My friend Andy Howell, who has died of cancer aged 64, was a Labour city councillor in Birmingham for 12 years, and a chair of the education committee who made a big difference to the city’s schools. He was deputy leader of the council from 1999 to 2003.
During Andy’s three years chairing the education committee he saw that investment in education rose. He worked closely with Tim Brighouse, then chief education officer, persuading local schools to stay in the Birmingham family instead of opting for the central funding of grant-maintained status. Cooperation and collaboration between schools were strengthened. Exam results improved across the city.
Andy was born in Birmingham to Brenda (nee Wilson) and Denis Howell. His father was a councillor in Birmingham before becoming MP for Birmingham All Saints from 1955 to 1959, and Birmingham Small Heath from 1961 to 1992. His mother was a housewife. He was educated at George Dixon grammar school.
As a teenager in 1974, when his father was a Labour minister in the Harold Wilson government, Andy witnessed the lucky escape of his mother and brother from an IRA bomb that had been placed under the family car. The bomb was dislodged when his mother drove off, and exploded close by.
Andy went to North Staffordshire Polytechnic (now Staffordshire University) to study law but left after a year and moved to London. He worked in a bar and then, returning to Birmingham carved out a career as a consultant in local government. He was elected Labour councillor for Moseley and Kings Heath ward in 1991.
Following his successful stint in education, Andy became deputy leader of the council in 1999. He worked hard to see the city continue to develop from a declining manufacturing economy towards finance, business tourism, and a centre of finance, culture and sport.
He was deselected by the local Labour branch in 2003 after he stood in opposition to its then leader, Sir Albert Bore.
Since leaving the council in 2003 Andy had been a freelance consultant working with local authorities and voluntary sector agencies. He worked part time for the Scarman Trust, advised Waltham Forest Labour Group, and led the Birmingham Arts Partnership between 2015 and 2016. He had recently been appointed chair of New Roots, a housing provider in Birmingham.
Andy was happiest when walking in the Scottish Highlands, often wild camping with only basic facilities. In the last few years he edited a walking blog, Must Be This Way, which became popular with long-distance walkers. He also loved music and was an accomplished guitar player. Andy enjoyed discussing the big issues of the day over a late night curry in Birmingham’s balti belt.
Andy met Kate Foley in 2001 when he was deputy leader of the council and she worked for Unison. They married in 2016.
Andy is survived by Kate, by his son, Kieran, from his first marriage, to Ceri Ogden, which ended in divorce, and by his sister, Kate, and brother, Mick.