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Report highlights massive staff turn-over at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority in past 12 months



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Nearly 40 people have resigned from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority since May last year according to a report produced for board members.

The document, which went before Friday's (17) board meeting and was simply entitled CPCA staff structures, was initially sent out as an encrypted document meaning it was confidential.

However, pressure from members including Fenland District Council leader, Councillor Chris Boden, has seen the document freed from the restriction.

Councillor Chris Boden (right) pictured with Mayor Dr Nik Johnson - there have been 37 resignations in 12 months at the Combined Authority.
Councillor Chris Boden (right) pictured with Mayor Dr Nik Johnson - there have been 37 resignations in 12 months at the Combined Authority.

Coun Boden said: "I and others have been desperately calling for this report to be made public, quite why it was confidential in the first place I'm unsure. But of course it is very embarrassing for the mayor.

"The number of vacancies within his office is shocking and speaks volumes as to why nothing is getting done."

Coun Boden referenced a quote from Oscar Wilde's 'The importance of being Ernest' in which Lady Bracknell says: "To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness' and said: "Whatever would she say about the loss of so many top officers."

A rerport has highlighted the number of resignations that have occurred at the Combined Authority in the past 12 months. (57506720)
A rerport has highlighted the number of resignations that have occurred at the Combined Authority in the past 12 months. (57506720)

The report shows 37 people have resigned from the Combined Authority since Dr Nik Johnson was elected as mayor for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough last May.

However, the Combined Authority says it is already actively recruiting to fill most of those posts.

Four of the total resignations were from Mayor Dr Johnson's predecessor James Palmer's office, the remaining 33 have quit under Mayor Dr Johnson and they include the chief executive Eileen Milner, who left the authority at the start of the month just a few months after taking up the role.

A rerport has highlighted the number of resignations that have occurred at the Combined Authority in the past 12 months. (57506708)
A rerport has highlighted the number of resignations that have occurred at the Combined Authority in the past 12 months. (57506708)

The Combined Authority currently has a three tier structure, headed by the chief executive with four directors directly below and two of these posts are vacant: Director of corporate services and director of business and skills.

Other senior roles currently vacant include: Director of business and skills chief officer, head of transport, head of legal services,and green homes programme manager.

Within the mayor's own office there are currently five vacancies - six if you count the director of corporate services - out of seven available posts and the one that is filled - office manager and assistant to the mayor, has temporary cover in place.

A report has highlighted the number of resignations that have occurred at the Combined Authority in the past 12 months. (57506700)
A report has highlighted the number of resignations that have occurred at the Combined Authority in the past 12 months. (57506700)

However, the report does say the structure of the office of the mayor is under review and a new structure is being proposed and work is being carried out on constitutional matters relating to reporting lines.

It adds that interim support is being provided to Mayor Dr Johnson by the Local Government Association.

The report goes on to outline the number of resignations in each department with business and skills seeing nine staff leave - seven through resignation. Legal services has had six resignations and there have been three from the mayor's office.

A report has highlighted the number of resignations that have occurred at the Combined Authority in the past 12 months. (57506697)
A report has highlighted the number of resignations that have occurred at the Combined Authority in the past 12 months. (57506697)

There are currently 33 vacancies for which recruitment is under-way for the majority - there are 13 posts up for grabs in the business skills energy hub alone.

Earlier this month it was suggested the Combined Authority was in "meltdown" with calls for Mayor Dr Johnson to resign.

And it was also separately claimed employment related claims could see the Combined Authority unable to meet its statutory obligations.

A rerport has highlighted the number of resignations that have occurred at the Combined Authority in the past 12 months. (57506711)
A rerport has highlighted the number of resignations that have occurred at the Combined Authority in the past 12 months. (57506711)

With the dire warning being sounded by an external auditor at the start of an audit of the authority's finances for the past year.

In a letter to John Pye, independent chair of the Combined Authority's audit and governance committee, auditor Mark Hodgson from Ernst and Young, said: "We have commenced our audit work for the financial year ended 31 March 2022 and have identified a significant weakness in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s governance arrangements.

"We believe this weakness is pervasive as it could lead to a significant impact on the quality or effectiveness of services or on its reputation and could expose the authority to financial risk or loss."

A rerport has highlighted the number of resignations that have occurred at the Combined Authority in the past 12 months. (57506717)
A rerport has highlighted the number of resignations that have occurred at the Combined Authority in the past 12 months. (57506717)

He listed five problem areas and they included potential staff claims. He also listed investigations into key individuals in the mayor’s office following a whistleblower notification and added "that the nature of the whistleblower allegations and initial findings of independent investigation reports raises significant questions on the culture, behaviour and integrity of key individuals in the mayor’s office".

It has also been made clear that former chief executive Ms Milner had agreed a settlement with the authority and Mr Hodgson said: "There is the potential for further employment related risks against the authority, which pose a significant financial risk."

Following the revelations Mayor Dr Johnson gave an impassioned speech and vowed to carry on.

Coun Boden concluded: "We as board members were aware of the number of vacancies, but were not able to speak about it publicly. Now it can be brought out into the open it is clear there is a problem and it sums up why the authority is in such disarray and nothing is getting done."

A Combined Authority spokesperson said: “The recent letter from our auditors has already highlighted the need to fill key senior vacancies. We are actively recruiting to fill a number of posts created by departures. But at the same time, we are also recruiting to newly-created posts that represent underlying growth in the Authority as we deliver new responsibilities around net zero and skills.”



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