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Combined Authority in ‘meltdown’ but metro mayor determined to stay despite resignation calls

The Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA), Dr Nik Johnson has said he is determined to stay in his job, despite repeated calls for his resignation.
Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald has bis calling for the mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Dr Nik Johnson to resign

The leader of Peterborough City Council, councillor Wayne Fitzgerald described the situation at the CPCA “in total meltdown”.

Speaking at the CPCA Extraordinary Board Meeting, Mr Fitzgerald said that metro mayor Johnson should “consider stepping down and resigning” because “he is not fit and able to do the job as mayor of the authority.”

He has recently faced calls from some authority members for him to stand down while investigations into unspecified matters took place.

External auditors of the CPCA, Ernst and Young, have now written a letter in which they “have identified a significant weakness in the CPCA’s governance arrangements.”

The letter, written by Associate Partner at EY, Mark Hodgson says: “We have commenced our audit work for the financial year ending 31 March 2022, and we believe this weakness is pervasive as it could lead to a significant impact on the quality or effectiveness of services or on its reputation and could expose the authority to financial risk or loss.”

Reconvening the CPCA Extraordinary Board Meeting in Huntingdon (8 June) the press and public were excluded for more than five hours while confidential matters were discussed.

Mayor Johnson then went on to make an impassioned speech in which he made it very clear he has no intention of resigning, and that he is in fact very proud to be mayor of the CPCA and will continue to do the job to the best of his ability.

The mayor also announced that councillor Wayne Fitzgerald – who had been removed from his position as deputy mayor of the CPCA two weeks ago – would also be losing his role as Chair of the Governance Committee, and that mayor Johnson himself would take up the chairman’s role.

Councillor Fitzgerald argued that it was simply the latest tactic from Mayor Johnson to remove councillor Fitzgerald from a position where he could challenge the decisions being made and stated that the mayor didn’t inform him in advance of the decision made at the meeting.

Mayor Johnson also announced that interim-deputy mayor, councillor Louis Herbert (who had replaced councillor Fitzgerald as deputy mayor on 20 May) would be standing down after just two weeks in the post, and that the position would be taken up by the Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, councillor Lucy Nethsingha.

The meeting saw the approval of the chairs of committees with mayor Johnson chairing several of them.

Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, councillor Anna Bailey said during the AGM: “There are at least 26 members of staff who have resigned their positions and many, many more that we know of who are in the process of quitting because they simply cannot work with this Mayor.”

“I am appalled every time I sit at one of these meetings at the way in which this authority is being conducted, and if we are not careful, central government will step in and put an end to it if we don’t get our act together.”

A third and final reconvening of the meeting will conclude the AGM, and that will take place at a date, and a place as yet undetermined.

By Rob Alexander

Local Democracy Reporting Service