Inquiry calls for Cambridge folk fest trust as concerns sparked over £750,000 bail-out from council

PUBLISHED: 12:40 21 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:40 21 January 2019

Calls for inquiry into crisis-hit trust which runs the Cambridge Folk Festival. Picture: ARCHANT.

Calls for inquiry into crisis-hit trust which runs the Cambridge Folk Festival. Picture: ARCHANT.

Archant

Calls for an inquiry into the crisis-hit trust which runs the Cambridge Folk Festival and Big Weekend have been defeated, sparking concerns over a £750,000 bail-out from the council.

Last month it was announced that Cambridge Live, the trust which runs the Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge Folk Festival and the Big Weekend, was being brought back in house by Cambridge City Council after encountering financial difficulties.

A £250,000 boost was agreed to make sure Cambridge Live is “on a strong footing”.

This is in addition to a £500,000 support package which was agreed last June.

Council leader Lewis Herbert said the trust had failed the stringent targets set for it by the council.

On January 17, the city council’s environment and community scrutiny committee heard the situation at Cambridge Live would be reviewed.

Some, however, said there needed to be far more scrutiny to make sure crucial lessons are not ignored.

Lib Dem councillor Rod Cantrill said Cambridge Live had been brought back in house by the council and that the focus now should be on keeping services running for customers and ensuring staff would keep their jobs.

Cllr Cantrill said he wanted to make sure the council learned lessons from the failures of Cambridge Live, and said it was important to make sure the same mistakes are not made again.

“It is critical to learn lessons about how we got in this position,” said Cllr Cantrill.

“We must avoid being round this table in another 12 months’ time, and we need to be able to understand what lessons we can learn from Cambridge Live over the last few years.”

The Lib Dems tabled an amendment calling for a full inquiry into how the situation had arisen in the first place.

The amendment read: “Recognising the substantial potential public cost of this rescue and the need to decide whether Cambridge Live should in future continue in-house or be re-launched as an independent organisation (as is successful in many other places), it is important to properly understand what went wrong in Cambridge Live and in the council’s relationship with it, both as its founding sponsor and major partner and customer.

“We therefore request officers to recommend terms of reference for a cross party members’ Inquiry addressing these issues.”

Antoinette Jackson, chief executive of Cambridge City Council, however, said it is not the right time for a separate inquiry.

She said officers’ time was currently taken up with the task of making sure Cambridge Live’s transition to the council is smooth.

“Our priority at the moment is to stabilise the organisation,” said Ms Jackson.

“We do not have the officer capacity at the moment to support an inquiry.”

Cllr Anna Smith, deputy leader of the city council and executive councillor for communities, said it is “clear everyone has a shared desire” to see Cambridge Live succeed.

She said taking it back in house had not been the plan and said that, while the time is not right for a full inquiry, the council would be reviewing what happened and learning whatever lessons they could.

Cllr Nicky Massey agreed that the priority had to be on stabilising the organisation before any review took place.

She said this would give the council the time to focus on improving Cambridge Live before deciding whether it could be relaunched or kept in house.

The amendment was defeated, much to the disappointment of some Lib Dems on the council.

Cllr Cantrill said: “I hope it is not a major opportunity missed for the council to learn lessons that it can then apply to Cambridge live under its control again.”

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