Jim Harker to step down as leader of Northamptonshire County Council in May

Councillor Jim Harker is to step down in May.

Councillor Jim Harker is to step down in May.

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Leader of Northamptonshire County Council Jim Harker is to step down in May.

Councillor Harker, who represents the north-east of Kettering, will be replaced as leader at the Conservative group’s AGM meeting in May.

He is likely to be succeeded by his deputy at the county council, Councillor Heather Smith (Con, Oundle).

He was elected leader of Northamptonshire County Council in 2005, having first taken up a post as a Conservative county councillor in 1979.

He was deputy leader from 1989 to 1993 and leader of the opposition between 1993 and 2005, during which time he held various positions, including chairman of planning and transportation and chairman of finance.

But in recent weeks he has overseen one of the most drastic budgets ever revealed at the county council, which has proposed £82.9 million worth of cuts.

Speaking today Councillor Harker said it was time for someone “with more energy.”

He said: “Whatever your political background, you become a councillor to try and make a difference and although not everyone will have agreed with decisions that have been made, they have been for the right reasons.

“We continue to face tough times in local government but I’m sure that, my successor will do a great job as we have an effective team in place that is helping steer the authority through the biggest changes in the history of local government.”

Councillor Harker was educated at Kettering Grammar School, and qualified as a chartered quantity surveyor. He was, for 20 years, senior partner of a Midlands practice of architects and surveyors, Gotch, Saunders & Surridge.

He lives in Geddington with his wife Jenny and together they have five children and 10 grandchildren.

Councillor Harker, who will be 73 next year, said the recent raft of cuts have not played a part in his decision to step down.

“It is something we have had to put up with for many years, this budget has been very challenging but I believe we are on top of it.

“I just felt it was not right to go on and on.

“I will be 73 next year, frankly I don’t feel like standing again.”

Councillor Harker will continue to serve the Ise ward until May 2017, but he will not be seeking re-election.

While he said his best achievements a the council have centred around work to improve the economy in the county, he said he regrets not being able to work closer the emergency services, the NHS and the surrounding borough and district councils in the county.

“We have done more closer working with police, but local government is so strapped for cash now, we can only do things better by working together.”

After retiring next year, Councillor Harker says he intends to keep up his work as chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the East Midlands.