Auditors warn of crisis at Combined Authority

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson facing critical day at the office - Credit: Archant

Auditors have warned of “a significant weakness” in governance at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA). 

Mark Hodgson of Ernst & Young LLP has written his damaging assessment in a letter to the CAPCA board. 

"We believe this weakness is pervasive as it could lead to a significant impact on the quality or effectiveness of services or on its reputation,” he said.  

It could “expose the authority to financial risk or loss.”.  

In setting out his reasons, he says the auditors are concerned that the authority “has insufficient capacity, capability and an inappropriate culture” to discharge it statutory duties. 

He says the concerns are: 

1:  Investigations into key individuals in the mayor’s office following a whistle-blower notification 

Most Read

2: Increased number of employment related claims against the authority 

3: Current vacancies in the senior management team, particularly at chief executive level, and the prospect that this could increase further from July 2022 

4: Weaknesses observed in how the extraordinary meeting of the authority board makes informed decisions 

5: That the nature of the whistle-blower allegations and initial findings of independent investigation reports raises significant questions on the culture, behaviour and integrity of key individuals in the mayor’s office.  

He also notes the CAPCA board “has considered and agreed a settlement package for the current chief executive (Eileen Milner). 

She left her post on May 31. 

Mr Hodgson added: “There is the potential for further employment related risks against the authority, which pose a significant financial risk.” 

He said current risks have the potential to “significantly impact the authority’s senior leaders which is already undermined by previous resignations and unfilled vacancies at management team level.  

“The authority could find itself without incumbents to statutory officer posts as from the 1 July 2022, without immediate and urgent action. 

“Even with such action, one would have to question the nature of such appointments at short notice.  

“Without appropriate leadership capacity with the requisite skills, knowledge and experience, there is significant doubt as to the authority’s ability to discharge its statutory obligations.” 

The auditor says addressing the whistle-blower allegations and ensuring all employees are “appropriately safeguarded is of paramount importance”.  

The AGM of CAPCA is under way today, once a conclusion is reached on a vote of confidence motion being held in private session.