BOLTON Council’s new chief executive has pledged to ‘make the best use of the Bolton pound’.

Tony Oakman was announced last month as the local authority’s new boss and says he has long-term ambitions to deliver a bold vision for the borough.

The 57-year-old, who who lives in Wigan, will start work on January 8.

He will oversee major projects, including the council’s £1 billion masterplan to regenerate Bolton town centre, while also managing costs to meet the town hall’s budget.

Mr Oakman said: “I am a very honest person and pretty down-to-earth. I am a person who believes in doing the right thing and I think that is what Bolton has always tried to do.

“I am also pretty ambitious and I know that whenever I have led any service I have always strived to do the best, even in the most difficult circumstances.

“And you can’t get more ambitious than what is being planned for Bolton, with things like the town centre masterplan.

“There is a balance that has to be struck between economic regeneration and delivering excellent services. You could have the best place with the shiniest buildings, but if the services aren’t right then it becomes a bit hollow.

“Sometimes there are difficult choices to be made.”

He added: “Every penny counts and I will have to think very carefully about what we are cutting and what we are changing.

“We have to think about how to make the best use of the Bolton pound.”

Mr Oakman will be expected to provide long-term stability in the council’s top job, after becoming the third person to occupy the post in as many years.

Current chief executive Margaret Asquith took over in 2015, when Paul Najsarek quit the £160,000-a-year job after just five months.

Ms Asquith will serve as Mr Oakman’s deputy during a handover period when he arrives in Bolton, before she retires at the end of March.

Mr Oakman, who is currently deputy chief executive of Dudley Council, added: “I would be surprised if I suddenly had to say we are going to completely change things. It seems to be a well-run council, both on the political side and the officers’ side. The only reason I will leave here is if they don’t want me to stay. I’m here for the long-term. I am here to make a difference and build on the work that Margaret has been leading on. That is my ambition.”

The father-of-three was appointed after a rigorous three-day assessment process at the town hall last month, which involved four other candidates.

Mr Oakman, who was born in London, is now looking forward to returning to the North of England.

He said: “I am now an adopted Northerner, I have spent most of my life in the North.

“When I first went to Lancaster University, it really struck me when someone spoke to me on the bus. I think that kind of groundedness is important.

“Where I grew up, it was all about jobs and money and a house, and we didn’t have much of that when I was young.

“Going somewhere where people didn’t want to talk about your job and had this great sense of humour was brilliant.”