Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority to look at staffing levels following ‘call in’ by scrutiny committee

Part of the budget prepared by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority showing projec

Part of the budget prepared by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority showing project staffing costs - Credit: Archant

Mayor James Palmer is expected to need £192,000 in 2018/19 to fund his office – a 31 per cent increase but officials explained that current year figures reflect the fact he took office six weeks into the financial year.

Mayor James Palmer (left) and Martin Whiteley, chief executive of the Cambridgeshire and Peterboroug

Mayor James Palmer (left) and Martin Whiteley, chief executive of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority - Credit: Archant

“The figures are reflective of this,” said a spokesman for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

The mayor’s allowance “is set by an independent panel and is not subject to review or amendment by the mayor or the combined authority.”

The spokesman said: “Other figures noted in the report also take into consideration that 2017/18 is a part year.

“One off costs in 2017/18 – such as setting up the finance systems and developing the website, won’t be carried forward. The reduction in the provision for support provided by constituent authorities will also reduce as the combined authority appoints its own staff to undertake the work.”

The mayoral allowance of £75,000 was set by the Independent Remuneration Panel on June 22 and was agreed by the combined authority board a week later.

“It is fixed at £75,000 for this financial year (2017/18) and also for the next financial year (2018/19),” said the spokesman who explained that the figures noted in the indicative costs outline can be explained as follows:

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1 The figures include the allowance and on-costs – i.e. National Insurance contributions (approximately 10 per cent)

2. The figure for 2017/18 represents a part year from the day the mayor took up office – i.e. ten and half months of the year

3. The figure for 2018/19 represents a full year of the same level of allowance and also on-costs.

The costs are contained in a report to an extraordinary meeting of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority on September 4 following a ‘call-in’ by the scrutiny committee of other staffing costs.

The report, compiled by chief executive Martin Whiteley says staffing costs for the mayor’s office will rise to £95,500 and his expenses are expected to rise by £1,000 to £12,000.

Mr Whiteley says he has considered the points raised by the scrutiny committee on August 16 which asked the authority to reconsider proposals in respect of the officer structure that had previously been agreed.

He believes providing “a higher level of detail” will show how the authority needs much of the structure that has been put forward.

He said a new organisation such as the combined authority was about “building a collective understanding” of how to best deliver its programme.

Learning from the first three months he agreed more information needed to be provided to support effective decision making.

Mr Whiteley said it had a big responsibility that included allocating funding this year of £120 million with a further £111 million next year.

“This is new money to the region for which the Government will hold the combined authority to account; it represents a substantial investment in the area,” he said.

Officer establishment will number fewer than 20 employees with some services delivered on their behalf by existing staff in local councils.

He said he had reviewed support staff and proposed reducing the number of personal assistants from three to two posts including the mayor’s private secretary.

“When it is fully operational the level of support activity will be assessed again,” he said.

Mr Whiteley said the proposed structure identifies separately the staffing needed for the mayor’s office “and the mayor has determined that his office should include a private secretary and political advisor”.

The chief executive said the political advisor role was appointed personally by the mayor – as he is entitled to do – and former East Cambs councillor Tom Hunt has taken up the £35,000 a year post. The salary is fixed by Government.

Mr Whiteley is asking approval for an extra £350,000 onto next year’s budget for staffing but points out original estimates were based on an “indicative” budget prepared before his appointment and the election of a mayor.