'Deep concern' over departure of combined authority chief executive

PUBLISHED: 07:39 30 August 2018 | UPDATED: 07:39 30 August 2018

Mayor James Palmer and former chief executive Martin Whiteley, photographed after the appointment of the latter just over a year ago.

Mayor James Palmer and former chief executive Martin Whiteley, photographed after the appointment of the latter just over a year ago.

Archant

There are "deep concerns" after it emerged the chief executive of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority is moving on, leaving the authority with "very few" senior staff of long standing.

Martin Whiteley, chief executive of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, the government body spearheading major transport and housing schemes in Cambridgeshire, has “moved on” from the authority following reports he had been on “extended leave”.

“Deep concerns” have now been raised about how Mr Whiteley’s absence will affect the Combined Authority, which is involved in schemes like the potential duelling of the A10 and a city metro in Cambridge.

Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, chairwoman of the combined authority’s overview and scrutiny committee, says there is now likely to be a closer look at Mr Whiteley’s absence.

She said the Combined Authority has very few senior staff with any length of service, which was leading to a lack of continuity on long-term schemes.

James Palmer, Mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, paid tribute to Mr Whiteley’s work, saying the CA would now be looking to recruit a new chief executive.

Mr Palmer said: “Martin Whiteley has worked with me and council leaders to deliver the momentous devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

“These two years have been crucial in getting our priorities and plans into place for delivery of our promises to the local community.

“Martin has now decided that the time is right to move on to new challenges and I wish him well in the future.

“It’s now time to recruit a new chief executive to take us into a new phase of accelerated delivery over the next few years.

“This is an exciting time for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as we gear up the organisation to meet the challenges of Brexit and continue to focus on delivering real outcomes for all our communities.”

Cllr Nethsingha, however, expressed real concerns over the news.

“I am deeply concerned,” she said.

“The combined authority has very, very few senior staff with any length of service. The CA doesn’t have a permanent chief financial officer, with a new interim financial cfficer just having replaced the previous interim financial officer.

“The scrutiny committee has had major concerns about the quality of information being presented, with better financial papers due to be presented in September.

“I am very very concerned at the lack of continuity of planning already, and the absence of the chief exec would add to those concerns.”

Cllr Lewis Herbert, leader of Cambridge City Council and a combined authority board member, said the CA was still committed to delivering important schemes in the area.

He said September would be a big month, with reports due on the CA’s taking on the duties of the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership), as well as discussion of the CPIER (Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review) finding.

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