THE chief executive of Southampton City Council has resigned from his £165,000 post.

Alistair Neill is quitting for a lower-paid role as chief of Herefordshire County Council, which is closer to his family home in Wales.

He said he will leave in March after two-and-a-half years with “some fantastic memories of both a great city and a great team of people in the council”.

Mr Neill said he had faced the “most challenging period” in the council’s history, having to cut costs by £85m and make “very hard decisions” to redesign the council and its services.

He paid tribute to “tremendously talented and dedicated colleagues right across the organisation”.

Highlights of his time included construction of the award-wining SeaCity Museum but he said the tragic shootings on board HMS Astute a year-and-a-half ago would also be a “prominent memory”. Mr Neill helped tackle a gunman on the nuclear submarine who killed his commander.

He joined Southampton council from Welsh authority Merthyr Tydfil, having previously held senior leadership roles in blue chip private sector companies such as Unilever and BP.

Council leader Cllr Richard Williams said: “I am really sorry to be losing Alistair. Over the past two years he has dealt with a vast amount of challenging and huge issues with firstrate professionalism. He will be a hard act to follow.”

Cllr Williams said he would not rule out a shared chief executive to cut costs.

Former council leader Cllr Royston Smith added Mr Neill had done a “tremendous job” and shown he was a “great appointment.”