LOCAL knowledge won't be an issue for the man expected to head up a council that will replace two existing local authorities next year.

James Hassett is expected to be confirmed as chief executive designate of Somerset West and Taunton Council at a meeting on Monday.

He would take up the role at the start of January and become the fully fledged CEO once the organisation replaces Taunton Deane Borough and West Somerset Councils on April 1.

Mr Hassett, who lives in Taunton Deane and has coached at the county town's rugby club, is currently executive director (operations and place shaping) at Havant Borough Council and East Hampshire District Council.

He will replace Penny James, who recently announced she was stepping down ahead of the merger of the two existing councils.

His role will also include being head of paid service, returning officer, electoral registration officer and a core member of the central implementation team.

Mr Hassett, who will earn a basic salary of £115,000 a year as well as returning officer fees, was among 20 applicants for the post in a recruitment process that cost £35,000.

His profile on Havant Borough Council and East Hampshire District Council website says: "With considerable experience in successfully negotiating high value (£80m+) commercial contracts, managing large and complex programmes (£500m+) and delivering a number of high profile projects, James’s background in both public and private sectors is ideally suited to the role of executive director (operations and place shaping).

"A qualified project manager, James has also worked extensively with ISO9001 approaches and techniques. James’s role will assist in embedding a culture of performance and entrepreneurship across both local authorities."