'It's something I will feel proud for the rest of my life': Northampton's 778th mayor reflects on his year in office

Mayor Tony Ansell will hand over the town's chains at a ceremony on Thursday marking the end of his year as Mayor.
Mayor Tony Ansell will hand over the town's chains at a ceremony on Thursday marking the end of his year as Mayor.

The outgoing Mayor of Northampton says he is eager to get back to work as a councillor - with plans to turn his focus on the town's homeless problem.

Tony Ansell will hand over the town's chains to Councillor Nazim Choudary on Thursday (May 16) to mark the end of his term as the 778th Mayor of Northampton.

His year in office has been a life ambition for Councillor Ansell, who told the Chronicle and Echo how he aspired to be mayor as early as 15-years-old, when he wrote about it for an essay in school.

He said: "It's something I will feel proud for the rest of my life.

"I've taken my role very seriously, and tried to the best of my ability. I hope people think I tried hard to achieve what I set out to do, which was to raise a lot of money for homelessness."

Councillor Ansell says he picked out Northampton's Hope Centre as his choice for his mayor's charity "from day one".

His fundraising efforts for the homelessness charity saw him place more than 70 charity tins in businesses across the town and hold two gala balls.

It came during a critical year for the Hope Centre, which in October was told by its landlords - Midland Heart - it would have to find a new home. A successful campaign has now given the centre time to find a new home before they are evicted.

Councillor Ansell said: "I would say the homelessness problem has doubled in the last year.

"It's more relevant than ever because of the visible presence of tents around town.

"As mayor, you get to see all the good work done by groups you wouldn't normally meet as Joe Public. It's been humbling.

"Now, I'm looking forward to getting back into the old role and getting back to work. I've seen an idea in Cambridgeshire where people can swipe their cards at points in the street to donate to homelessness that I'm keen to pursue."

The final fundraising total will be announced at the ceremony on Thursday.

Councillor Ansell's year in office was also marked by fears it would be one of the last posts of its kind in the face of the plans to create a unitary council in Northamptonshire.

But it also saw the Centenary celebrations of the First World War, which the mayor took a central ceremonial role in.

He said: "The centenary celebrations were very special to be part of.

"My only regret is not having my mother and father here to have seen it.

"As mayor, I've seen so many places in the town I've not seen before, and people I wouldn't normally meet and religions to learn about. It's been a great honour."