THE councillor at the centre of the Lendal Bridge closure has been removed as York’s transport chief.

City of York Council leader James Alexander has announced a reshuffle, making David Levene cabinet member for transport and Dave Merrett member for environmental services, planning and sustainability.

Cllr Merrett came under fire over the trial closure of Lendal Bridge, which has been abandoned.

He was also in the hotseat earlier this week when it was revealed a new cycle route from Haxby to Clifton Moor has increased in cost to £1.3 million.

Cllr Alexander said: “I have always ensured all members of the cabinet had responsibilities that made best use of their talents and efforts as required.

“Cllr Dave Merrett will gain the opportunity to focus further attention on environmental issues, in which he has exceptional knowledge and experience”.

Cllr Merrett said: “I have contributed over many years to transport in this city and tried to meet the growing challenges of a growing city head on. However, building a new consensus on transport needs a new face.

"There is an intense period ahead delivering the Local Plan and I welcome the support Cllr Alexander has shown me in asking me to turn my efforts to new challenges in environmental services, planning and sustainability - especially with regards to improving recycling.”

Lib Dem Cllr Ann Reid, who had called for Cllr Merrett to resign, said: “I do think residents of York will see Dave Merrett moving away from transport as a good thing.”

Green leader Andy D’Agorne said: “I am not surprised that Dave Merrett is moving from transport but I have no confidence that any other Labour cabinet member will address the congestion issue.”

The reshuffle also sees Cllr Tracey Simpson-Laing take up the new portfolio of Homes and Safer Communities, replacing Cllr Linsay Cunningham-Cross on North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Panel.

Cllr Cunningham Cross takes the new portfolio of Health and Community Engagement and will chair the Health and Wellbeing Board.

Cllr Alexander said the changes would allow him to show how important Labour believe tackling crime and antisocial behaviour is.

He said: “We will focus on York’s local elections standing on our record to stop a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition taking control of the council.”