THE top table at the North-East's largest local authority has been re-jigged to reflect the changing face of the council in the light of austerity.

The newly elected Durham County Council met for the first time at County Hall today, when Simon Henig was re-elected as leader for the third time.

Councillor Henig announced his new cabinet line-up, which for the first time includes portfolios for transformation– to deal with the changing face of many of the authority’s services, and social inclusion – to look at the impact of welfare reform.

Durham County Council has so far had to make savings of more than £180million and by 2020 expects to have cut around a quarter of a billion pounds from its budget.

He said: “Budgets are continuing to reduce and we expect that to continue so we have to look at everything we are doing to make sure our processes are as streamlined as possible.”

He added: “We’re really looking ahead to what the council will look like in 2020 and beyond and it feels like we need to move to the next stage in the development of the council.

“It’s the next step we know we need to make in looking at processes to make sure we are as future-proofed as we can be.”

Cllr Jane Brown is taking on the portfolio for social inclusion, and will remain responsible for human resources, while Cllr Joy Allen is taking charge of the authority's transformation programme.

The cabinet features three new faces; Stanley Cllr Carl Marshall, who will be taking on responsibility for economic regeneration, Cllr Olwyn Gunn, from Willington, who is the new member for children and young people’s services and Dawdon Cllr Kevin Shaw, who will be portfolio holder for strategic housing and assets.

Only three of the previous cabinet members will continue in roles held prior to these elections.

Cllr Alan Napier remains as deputy leader and lead on finance, Cllr Lucy Hovvells is responsible for adult and health services and Cllr Brian Stephens is still in charge of the portfolio for neighbourhoods and local partnership.

Lanchester councillor Ossie Johnson, formerly responsible for children and young people will be “flying the flag for County Durham” as he takes on the portfolio for tourism, culture, leisure and rural issues Cllr Henig also paid tribute to former councillors and cabinet members Neil Foster, Maria Plews and Eddie Tomlinson who all failed to re-elected earlier this month.

He said: “They put in long hours of service and hard work over many years and they will be missed.”

Proposing Cllr Henig as leader, Cllr John Robinson said: “We need a strong team and a team that can steer a course through the rough waters to come. We have a strong team in Simon Henig and Alan Napier.

“Austerity lies ahead and these gentlemen have made sure that as little of the services that this county wants are affected.”

Cllr Bill Kellett, a former Durham City Council leader and member for Sherburn, was appointed as the authority’s new chairman and has chosen the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) as his charity.

Cllr John Lethbridge, who represents the Woodhouse Close ward in Bishop Auckland, was elected as vice-chairman.