Tory councillor backs Mayor Palmer claiming 'we need a mayor with the correct number of staff so he can lobby Government for even more funds' for county

PUBLISHED: 15:07 01 March 2019

Cllr Dave Connoir (left) is backing Mayor James Palmer (right) over proposals to expand the number of staff working in the mayor's office at Ely. Picture: ARCHANT

Cllr Dave Connoir (left) is backing Mayor James Palmer (right) over proposals to expand the number of staff working in the mayor's office at Ely. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

A Conservative member of the scrutiny committee that oversees the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) has backed Mayor James Palmer's bid to increase the number of staff in his personal office.

County councillor David Connor – also a member of Fenland District Council – believes attacks on Mayor Palmer are unjustified.

“Not all of the scrutiny disagreed with the mayor in his proposed increase in staff,” he said today.

“In my opinion we need a mayor with the correct number of staff so he can lobby Government for even more funds for the good of the residents of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough”.

Cllr Connor’s comments come as a backdrop to stormy meetings of both the scrutiny committee and of the main board of CAPCA which has seen Mayor Palmer’s proposals for staffing agreed.

Labour’s Lewis Herbert, the leader of Cambridge City Council, had put forward numerous amendments including calling for a freeze on the “already large mayoral staff of four”. Axing Mayor Palmer’s proposals to up this to seven “would save £100,000 a year” said Cllr Herbert.

He also wanted the mayor to move his own office to Alconbury from Ely “given

the significant savings and increased efficiency this will generate”.

His amendments were defeated.

The rallying cry of Cllr Connor, who represents Doddington and Wimblington at Fenland District Council, was first heard on Monday when he addressed the scrutiny committee over the fall-out from the mayor’s summer ball.

“We have spent too much time on this,” he said. “There are a lot more projects the mayor has been involved in. He has done nothing wrong.”

And he accused Lib Dem Lucy Nethsingha, the chair of the committee, of “pillorying someone who has done nothing wrong. Let’s put this to bed and move on.”

Councillor Lucy Nethsingha said on Monday that the report on the ball prepared by the monitoring officer had caused CAPCA “serious reputational damage”.

Defending his position on staffing Mayor Palmer told the CAPCA board midweek that it was a good idea to invest more in a “strong” mayor’s office while making savings elsewhere.

He said: “We need a mayor’s office. I believe Cambridgeshire and Peterborough should be prepared to be a strong as possible.”

Mayor Palmer also said there were other mayors of devolved authorities in the country who spent more on staff.

“Two Labour mayors spend much more public money on their staffing than I do,” he added.

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