THE search for a new managing director for Huntingdonshire District Council has begun – and the winning candidate for the £125,000-a-year job is expected to be in place this summer.

It has been advertised nationally in The Guardian by Solace Enterprises, a specialist company contracted by HDC to lead the search for the right candidate.

"We decided on a national advert as members were very keen to get as wide a response as possible," said Malcolm Sharp, the council's current interim MD, who is to retire in July. Solace was chosen as it has extensive knowledge of the civil service sector.

While we'd all like the salary, it comes with dealing with the pressures that are facing local authorities across the country, taking responsibility for more than 1,000 members of staff, juggling an annual budget of £80million, making savings and generating income.

"It's a most difficult time in local government - the most difficult time in my 42 years," said Mr Sharp.

"There are financial pressures on one side - and we expect those to continue - and expectations of high level services.

"This is not just people demanding more and more services, it's also because of the changing demographic. There's more and more older people and, to give one example, there are more assisted living benefits being claimed."

The job interview process for the new MD will be as arduous as a task in the Apprentice.

Solace provides HDC with a long list of candidates which is then whittled down by Mr Sharp, executive leader Councillor Jason Ablewhite and his deputy, Cllr Nick Guyatt.

Those who impress will face two days of tasks and interviews. It starts on April 30 with what's known as an 'assessment centre'.

Various HDC partners and stakeholders, which the winning candidate will have to work with, are invited along to set tasks that each candidate will have to complete - a local government Krypton Factor (minus the assault course).

The following day involves candidates giving a presentation prior to a formal interview. Mark Lloyd, chief executive of Cambridgeshire County Council, will be an advisor at this stage.

As well as facing some tough challenges, the MD will get a great job in an exceptionally community-minded part of the country, Mr Sharp said.

"You get a real buzz when you see things happening and that's at all sorts of levels in the council," he said.

"We have one of the best recycling rates in the country and feel we're really doing our bit to protect the environment. You see people down in the [Pathfinder House] foyer being helped and think that's fantastic and, on another level, you see the new Huntingdon link road about to be built.

"Things like the link road come about because a lot of people in this building have the vision and imagination to process it. The partnership working gets it built but it started on a desk here over 10 years ago.

"One of the really good goods for the MD to come in to is that they are going to see a whole new community built. The Alconbury development will be seen in 50 years time as something that brought large advantages to the area and supported the economy."

The final decision as to who takes over the top job rests with the councillors and an appointment will have to be ratified at the full council meeting on May 15.

Having survived the interview process, the new MD is likely to start mid-August.