Peterborough metro mayor received £11k legal advice before agreeing £94k payout to former chief executive

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Peterborough’s metro mayor received legal advice worth more than £11,000 before agreeing a £94,500 payout to the mayoral authority’s former chief executive.

Martin Whiteley resigned from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CA) in August, where he was on a salary of £182,000 a year.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor James Palmer with Martin Whiteley

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor James Palmer with Martin Whiteley

The payout worth more than six months of his annual salary was solely agreed by Mayor James Palmer, leader of the CA, after he sought independent legal advice.

Interviewed last week, Mr Palmer said the public did not care about the severance payment and that he did not know how much the legal advice had cost.

Now, after being questioned by the Peterborough Telegraph, the CA has revealed the cost was £11,202 plus VAT, which was paid for by the public body.

The legal advice came from Trowers and Hamlins, an international law firm.

The CA 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.

Last week it agreed to fund a new bypass at King’s Dyke to speed up traffic between Peterborough and Whittlesey, and to progress plans to fully dual the A47 in the county.

The PT recently revealed that 13 people at the CA will receive £80,000 or more this year, including eight consultants.

The CA has been criticised for adding an extra tier of local government in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, where there are already two unitary authorities and several district councils.

The PT has now discovered that in the first six months of the current financial year the split of staffing costs at the CA was 40 per cent on admin and management and 60 per cent on programme delivery.

The PT asked to find out how much has been spent on both, with a spokeswoman for the CA responding: “The half-year position on spending will be reported fully to the November board and in the public arena on November 21. This will cover all revenue and capital expenditure that has been incurred.”

Mayor Palmer, who was Conservative leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council before being elected as the county’s first ever metro mayor in May 2017, has previously stated that the CA is “committed to being a lean authority”.

Asked if spending 40 per cent of staff costs on admin and management was a good use of taxpayers’ money, the spokeswoman replied: “It’s our duty to represent good value to the taxpayer.

“We also need the capacity to deliver a programme of work that will make a positive impact in our region. This means having a staffing structure with the skills and expertise to deliver large scale complex projects across our diverse portfolio.”

Peterborough City Council Ed Murphy, who is on the CA’s scrutiny committee, said: “This is a shocking waste of public funds. Funds should be used for programme delivery.”

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