‘Tantamount to inhabiting a parallel universe where the normal rules do not apply’ says council chief of Mayor Palmer after he hands £54,000 a year part time job to Charles Roberts
PUBLISHED: 14:44 14 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:23 14 May 2019
Mayor James Palmer is under fire over the appointment of former East Cambs Council leader Charles Roberts to a £56,400 a year part-time job with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA).
Mr Roberts stood down earlier this month as both council leader and deputy mayor of CAPCA but is now back as strategic advisor.
But Cllr Bridget Smith, leader of South Cambs District Council and a board member of CAPCA, is angry she knew nothing in advance of the appointment.
"It's difficult to know what to say other than I am a board member of the combined authority and this is the very first I have heard of this," she said. "I've not seen an advert, job description, short list or been consulted with in any way about your public money being spent on this role."
She said: "Yet again I find myself learning about a contentious recruitment to a highly paid job on the authority, of which I am a board member, from Twitter. It's tantamount to inhabiting a parallel universe where the normal rules of consultation and engagement do not apply."
And Lib Dem Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, chair of CAPCA's scrutiny committee, said: "I am really shocked by this.
"CAPCA is already facing serious criticism for being East Cambridgeshire centric and employing only the mayor's friends. This will fuel those concerns. Not what those who supported CAPCA being set up were promised."
Mayor Palmer said: "Charles' experience means he will be able to hit the ground running and the quality of his work and advice will be invaluable me. He is someone in whom I have absolute faith and trust to do an exceptional job."
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The mayor said the job was included in CAPCA's "approved staffing structure" and the new reduced budget of £4.5 million was lower than for most other combined authorities.
He said Mr Roberts also had "a wide-ranging professional background including as an entrepreneur and start-up investor in sectors including food and farming.
"He runs a consultancy company primarily serving the legal profession."
Mayor Palmer said the strategic advisor role will require hours equivalent to four days work per week, on a pro rata salary of £70, 514.
For his £1,100 a week pay cheque Mr Roberts will focus on helping the mayor to deliver 12 of the projects laid out in CAPCA's business plan.
One of those is housing and apart from growing the delivery of Community Land Trusts, Mr Roberts will be tasked with working up a scheme to deliver the '£100,000 house'. That is a scheme where by the mayor's land capture value policy of buying up land cheaply can be used to build homes for first time buyers.
If planning is granted the mayor could use some of the land being sought for CLT schemes at Wilburton and Kennett to be used for his new '£100,000 homes' initiative. People would buy the homes through normal channels with the only string being that the discounted price would be reflected in any profit they might make.
Mr Roberts said: "My performance will be judged on how I can help the authority deliver on these schemes and meet the ambitions we have for sustainable economic growth for the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough."