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Calls for independent review into Combined Authority voted down





The mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, James Palmer. Picture: Keith Heppell
The mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, James Palmer. Picture: Keith Heppell

But internal review is under way from interim chief executive, says mayor James Palmer

Bridget Smith, the leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council. Picture: Keith Heppell
Bridget Smith, the leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council. Picture: Keith Heppell

Calls for an independent review to “restore public faith” in the Combined Authority have been rejected, despite the “unhappiness” of residents, councillors, and businesses.

Today (September 26), the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, the body charged with helping deliver affordable housing and innovative transport schemes such as the Cambridge metro proposal, was called upon to commission an external independent review.

The call was made after a series of resignations including the departure of former chief executive Martin Whiteley in August, and came amid claims that the authority is suffering a lack of transparency, making it difficult for people, even those within the organisation, to understand how and why decisions have been made.

In a motion to the board of the Combined Authority, Cllr Bridget Smith, the Liberal Democrat leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said there needed to be an independent review into the Combined Authority. She said this would help restore confidence in the organisation.

Council leader Lewis Herbert called fo an independent review into the governance of the Combined Authority in the region. Picture: Keith Heppell
Council leader Lewis Herbert called fo an independent review into the governance of the Combined Authority in the region. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Smith said: “I am not particularly happy, and many of my residents are telling me they are not happy, and there are elements of the business sector that are not happy, and people around this table are not happy.

“My residents and the business sector are lacking the confidence they should have in the Combined Authority. They want to know we are doing our job properly and spending their money, and it is their money, correctly.”

Cllr Smith said a review had to be carried out by an external organisation, as there were not the resources or the expertise to carry it out “in house”.

“We need to show the public we have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide,” she added.

Cllr Lucy Nethsingha. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Lucy Nethsingha. Picture: Keith Heppell

Lewis Herbert, the Labour leader of Cambridge City Council, seconded the motion, saying the Combined Authority was becoming “too Ely-based”. The mayor of the Combined Authority, Conservative James Palmer, was formerly the leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council.

Cllr Herbert said the authority needed to be collaborative, and voiced his concern that the quality of reports and projects was below what he had expected. Cllr Herbert said “several mistakes” had been made due to a lack of a coherent infrastructure strategy.

The motion was voted down, but Mr Palmer said an internal review was already under way. He told the board he had asked newly installed joint interim chief executive John Hill to undertake the review, which would look at the structure of the authority.

Mr Palmer said: “I have asked Mr Hill to do a review of the structure of the Combined Authority. We are an embryonic organisation and have absorbed the LEP, which was a failing organisation, which has brought its own challenges.

“Clearly, it is very important we take the time after the resignation of Martin [former chief executive Martin Whiteley, who left the organisation in August] to get a full review.”

Mr Palmer also said he was “absolutely convinced” of the quality of the projects the Combined Authority is already involved in, and said they were “on schedule” to be completed on time. He said there was no need for an external review, and said he could not justify the expenditure on one at this point.

Speaking after the meeting, Liberal Democrat Lucy Nethsingha, chairwoman of the Combined Authority’s overview and scrutiny committee, said the committee would now be looking at some of the concerns which led to the call for the independent review.

Cllr Nethsingha, who sits on Cambridge City Council and the county councillor, said there would be a particular focus on a perceived lack of transparency within the organisation.

Read more

Council leaders call for independent review into Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority

Concern as Combined Authority chief executive departs

£400m Greater Cambridge Partnership funding may be withheld if our political leaders can’t stop squabbling

‘South Cambridgeshire will be a different council in two years’ says leader Cllr Bridget Smith



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