Connect with us

News

Political infighting holds back Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority

Minister clearly aware of the antipathy towards Mayor Dr Nik Johnson held by Conservative district council leaders

Avatar photo

Published

on

The Government has given its strongest hint yet that it remains unhappy with political infighting at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA). It has decided to extend by six months a ‘best value notice’ issued a year ago to try and keep the Combined Authority on an even keel.

Simon Hoare, appointed in the November 2023 cabinet reshuffle as minister for local government, called today for the Combined Authority board “to develop the strategic priorities and aspirations for the area that will benefit local residents, and a credible delivery strategy for progressing these”.

He said: “We hope that this can be achieved through consensus but, if not all stakeholders are ready to fully engage, the opportunity should be left open for them to do so when they feel ready to.

“This work is also important in informing CAPCA’s approach to further devolution.”

The minister is clearly aware of the antipathy towards Mayor Dr Nik Johnson held by Conservative district council leaders Anna Bailey (East Cambs) and Chris Boden (Fenland), and the views of former Peterborough City Council leader Wayne Fitzgerald.

And he is likely also to be aware that only recently CAPCA revealed there are four outstanding code of conduct complaints – all involving board members.

The minister says he acknowledges the steps CAPCA has taken to address the serious issues at the authority since, including “constructive engagement with both the independent improvement board and the department over the last twelve months.

“We recognise the authority’s progress in delivering its agreed improvement plan, which has included making permanent appointments to the senior leadership team in a robust and timely manner. The benefits of a strengthened senior officer team are reflected in the progress made against the improvement plan”.

Recognising that the code of conduct investigation into Mayor Dr Johnson was not concluded quickly, “we note that it now has been and is an important milestone for the authority.

“However, as you know, embedding cultural change across the organisation and ensuring that it is having the desired, long-term impacts is likely to take time and will require sustained effort from both officers and, indeed, members at CAPCA.

“Further, the department remains concerned that, despite efforts made, more work is needed to ensure effective partnership working between all levels of the Combined Authority and its constituent authorities, to enable the area to achieve its full potential”.

He said that whilst the improvement board “continues to draw assurance from the work of the officer team within [CAPCA], this needs to be matched by the actions of the [Combined Authority] Board itself.”

“Ministers remain concerned as to CAPCA’s capacity to comply with its Best Value Duty under the Local Government Act 1999”.

He told CAPCA they must continue to engage regularly with the department at official level and the Government would be looking to the improvement board and their external auditor for updates and assurance that the necessary changes are being made at sufficient pace.

“Whilst the authority may continue to receive and be awarded government funding whilst under this notice, we would emphasise that receipt of funding does not indicate the department’s broader view of the performance of the authority, nor would it indicate any change in the status of this notice, with individual funding programmes being managed and assured independently by their respective departments,” he said.

“This notice will remain in place for 6 months, after which time, should the department deem it necessary to continue to seek assurance through such a notice, a further notice will be issued.

“The notice may be withdrawn or escalated at any point based on the available evidence.”

CAPCA was warned that “a failure to demonstrate continuous improvement may be judged to contribute to best value failure and the Secretary of State will consider using these powers as appropriate.

“It is important to ensure transparency in relation to the challenges faced by local authorities and the department’s engagement on these”.

The letter to CAPCA was signed by Max Soule, Deputy Director, Local Government Stewardship.

Commenting on the revised best value notice, Rob Bridge, Cambridgeshire, and Peterborough Combined Authority chief executive, said: “The revised best value notice acknowledges the progress the Combined Authority has made and continues to make since January 2023.

“This progress includes being the first Combined Authority to adopt, following approval from DLUHC, a Single Assurance Framework, adopting a new member officer protocol, the transformation of our procurement function and making permanent appointments to the senior leadership team.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank the staff at the Combined Authority, who’s hard work has made this progress possible.

“There is of course still more work for us to do and I look forward to working in partnership with our constituent councils and the independent improvement board to continue to deliver for the businesses and communities of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow said: “The Department of Local Government still thinks the Labour mayor and the Combined Authority are failing to deliver value for money and are failing to deliver vital services.

“It remains on a watch list for a further 6 months. The Government have given the Combined Authority money, but there is little confidence that it is spent well.”

