Business chief backs calls for independent review into Peterborough and Cambridgeshire's mayoral authority

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The chief executive of the Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce has backed calls for an independent review into the Peterborough and Cambridgeshire mayoral authority.

John Bridge said the Chambers of Commerce will be writing to Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire calling for a full and immediate inquiry into the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CA), which is headed by Mayor James Palmer.

Mayor James Palmer

Mayor James Palmer

Mr Bridge’s remarks follow calls from CA cabinet members Cllr Lewis Herbert (Labour) and Cllr Bridget Smith (Liberal Democrat) for an independent review after querying the number of interims at the authority and the sudden departure of chief executive Martin Whiteley.

Cllrs Herbert and Smith, who are the only two non-Conservative politicians at the CA, have alleged that evidence of Mr Whiteley’s departure “points to it being a dismissal by the mayor,” but this has been robustly denied by Mayor Palmer who insists Mr Whiteley resigned.

Mr Bridge’s main concern revolves around the new Business Board which has replaced the county's Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The LEP was wound up in the wake of criticism by the National Audit Office about a lack of transparency and poor decision-making. It was then replaced by the Business Board which is now run through the CA.

John Bridge

John Bridge

The Chambers of Commerce said in a media release: “Increasingly concerns are being raised over the transparency of the governance arrangements of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and the newly formed Business Board which has been declared as the Local Enterprise Partnership covering the economic geographical area significantly larger than the existing Combined Authority area.”

Mr Bridge himself said: “We are writing to James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government), to raise our significant concerns into the new Business Board governance arrangements and requesting a full independent public inquiry into this and other key issues as demanded by board members of the Combined Authority.”

Responding to Mr Bridge, Mayor Palmer said: “John Bridge was a senior member of the failed Greater Cambridge, Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (GCGP LEP) so I question how he feels he can speak with any kind of authority about the leadership and governance of the Combined Authority and Business Board.

"These sorts of comments may make headlines, but my focus is on delivering on my election promises to the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

“I do not agree with the need for an external review, and in the meantime our work continues at pace.

“Indeed, the new, fully-formed Business Board was launched on Monday, which was founded following the collapse of the former LEP.

“The new Board features some of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s finest business leaders, who employ tens of thousands of people and are spearheading the growth of our economy. These talented people will help set the agenda for how we can represent and support our business community to continue to thrive.

“The Business Board will succeed in enhancing our local economy where the GCGP LEP failed.”

The newly launched Business Board includes members:

. Austen Adams - Stainless Metalcraft/Peter Brotherhood

. Douglass Cuff - BioMed Realty

. William Haire - East of England Agricultural Society

. Aamir Khalid - The Welding Institute

. Mark Dorsett - Perkins Engines/Caterpillar UK

. Andy Neely - University of Cambridge

. Tina Barsby - NIAB.

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