Northamptonshire councillor in charge of local government reform told to leave cabinet

Councillor Andy Mercer's cabinet role is being scrapped
Councillor Andy Mercer's cabinet role is being scrapped

The cabinet member in charge of setting up unitary authorities in Northamptonshire has been removed from his position at the county council.

Councillor Dr Andy Mercer will leave his role as the portfolio holder for performance, transformation and local government reform at the start of next month.

Councillor Mercer said he was informed of his dismissal by council leader Matt Golby shortly after yesterday’s cabinet meeting (March 13).

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “An email states that I will be stepped down at the start of April. The email went out to Conservative members of the council.

“I found out at about 3.30pm yesterday, which was immediately after the cabinet meeting. The email states that there’s no longer thought to be a need for a cabinet member for government transformation.”

Asked whether he agreed with that sentiment, Councillor Mercer said: “I would prefer not to comment on that.”

It is the second recent dismissal of a high-profile cabinet member, after Councillor Victoria Perry was removed from her portfolio in charge of children’s services in January.

As cabinet member for local government reform, Councillor Mercer was responsible for overseeing the likely transition of the county council into a new unitary authority in 2020.

His deputy for the position, Councillor Martin Griffiths, resigned his position last month during a row over how many district and borough councillors should form part of a new joint committee helping set up the new unitary authorities for the north and west of the county. It now appears the cabinet role will no longer exist.

Councillor Mercer had also recently raised concerns over the process, saying that ‘scrutiny was being lost’ as the transition to unitaries was going much faster than had previously been implemented at other councils.

At the full council meeting on February 28, he speculated that the estimated increase in the costs of setting up the unitary authorities could go even higher than the revised £43million figure.

He had said at the meeting: “I don't believe that the figures include all the likely expenditure that's going to be incurred. It needs a thorough investigation. When I look at these figures I get very uncomfortable."

Councillor Mercer is the Conservative member for Rushden South on the county council and is also represents the Rushden Spencer ward on East Northamptonshire Council.