Mayor Palmer welcomes his SIXTH chief financial officer in two years - and blasts ‘the people of Cambridgeshire’ for questioning his charity ball

The board of Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) welcomed Noel O’Neill (left) as chi

The board of Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) welcomed Noel O’Neill (left) as chief financial officer. Netx to him is Councillor Ian Bates. Picture: ROBERT ALEXANDER - Credit: Archant

Metro mayor James Palmer appointed the combined authority’s sixth chief financial officer in two years yesterday, and took the opportunity to hit back at the many personal attacks upon him.

The board of Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) welcomed Noel O’Neill as chief financial officer at their meeting yesterday.

Mayor Palmer, who is no stranger to personal criticism, explained: “Mr O’Neill has been acting as interim financial officer since the dismissal of his predecessor Karl Fenlon in November.”

Mr Fenlon had been sacked by the mayor after just three days in the role for allegedly making “misleading” statements about the funding of major projects.

However in his first speech to the board, new financial officer, O’Neill acknowledged: “Karl Fenlon was right to say what he did, and his comments about funding were accurate.”

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“The figures Karl showed in November were for 20 primary projects, and he was right to raise the concerns that he did because the numbers that were in the budget at that time made no sense.”

“We now have a new budget for 2019/20 that will be presented to the board shortly. It will clearly demonstrate what the authority can, and more importantly cannot fund.”

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It was reported that Mr Fenlon was paid £12,500 for his ‘week’ in office, but speaking to today’s board meeting, Mayor Palmer totally refuted that: “Mr Fenlon has been paid nothing, and nothing is owed to Mr Fenlon.”

He went on to hit back at his critics, saying: “I have been very heavily and unfairly attacked in the press for my dismissal of Karl Fenlon, just as I was when I paid £94,500 to former chief executive officer, Martin Whiteley.”

“But I can report to the board today that more than 26 times that amount has now gone through this authority in return since then, and I am very proud of that.”

Mayor Palmer insisted at the time that CEO Whiteley had resigned, however, Freedom of Information requests discovered that he had been sacked.

Martin Whiteley received the £94,500 payout after the mayor had undertaken more than £11,000 of independent legal advice.

Mayor also has hit out at critics of his charity raising ability saying: “I am ashamed that the people of Cambridgeshire have questioned the way in which I have raised this money.”

He said he was “shocked and disgusted by the scrutiny my charity work has received in the press in recent days”

His remarks come in the wake of allegations published in the satirical magazine, Private Eye showing the charity ball at Ely Cathedral cost more than £16k to stage. The event raised £9k for Cambridgeshire-based, PTSD999, which supports emergency services personnel suffering with post-traumatic stress.

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