EXCLUSIVE: Controversial Northampton Tory will fight elections, but “faces demotion if victorious”

Embattled Conservative county councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage will fight in next month’s elections despite an eleventh hour emergency meeting which threatened to cost him his seat.

With nomination papers for the county council elections on May 2 due in by noon tomorrow, Conservatives in East Hunsbury last night called an emergency meeting to decide on the future of Councillor de Savage, who is the Tory administration’s cabinet member for public protection and the ward member since 2005.

At an 8pm meeting, understood to have been held at Wootton Community Centre, Councillor Gonzalez de Savage received what sources have told the Chron was a “severe ticking off” for a string of adverse stories in recent weeks which some members felt had damaged the party’s position in the ward.

Chief among these was a Chron exclusive last week which revealed how a park had been named after his own eight-year-old son.

Northampton Borough Council removed the sign at Adam’s Park in East Hunsbury because it was put up without any planning permission whatsoever and told the councillor that if he wanted it back he would have to come and collect it from the Guildhall.

The Chron now understands that the councillor did exactly that last Thursday when he went to retrieve it from the Westbridge depot in St James but was told he could not have it back after he allegedly threatened to stick it back up in East Hunsbury

The park story was picked up by the Conservative-leaning Fleet Street press, including the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, both of which carried quotes from Labour group leader at County Hall, John McGhee who accused the 45-year-old councillor of being “egotistical” and “arrogant” for naming the park without permission.

That report had come on the back of a number of other adverse stories since the turn of the year, including the councillor’s apparent backing - complete with a photocall with the new police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds - for a so-called “merger” between the police force and fire brigade.

That appeared to be out of kilter with the position of the Conservative high command at County Hall, including leader Jim Harker, and sources high up within the party said he had become “increasingly isolated” as a result of that.

In addition, criticism has been levelled at him for many months now because the street lights in the road where he lives in Wootton have remained switched on while across the county, Councillor Gonzalez de Savage, who was the political face of a countywide switch-off of the lights as part of a long-term PFI-funded scheme to improve them.

While the technical explanation for the lights remaining on in Simpson Manor was that the roads were “unadopted” this did little to assuage the hostility felt in some quarters of Wootton and East Hunsbury, where he remains a parish councillor.

And only this week, it emerged that independent parish councillor, Liam Costello, had written to residents in Wootton asking why the county councillor’s road had planters in it when the parish policy was to install them only in “main distributor roads” within the area.

A senior insider in the party told the Chron: “The position is that Andre will fight the seat for the Tories on May 2. However, in the event both he and the Conservative administration is re-elected, there’s no likelihood whatsoever of him being in a new cabinet. He would effectively be moved to the back benches.”

Councillor Gonzalez de Savage, who is a businessman, has recently updated his register of interests on the county council website. They include “meeting, accommodation, transport and meals” to Brussels, from the Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership quango, of which he remains a board member. The council has committed £6m of taxpayers’ cash to that organisation over three years.

He also lists a parliamentary seminar on February 28, 2013, courtesy of the Business Sprinkler Alliance Ltd and also holds non-statutory positions with SEMLEP, the Waterside Enterprise Zone Board and Royal & Derngate as well as owning land at “Villa Ashby” in Wootton Hall Park.

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