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Bailey and Boden thwarted in bid to resurrect code of conduct complaint against Mayor Nik Johnson

CAPCA spent £461 personal alarms and home security CCTV

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Two Conservative members of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority have again tried to resurrect issues surrounding a resolved code of conduct complaint relating to Mayor Dr Nik Johnson. Cllr Chris Boden, leader of Fenland District Council, was warned by the board’s legal officer Edwina Adefehinti that his question was invalid as even airing it in public could risk councillors and the authority facing a legal challenge.

And Cllr Anna Bailey was also cut short as she tried to press the Mayor to add to an apology, he issued last year, and which had been accepted by the CAPCA audit and governance committee as satisfying the requirements of their investigation.

The exchanges began as Cllr Boden remarked that he had received an email last Friday from Ms Adefehinti, legal governance and monitoring officer, confirming that a question he had submitted for today’s board meeting would be on the agenda.

“This morning, the monitoring officer advised me that you, Mayor, had vetoed this question,” said Cllr Boden.

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“I cannot go into detail about the question for reasons I don’t want to breach any potential confidentiality, but it did relate to significant safeguarding issues for ex-employees and one of the victims has just advised me …” At which point Mayor Johnson cut him off.

Mayor Johnson passed to Ms Adefehinti to respond.

Council leader Chris Boden says: “Almost every other principal council has raised its council tax over the past six years, and of the few which haven't raised their council tax, none can match Fenland's two per cent reduction in that period.”

Cllr Chris Boden: “Mayor, you did say you welcome contributions from members, you cut me off from speaking before; don’t claim you are letting everyone have a free and fair say.”

She said: “I did send an email to Cllr Boden yesterday and I spoke to him this morning and he said he hadn’t received it,” she said. “I sent it to the normal address I correspond with you on.

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“In that email I set out reasons for the rejection and done under the constitution and it set out the basis and rules for rejecting your question. Your question would disclose confidential information.”

Cllr Boden hit back: “Mayor, you did say you welcome contributions from members, you cut me off from speaking before; don’t claim you are letting everyone have a free and fair say.”

Mayor Johnson said Cllr Boden’s point of order had been answered by the monitoring officer and he moved to a question from Cllr Bailey.

She asked: “How much did the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority spend from May 2021 onwards on personal alarms and CCTV home security equipment for employees and their families as a result of the safeguarding issues arising from the toxic and bullying culture in the Office of the Mayor?”

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Ms Adefehinti replied: “Because the question relates to the Mayor’s office and in the interests of fairness and to remove any appearance of conflict, I am answering the question.

“So, the only expenditure that the CAPCA has spent on personal alarm or home security CCTV equipment since May 2021 was as a result of a confidential whistleblowing report being leaked to the press and subsequent police advice rather than any culture within the Mayor’s office.

“Total expenditure on the personal alarms according and CCTV according to the authority’s record was £461.”

Cllr Bailey, in a follow up question, reminded the board that Mayor Johnson had written to her on December 1 “stating he was taking advice about what more he could to alleviate concerns of a former member of staff and their spouse.

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Cllr Anna Bailey: “How much did the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority spend from May 2021 onwards on personal alarms and CCTV home security equipment for employees and their families as a result of the safeguarding issues arising from the toxic and bullying culture in the Office of the Mayor?”

Cllr Anna Bailey: “How much did the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority spend from May 2021 onwards on personal alarms and CCTV home security equipment for employees and their families as a result of the safeguarding issues arising from the toxic and bullying culture in the Office of the Mayor?”

“Given the obvious distress articulated by the spouse – I presume with the former member of staff’s consent on social media – if he is able to expand on his written apology he would do so in a meaningful way.

“Can the Mayor say if he had provided a meaningful apology, if not why not?”

Mayor Johnson said he had had several conversations with senior officers “to see how we can move this situation forward to get an appropriate outcome”.

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Ms Adefehinti reminded board members that with regard to any subsequent apology and as has been detailed in the decision notice published last December, the Mayor has met the requirement of the audit and governance committee.

She said that decision stated the requirement that he should apologise “and as I have said at the subsequent board meeting in December, and it was attached to the decision notice, the Mayor did apologise,

“I think I would add onto that at risk of repeating myself that no audit and governance committee, nor myself, nor any senior officer, can dictate to the Mayor how an apology should be drafted or worded.

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Mayor Dr Nik Johnson said: “I would like to make it noted that in June 2021 as reported in local newspapers particularly the Ely Standard, a female member of staff in the Mayor’s office was spat at on her way into work.”

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson said: “I would like to make it noted that in June 2021 as reported in local newspapers particularly the Ely Standard, a female member of staff in the Mayor’s office was spat at on her way into work.”

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“That would be going beyond what audit and governance committee required and that would be bordering on breaching his right of expression. As I have said on a few occasions, the Mayor did apologize and sent the apology through myself”.

Mayor Johnson added; “I would like to make a final comment in response to the initial question.

“I would like to make it noted that in June 2021 as reported in local newspapers particularly the Ely Standard, a female member of staff in the Mayor’s office was spat at on her way into work.

“This incident, along with other incidents occurring around the Mayor’s office at the time and before prompted me to write to senior officers of CAPCA asking for safety protection of staff measures to be taken seriously

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“I also reported safety of members of staff following stabbing of David Amess (the 69-year-old MP was stabbed to death in Leigh-on-Sea in October 2021) when I spoke at a previous board.

“I would hope this makes the point how I take these issues very seriously.”

Cllr Boden gave his thoughts on the code of conduct hearing earlier this year – when he spoke at a meeting of Fenland Council.

He said at the time: “Now I cannot go into detail but at the board meeting I asked if it would be permitted for example for me to ask questions or make comments about the state of health of some of the former employees of the combined authority who were victims of the situation about which we are talking.

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“And I was told that was not appropriate to talk about in public – I had to accept what the chairman said.

“I asked if it was appropriate to talk about money spent on home security for members of staff – and I was told again that is not appropriate for public discussion.

“I had to accept that.

“But still I strive to find more information than I got from the combined authority; some of the things I have seen have been absolutely appalling.

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“Just to give one example, and I would only mention this not because it has been alleged by an individual, but I have seen physical evidence, documentary evidence to back up the claim, that the combined authority felt it appropriate to pay for Amazon to deliver a personal alarm to a 21-year-old young woman with autism who required it because of feeling under threat.”

FOOTNOTE

In June 2021, I reported in the Ely Standard that a 24-year-old female employee, working in the Mayor’s office at Ely, was left shaken and terrified after being spat at by two men.

She was walking from a car park through Cherry Hill when the incident happened.

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Police then visited the Mayor’s office to speak to the victim.

A spokesperson for the mayor confirmed at the time that the office had on occasions been on the receiving end of “dog poo being pushed through the letter box”.

Police took away a copy of a video clip made by the victim of the spitting attack which she managed to snatch of her assailants before she fled to the safety of her office.

 

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