Eileen off to Bradford as Mayor Nik faces whistle-blower 'music'  

Eileen Milner wins approval for CAPCA top job

Eileen Milner, departing chief executive for the Combined Authority: Mayor Dr Nik Johnson is facing difficult questions over his alleged conduct. - Credit: ARCHANT

Outgoing chief executive Eileen Milner has landed two prestigious posts in Bradford following her departure from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA).  

Ms Milner beat 30 other candidates to win the £200,000 CAPCA post but quit after only a few months.  

She is become head of a newly former Bradford Children’s Company trust and will also succeed Baroness Ann Taylor as chairman of the council of Bradford University.  

Until last summer, she was chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency and had previously been executive director at the Care Quality Commission. 

Ms Milner has now left CAPCA at the end of her probationary period with multiple inquiries in progress. 

These include claims by a whistle-blower and cover HR issues and the use by Mayor Dr Nik Johnson of CAPCA credit cards. 

A formal code of conduct investigation into Labour Mayor Nik Johnson is under way by an external investigator is underway. 

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Part of the whistle-blower's allegations centre around Dr Johnson’s former strategic adviser Nigel Pauley allegedly telling officers “to ignore” the new chief executive and that CAPCA doesn’t need a chief executive.  

Claims of a “toxic culture” with CAPCA form part of the probe.  

An investigation is understood to have supported these claims although Dr Johnson’s rebuttal evidence has yet to be made public.  

Dr Johnson and Mr Pauley were alleged to both be “intent on making sure that she (Ms Milner) doesn’t stay long. This seems a shame”. 

These parts of the allegations are believed to have been strongly rebutted by Dr Johnson who had backed Ms Milner for the post and was said to have been both “relieved and delighted” that a new chief executive had finally been appointed.  

Ms Milner saw it differently and in her resignation letter spoke of the “negative impact of the last few months upon my own health and wellbeing”. 

These had meant it was “simply not possible” to stay in post. 

At Bradford she will head a newly former children’s company trust that will be independent of Bradford Council whose children's services were declared inadequate following an Ofsted inspection in 2018. 

Ironically Ms Milner, a former civil servant, was obliged to receive clearance from the Government’s business appointments committee before becoming chief executive of CAPCA. 

The appointments committee only cleared her to take the CAPCA last November (she actually began the job in October). 

Former civil servants taking up outside appointments must go through the advisory committee “to protect the integrity of the government”.   

Under the rules, the committee’s remit is to “consider the risks associated with the actions and decisions made during her time in office, alongside the information and influence she may offer CAPCA”.  

They did, however, subject Ms Milner to conditions that will influence her decision making over the next two years.   

"She must not, at any time, draw on any privileged information gained in office,” says the committee.  

“Any contact with the government, directly or indirectly, must only be where it could not reasonably be perceived as improper use of her time in government service to lobby.”  

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has been made aware of Ms Milner’s decision and the reasons for it, but this is just the latest in a long line of officer resignations at CAPCA. 

Under the previous Mayor, James Palmer, his CEO Martin Whiteley was awarded a severance payment of £94,500 leaving the role under similar circumstances, as the two clashed over policy and budget. 

Mt Whiteley was followed by interim officers Kim Sawyer and John Hill. 

Finance officer, Karl Fenlon was sacked by Palmer when he revealed that budget projections were completely unachievable, something that Mayor Palmer denied, saying the statements were ‘misleading’, but it was later revealed that Fenlon had been correct. 

With Ms Milner’s resignation, the troubled authority will be looking for yet another CEO. 

Continuation of an extraordinary meeting of the CAPCA Board will continue next Wednesday to debate a confidence of vote in the mayor and the other issues.  

The first part took place on May 20 with the press and public excluded.