FOOTNOTE: The revised Best Value Notice replaces the notice issued by DLUHC on 24th January 2023 and can be found here 

Facebook

Read More

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial., Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris. Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial., Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.
News10 mins ago

VIDEO: Eastrea commemorates 80th anniversary of Lancaster bomber crash

Cllr Barry Wainwright organised the memorial tribute and led today’s proceedings

Police uncovered thousands of pounds worth of drugs and cash after they carried out a warrant at Jack Defraine’s former home in Sparrow Road, Hampton Vale Police uncovered thousands of pounds worth of drugs and cash after they carried out a warrant at Jack Defraine’s former home in Sparrow Road, Hampton Vale
Crime2 hours ago

£20k haul of cash and drugs found in drug dealer’s Peterborough home

Jack Defraine appeared at Cambridge Crown Court today (Friday)

Cllr Ross Trent (above) said he had been encouraged to put himself forward to join Christine Whelan and Christine Colbert as part of the Lib Dem district council team. Cllr Ross Trent (above) said he had been encouraged to put himself forward to join Christine Whelan and Christine Colbert as part of the Lib Dem district council team.
News9 hours ago

Liberal Democrats win by elections in Ely for city and district councils

The by election was caused by the resignation of Rob Pitt as both city and district councillor

The row broke after John Holdich gave an interview to the Local Democracy Reporting Service in which he revealed he had left the Conservative Party and had done so in 2022 The row broke after John Holdich gave an interview to the Local Democracy Reporting Service in which he revealed he had left the Conservative Party and had done so in 2022
News1 day ago

Wayne Fitzgerald’s bruising attack on John Holdich for ‘backing these traitors but not unexpected knowing the man he is’

'Difficult decisions had to be made which John Holdich had dodged for years'

LPUK (Little People UK) Convention 2018, Marriott hotel, Leicester Saturday 25 August 2018. Picture by Terry Harris. LPUK (Little People UK) Convention 2018, Marriott hotel, Leicester Saturday 25 August 2018. Picture by Terry Harris.
News1 day ago

Cambridgeshire Star Wars actor Warwick Davis mourns death of beloved wife Samantha

In 2018 Samantha received the Points of Light award from Prime Minister Theresa May

Two potential victims of modern slavery have been safeguarded as a cannabis factory worth more than £1.5million was seized in Graveley. Two potential victims of modern slavery have been safeguarded as a cannabis factory worth more than £1.5million was seized in Graveley.
News1 day ago

Modern slavery victims found locked inside Cambridgeshire farm during £1.5m cannabis factory raid

Police seized 1,845 cannabis plants from an outbuilding worth £1.5m

News1 day ago

Peterborough City Council slaps temporary tree preservation order on ‘devastated’ Gunthorpe site

The city council has set a deadline of May 15 for all representations.

Brian Johnson won a dispute with East Cambridgeshire District Council to use the study of the family home at Fordham Road, Soham to be used as a dog grooming parlour Brian Johnson won a dispute with East Cambridgeshire District Council to use the study of the family home at Fordham Road, Soham to be used as a dog grooming parlour
News2 days ago

Homeowner wins appeal against East Cambs Council to open dog grooming business

'The appeal is allowed, and planning permission is granted for a change of use'

Unfortunate – the untold story of Ursula the sea witch – is on at New Theatre, Peterborough, until Saturday April 20. It stars Shawna Hamic Unfortunate – the untold story of Ursula the sea witch – is on at New Theatre, Peterborough, until Saturday April 20. It stars Shawna Hamic
News2 days ago

REVIEW: ‘Diabolically outrageous high energy turbo charged queerness’

Shawna Hamic is Ursula the sea witch and is simply majestic

Teenage boy, 13, took this Audi from his home and crashed it into a garden wall in Crockfords Road, Newmarket, on Monday morning. Teenage boy, 13, took this Audi from his home and crashed it into a garden wall in Crockfords Road, Newmarket, on Monday morning.
News2 days ago

13-year-old boy ‘borrows’ family’s £35,000 Audi estate and crashes into wall

Teenager arrested on suspicion of aggravated vehicle taking