BOLTON Council is looking for its third chief executive in as many years, after Margaret Asquith announced she is retiring.

The current chief executive will leave the council next March, having taken over the post in November, 2015 when former town hall boss Paul Najsarek shocked staff by quitting just five months into the job.

Ms Asquith has spent 11 years with the council, previously serving as director of children’s and adult services and deputy chief executive, and was tasked with steadying the ship in the wake of Mr Najsarek's departure.

The council is hoping to have a new chief executive appointed in October, to start work in the new year, and Ms Asquith says the council has taken steps to ensure it makes the right choice.

The 60-year-old said: "It is hugely important to me that we get the next appointment right.

"Bolton is really important to me and I knew that I had to stabilise the organisation a bit after we had that little blip.

"This next appointment is a big one, which is why we are going to have a long recruitment process.

"We want a long search period so we can talk to as many people as possible who are interested in the job, and also to give councillors and officers the chance to meet potential candidates.

"We want people to be comfortable with this next appointment and for the new chief executive to be comfortable with what Bolton expects.

"We need someone who loves Bolton and loves what we do here.

"Their background experience will be important, but so is being the right fit and feel for the job."

The council will be enlisting the help of the Local Government Association during the recruitment process and the new chief executive will be subject to a six-month probation period — something that was not part of Mr Najsarek's contract.

As well as dealing with the fallout of Mr Najsarek's departure and £90,000 pay-off, Ms Asquith has also had the Asons Solicitors grant scandal to manage during her time in the post.

She added: "Councils are always going to have events that give them some concern. But Bolton is a fabulous place to live and work, and I have felt a great sense of loyalty and responsibility.

"I have spent the last 11 years of my career here and I look back on that with great pride in what Bolton has done and the direction we are going in.

"Bolton does generate a special sense of belonging and I am really proud of all of the council staff I have worked with.

"I feel that I have done what I needed to do when I stepped into the role and it is now time for someone to come in and stay for eight, nine, 10 years."

The mother-of-two says she is now looking forward to having more time with her family — and is also planning to take up swimming and cycling.

She said: "I have been a working mum for 32 years, so I am planning to do all of the things that I haven't had time for with my family and around the house.

"I have two grown-up children so I am looking forward to spending more time with them."

Cllr Cliff Morris, the council leader, said: "We will be sad to see Margaret leave, but we knew when she took the job that it would only be for a couple of years.

"The whole of the council will be involved in the recruitment process to make sure we get the right person as our new chief executive."