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A NEW chief executive for Worcestershire County Council is on the verge of being appointed - with the current assistant stepping up to the top job.

Clare Marchant, who has made waves in the private sector as a production executive at Hovis, is being lined up for a promotion.

Mrs Marchant, who has been at County Hall since 2010, was promoted to assistant chief executive in August 2012 on a £75,800 salary.

Considered one of the high fliers at the authority, she made a final shortlist of five people and has now been recommended by the Conservative leadership for the job.

If she gets backing from full council next Thursday, her salary will shoot up to £151,000.

Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said: "We have concluded a competitive recruitment process for a new chief executive which brought forward an excellent calibre of candidates validating Worcestershire's growing national reputation as a leading local authority.

"Clare is currently our assistant chief executive and if her appointment is confirmed, she will bring a wealth of knowledge from her previous extensive experience in the commercial sector, her national role in the NHS prior to joining us, and the nearly four years she has spent at the council.

"Clare has been pivotal in ensuring we rise to the challenge of change in a way which is driven by the views of residents, communities and businesses, works with partners and delivers savings, protects the most vulnerable and supports investment in the future."

A graduate of the University of Hull, after nearly four years at Hovis she joined Deloitte in 1997 and spent six years advising both private and public sector bodies on how to modernise.

Then came a plum job at the NHS, where she spent seven years using new IT systems to change the health service.

The impending appointment comes after current chief executive Trish Haines revealed she was taking early retirement this spring.

The opposition Labour group has already revealed it plans to take no part in the vote, claiming the council could leave the post empty.

Councillor Peter McDonald, group leader, said: "The council has shrunk in size almost by half and is still shrinking.

"Yet the Tories are now willing to pay out a salary of over £150,000 just to maintain a post no longer needed.

"Labour will vote against the appointment of a new chief executive at next week’s meeting."

Coun McDonald added: “The role of chief executive is not a legal requirement and the council can easily function without one, saving thousands of pounds a year that could be spent on providing much need services.”

The Conservatives have already considered going without a chief executive, or sharing one with other councils, but have ruled out both options.

The vote is almost certain to go through next week as the ruling Conservative party has an overall majority of councillors.

If appointed, the salary will rise to £170,000 within around three years.