Lewisham Council has appointed an acting chief executive, following Ian Thomas’s abrupt departure.

This comes only days after the council issued a statement which said Mr Thomas would step aside at the end of this year, with the council looking to take a “new direction.”

Executive director for resources and regeneration Janet Senior has assumed the role of acting chief executive, according to a council statement.

It is the second time Ms Senior has performed the role, after serving as the council’s interim chief executive last year.

Ms Senior, who started work as a trainee at the council 30 years ago, has worked in departments across the local authority.

A Lewisham Council spokesperson would not confirm whether Mr Thomas was still receiving his salary, of between £175,000 and £185,000.

Mr Thomas was appointed in March following a “rigorous selection process” by an appointments panel consisting of then-Mayor Sir Steve Bullock and a cross-party group of eight councillors, according to Lewisham Council documents.

He has 33 years’ experience in the public, voluntary and private sectors and has worked in corporate services, children’s and adult social care, education and housing strategy.

Before moving to Lewisham Council, Mr Thomas was the strategic director of Rotherham Borough Council’s children and young people’s services, where his previous work included improving the borough’s children services following a child sex exploitation scandal in 2014.

Speaking in March, then Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: “Ian is an incredibly impressive and talented leader and he will bring a wealth of experience from his senior roles with Rotherham, Derbyshire and Trafford councils.

“Ian is a highly regarded local government leader who has delivered big improvements to public services. His skills, experience and knowledge made him an outstanding candidate and I am confident he will work alongside Lewisham’s communities to make our borough the best place in London to live, work and learn.”

A petition calling for clarity over Mr Thomas’s departure has reached more than 1000 signatures.