking about her approach to the role and suggesting she join my calls for her identity to be publicised, asked if she is prepared to communicate with residents at all (I am wondering if she might not see that as part of her role).

9 responses to “Love Cambridge Partnership Fails to Fulfill Promises”

  1. I’m not sure I understand this correctly, Richard. Are you saying that the Love-Cambridge board members will not be disclosed and they — whoever they are — will meet in secret?

  2. Brian,

    On the board members, neither the council, or Love-Cambridge have yet published an authoritative list. [Update 19th April 2009 – Love Cambridge now has a list] I had to ask a question at a council meeting to get the identities of the residents’ and independent retailers’ representatives revealed. (Nicola Morrison is the residents’ representative, and John Carter holds the board position for independent retailers).

    The fact the chair is Ian Sandison, and the city council’s representative is Cllr Cantrill, has been reasonably well publicised.

    I have publicised additional appointments on this site when I have found out about them.
    John Dix of Hewitsons was appointed to represent the service sector, apparantly as a reward for carrying out free or cut-price legal work for the new organisation. Shara Ross, Manager of the Hotel Felix, is a board member to represent hoteliers, it has been claimed she has the support of those she is to represent.

    This is almost certainly not the full list of board members. Even some of those very closely interested in what has been happening have been unclear in recent weeks if Emma Thornton, the council officer responsible for City Centre management is a director and board member of Love-Cambridge. Additionally other categories of board member have been discussed including an officer, at director level from the county council but they have not yet been identified publicly, (I don’t know if they have been appointed).

    It is clear to me that the membership of the board of Love-Cambridge ought be published, along with contact details of the individuals, on the Love-Cambridge website. It hasn’t been as yet.

    In terms of meeting in secret; the chair of Love-Cambridge has told me it will not hold its board meetings, or members’ meetings in public. This is contrary to Cllr Cantrill’s assurance the organisation will operate to the same standards of openness as the council, so ought change if he has sufficient influence.

    Any members’ meetings will clearly be open to all who become members; one of the main points of my article was to highlight how increased constraints appear to have been placed on who can become members compared with the assurance that membership would be open to all.

  3. Hello Richard, I’m getting the feeling that with Love-Cambridge being private and undemocratic we (residents) are left with an unreachable, unaccountable ‘old boys’ club. Are these people intending to represent our interests at all, or is this something we little people aren’t supposed to have a say in?

  4. The Love Cambridge website now lists the board members, though no contact details for them are offered. I think contact details are crucial, particularly for those who are supposedly advocates / representatives of particular groups.

    The directors are:

    Directors on Incorporation:
    *John Tannatt Dix – Reportedly given his position as Company Secretary and Director representing the interests of the professional services sector as a reward for his work setting up the organisation.
    *Michael Harvey Wiseman – the centre director of The Grafton.
    *Ian Sandison – the chair of the new organisation, he is a director of Boudoir Femme on King Street.

    Directors Appointed Since

    *Michael Robert Bienias – Deputy Director of the University of Cambridge’s Estate Management and Building Service
    *Matthew Bradney – Conservative County Councillor for Cottenham
    *Dr Nicola Clare Morrison – Residents’ Representative
    *Colin Grant – Cambridge Newspapers’ Group Editor-in-Chief
    *Nick Allen – Bursar of Sidney Sussex College
    *John Hugh Carter – Independent Retailer’s representative ex.? owner of Jewelry shop Cellini on Rose Crescent.
    *Simon Jeremy Shaw Harrow – Owner / Operations Director, La Raza Limited
    *Roderick Giles Cantrill – Liberal Democrat, Executive Councillor for Customer Services, Cambridge City Council
    *John Andrew Campbell – Managing Director, Stagecoach Cambridgeshire
    *Robert Andrew Hallam – Managing Director, John Lewis Cambridge, on behalf of large retailers.
    *Shara Louise Ross – Hoteliers’ representative

    Cllr Mat Bradney’s appointment gives the county council as much influence as the city on the board of the new organisation. At meetings prior to the establishment of the organisation Cambridge City Councillors were told a senior officer from the county, not a member.

    Emma Thornton is not a director. It had been suggested that she, or another Cambridge City Council officer would be appointed to the board.

  5. The requirement Martin has drawn attention to that all Love Cambridge Members should be willing to support the collective decisions taken by Love Cambridge is contrary to the concept of “members” described by Emma Thornton and Cllr Cantrill.

    Membership was presented as being inclusive, open to all, and a route through which individuals and organisations could seek to influence Love-Cambridge.

    This kind of approach might be appropriate for cabinet government; but that isn’t how the “membership” of Love Cambridge was pitched prior to the spin-out of Love Cambridge.

    Also all pages on the Love Cambridge website state:
    “© Love Cambridge Limited 2009 ”
    There is no such company as “Love Cambridge Limited”.
    A trading name is fine, but suggesting that an entity exists which doesn’t is wrong.

  6. I have purchased the company’s incorporation documents from companies house, they reveal:

    * a member has to give a month’s notice to cease becoming a member.

    * there are two classes of “members”, ordinary members, and stakeholder members. (The / fee / contribution required from stakeholder members is not specified). There are scant details of the amount of influence the stakeholder members will be able to exert.

    *The stakeholder members on incorporation are listed.

    *There is a section stating:”The sole right of admission to membership shall be vested in the Directors who may without showing cause refuse to admit any person as a member of the Company” – There’s no transparency there!

  7. “Be willing to support the collective decisions taken by Love Cambridge” sounds distinctly authoritarian to me. Strictly speaking it doesn’t prohibit internal debate, although it very much gives the impression that this is a closed club with a set outlook, and no other views will be tolerated. Coupled to a democratic deficit, it all looks far from ideal.

  8. Following a query on this wording by Cambridge Cycling Campaign, the wording has been changed to:

    “All Love Cambridge Members should be willing to respect the collective decisions taken by Love Cambridge”.

    rather than the old

    “be willing to support the collective decisions taken by Love Cambridge”

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