Opinion: ‘Why I believe our Combined Authority Mayor is in trouble’

Nik Johnson is a man in trouble. The Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough is beset by resignations, investigations, and formal warning letters from the auditors, writes Peterborough MP Paul Bristow.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 8th July 2022, 10:11 am
Updated Friday, 8th July 2022, 10:11 am
Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

An independent report found “truly dreadful things”, according to the Leader of Fenland District Council. The details remain confidential for now, but we are beginning to know some of the facts about Nik Johnson’s time in charge. We know his chief executive resigned with a payoff, having only joined in October 2021. We know that 3 of the 5 most senior posts at the CPCA are now vacant.

We know that Ernst & Young has warned of “pervasive” weakness, failures in governance and "employment-related claims". So we know that the CPCA is in crisis. The authority is the accountable body for Net Zero Hub projects across the whole of the South East. That put Nik Johnson in the lead for spending from Hampshire to Kent, and from London to Peterborough. For this reason, the Government handed him £80m for energy projects and £118mn for sustainable warmth projects – more than double what anyone else got. This should have meant cheaper bills and warmer homes here in Peterborough. He’s had the money for months. It was his chance to make a difference. So of that whopping sum of £198m, how much has he used? Staggeringly, the answer is less than £6m. In fact, Nik Johnson has written a letter to the Government, begging for another extension to the deadline for spending it. I’m told that because of his “poor delivery performance and assurance processes”, the Mayor’s request has been refused. It would break HM Treasury rules. It gets worse. The Government doesn’t even believe he has the “capability or capacity” to deliver because the hub has spent nothing on home improvements so far. Thousands of homes in Peterborough will lose out as a result. The Government have now paused new funding streams for CPCA because he is unable to deliver. Not so in Cambridge. The Cambridgeshire district councils put their own bid together for sustainable warmth funding and got just over £6 million. Unlike homes in Peterborough, they will get their improvements because they bypassed our failing Mayor. Cambridge City Council led their bid and obviously knew the Mayor well enough not to trust him. It takes Labour to know Labour.

I’m told that the Government has already received formal complaints from four different councils about the CPCA-run hub. More complaints are likely when other councils find out what our Mayor has done – and the amount of money he’ll be returning unspent. It really is a scandal. A scandal covering a third of a national funding pot and a fifth of the country. Quite simply, he is not up to the job.​​​​​​​