Prospective Peterborough City Council leader hints that city could leave the Combined Authority

“There are questions being asked, such as what is the point of the Combined Authority?

By Ben Jones
Friday, 20th May 2022, 1:28 pm
Updated Friday, 20th May 2022, 1:41 pm
Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald.
Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald.

Conservative Group Leader and likely continuing Leader of Peterborough City Council, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald has suggested that the city could look to leave the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

Cllr Fitzgerald’s comments came in the wake of his removal as Deputy Leader of the authority yesterday (May 19).

He was removed by current Labour and Co-operative Mayor Nik Johnson, who replaced previous Conservative Mayor James Palmer in a shock result in 2021, but who himself has faced calls to resign over allegations of misconduct.

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Cllr Fitzgerald was one of the movers of the motion against Dr Johnson and would have been in line to chair today’s (May 20) extraordinary meeting in which the Mayor’s resignation had been demanded.

Instead, his departure is the latest in a week of upheaval at the authority, which has also seen the resignations of its chief executive Eileen Milner, who only took up her £200,000 a year job in January , and the resignation of the Chair of the authority’s Business Board, Austen Adams.

Cllr Fitzgerald has called the decision “divisive and disgraceful” and has now cast doubt on Peterborough remaining within the authority.

Speaking to Radio Cambridgeshire, Cllr Fitzgerald said: “I’m considering that Peterborough will pull out of the Combined Authority. We may look to say, we don’t want anything to do with it and we will plough our own furrow.

“There are questions being asked, such as what is the point of the Combined Authority? When it’s missing opportunities.

“I would certainly be asking for advice on withdrawing, and asking members of the group. I’m not saying that would be the case but I’m saying it’s worth asking the question. I was in from the outset and was one of the people, along with John Holdich and other colleagues, who helped set this up and I remember how we got to where we got. One of the questions I asked is, what it the exit route?”

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority was established in 2017 and is controlled by a board, led by a directly elected mayor an appointed deputy, the chair of the Business Board and the leaders of the seven constituent councils: Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Fenland District Council, Huntingdonshire District Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council and Peterborough City Council. Along with co-opted members: the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Police & Crime Commissioner and representatives from the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Fire Authority and the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group.

The body is tasked with given responsibility over a local economic growth budget, a housing budget, transport and infrastructure links, provision of skills training and apprenticeships, health and social care services.

The new ARU Peterborough University has been backed by £12.3 million of capital investment funding from the Combined Authority. The authority has also provided funding for several other projects in the city, including grants for the new Great Haddon development.

Cllr Fitzgerald, who looks almost certain to retain the leadership of PCC after opposition parties confirmed there would be no rainbow coalition, has insisted though that in the wake of these developments, that he would discuss with his group the possibility of leaving the authority.

He added: “You should always have an exit route and if we can’t get where we’re going or if it’s such a basket case, which I believe it is at the moment, and most people who know what’s going on would agree with that, we need to think long and hard about what role we have to play in that.”

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