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Mayor James Palmer and Cambridge City Council Lewis Herbert leader at loggerheads over allowances

The war of words between mayor James Palmer and Cambridge City Council leader Lewis Herbert intensified this week as a row broke out over allowances.

War of words(11530838)
War of words(11530838)

Conservative Mr Palmer, mayor of the Combined Authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, took aim at the Labour Party in Cambridge for “keeping quiet” over allowances paid to Cllr Herbert.

But the Labour leader, who last week accused the mayor of “cronyism”, warned him “that when in a glass house be careful what you throw”.

Mr Palmer says that despite no other members of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority board taking an allowance, Cllr Herbert receives £4,906 per annum.

“This was news to me,” he said, adding: “I wasn’t aware that any of the local authority leaders who sit on the Combined Authority board get paid any allowance at all. I must say that the issue of member workload has come up before at Combined Authority meetings. However, at no stage was I aware that Cllr Herbert was receiving an allowance.

“I certainly wasn’t aware that it’s been doubled on two occasions against advice from the Independent Remuneration Panel.”

Cllr Herbert hit back: “The allowance I receive for being on the Combined Authority as an elected council leader for a full year is the same as he has just gifted to his close friend Charles Roberts every single month for a four-day-a-week role, and his payments are deals done without any interview process or transparency, nor a published job description, nothing like the city council process, done in public.”

Cllr Herbert receives a special responsibility allowance paid for by the city council for attending Combined Authority board meetings.

This was first set at £1,120 in August 2017, but has since increased to £4,906 in October last year.

This went against an Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) report recommendation, which suggested the figure should be closer to 50 per cent of a city councillor’s allowance – £2,453.

In addition, each Cambridge city councillor who sits on the Combined Authority’s overview and scrutiny committee receives a payment of £1,227 per year and members of the audit and governance committee get £491.

Mr Palmer receives an allowance of £75,000 for his role, which the authority’s IRP has recommended be increased by £5,000. The mayor says this increased will be postponed until the next mayoral term.

Last week, Cllr Herbert resigned his position as a member responsible for spatial planning at the Combined Authority.

The mayor has asked if this will trigger a review into his allowances, adding: “What is interesting is that it’s actually the Labour councillors in Cambridge who have persistently raised concerns about the cost of the mayor’s office, despite the costs being far lower than those of Labour mayors.

“Yet at the same time they appear to have been keeping quiet the fact that they’ve been receiving this additional money for attending meetings.”

Cllr Herbert responded: “It is also the case that I never asked for the allowance level agreed by the city council committee – and my evidence to the city remuneration panel was a request for half that.”

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