Who is Southampton City Council’s new CEO Andrew Travers?

Published: January 29 2024

The city council announced its new chief executive Andrew Travers in the wake of the former top council officer quitting.

Former chief executive Mike Harris announced his intention to resign after battling with the authority’s financial problems took “a significant toll” on his mental health.

The new interim CEO will have quite the challenge, as the council has forecast a budget shortfall of £38.4m for the 2024-25 financial year.  He was previously hailed as ‘pivotal’ in changing the fortunes of one borough council.

Andrew Travers takes charges at the Civic Offices in Southampton today – but who is the former Lambeth and Barnet borough councils boss?

Where has Andrew Travers worked before?

Mr Travers was director of finance in 2001 at Haringey Council in London – a position he held for six years.

During his time at Haringey he focused on regeneration and infrastructure investment.

The Southampton CEO then moved to work as group director for the London Development Agency – a body that was set up to encourage the economic development of the city.

Here, Mr Travers led several major regeneration projects – until his departure in December 2009.

From the start of 2010, Mr Travers took up his first leadership role as deputy chief executive at Barnet Council, then became chief executive from 2012 to 2016.

As reported in the Independent, the chief executive was forced to stand down after a fiasco that left many Barnet residents unable to vote in the local and mayoral elections.

An investigation was launched after it emerged that thousands of names were missing from electoral lists – with 236,196 voters being affected.

Mr Travers stood down by way of “mutual agreement” following the incident which residents described to the Independent as an “absolute shambles”.

Southampton’s newest council officer then took some time away from local authorities to work as strategic advisor for management consultancy firm, Halliford Associates, for which he remains a listed director.

In 2017, Mr Travers again took up a chief executive role, this time at Lambeth council, until his departure in 2022.

Cllr Claire Holland, the Leader of Lambeth Council, was quoted at the time of his departure as saying: “Andrew has played an absolutely pivotal role in changing Lambeth for the better.”

Since his departure from Lambeth, he has worked part-time as an associate director for Inner Circle Consulting, a position he will hold alongside his new interim CEO appointment.

The appointment of the new CEO has sparked criticism from opposition councillors.

Conservative councillor, Jeremy Moulton said: “We wish the new Chief Executive success in what will be a very difficult job, given the mess Labour have made of the council’s finances.

“This is very much a Labour appointment as it was presented to Conservative Councillors as a done deal.

“Only one candidate was put forward and Labour had their candidate in mind which was stated in the Echo prior to the selection process even being set out.

“But we will work closely with him in the best interests of the city and protect residents as best we can from the huge tax hikes Labour will be bringing forward.”

In response to this, recently appointed Leader of the Council, councillor Lorna Fielker said: “Andrew Travers was recommended as a suitable CEO based on his extensive knowledge and skills by the Improvement Board.

“We are working with the Improvement Board on the financial challenges we, along with other local authorities are tackling.

“He was appointed following an extensive interview which Cllr Fitzhenry, as Leader of the Conservative Group participated in. Cllr Fitzhenry fully supported the appointment.”

Mr Travers previously said: “Having previously led two councils through periods of significant transformation, I was drawn to the challenge in Southampton.

“This is an incredibly difficult time for local authorities across the country and it is no different here.

“However, the conversations I’ve had with officers and politicians have convinced me that we have the vision and skills we need to deliver a truly effective transformation over the coming months.