THE top officer charged with heading up a new unitary authority for the whole of Somerset has been appointed.

Duncan Sharkey will take up the post of chief executive at Somerset County Council in the autumn and of Somerset Council, when it replaces the four district and the county council next April.

He comes to County Hall after holding a similar post with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead since February 2019.

There, he is credited with stabilising the council’s finances, working closely with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, while building a new leadership team.

He also secured a rating of ‘good’ for children’s services in the borough, while adult care services were rated 'good' or oustanding' by the Care Quality Commission.

Commenting on his Somerset appointment, Mr Sharkey said: “Chief executive of the new unitary Somerset Council is one of the most exciting jobs in local government and I am honoured and thrilled to have been selected for the role.

"Bringing together staff from across five councils into a new organisation that will design effective new services for Somerset residents is a wonderful opportunity.

“It was a rigorous recruitment process, and I was very pleased to meet so many of the partners, colleagues and councillors I will be working with in the future.

"I was particularly pleased to meet a number of young people and talk to them about their ambitions for the future of Somerset.

“The new council, rightly, has high ambitions both for its services and for the county’s economy.

"I very much look forward to playing my part in its development.”

Cllr Bill Revans, leader of Somerset County Council and chairman of the interview panel, said: “Duncan has the experience and ability to lead us into the creation of our new unitary council for Somerset.

“He will bring our staff together across all councils, be innovative in how we deliver our services and be a powerful advocate for Somerset on the national stage.

"He has the energy, drive and creativity to be an outstanding leader and of course he is already experienced in leading a unitary council.

"We look forward to welcoming him in the autumn."

Mr Sharkey succeeds Pat Flaherty who has been appointed chief executive at Harrow Council from September.

Somerset's deputy chief executive Paula Hewitt will fill in as acting chief executive until Mr Sharkey arrives.