THE council’s interim chief executive has stepped down more than five months before she was expected to, Wokingham Borough Council has confirmed.

It was announced that Manjeet Gill stood down from the role in order to “pursue other opportunities” but her resignation comes after months of uncertainty at the top of the council.

Charlotte Haitham-Taylor, leader of the council, said: “Manjeet Gill has decided to leave the council to pursue other opportunities.

“What had initially been just a six-month contract, turned into a much longer assignment as she assisted the council whilst we recruited our new permanent Chief Executive and helped us with our long-term strategic plans.

“We would like to thank Manjeet for the energy and commitment she has shown to this Borough in developing and building stakeholder relationships with groups such as the Tenant and Landlord Involvement Panel (TLIP), representatives of our housing tenants, as well as partners including the NHS.

“We wish Manjeet well in her future endeavours, and we thank her for her dedication in extending her assignment beyond the initial six months.”

But Liberal Democrats leader, councillor Lindsay Ferris, told the News there had been “growing division” between some of the ruling Conservative group and the executive branch of the council over the last few months.

He said: “I have issues with the way the council was going and Manjeet Gill showed some class, but now we are completely rudderless.

“We have lost a senior leadership position from the council and that is a real, real problem.

“It has obviously got to a point where the running of the council is impossible.

“The council has just lost it at the moment - there is no continuity at the top.

“There is a serious problem that we don’t have senior people in post permanently.

“The council should have recruited a Chief Executive nine months ago.

“It is a shambles.”

The councillor added that he thought Manjeet Gill “was doing a very good job”.

He said: “I thank Manjeet Gill for her time at the council.”

Labour councillor Andy Croy said "Her exit was a key demand of the anti-CHT (Charlotte Haitham Taylor) faction."

He added: "It is a difficult time for local governments across the country and there are no easy roles in local government."

Manjeet Gill had held the post since September 2017 and was set to depart in March 2019 while the council searched for a permanent replacement.

Her resignation comes after Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner stepped down from his roles as deputy leader and executive member for finance in the summer, a position which has still not been filled weeks after the leader of the council said an announcement would be made.

He told the News: "I wasn't Manjeet's biggest fan.

"I don't think she was the best interim Chief Executive we could have had."

Cllr McGhee-Sumner denied having any knowledge of how Ms Gill's resignation came about.

Before Cllr McGhee-Sumner's resignation, Cllr Keith Baker decided to step down from his role as executive member for highways.

He told the News: "I'm not a fan of any interim that is in place for what is an inordinate amount of time.

"She was meant to be here for six months and she has been for over a year. 

"I'm not a fan of that lengthy position. 

"I know there was a lot of disquiet in the backbenches from councillors about her performance."

Deputy leader of the council Pauline Jorgensen told the News: "I think she made a good contribution and we will need someone to fill that gap as soon as we can."

Heather Thwaites is set to take over as Acting Chief Executive of Wokingham Borough Council while the authority searches for a replacement.

The News reported earlier this month that the council was a step closer to appointing a new permanent Chief Executive after councillors reviewed possible candidates.

But now the full council is set to meet on Thursday, November 22 to discuss plans for a new interim Chief Executive while the search for a permanent CEO goes on.

Wokingham Conservatives group and Manjeet Gill have been contacted for comment.