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Huge severance payment for Combined Authority chief executive revealed

Martin Whiteley
Martin Whiteley

The former chief executive of the combined authority was paid a staggering £94,500 when he left the job, despite not serving out any notice period, it has been revealed.

In August, it emerged that Martin Whiteley left his post as chief executive of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. Mr Whiteley left the £182,000 a year post without serving a notice period, leading some to question the circumstances of his departure.

Claims Mr Whiteley had also received a “substantial” severance payment have now been confirmed, with the combined authority saying Mr Whiteley was given £94,500 (about six months’ salary) upon his departure.

There are now “serious questions” to be asked and renewed fears from within the combined authority that Mr Whiteley was “sacked” instead of leaving of his own accord.

In response to an FOI request, Patrick Arran, interim monitoring officer at the combined authority said: “Mr Whitley’s employment ended with his resignation by mutual agreement.

“Whilst the authority maintains an exemption under Section 40 (Personal Information) in relation to the agreement itself, we can confirm that Mr Whiteley was paid the sum of £94,500 which included contractual notice and compensation for loss of office. The payment was subject to deductions for PAYE and NI.

Mr Arran said there were “no so-called parachute payments, and neither was this a redundancy situation”.

Information obtained under FOI also confirms that the salary paid to Mr Whitely was £182,088 at the time his employment came to an end.

“His salary was originally £150,685, but an acting up allowance was agreed on assuming the additional chief executive responsibilities of the LEP in February 2018,” wrote Mr Arran. “Expenses and travel were claimed through the usual processes as and when incurred in accordance with the authority’s processes, but no mileage expenses were payable upon receipt of the acting up allowance. Mr Whiteley was also paid an accommodation allowance of £15,000 per annum.”

Lucy Nethsingha, chairwoman of the combined authority’s overview and scrutiny committee said she was surprised the payment was so high.

“He effectively had a six month pay severance payment,” said Cllr Nethsingha. “That sounds like someone who has been sacked. There are some serious questions that need to be asked.”

Cllr Nethsingha said the committee, which meets on Monday (October 29), will discuss the matter. She said that, the more the matter was looked into the more questions arose.

Leader of Cambridge City Council, and Combined Authority (CA) Board member, Councillor Lewis Herbert blasted the “poor” use of funds, saying the combined authority wasn’t sticking to its aims of a small budget.

Cllr Herbert said: “The mayor decided unilaterally to make a £94,500 payment to the former combined authority chief executive including as ‘compensation for loss of office’ and without involving or informing other council leaders.

“Along with additional pay for six weeks extra gardening leave in August and September, this was very poor use of scarce combined authority funding.

“We are way away from the mayor’s election commitment to limit the total salary budget to £1 million a year, so leaders including me will be asking plenty of questions on total salary and interim costs at the November board meeting when the mid-year financial spend to September is due to be published.”

Mike Sargeant, who sits on the combined authority’s overview and scrutiny committee, said the committee would be looking very carefully at the settlement.

“The mayor reassured me it was purely contractual,” said Cllr Sargeant. “This does not sound like it is contractual. He indicated when I asked him it was just paying off his notice period. This is rather more than this.”

A spokeswoman for the combined authority confirmed the figure for the settlement was correct, but said they could not offer more information on the circumstances of Mr Whiteley’s departure.

James Palmer, mayor of the combined authority, has been contacted for comment.

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