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Lord Kerslake steps down as chair of CAPCA improvement broad

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Ill health has forced Lord Robert Kerslake to step down as chair of the improvement board at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA).

His resignation, with immediate effect, will be announced at tomorrow’s CAPCA board meeting.

Angela Probert, interim director of transformation programme, says in a report to the board: “Unfortunately, because of ill health, Lord Kerslake has needed to step down as chair with immediate effect.

“All stakeholders have been advised and discussions are taking place with the Local Government Authority regarding potential replacements. In the meantime, Julie Spence, deputy chair, will take the lead.

“Our thoughts are with Lord Kerslake at this time.”

Ms Spence is also chair of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation and was previously chief constable for Cambridgeshire.

Other members of the improvement board are:

Anne Shaw – independent external member. Ms Shaw is executive director for Transport for West Midlands

Three independent peer councillors:

Ruth Dombey (Lib Dem), leader, Sutton Council

Toby Savage (Con), leader, South Gloucestershire Council

Elise Wilson, Labour Group Leader, Stockport MBC

The Independent Improvement Board was set up last October “to provide challenge and support to the Improvement Framework report presented to the Combined Authority Board back in July”.

Lord Kerslake, former Head of the Civil Service, and vice president of the Local Government Association, agreed to be its first chair.

Ms Probert will tell the board that the initial phase of improvement activity was focused on basic governance and operational issues and an ambitious timeframe of three months identified.

In the meantime, Julie Spence, deputy chair, will take the lead.

In the meantime, Julie Spence, deputy chair, will take the lead.

“A considerable amount of work has gone into the improvement activity undertaken so far – and a lot has been delivered,” she says.

A new governance framework is due for agreement tomorrow to ratify many of the improvements agreed.

The Government and the external auditor had both acknowledged “the progress underway and also reiterate the improvements required; that we are already aware of; and are addressing.

“This will inevitably mean a further level of scrutiny and activity. We have taken time to learn from our approach so far; and this, alongside existing areas of improvement that require our continued focus, will inform the next phase of the improvement activity”.

One of the issues Ms Probert refers to is the ongoing investigation into allegations made against Mayor Dr Nik Johnson and followed the resignation of former chief executive Eileen Milner.

“An independent investigation was commissioned and commenced in May 2022,” she says.

Equivalent of standards committee

“When the investigators submit their report there will be consideration by a panel of the audit and governance committee. This is the equivalent of a standards committee in local authorities. “Training has already been given to the committee in anticipation of the need to fulfil that role”

CAPCA is also about to unveil its new chief executive – the name will be announced once he or she has told colleagues in their existing role.

“The staff structures for the chief executive’s policy and executive office are in place and recruitment substantially completed,” says Ms Probert’s report.

“This includes provision of support for the mayor.”

 

Meeting with Anthony Browne MP for South Cambridgeshire to chat about plans for the region, including #transport and the #environment. “Great to hear how keen he is to co-operate with me on these, and other issues,” said Mayor Dr Nik Johnson.

She also notes a “period of stability in the workforce” with the vacancy percentage in February 2023 of 5.7 pc compared to 13.5 pc last September.

Annualised turnover for period March 2022 to February 2023 was 29.09% compared to 36.65% January 2022 to Dec 2022.

Ms Probert’s report explains the need for improvement to be “comprehensive and robust. This meant that although pace and change are required, improvements need to, put colloquially, be done properly.

“Therefore, much of the focus of the first phase of improvements is putting in place the building blocks required to enable the step change in delivery, culture, behaviour etc.

Poor track record

“The second was the need to respond to the fact that, in the eyes of Government, CAPCA had a poor track record of improvement over its life and therefore the approach to the proposed activity needs to be both comprehensive in content and credible in the eyes of external stakeholders; with a clear programme structure and scheduled monthly reporting on progress”.

She says a key new approach has been the involvement of the chief executives of the constituent authorities, working alongside the senior staff of the Combined Authority.

“The approach to improvement activity has been new for the Combined Authority following the previous poor track record of delivery,” she says.

“Ownership of improvement activity has been held by the executive team collectively, with individuals taking a lead on improvement areas; working with colleagues to ensure dependencies are understood and issues resolved.

“The engagement and involvement of constituent chief executives across all six themes has provided broader learning and challenge. Their contribution has been very much valued and impactful.”

CAPCA agreed to spend up to £750k in July 2022 “to support the scope, development and delivery of work relating to improvement activity”.

 

 

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