Bosses at Hampshire Council Council have defended the appointment of the new senior manager.

Leader Ken Thornber says the new role is vital in helping boost the local economy.

In a statement he said: “We have reduced the number of senior managers across the county council by 25 per cent, saving millions of pounds on our pay bill and reducing overheads as part of our £100m cost reduction programme.

“The previous director of economic development retired and was not replaced. The assistant director for economic development post was kept vacant during this cost reduction process.

“Therefore, with the national focus on promoting economic development and growth, the county council sees this as a priority requiring operational leadership through the existing vacancy for an assistant director, hence the recent recruitment.

“Central government is clear that councils have a key role to play in supporting local economies, particularly given the current economic climate. We do this through a number of work streams, including apprenticeships, partnerships with local businesses and bidding for infrastructure funding for Hampshire.

“Hampshire has done very well in recent competitive funding bids to central government on transport to support our local economy, and I was very pleased to welcome Eric Pickles to Hampshire recently to discuss how we, and our neighbours, can most effectively work together to support economic growth.

“Economic development is important to us all, and it would be a mistake to assume that any area can take economic success and prosperity for granted.”