Why has Peterborough’s Mayoral authority had such a large turnover of senior staff in just 2 years?

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor James Palmer with Martin Whiteley
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor James Palmer with Martin Whiteley
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Peterborough’s mayoral authority has had 12 people run five of its most senior roles since its inception a little under two years ago.

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CA) was created in March 2017 to deliver major transport and infrastructure projects across the county, but lately it has been in the news for its turnover of senior staff.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor James Palmer with Martin Whiteley

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor James Palmer with Martin Whiteley

The latest development last Friday saw the sacking of the fifth person to hold the role of chief finance officer after he was accused of making “misleading” statements about the funding of major projects at a scrutiny meeting four days earlier.

Karl Fenlon, who had filled the role on an interim basis, had cast doubt on whether the University of Peterborough could be achieved within the authority’s budget.

Mr Palmer, who has denied the university project is at risk, said he had to “have faith” in his officers and that this had not been the case with Mr Fenlon.

But his dismissal angered councillors on the authority’s audit and accounts committee, with one, Cllr Antony Mason, saying he was “gobsmacked” and “disturbed” when he heard the news.

Karl Fenlon

Karl Fenlon

Mr Fenlon will receive a month’s salary of approximately £12,500 without having to work another day as a result of his dismissal.

The Peterborough Telegraph can now reveal his removal as finance chief means the CA is looking for a 13th person to fill one of the five most important roles at the public body. There has been:

l One permanent chief executive and two people who have shared the role as interims.

l One permanent director of strategy and planning

l Two interim directors of transport

l One director of business and skills

l Three temporarily seconded chief finance officers and two interims.

Peterborough city councillor Ed Murphy, who sits on the CA’s overview and scrutiny committee, said the public body is “expensive and unnecessary”.

He added: “A competent officer was sacked for telling the truth about the perilous state of the spending plans.”

Mr Fenlon was officially dismissed at 9am last Friday, but the Peterborough Telegraph was informed he had left his role at 7.30am.

Mayor Palmer has faced heavy criticism after the departure of former CA chief executive Martin Whiteley, who it was revealed through Freedom of Information requests had received a payout of £94,500 despite the mayor insisting he had resigned.

The payout was awarded after the mayor had undertaken more than £11,000 of independent legal advice.