New interim chief executive appointed at Durham County Council

Durham County Council has formally appointed a new interim chief executive.

By Chris Binding
Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 5:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 5:56 pm
John Hewitt
John Hewitt

John Hewitt, corporate director of resources on the council, will take over from chief executive Terry Collins, who is due to retire at the end of the year.

Mr Hewitt joined the authority in 2016 and has overseen the council’s financial response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as a number of other major projects.

At a meeting of full council on Wednesday (December 16), a recommendation for his appointment was formally ratified by councillors.

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According to a council report, the interim chief executive role will last for a year, commencing in January 2021.

This aims to allow time for a recruitment process to fill the post permanently, which is expected to start in June.

Councillor Simon Henig, leader of the council, said: “With the support of the rest of the senior management team I’m sure [Mr Hewitt] will do an excellent job of leading the council through these challenging times.”

Councillor Amanda Hopgood, leader of the council’s opposition Liberal Democrat group, also welcomed the appointment.

“I would like to formally second the recommendation [to appoint Mr Hewitt] and in doing so, wish John all the best of luck and good wishes for the next year as interim chief executive,”she said.

“He’s coming in at a very difficult time but I think we all have lots of confidence in his ability to take us forward.”

Mr Hewitt, from Spennymoor, started his career as an accountant at the former Sedgefield Borough Council.

He has also held financial roles at Durham Constabulary, and County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, where he became the deputy chief executive, before moving to South Tyneside, where he was corporate director for business and resources.

A report to councillors also outlined the recruitment process for the interim chief executive role at Durham County Council.

It states: “Given the importance of a seamless and rapid transition from the current chief executive to any successor and the current challenges the council are facing relating to the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for stability in the short term, the Chief Officer Appointments Committee (COAC) agreed that an internal interim appointment was the most appropriate course of action.

“The COAC agreed to advertise the post internally in the first instance, drawing candidates from the corporate management team.

“This option was considered the most suitable in the circumstances as it would enable the council to appoint a chief executive at the earliest opportunity to provide leadership and stability to the organisation during the continuing pandemic and in the run up to the election.”

Mr Hewitt’s corporate director of resources post on Durham County Council will be taken up on an interim basis by Paul Darby, who has been serving as the council’s head of finance and transactional services.

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