Mayor James Palmer under pressure over running of combined authority and news of Soham station costs potentially rising to £21.8m

Mayor Palmer (centre) with John Bridge, left, criticising aspects of his leadership and Cllr Lucy Ne

Mayor Palmer (centre) with John Bridge, left, criticising aspects of his leadership and Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, scrutiny chairman. - Credit: Archant

Mayor James Palmer has been under pressure this week with business leaders and councillors criticising the running of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

The ongoing row comes amid news of the cost of building Soham railway station - which could rise to an astonishing £21.8m according to a report.

Following the shock departure of the authority’s chief executive Martin Whiteley late last month, Mayor Palmer was asked to “come clean” over the resignation when he came before the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, September 24.

But Mayor Palmer was adamant there had been no “falling out” between himself and Mr Whiteley and said he had acted on legal advice when offering Mr Whiteley a “substantial severance payment” upon his departure.

He fought back claims of nepotism at the combined authority and has also dismissed calls for an independent review into the authority after business leaders criticised the “lack of transparency.”

John Bridge, the chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, said he will be writing to James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing and Local Government to raise concerns into the new business board governance arrangements and request a full independent public inquiry.

Mayor Palmer, however, hit out at the calls, saying his focus was on delivering results for the people of Cambridgeshire rather than “making headlines.”

He added: “John Bridge was a senior member of the failed Greater Cambridge, Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (GCGP LEP), so I question how he feels he can speak with any kind of authority about the leadership and governance of the combined authority and business board.

“These sorts of comments may make headlines, but my focus is on delivering on my election promises to the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”

He has been at the forefront of the campaign to get Soham railway station reopened, but in a budget update submitted to the combined authority board for approval, the report states the final costing of the project could reach £21,864,769.

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The Soham station project has been allocated £1.5m to deliver its current phase of works but a further £1.7m is required in order to deliver this.