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Gloves are off over who decides how £20m awarded to Wisbech is spent

Cllr Chris Boden will require Wisbech appointment to be ratified by Combined Authority

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A second chief executive – this time that of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) – has queried appointments made by Fenland District Council to a town board at Wisbech which has been given £20m to spend by the Government. Rob Bridge, who served ironically for six years as corporate director of Fenland District Council under its chief executive Paul Medd, has joined with Stephen Moir, the chief executive of Cambridgeshire County Council, in questioning an appointment to the board.

Mr Moir told Mr Medd: “It remains entirely a matter for Cambridgeshire County Council as a sovereign local authority to determine appointments to outside bodies to represent the views of this council.”

Now Mr Bridge is following suit, and a report by prepared by Edwina Adefehinti, his legal director at CAPCA, will be presented to a meeting on June 5 “to appoint” a board member to the Wisbech Town board.

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Which is at odds with a Cabinet decision by Fenland Council to invite its leader and CAPCA board Chris Boden to be a member and to extend a similar invitation to Cambridgeshire county councillor Steve Tierney to sit on the same board.

Cllr Sam Hoy is also on the board – as the Fenland District Council member – and Cllr Susan Wallwork will sit on the board on behalf of Wisbech Town Council.

Paul Medd (returning officer) at the Fenland District Council election count at the Hudson, Wisbech.

Stephen Moir told Paul Medd (pictured): “It remains entirely a matter for Cambridgeshire County Council as a sovereign local authority to determine appointments to outside bodies to represent the views of this council.”

But among recommendations requiring a majority decision at the CAPCA meeting is that the board “decides which member(s) is nominated and which member is appointed” to any outside body.

Which means, effectively Cllr Boden will require his appointment to be ratified by the CAPCA.

County council leader Lucy Nethsingha has also expressed her thoughts on the ‘self-appointment’ of Cllr Tierney to the board.

She told CambsNews last month that the town board “do not get to appoint a county council representative – we decide the county council representative”.

The ready packaged recommendations of town board membership caused one surprise when it was revealed at the Fenland Council Cabinet meeting on May 20 and that came from Cllr Chris Seaton.

Cllr Chris Seaton (left) at the official opening of the redeveloped March Railway Station with Simone Bailey, Greater Anglia's Asset Management Director; the Deputy Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Colonel Mark Knight MBE and Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Cllr Chris Seaton (left) at the official opening of the redeveloped March Railway Station with Simone Bailey, Greater Anglia’s Asset Management Director; the Deputy Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Colonel Mark Knight MBE and Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Besides being a ward member for Leverington and Wisbech Rural, he is also the portfolio holder for transport, heritage, and culture – and overseeing the Wisbech High Street regeneration project.

Turning to council leader Chris Boden he asked: “Just one question, which I probably should know the answer to chairman, but could you tell me who is Iain Kirkbright?”.

Mr Kirkbright was announced at the meeting as the chair-elect of the Wisbech Town Board.

“Iain Kirkbright is the individual whom we are proposing should be the chair of the new board and I think it’d be better for me to allow one of the Wisbech members to explain who he is when they get the opportunity to speak during the debate if you don’t mind,” said Cllr Boden.

An explanation came later from Cllr Steve Tierney.

“Would it be okay if I just explain what I know about the gentleman who was chosen to be the chairman?” he began.

Wisbech Town Council is not supportive of a town-wide approach to the implementation of 20 mph speed limits, as opposed to small areas (such as in the immediate facility of schools), it has decided that it will not be submitting an application.

Steve Tierney (right) 

“So, I wouldn’t say that that we’re close friends or anything like that.  I’ve known him over the years a few times through my work as a councillor because on a number of occasions I’ve been approached by him just because he’s seen something the council is doing and he said, ‘how can I help’?

“He’s local and runs the Sun Lounger travel agent which has shops in Wisbech and King’s Lynn and elsewhere and employs quite a lot of staff.

