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Combined authority in huge cut to staff costs

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A review by the joint chief executives of Cambridge & Peterborough CA has identified savings which will result in annual staff costs being cut by more than a quarter, following previous concerns about the size of the wage bill.

The 2019 budget agreed by the CA in January included a £1.5m reduction in staffing costs earmarked by John Hill and Kim Sawyer. Last week CA’s employment committee identified a further £300,000 in savings.

This would take staff budget down from £6.3m in 2018-19 to £4.5m next year, a 29% reduction. The potential impact on the CA’s workforce will not be revealed until the end of a staff consultation.

The core staffing budget will be £2.7m, with the remaining £1.8m provided by the government.

This extra funding was allocated when the CA took on responsibilities for the local enterprise partnership, which now forms Cambridge & Peterborough’s business board, and the Greater South East Energy Hub - a collaboration between eleven LEPs aimed at improving energy projects across the south east.

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough mayor James Palmer (Con) apologised last year after it emerged the CA had overspent its workforce budget by almost 10 times the amount pledged in his election manifesto.

Costs for the current year were expected to reach £7.6m, while Mr Palmer originally pledged in 2017 to keep staffing costs below £850,000 a year.

Opposition councillors called for a review of the CA’s finances following the dismissal of section 151 officer Karl Fenlon in November, four months after he took on the job.

Mr Palmer accused Mr Fenlon, who was the fourth interim finance director to leave Cambridge & Peterborough since its inception in March 2017, of giving misleading information about the CA’s finances.

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