Image credit: Keith Heppell
Statement by Cllr Anna Bailey, Leader of East Cambs District Council
On 14th November 2023 Mayor Nik Johnson was found to have breached the Code of Conduct at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority on two counts: civility and bringing the Office of Mayor into disrepute. The findings come after multiple Code of Conduct complaints against the Mayor were made, the first of which was received anonymously two years ago.
The sanctions available to the Hearings Panel and imposed by them fall woefully short of recognising the seriousness of the events that have taken place over the last two years.
The decision of the Panel not to release the Independent Investigator’s Report is, in my view, something that the Panel, the Mayor and the Authority, all of whom have pledged transparency, scrutiny and accountability, will come to regret.
There is not one single member of senior staff, or any staff that had regular exposure to the Mayor or the Office of the Mayor, that was in post two years ago left working in the organisation. The Authority has been through six Chief Executives in less than a two-year period under Mayor Nik Johnson.
Four members of staff have received significant payouts on leaving the organisation in order to avoid employment claims against the Authority.
Some staff, including senior staff, were issued with personal protection and security equipment. The Authority funded psychiatric counselling for some staff. A junior member of staff was instructed not to be alone in the office with the Mayor. The Authority reported incidents to the Police.
In order to safeguard staff during ongoing investigations, myself and some fellow Board Members put a motion to the Combined Authority Board in May 2022 calling for the Mayor to suspend himself. The motion was voted down and the Mayor continued in post.
In June 2022 the Authority received a ‘Significant Risk Reporting’ letter from the External Auditor, citing serious concerns about the culture, behaviour and integrity of key individuals in the Mayor’s office.
Government later issued a ‘Best Value Notice’ and withheld money from the Authority.
The costs to date, arising directly from the conduct of the Mayor and his office total just under £1.1m. This is money that should be spent improving the lives of residents and businesses in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Costs include payouts to avoid employment claims, personal protection and security equipment, money for psychiatric counselling, mediation between the Mayor and the Chief Executive, legal fees, investigation fees, auditing fees and additional staffing costs for expensive interim staff.
My thoughts are with the victims in this case, for that is what they are, those who have suffered terribly, whose stories remain unknown. I apologise to all those staff that have suffered at the hands of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority; the Authority has failed you.
We all have a duty to call out bad behaviour, to protect others and be decent human beings. For elected members the Code of Conduct takes that further, and for a qualified and practising Doctor there is an overriding promise to “do no harm”. Mayor Nik Johnson has failed the people involved, he has failed the public, he has breached the Code of Conduct and I would have thought, the Hippocratic Oath. He has certainly failed at being a decent human being.
Mayor Nik Johnson should resign.