Wisbech Town Council hold an awards ceremony for the town’s ‘Unsung Heroes Awards’, and this year Sunlounger won ‘Best Business’ award.

Wisbech Town Council hold an awards ceremony for the town’s ‘Unsung Heroes Awards’, and this year Sun Lounger won ‘Best Business’ award.

“But that’s not his only business; he also has expertise in IT and in communications and tourism, so these are all areas where I think there is some value, but I’ve always been impressed with because he just is always willing to help and engage.

“He doesn’t isolate himself in this business and focus only on that but rather he looks outwards – how can help the town and of course when the business helps the town the business improves everything is good for everyone. It’s a good attitude to have.

“As far as I can tell from the times I’ve engaged with him he’s bright, he’s communicative he’s quite young -not that I have a problem with what age he would be – but that’s one of his assets.

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https://travelweekly.co.uk/news/travel-agents/sunlounger-travel-seeks-up-to-25-branches-as-third-set-to-open

“And he’s just willing to get out there and get involved I think he’s got the right traits to be the chairman of this board and I was pleased when he was chosen and I’m sure he’ll be great at that.”

Mr Medd made changes to a report agreed by Cabinet following an intervention by Mr Moir by excluding the word ‘Fenland’ from his interpretation of earlier guidance which said local councillors

Fundamentally Cabinet agreed it was up to them to make any appointment to the board they saw fit, including that of the chairman. It would be for the chairman to determine any future candidates for membership.

Ms Adefenhinti has opted to disagree.

“Making appointments to outside bodies is the responsibility of the CAPCA Board,” she says.

“An outside body is either an incorporated or an unincorporated body which is not part of the CAPCA’s own governance structure but whose work helps in some way towards fulfilling the CAPCA’s own responsibilities and/or improving community life in the area of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

“The term embraces a diverse range of organisational purposes and structures.

(Meeting details below)

https://cambridgeshirepeterboroughcagov.cmis.uk.com/Meetings/tabid/70/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/397/Meeting/2244/Committee/63/SelectedTab/Documents/Default.aspx

“Outside bodies are categorised as either strategic, locality / ward-based, or general in nature. Members appointed by the CAPCA Board to an outside body will, when sitting on that body, often have duties to the organisation which take precedence over their duties to the CAPCA. This will depend on the type of organisation on which they serve.

“Members will therefore wish to consider at any time when it appears that the organisation’s interests may conflict with the CAPCA’s interests, whether that conflict prevents them from taking part in decision making either at the organisation’s meeting or at the CAPCA’s meeting.”

Ms Adefenhinti says the Wisbech Town Board is made up of several key partners across Wisbech, Fenland and the Wider Cambridgeshire area.

With a focus on local knowledge and experience at the heart of the board, the board is made up of a private sector chair, local political leaders, local community leaders and local business leaders, she says.

She explains it will shape and manage a 10-year plan to allocate and deliver projects in line with the Government guidance to invest £20m.

One of the surprise interventions in the escalating disagreements between the county council, CAPCA, and Fenland District Council has been that of Jacob Young, Minister for Levelling Up.

Letter from Jacob Young, Levelling Up Minister, to Steve Barclay

On May 21 he wrote to Steve Barclay – at the time of course MP for NE Cambs and if re-elected will become a member of the Wisbech Town Board.

But the only copy of that letter, seemingly, in the public domain is that shared by a former Lib Dem, now independent councillor, for Over and Willingham.

Cllr Dan Lentell published a copy of the letter – with no acknowledgement of how he had received it – claiming Mr Moir had no right to get involved in a “party political turf battle”.

Mr Young explained in his letter that it was up to the chair of the Wisbech Town Board to determine membership – and for him to invite one representative from each tier of local government.

“A local authority may support the chair in appointing members; however, the final decision and responsibility, lie with the chair.”

Fenland District Council did not disclose the appointments process that determined the chair.

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