Committee to consider £1.8 million wage bill - 25 per cent higher than expected- for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority

Mayor James Palmer

Mayor James Palmer - Credit: Archant

Five councillors have forced a scrutiny committee to review the £1.8 million wage bill – nearly 25 per cent higher than the original budget- to staff the new Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

All are members of the combined authority overview and scrutiny committee and their signatures were sufficient to ‘call-in’ the controversial decision.

The five are councillors Robin Carter and Terry Hayward of Huntingdon, Dave Baigent of Cambridge City and Alex Riley and Philippa Hart of South Cambs.

In their published reasoning for the ‘call-in- which will go to the committee on August 16 they say that “whilst it accepted that the suggested salaries will be subject to detailed evaluation they appear too high”.

The five add that whilst not wishing to “hamper the progression of the mayor’s and authority’s plans” they believe it is important such expenditure needs thorough examination to ensure best value for money for resident.

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They want the committee to acknowledge that the level of discussion at the authority meeting to discuss the budget was “disappointing and the questioning not stringent enough and not commensurate with the importance of the decision”.

They argue that by accepting £1.8million the newly elected authority either set an original budget that was far too lean or that it did not fully appreciate the tasks that have now apparently emerged.

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“Insufficient investigation appears to have been carried out to explore how some roles could be shared with other organisations especially concerning transport and infrastructure, skills and housing,” says the report to the committee.

Chief executive Martin Whiteley is expected to lead the response to the ‘call-in’ and in a report to the committee reminds members of the work of the authority to manage a significant investment fund from the first devolution deal of more than £1 billion.

He reminds the committee of the “small officer establishment” and re-assures members that other roles will be filled through secondment and commissioned services.

Mayor James Palmer has always insisted that the combined authority “requires a number of key posts to lead on fundamental areas of our work programme”.

These will be need to commission projects that will deliver 100,000 new homes, revitalise transport, and effectively claw back £30 in investment for every £1 spent.

He re-iterated the desire to run a “lean authority”.

If the scrutiny committee agrees the budget will return to the full combined authority for consideration.

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