THE official hunt for Trish Haines’ replacement has kicked off - with Worcestershire County Councll looking for a new chief executive.

A large advert has been produced by County Hall in a bid to get a new boss in place by the spring.

The pay will start at £151,000 - £25,000 below Mrs Haines’ current salary - but rise to reach a maximum of £170,000 by around 2019.

The advert, which has appeared in The Guardian, says the new boss will have to take “a proactive approach to the unprecedented funding challenge” facing the council.

It also talks about managing a “much leaner workforce” and using “commercial know how” to make quick decisions.

The county council needs to slash £98m from spending by 2017 to cope with massive funding reductions, with at least 600 jobs being cut.

It is also intent on handing over services to outside bodies, known as commissioning, to save money.

Mrs Haines, 58, is taking early retirement in the spring, because the Conservatives wanted someone to commit to the long term.

The Tories were worried that if she went at 60, it would be right in the middle of plans to make huge cuts and outsource.

The pay for the new chief executive has been criticised by Labour, which says the savings are not large enough.

Mrs Haines’ early departure meant £95,000 had to be added to the council’s pension fund.

Councillor Peter McDonald, Labour group leader, said: “The council is fast losing the confidence of the people we were elected to serve.

“The days of big salaries in excess of the Prime Minister are outdated - it shows utter contempt for the people of this county who are struggling to cope in these unprecedented hard times.”

But the Tories say Mrs Haines’ old pay scale entitled her to climb to £183,725 within the same period, and that the new salary needs to be realistic.

Councillor Adrian Hardman, leader of the county council, said: “It should be an attractive job and we’ve had quite a lot of enquiries already, including a fair bit of interest from the private sector.

“Commercial experience will be the key, we need someone who can think differently from the traditional local government model.

“We are looking for candidates with a strong economic development background.”