More transparency emerging at Peterborough’s mayoral authority, councillors believe

Cllr Lucy Nethsingha
Cllr Lucy Nethsingha
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There are hopes of a more open and transparent environment at Peterborough and Cambridgeshire’s mayoral authority after local government leaders wrote an “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” letter voicing their concerns.

The letter, which expresses worries from chief executives of local councils, the police and the local clinical commissioning group about a lack of transparency, was sent to then chief executive Martin Whiteley on the same week he handed in his resignation.

The intervention was branded “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” by Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, chairwoman of the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee.

On October 29 the scrutiny committee met to discuss the letter and its implications.

Cllr Nethsingha said: “There are questions raised by this letter about the relationship between the combined authority and other local authorities.”

Cllr Mike Sargeant said it needed to be clear that the combined authority was bringing more power to local politicians, rather than taking it away. If local authorities ended up with less power, he said, it could be “disastrous” for local democracy.

Cllr Sargeant said: “The devolution deal was meant to bring down powers from government, not remove power from local people in local authorities.

“If we do have local authorities working in a different way from the combined authority, and people are not working with it, we are in a disastrous situation.”

The committee was assured that the authority was changing and that there was an acknowledgement it needed to be more transparent and open.

Kim Sawyer, joint interim chief executive of the combined authority, said a lot was changing within the organisation. Ms Sawyer, who took on her role following the departure of Mr Whiteley during the summer, said she hopes they are now “heading in the right direction”.

“Now I think we are on the right path,” said Cllr Sargeant. “It is up to the overview and scrutiny committee to make sure the combined authority is engaging in the right way.”

Cllr Sargeant added: “I thought (the combined authority) is starting to make progress from the feedback we got today from officers and they are acknowledging where there is work to do.

“Hopefully we can see a more transparent approach and we can get away from FOIs (Freedom of Information requests).”

Josh Thomas, Local Democracy Reporting Service