REVEALED: The 'gang of five' who want Dr Nik Johnson gone

Austen Adams

Austen Adams, chair of the CAPCA business board, and one of the five wanting Dr Nik Johnson to suspend himself - Credit: CAPCA

Names of the five board members of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority who tabled a motion calling Mayor Dr Nik Johnson to suspend himself have been revealed.  

Documents filed by the Combined Authority show four elected Conservative council leaders and the unelected chair of the business board called for a special meeting.  

But the meeting – on May 20 – will go ahead without at least one of the council leaders being present. For the simple reason he lost his seat. 

Cllr Ryan Fuller signed as leader of Huntingdonshire District Council but since the motion was filed has lost his council seat and the leadership.  

Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald is ironically the deputy mayor, but despite being re-elected as leader of the Conservative group on Peterborough City Council is yet to form a majority administration.  

Cllr Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, and Cllr Chris Boden, leader of Fenland District Council, signed the motion.  

The fifth signature is that of Austen Adams, chair of the business board (effectively the former local enterprise partnership). 

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He is a Cambridgeshire businessman whose roles include directorships of Peter Brotherhood and Metalcraft. 

Mr Adams is divisional managing director at Avingtrans, which owns the engineering company Peter Brotherhood, and Chatteris business Stainless Metalcraft. 

Press and public will be excluded from next week’s meeting.  

The motion – supported by a “confidential appendix” - asks the board to invite Dr Johnson “to consider resigning as mayor of the Combined Authority”. 

Alternatively, they ask that he considers “voluntarily suspending himself as mayor of the Combined Authority” until all of the matters referred to in the confidential appendix “are procedurally concluded”. 

The agenda says that the motion and confidential appendices “to be forwarded immediately to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities”. 

The motion moves to what might happen if the mayor “has neither resigned nor voluntarily suspended himself” with seven days. 

At that point the board “shall be deemed to have passed a motion of no confidence in the mayor”. 

The Combined Authority “shall immediately send a request to DLHUC to request emergency support for the CAPCA to assist the CAPCA in fulfilling its legal responsibilities given that there will have been a breakdown of trust between the mayor and the board”.  

For the vote to succeed, a simple majority of all members present is sufficient. 

To be carried, the vote must include the mayor, or the deputy mayor when acting in place of the mayor.  

Robert Parkin, chief legal officer (monitoring officer) says his report follows the submission of a requisition for an extraordinary meeting of the Combined Authority Board to consider a motion on notice 

Mayor Johnson is reported to have “determined” on April 26 to call an extraordinary meeting.  

During the pre-election period no meeting to deal with this motion could take place, nor could a notice for such a meeting be issued. 

Mr Parkin says that decision was in line with the Local Government Act 1986 and the statutory Code of Practice thereunder.  

“Correspondingly, no support from officers could have been given for a meeting during that time,” he says. 

A meeting notice was issued at close of business on May 6 2022.  

He warned board members: “Care must be taken not to release any sensitive personal information or discuss such information in a public forum. “ 

He also cautioned that “in considering, deliberating, and deciding upon their response to the motion, members of the CAPCA board are not engaged in and cannot make determinations which amount to concluding, in relation to members of the Combined Authority including mayor, that breaches of the code of conduct for members have or have not occurred.  

“It is of crucial importance to the integrity of the administration of due process that the integrity of those processes and the fairness to any subject member, complainant, or witness, are maintained”. 

Mr Parkin also says that in the context of the CAPCA, votes of confidence/ no confidence are symbolic only.  

“A vote of no confidence, for example, does not have the effect of removing an elected mayor from office,” he says. 

Will Dr Johnson survive a vote of confidence? 

In reality he should.  

Conservative Party representatives on the board and now in the minority and if Lab, Lib Dem and Independent members vote against it, then Mayor Johnson can survive.  

If he does his first likely action will be to remove Cllr Fitzgerald as his deputy mayor.  

His second will be to replace Mr Adams as chair of the business board.  

The issue has blown up because of inquiries into the working practices of his former strategic advisor Nigel Pauley. 

And a separate inquiry into allegations over use of a CAPCA procurement card – allegations which the mayor strenuously denies and refutes.  

Dr Johnson may also look for a better understanding of why his £200,000 a year chief executive Eileen Milner – who he has rarely met – quit so suddenly.