East Cambs chief executive John Hill steps in to help combined authority following sudden departure of £150k a year boss

Mayor James Palmer (left) and chief executive John Hill.

Mayor James Palmer (left) and chief executive John Hill. - Credit: Archant

Chief executive John Hill has been seconded from East Cambridgeshire District Council to help fill a sudden vacancy at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority,

Mr Hill has been called in to help run the authority following the sudden departure of the £150,000 a year chief executive Martin Whiteley.

Mr Whiteley’s abrupt resignation – described by Mayor James Palmer as by “mutual agreement” – shocked some senior members of the authority.

Mr Hill is, of course, familiar with his new boss – Mayor Palmer was previously leader of East Cambs Council.

A combined authority spokesman said: “Currently we are proposing the period of employment will run until the appointment of a permanent chief executive.

“We will make additional payments to staff for any additional work they agree to carry out, which will be set out in the public report.”

Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, chairwoman of the combined authority’s overview and scrutiny committee, said there was very few senior staff with any length of service, which was leading to a lack of continuity on long-term schemes.

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“I am deeply concerned,” she said. “The combined authority doesn’t have a permanent chief financial officer, with a new interim financial officer just having replaced the previous interim financial officer.

“The scrutiny committee has had major concerns about the quality of information being presented, with better financial papers due to be presented in September.

“I am very concerned at the lack of continuity of planning already, and the absence of the chief exec would add to those concerns.”

Deputy mayor Charles Roberts, who is also leader of East Cambs Council, confirmed Mr Whiteley is no longer in post but remains, in title only, chief executive until the end of September.

In the meantime his duties will be undertaken by a combination of lawyer Kim Sawyer of the combined authority with support from Mr Hill.

The authority spokesman said: “We will move quickly to appoint a new chief executive and therefore the most cost effective option is to put in place interim arrangements which draw on existing staff across the councils.

“Kim Sawyer and John Hill will work jointly and the full details will be put forward in a paper for approval at the next combined authority board meeting on September 26.

“The papers will be made publicly available on our website five working days in advance (September 19) and the public are able to submit any questions regarding the content of the papers.”

Mr Whiteley was first appointed as interim chief executive in March of last year and was described by Mayor Palmer as a “ highly experienced individual who will bring valuable skills to the combined authority as we work to bring real change to the region and bring further powers to the area from Westminster.”

Previously Mr Whiteley was chief executive of the Blue Marble Group and managing director of Capita Consulting, the management consultancy arm of the Capita Group. He was brought into the combined authority firstly as a consultant to help set it up once the devolution vote had been passed by local councils.

Mayor Palmer said: “Martin Whiteley has worked with me and council leaders to deliver the momentous devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

“These two years have been crucial in getting our priorities and plans into place for delivery of our promises to the local community.

“Martin has now decided that the time is right to move on to new challenges and I wish him well in the future.

“It’s now time to recruit a new chief executive to take us into a new phase of accelerated delivery over the next few years.

“This is an exciting time for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as we gear up the organisation to meet the challenges of Brexit and continue to focus on delivering real outcomes for all our communities.”