Progress on hiring dedicated staff varies significantly across the six combined authorities with two still awaiting to appoint permanent chief executives, LGC research has found.
first 100 days
Existing or planned CA workforces range from as few as 17 permanent staff in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to as many as 1,956 in Greater Manchester where the combined authority also employs 1,422 firefighters as part of its structure.
Neither Liverpool City Region or West of England CAs have appointed permanent chief executives yet.
New Local Government Network director Adam Lent said not having a permanent chief executive for a long time was “risky” for a CA as their role in relation to the mayor is “similar to a minister’s permanent secretary”.
He said: “They are the one who is in the end going to create the organisational culture and structures that are going to make for an effective organisation and put the mayor’s vision into practice.”
Since the election of Steve Rotheram (Lab), Liverpool City Region CA’s capacity is now being pulled into a single organisational structure which is expected to comprise of about 850 staff.
A small number of appointments have been made to the mayor’s office and the process to recruit a permanent head of paid service has started. Frank Rogers, the chief executive of transport body Merseytravel is currently fulfilling the role on an interim basis after Ged Fitzgerald stepped aside following his arrest in relation to long-running police probe. Staff from Merseytravel, along with employees from the CA’s six constituent council members, have provided “transitional capacity” in areas such as finance, administration, human resources and legal services.
The first 100 days of Mr Rotheram’s mayoralty has included a public disagreement with Liverpool City Council mayor Joe Anderson.
Richard Kemp, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group on Liverpool City Council, has said the appointment of a “strong” permanent CA authority chief executive is key to raising the pace of progress – and could help the mayor to manage relationships within his cabinet and beyond.
In the West of England, mayor Tim Bowles (Con) has admitted the combined authority is still establishing workforce capacity, with 37 staff currently on the payroll but no chief executive appointed.
Mr Bowles has been vocal in calling on the government to further empower combined authorities and has said told LGC he wants to recruit senior staff with central, as well as local, government experience in order to strengthen his case for gaining further powers and controls.
LGC previously reported how Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CA’s overview and scrutiny committee has called in plans to hire up 17 permanent staff at a cost of £1.2m for 2017-18, an increase of £354,900 on original plans.
Speaking to LGC earlier this month mayor James Palmer (Con) said the CA’s “staffing structure will be considerably less than others” as he sees the CA as a “delivery body”. He added: “We’re trying to be very efficient down here.”
CA chief executive Martin Whiteley was appointed in June having previously been chief executive at consultancy firm Blue Marble Group and manging director at Capita Group’s consultancy arm.
Mr Lent said the “culture and values” of a CA were more important than scale when considering whether the body could deliver large projects and long-term strategic policies, with the mayor’s responsibility for creating a “coalition of the willing” among councils, organisations and the public vital in order to drive progress.
Despite only formally coming into existence in February, West Midlands CA already has 372 dedicated staff - the majority of which were transferred from transport body Centro.
In breaking its salary cap to hire Suffolk CC chief executive Deborah Cadman, the West Midlands CA under Andy Street (Con) has so far also made the most high profile chief executive appointment. Ms Cadman will earn £7,500 more than the next highest paid combined authority chief executive, Greater Manchester’s Eamonn Boylan, who gets £180,000.
Tees Valley CA employs 54 dedicated staff including three senior managers and four directors including managing director Andrew Lewis – a former senior economist at the Treasury and ex-assistant chief executive at Newcastle City Council.