‘Call-in’ by five members forces Mayor James Palmer and his combined authority officials to re-think £1.8m staff budget

WILL LAWS CARTOON: Mayor James Palmer and the costs of running the combined authority

WILL LAWS CARTOON: Mayor James Palmer and the costs of running the combined authority - Credit: Archant

Six figure salary posts within the new Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority have been put on hold whilst an internal disagreement over how much is being spent is resolved.

Five councillors forced the issued on the agenda of the scrutiny committee to ensure a review of the £1.8 million wage bill – nearly 25 per cent higher than the original budget- to staff the new authority.

From an earlier projected cost of £1.3 million a year authority members felt enough was enough when they looked at the latest budget figure of £1.8 million.

Scrutiny committee members’ councillors Robin Carter and Terry Hayward of Huntingdon, Dave Baigent of Cambridge City and Alex Riley and Philippa Hart of South Cambs staged the ‘call-in’ of the budget.

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

The committee voted by seven votes to six to refer the budget decision back to the authority for it to be re-considered and justified.

Cllr Baigent, a member of the scrutiny committee, wanted to know whether the jobs being discussed were “written down on the back of a bus ticket? Were they discussed with councillors in advance?”

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Lucy Nethsinga, a Liberal Democrat county councillor, also had her reservations and wondered about the overlap between the authority, the county council and district councils.

Chief executive Martin Whiteley thought the final staffing level of 15 would be smaller than other devolved authorities.

He said: “I don’t envisage us creating a big shiny office. We’ll be looking to work flexibly across council offices.”

This week we revealed how Mayor James Palmer has bagged himself his own parking space at his new HQ – inside East Cambs offices The Grange in Ely – but only two of his team will also be able to park there.

Details of arrangements for accommodating the newly elected £75,000 mayor have been revealed in a Freedom of Information put to the district council by a local resident.

The council has rented out three spaces in total to the combined authority.

East Cambs Council revealed that the combined authority including the mayor have rented three offices and one desk space.

It represents around 2.5 per cent of the total office space.