THE top jobs at a unitary authority which underwent major changes three years ago look set to be transformed again, amid claims previous overhauls had been designed to benefit highly paid officials.

Darlington Borough Council’s Conservative administration said while the impetus for its proposed new senior management structure was the retirement of managing director Paul Wildsmith in the summer, the revamp would see cost savings enable the creation of an extra post in the chief officer team without having an impact on the budget.

Senior roles are set to be focused on priority areas for the council such as economic growth, transport, delivery of building projects and the consistent delivery of good quality neighbourhood services.

Councillor Heather Scott, the council’s leader, said: “Lots of local authorities round about are cutting services and that’s something we definitely don’t want to do.”

The proposal would see the council’s current director of economic growth and neighbourhood services, Ian Williams, promoted to chief executive, just 36 months after the role was axed with the retirement of Ada Burns. Mr Williams’ £149,000 salary will be about £6,000 less than Mr Wildsmith’s.

Other key appointments include the authority’s assistant director of finance, Elizabeth Davison, becoming group director for operations.

The authority’s deputy leader Cllr Jonathan Dulston said the move would re-energise the council and modernise the way it delivers its services.

He said: “There’s so much potential in Darlington. It’s about maximising our connectivity on the rail and on the road and incorporating the evolving piece that we see at the airport.

“The last time the titles changed was because the Labour group wanted to recognise the outgoing chief executive through pension contributions.

“This gives us an opportunity to align the authority in a direction we feel is appropriate and cost the taxpayer absolutely nothing. There’s no reward packages or promised pension contributions. I’m proud we have been able to do this and not do what has happened in the past and reward extremely highly paid people with even more of taxpayers money.”