£150,000 a year chief executive of Cambridgeshire Combined Authority quit by “‘mututal agreement’ says deputy mayor Charles Roberts

Mayor James Palmer and chief executive Martin Whiteley, photographed after the appointment of the la

Mayor James Palmer and chief executive Martin Whiteley, photographed after the appointment of the latter just over a year ago. Mr Whiteley is reported now to be on 'gardening leave' - Credit: Archant

The £150,000 chief executive of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority left by “mutual agreement” it was announced this afternoon.

Martin Whiteley returned from holiday just over a week ago but following talks with Mayor James Palmer decided to leave with immediate affect.

Leaders of local councils across Cambridgeshire that make up the combined authority were told only that their chief executive was “on gardening leave”.

Deputy mayor Charles Roberts offered a bit more detail today, confirming Mr Whiteley is no longer in post but remains, in title only, chief executive until the end of September.

In the meantime his duties will be undertaken by a combination of lawyer Kim Sawyer of the combined authority with support from John Hill, chief executive of East Cambridgeshire District Council.

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Cllr Roberts thanked Mr Whiteley who he said had been “very involved” in setting up the combined authority but the role had changed.

“It is very different and we’ve entered a new phase with a new organisation,” he said. “Someone described it as natural evolution.”

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Senior politicians who make up the combined authority say they have not been notified of the reasons for Mr Whiteley’s absence.

The leader of Cambridgeshire County Council Steve Count and Councillor Bridget Smith, leader of South Cambs District Council, both used the term ‘gardening leave’ to describe Mr Whiteley’s current status.

Mr Whiteley was appointed a year ago after previously working in a consultancy capacity to bring about the combined authority.

He met with Mayor James Palmer before his leave was extended – for reasons that are not yet apparent.

Speculation that both men had a falling out is rife but unconfirmed – Mayor Palmer has been asked for a statement on the current situation although he is yet to respond to my inquiry.

Mayor Palmer is also being pressed for more information by the leaders of the councils that make up the combined authority.

Cllr Count said he did not know the details of what has happened; one other senior Cambridgeshire councillor said Mr Whiteley “had to be credited” with undertaking the enormous task of establishing the combined authority.

“Martin has been winning investment into Cambridgeshire and integrated the former local enterprise partnership into his role,” he said. “He is an important figure for sure.”

In the absence of any official comment, I called the combined authority earlier and asked for an appointment to meet with Mr Whiteley for an interview.

A spokesman later sent me an email to say that “Martin currently remains on leave, so unfortunately we can’t arrange an interview date for you at the moment. However, we will of course arrange something on his return”. The same spokesman is now preparing a brief statement confirming Mr Whiteley’s departure.

Mr Whiteley was first appointed as interim chief executive in March of last year and was described by Mayor Palmer as a “ highly experienced individual who will bring valuable skills to the combined authority as we work to bring real change to the region and bring further powers to the area from Westminster.”

Previously, Mr Whiteley was chief executive of the Blue Marble Group and managing director of Capita Consulting, the management consultancy arm of the Capita Group.

HISTORICAL NOTE: Garden leave describes the practice whereby an employee who is leaving a job (having resigned or otherwise had his or her employment terminated) is instructed to stay away from work during the notice period, while still remaining on the payroll.

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