St Helens Council appoint interim chief executive

Council leader David Baines welcomes Harry Catherall,
Council leader David Baines welcomes Harry Catherall,

St Helens Council has appointed an interim chief executive as it searches for a permanent replacement for Mike Palin.


Harry Catherall, 56, will come out of retirement to help steer the council through this current period of transition.

Mr Catherall only retired as chief executive of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council in May following four decades in local government.

His appointment was cemented on Wednesday by the council’s appointments committee, which was partly heard in private.

Councillors also agreed to begin the recruitment process for a permanent chief executive, strategic director for place services and assistant chief executive.

This follows the departure of chief executive Mike Palin and interim assistant chief executive Keith Ireland, who joined the council in April on a consultancy basis to help lead its modernisation plans.

Deputy chief executive Paul Sanderson is also due to retire later this year, but has agreed to continue to work for the council during this transition period.

Following Mr Catherall’s appointment, St Helens Council leader David Baines said: “It is important that while we are looking for a new permanent chief executive we don’t stand still, and so we have today agreed to the appointment of Harry Catherall as interim chief executive.

“Harry has 40 years’ experience in local government and an excellent track record, which includes the successful delivery of major projects.

“This is an exciting period of change and opportunity for the council, and I look forward to working with Harry in the months to come.”

St Helens Council said Mr Catherall has been “instrumental” in shaping and influencing government policy on key public service reform agendas ranging from health integration and educational achievement to cohesion and children’s and adult social care.

Through an innovative Growth Board, he secured record levels of private sector capital investment in new infrastructure, housing and town centre development.

Mr Catherall will take up his new role as of Monday, October 7.

On accepting his new appointment, Mr Catherall said: “I am proud to be joining St Helens at this time, and look forward to bringing my experience here to help build on the work that has started, working alongside councillors, staff, local communities and partners to make a real difference to local people’s lives.”

Mr Catherall started his career as an apprentice accountant at his local council in Tameside aged 16.

Later in his career he moved into management at Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council before joining Blackburn with Darwen Council in 1997.

He became chief executive in 2012 until he retired in May.

Speaking back in November, Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Mohammed Khan, said: “Harry has very high standards. He’s extremely hard working and determined.

“Above all he’s humble and always passionate about making sure we do the best for the people we serve, especially those who need help the most.

“His integrity, attention to detail and persistence is why we have remained bold and ambitious in very challenging times.

“We’ve definitely been lucky to have him for so long. I’ve worked very closely with him and I will really miss his open and honest approach.

“He has our full respect and we wish him a happy and long well-deserved retirement.”