Waverley and Guildford’s joint chief executive is standing down from the role, saying a “recent health scare” and his future plans are behind the decision.

Tom Horwood took the helm at Waverley Borough Council six years ago, and took on the joint role after its back office merger with Guildford in 2021. He was previously the executive director of East Hampshire District Council.

Mr Horwood said he had delayed his decision while Guildford council (GBC) looked into the issues that led to officers warning bankruptcy could be declared this year.

The chief executive, who was hired to the £150,000 role in November 2021, described the job as a “privilege and at times a great pressure” and said his decision to leave in early 2024 had not been down to one thing.

Mr Horwood said: “I have been considering a change for several months, while I reflected on my career and future plans and the impact on my wellbeing, having had a recent health scare.

“I delayed the decision while we identified the financial and governance issues at GBC reported to council in July and August and put in place plans to resolve them.”

He added that he would work with staff and councillors on an “orderly transition of responsibilities” while a replacement was found.

A financial plan to shore up the council’s budget was brought to members in July, with a warning that the council could end up issuing a section 114 notice, as neighbouring Woking has done.

Problems in the council’s budget were identified this year, including a £10m accounting error, which have led to spending restrictions and warnings about cuts to services in the borough.

Mr Horwood was described as an “exceptional chief executive” and a “very good man” by Guildford’s former leader, Cllr Joss Bigmore, leader of the Residents for Guildford and Villages party.

Cllr Bigmore added: “I worked closely with him for two years, we spoke almost daily and his work ethic and professionalism was inspiring to all those around him.

“The fact so many issues have been found at Guildford Borough Council is testament to his tenacity and refusal to accept poor standards, the borough should be grateful that we are rebuilding from such solid foundations.

“His resignation will be a shock to many, but one’s health is of paramount importance, and I hope people respect his privacy.”

The two current council leaders said in a joint statement they were “saddened by his departure”, but fully supported his decision.

Cllr Paul Follows, the leader at Waverley Borough Council, and Cllr Julia McShane, Guildford’s leader, said: “Tom has brought professionalism, drive and hard work to a demanding role in difficult times for local government.

“He has helped build a capable and resilient organisation and both councils that will continue to thrive.”

Mr Horwood said he would “work hard for both boroughs” in the lead up to his departure.

He added: “I am grateful for the support of an excellent senior team and the political leaderships.

“I am continually inspired by the commitment and dedication of colleagues and councillors who work so hard for local residents at a time of exceptional challenge.

“I will always do what I can to champion local public services.”

In August, both councils also agreed a new joint finance chief at the authorities, on a six-month contract and at a cost of more than £900 per day.

Guildford and Waverley councils agreed to start sharing staff in 2021 as a way to save both authorities money.