By election likely in East Cambridgeshire after second councillor set to join Mayor Palmer’s combined authority in ‘politically sensitive’ role

PUBLISHED: 21:20 18 August 2018 | UPDATED: 19:45 19 August 2018

Cllr Paul Raynes who says

Cllr Paul Raynes who says "I work equally well with Cabinet Ministers, frontline professionals, business leaders, journalists and policy wonks" and likely to join combined authority as a director.

Archant

A Tory county councillor and former British diplomat is set to force a by election after only a year in office to take on a £100,000 directorship of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

MP Lucy Frazer with  James Palmer,  county councillor Paul Raynes and district councillors, Carol Sennitt, Mark Goldsack and Ian Bovingdon.MP Lucy Frazer with James Palmer, county councillor Paul Raynes and district councillors, Carol Sennitt, Mark Goldsack and Ian Bovingdon.

Councillor Paul Raynes - who is also a deputy chairman of the SE Cambridgeshire Conservative – has been offered the post of director of strategy and planning.

His job offer is thought to have been made after only a handful of candidates applied for the job – that offers a salary up to a potential £130,000 a year – and his name was put forward by mayor James Palmer and his deputy Councillor Charles Roberts.

The authority is anxious to recruit the staff needed to forge ahead with its ambitious programme – nearly half of the 60 staff currently on the payroll are either consultants, holding interim positions or on secondment.

One member of the combined authority told me tonight: “I wasn’t involved in the process but I understand his name was added at the short listing meeting by the mayor and Cllr Roberts, the East Cambs leader and deputy mayor.”

My source said: “He did not appear to go through the same process as other applicants – and only two were later interviewed by a panel of three, including the mayor and his deputy”.

If confirmed it will mean it is the second time Mayor Palmer has recruited an East Cambridgeshire councillor to a role within the combined authority: last year he took on Tom Hunt as his chief of staff. That also meant a by election.

Cllr Raynes was reluctant to talk about his appointment when I called him tonight at his Isleham home.

The father of four returned a call after I left a voicemail but after accepting a suggestion that I call him back after he complained of a poor signal the phone repeatedly went to voice mail.

When he stood for the Soham North and Isleham division last year he described his wide experience as embracing both business and public service. He is currently a director of a tech company.

Cllr Raynes says he has worked with councils across the country on transport, economic development and planning.

He has also been an adviser to the government on transport issues, and was a member of a government review of public libraries.

A Conservative election official last year described him as a diplomat who was in post at the British Embassy in Paris at the time of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The election official said: “Paul is campaigning for better local transport links, especially upgrading the A10, an improved junction between the A142 and A14, and the return of a railway station to Soham, together with the line improvements needed to run good connections through to Ely and Cambridge.

“He wants to put his business and management experience to ensure better value for taxpayers’ money and a more efficient county council.”

A senior Conservative councillor in East Cambridgeshire confirmed to me tonight that he expected Cllr Raynes to resign because of the “politically sensitive” role he had been offered with the combined authority. The councillor said in due course applicants from within the Tory party would be invited to apply for the vacant seat ahead of a by election.

My combined authority source added: “There are definite governance and probity issues about the process.

“Partly because of the holidays, combined authority members only have it second hand and the employment committee has operated without reporting or requiring specific confirmation except statutory posts - other than it would be expected that the appointment would be reported to the next board meeting in mid September.”

On his Linked In profile – a website for professionals – Cllr Raynes describes himself as a “thought leader, influencer and communicator in economic, education, localism and welfare reform issues, with strong senior leadership experience across public and private sectors and broad experience of leading change.

“I’ve influenced policy innovation from Free Schools to City Deals and delivered real-world improvements from better exam results to buzzier libraries.

“I work equally well with Cabinet Ministers, frontline professionals, business leaders, journalists and policy wonks.”

Except of course for tonight when he was politely but firmly ignoring journalistic inquiries.

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