Interims chief execs at Peterborough’s mayoral authority to be made permanent - nine months after predecessor left

Mayor James Palmer
Mayor James Palmer
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The interim chief executives at Peterborough’s mayoral authority are set to be given the roles full-time - nine months after their predecessor left.

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Board will be recommended to appoint Kim Sawyer and John Hill as permanent joint chief executives when it meets on May 29.

The last person to hold the role full-time Martin Whiteley, who was on a salary of £182,000 a year, left suddenly in August last year, with board members unaware of his departure.

It was later revealed Mr Whiteley received a payout of £94,500 which was solely agreed by Mayor James Palmer, leader of the combined authority, after he sought independent legal advice which cost more than £11,000.

Since then Mr Hill, chief executive of East Cambridgeshire District Council, and Mrs Sawyer, who was formerly legal counsel and monitoring officer at the combined authority, have been carrying out the role as interims.

Back in March it was agreed by the combined authority board that their time as interims would be extended until later this month after the recruitment process, which saw 20 candidates, failed to find a candidate which the Employment Committee would recommend.

The mayoral body began in March 2017 as part of a devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, with the taxpayer-funded organisation given responsibility for major infrastructure and housing projects including the new University of Peterborough.

Mayor Palmer has today (Thursday) expressed his support for Mr Hill and Mrs Sawyer to carry on as chief executives permanently, highlighting a root and branch review and restructure of the organisation which he said has delivered £1.8 million of savings to the staff budget.

Mayor Palmer, who was formerly leader at East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “I support without reservation the recommendation to make the current interim joint chief executive arrangement permanent.

“What the combined authority needs now is stability, continuity and a focus on delivery, with just two years left of the mayoral term. We have an organisation which is now better geared to the delivery of our priority projects and I don’t believe we can now agree to disrupt this momentum once again by going out to recruitment.

“To restart the recruitment process would result in a wait of many months before being able to appoint, and then there would be a period of bedding in. This is time I don’t believe we can afford.

“We have the right people for the job already. I have worked very effectively with Kim, who has been at the authority since I was elected, and I have a successful working relationship with John, which dates back to my time as leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council.

“Similarly, in that time, we worked together on a wholesale review and restructure of the authority, which led to a much leaner organisation, with clear goals and with success measured by performance and outcomes.

“The root and branch review work that Kim and John were tasked with and have undertaken in a relatively short space of time has delivered exceptional results. It was clear the staffing budget had grown far too high under the previous chief executive and their work has found £1.8 million in savings for 2019/20.”

Mrs Sawyer, who used to be director of governance at Peterborough City Council, and Mr Hill, would be employed as joint chief executives, with Mr Hill being seconded from East Cambridgeshire District Council.

The arrangement would be reviewed on May 31, 2021 to coincide with the mayoral elections.

The combined authority said the appointment of the joint chief executives would “generate an estimated annual net saving of £62,000 over the appointment of a permanent chief executive”.

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