LANCASHIRE County Council's leader was last night accused of seeking to force out his chief executive with a new top management structure.

County Cllr Geoff Driver surprised the authority’s ruling Cabinet yesterday by proposing the streamlining including cutting the number of senior bosses.

The new chief executive role under the plans would include financial and ‘Section 151’ accounting responsibilities for which current postholder Jo Turton is not qualified.

County Labour opposition group leader, County Cllr Azhar Ali, said: “This flimsy restructure is aimed at forcing the current chief executive and other senior staff out of their jobs.

“It is part of a vendetta and witch hunt against Jo Turton and her senior team by County Cllr Driver.

“There are no savings.”

Cllr Peter Britcliffe, county council Conservative group chairman, dismissed Cllr Ali’s claims as ‘playing politics and mischief-making’.

The unexpected development follows Burnley-born County Cllr Diver banning Ms Turton and four other senior staff from all briefings which he attends.

It would cut the number of top posts from 17 to 12.

The 72-year-old, who took back control of County Hall in May’s local elections, also ordered the four to communicate with him only in writing in a move branded extraordinary by former Blackburn MP and Cabinet minister Jack Straw.

County Cllr Driver was one of four people arrested and interviewed by police in May as part of the long-running One Connect inquiry into county council contracts.

He is on police bail ‘on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and witness intimidation’ pending further investigations.

The new management structure was put forward in private session of the ruling Cabinet of the county council which provides key services to Burnley, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley,Pendle and Rossendale

Nelson East’s County Cllr Ali said: “This was a single page of A4 paper with not details, no legal advice and no human resources input.

“The new chief executive’s post has Section 151 accounting and audit responsibilities for which Jo Turton is not qualified.

"It is about forcing her and other senior staff into gardening leave and out of their jobs requiring expensive temporary appointments,

“It is out of order and I shall be writing again to Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid about this wholly unacceptable situation.”

Oswaldtwistle’s County Cllr Britcliffe said: “This is a restructuring to prepare the county council for the financial challenges ahead.

“Once again Cllr Ali is playing politics and mischief-making with no regard for the interests of Lancashire council taxpayers.”

County Councillor Alan Vincent, Lead Member for Human Resources, said: “Cabinet agreed today to recommend a new structure for the county council’s senior management to Full Council next week with a recommendation to instruct the employment committee to implement that new structure.

“As that revised structure replaces the current chief executive role with a new position that requires formal financial qualifications, the intention would be to appoint to that new position on an interim basis as soon as possible, should Full Council agree.”