Mayor Johnson: 'When the going gets tough I’m not the sort to walk away’ 

Mayor Nik Johnson

Hard hat time? Mayor Dr Nik Johnson on a visit to Peterborough trying out - for the first time- an E bike - Credit: Facebook/Dr Nik Johnson

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson is emphatic he won’t quit and apologised for the time it is taking “to solve and work through all the legacy problems and challenges”. 

He said: “Let’s be absolutely clear that following my election in May 2021 the problems that the Conservative government had already highlighted at the heart of the combined authority did not immediately disappear.” 

But 13 months after taking office, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) appears in turmoil with chief executive Eileen Milner’s departure after eight months the latest bombshell. 

She has walked away with a £169,000 pay off after she claimed the “negative impact” had affected her health and wellbeing.   

Mayor Johnson said he was aware of “several ongoing processes” which limited what he could say but said there were factual issues needing to be addressed. 

He told the annual meeting of the board: “As a doctor I have seen the very best in human nature and I have seen the very worst.” 

“When the going gets tough I am not the sort of person to walk away from a challenge.  

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“Trying to diagnose the problems at the centre of this wonderful organisation has been and continues to be one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced.” 

He added: “At times it has felt that the combined authority has needed serious resuscitation to keep its beating heart going but I have never given up and I absolutely will not give up  

 “No matter how challenging the circumstances, I know after just one year that the combined authority is absolutely worth the effort.” 

Mayor Johnson campaigning

Mayor Dr Johnson campaigning in Wisbech against a mega incinerator - Credit: Facebook/Dr Nik Johnson

He said: “This is an organisation capable of huge compassion and has so much to offer.  

“I am not walking away and look forward to working and cooperating with all of you in the future to bring the positive differences we want for all our communities.” 

Mayor Johnson touched on concerns raised by a whistle-blower which are being investigated.  

“As an NHS doctor, there is no one more aware of the importance that anybody within any organisation should feel empowered to be able to report their concerns,” he said.  

They should be able to “throw light on problems and bring meaningful transparency and full scrutiny to an organisation.  

“This is also true of the process of internal and external audit”. 

He said: “No organisation and no single individual are beyond the public expectation of full scrutiny and full public disclosure - if there are concerns, they should always be investigated. 

“It is for this very reason that I am, and have always been, fully supportive of the need to use all means available, working with all organisations – local and central Government, using all internal and external processes for a full assessment of how the combined authority works and delivers.” 

Mayor Nik Johnson

2021 pre election campaigning in centre of March for Dr Nik Johnson - Credit: Facebook/Dr Nik Johnson

He said: “To make it absolutely clear some of these very concerns you have heard so much about in recent times are the very issues I have already raised and requested urgent review within the organisation over many months on numerous occasions.” 

Mayor Johnson said: “There are some incredible, dedicated, hardworking staff within the combined authority. 

“On a daily basis over the last year, I have been hugely impressed by their commitment, sense of public duty and their ambition to make positive and meaningful change for the communities they serve. 

 “I am proud to be the mayor and I am proud of the work the combined authority does on a daily basis.” 

Mayor Johnson said the challenges he faced were nothing compared to those fleeing Ukraine and Syria and nothing compared to those facing a cost-of-living crisis or climate change that threatens us all.  

“These are the real challenges to our society today and they are the sort of problems that drove me to make the decision to leave the relative comfort of my hospital existence to try and help and support the same communities I serve,” he said.  

Mayor Johnson said: “We need to demonstrate a deep self-awareness about our need for improvement.  

“I know all board members will join me in committing to work together to start to rebuild our collective reputation as the good governors of this organisation.”