THE boss of one of England's smallest district councils retired this week after nine years in charge.

Charles Anderson, former chief executive of Teesdale Council, is now a man of leisure as he nears his 60th birthday. He left the authority on Monday, three months to the day after he revealed to the D&S Times that he was considering his future.

In an exclusive interview this week, he said there had been high and low points combined, particularly over two issues.

"I felt under a lot of pressure during the Safeway land deal, but the council backed me and agreed to stand firm, and we gained a very substantial capital receipt," he said.

He felt the council came of age during the foot-and-mouth crisis, providing support through effective community leadership.

"It was a devastating time for farmers and rural businesses. They had conflicting agendas and it is a tribute to them that they conducted themselves impeccably during an extremely trying time," he added.

His most testing time came more recently, with the authority branded poor in an Audit Commission inspection. But although significant improvements have been made, Mr Anderson admitted the last two years had been "more challenging and increasingly difficult".

His one regret was that no breakthrough was made in redressing the balance of support grant for small councils.

His long-term plans include returning to Scotland, but he will regularly visit Teesdale, for which he has genuine affection.

Council leader Ken Robinson said: "Charles' valuable contribution to the people and district of Teesdale will be remembered by staff and memberse.

"We have enjoyed a good working relationship, but we both realise that now is perhaps the time to move on; on behalf of the council I wish him well."

Until a new chief is appointed, Mr Anderson's boots will be filled by Kingsley Smith, who officially retires as chief executive of Durham County Council at the end of the month.

He will work two or three days a week from now until Christmas and said he was pleased to accept the invitation.

In the meantime, Mr Anderson is still turning out for the council's football team, which played a team from the primary care trust on Wednesday.