A proposed major restructure of staff at Peterborough and Cambridgeshire’s mayoral authority has been called-in.
The budget for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority is expected to be reduced from £6.3 million to £4.5 million, a reduction of 29 per cent, but there has been criticism that more money is set to be spent in the mayor’s office.
The Peterborough Telegraph understands that at least two members of the combined authority’s scrutiny committee have now called-in the proposals so they can be looked at in more detail, while the office of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor James Palmer said it too understood the restructure had been called-in.
There have been claims the new staffing structure - which has not yet been shared with the public - does not include a director of finance or transport, despite the combined authority having a major transport portfolio in the county.
However, the office of Mayor Palmer has this evening moved to clarify the situation.
A spokesman said there will be three top-level ‘strategic directors’, one of whom will have responsibility for transport.
There will still be a finance officer at the combined authority, he added, but they will sit on a tier below the strategic directors.
The combined authority is currently on its sixth chief financial officer in just two years.
The spokesman said: “I understand this has been called-in the scrutiny committee which is their right. Scrutiny is there to scrutinise.
“Comparison has been done with other combined authorities, and what’s quite interesting is hardly any have strategic directors of finance.
“The plans do suggest a slight strengthening of the size of the mayor’s office, but not dramatically. The mayor’s office in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is smaller than for other metro mayors, other than one.
“The mayor feels he needs to have adequate support within his office.
“But the reduction in staffing from £6.3 million to £4.5 million should be welcomed.”
Plans for the mayor’s office include adding to the communications team, as currently there is only person performing that role, although the combined authority also has its own communications staff.
The staffing review was ordered by Mayor Palmer and carried out by interim chief executives John Hill and Kim Sawyer as there were concerns staffing costs were too high.
Mayor Palmer had initially promised the authority could be run for as little as £850,000, a figure far below the current total.
However, the mayor said under the new proposals the combined authority would only be spending £2.7 million on “core staffing costs”, with the rest of the budget spent on new responsibilities it has taken on.
Scrutiny committee member and Peterborough city councillor Ed Murphy said: “There is an increased amount of money going to political positions and in my view far too much is being spent on staff and consultants.
“Far better use could be made of partner organisations such as government offices, agencies and our local authorities.
“We seem to be getting tangled up in governance and politics. Essentially, all we need is a programme that can be agreed and the delivery team established to deliver it.”
Chair of the scrutiny committee Lucy Nethsingha said: “There are a number of issues I feel need scrutiny. One important one is that they are changing the whole staffing structure with no chief exec in place, and I would have thought the skills of the incoming chief exec would have a bearing on the skills and roles of the rest of the senior team.
“I also have some questions about an increase in the number of political appointees.”
A round of consultation with staff who will be affected will take place before any changes can be implemented.
The proposals were discussed at Wednesday’s Employment Committee where press and public were excluded.
Mayor Palmer said: “Since being elected mayor it has been by ambition to keep staffing costs down to a minimum whilst also ensuring that the organisation has the staffing capacity necessary to deliver upon our key priorities.
“I’ve made clear that at £6.3 million I believed that the staffing bill was too high and, following the departure of the previous chief executive, I immediately instructed the interim chief executives to carry out a thorough staffing review exploring all opportunities that exist to make savings whilst also ensuring that we have the staffing capacity we need to deliver an ambitious programme.
“Understandably the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough want to know that staffing costs are fully under control and that the combined authority is being prudent with public money.
“I also believe that the vast majority of the people of our county want us to be successful in achieving our goals. Goals that, if achieved, would be transformational for the area in which we live.
“If these proposals are confirmed following the upcoming consultation round then the total staffing bill becomes £4.5 million. I must point out that this figure includes the £1.8 million we’ve been given from Government to take on the responsibilities of the former LEP and new responsibilities relating to the devolution of the adult education budget and energy.
“This means that in terms of existing core CA staffing costs, if these proposals are confirmed we’re looking at a staffing budget of £2.7 million.”