Mayor to stay in Ely as Combined Authority heads for Huntingdon

Mayor Dr Nik John

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson arriving at his Ely office - where he intends to stay. Meanwhile the Combined Authority staff will move into Pathfinder House, Huntingdon - Credit: Archant

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson is to keep his modest office in Ely – despite the Combined Authority agreeing to move into new headquarters 26 miles away at Huntingdon.  

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Office (CAPCA) says Pathfinder House, Huntingdon, is the preferred choice.  

It is also the head office of Huntingdonshire District Council.  

CAPCA choose from a short list that included Fenland Hall, March, two options in Peterborough, and Cambourne.  

The authority has been effectively homeless and working remotely since quitting rented office space from Urban & Civic at Alconbury Weald in 2020 where the average monthly overheads came to £36,000. 

Employees have since worked remotely, with a small minority utilising the limited amount of office space at 72/74 Market Street, Ely, which is used by the mayor. 

Last December the CAPCA board narrowed the search for new offices to Sand Martin House, Peterborough, and Pathfinder House, Huntingdon. 

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Despite Peterborough City Council submitting a late “more competitive, revised offer” to persuade CAPCA to move to Sand Martin House, it has decided Huntingdon is a better fit.  

Huntingdon is considered more central “and provides more convenience to most staff and members using the accommodation on a regular basis,” says a CAPCA report. 

“Associated travel expenses and carbon impact are reduced. Pathfinder House includes the ability to sub-let part of the premises to an organisation providing services to the CPCA, and this provides potential to generate income from the property.” 

However, the report noted that Mayor Johnson “has indicated a preference to retain an operational office base at Market St, Ely; the cost of this is met from a separate mayoral budget.

Combined authority mayor, dr Nik Johnson says the Huntingdon A141 is a key route at the heart of the

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson arriving at his Ely office - where he intends to stay. - Credit: Archant

“The tenancy for this expires on December 31, 2022, but there would remain scope to negotiate a new lease, possibly involving the use of less space.” 

The report noted that “the fixed annual revenue costs of Pathfinder House and Sand Martin House demonstrate significant cost savings when compared to the annual fixed cost of the former office at Alconbury.  

“The revenue budget approved by board in January provides for £300K per annum for accommodation and an additional £31K for associated costs such as service charges.  

“There is separate and additional provision of £77K per annum allocated for the mayor’s accommodation budget.” 

CAPCA predicts Pathfinder House will host 50 meetings a year. 

Huntingdonshire District Council's Pathfinder House HQ.

Huntingdonshire District Council's Pathfinder House HQ and also to be HQ for Combined Authority - Credit: Archant

Allowing for each meeting to last four hours, this would add approximately £10,000 to the cost of Pathfinder House, and £8,000 to the cost of Sand Martin House.  

Up to £200,00 is being provided towards fit-out costs.  

The report drawn up by officers says “the effort required to identify and equip office accommodation should not be underestimated and the correct solution can significantly improve the efficiency of an organisation.  

“The standard of accommodation can impact upon recruitment and retention of staff and provide an identity and image for the organisation”.  

The report noted that a staff survey “appears to show that behaviours and expectations have changed following the Covid pandemic. 

“Staff anticipate using an office as a hub to meet, communicate and collaborate rather than a place to spend extensive time working at a desk.  

“The survey revealed that the intended frequency of using an office was varied and it seems reasonable to assume a generic arrangement whereby employees spend two days a week working in an office and three days remotely or at home.  

“Consequently, the officer working group has adopted a minimum 40 per cent occupancy requirement to reflect that that on average 40 staff will require use of the office at one time.” 

CAPCA’s new HQ can expect high-speed internet, video conferencing facilities, meeting rooms and “use of a substantial kitchen or refectory area”. 

The report adds: “it would be desirable to have access to shower facilities.” 

When considering options, each potential venue was scored for various attributes – on public transport access, for instance, Pathfinder House scored 5 out of 5 compared to Fenland Hall which only scored 1 out of 5.  

Fenland Hall would have been the cheapest option but on a scoring matrix came bottom for energy efficiency.