The council has received a letter from The Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government proposing to direct it to establish the new officer, who will have responsibility for all of the council’s staff.

As part of the proposed direction, the appointment to this position must be reached through a full and open recruitment process.

Tower Hamlets Labour Group leader Cllr Rachael Saunders said: “Tower Hamlets Council is now likely to be subject to a further direction because Lutfur Rahman’s obsession with secrecy and control led him to refuse to agree to a proper recruitment process for the council’s most senior officer.

“The chief executive/head of paid service role is vital to good governance, and local people suffer for as long as there is uncertainty about the council’s officer leadership.

“Lutfur Rahman was only willing to support an internal, very brief, limited recruitment exercise. For the most senior officer in the council, we need a public advert, proper interviews, clear and objective criteria - basic when recruiting to any role, vital for the most senior officer of Tower Hamlets Council.

“It would be better to be moving out of directions, rather than receiving more, but the intransigence of Lutfur Rahman, and his determination to avoid proper public transparency, makes this additional direction from the Secretary of State inevitable.”

In response to the department’s letter proposing a further direction on the process of appointing a permanent head of paid service, Mr Rahman said: “I and cabinet members have worked together with council appointments committee and already have made two of three appointments required by Secretary of State’s direction.

“We are urgently working to complete the third appointment and will be setting this out in our response to the Secretary of State’s letter proposing to make a further direction on this matter.”

A council spokesman said: “No additional direction has yet been made. The council has received a letter from DCLG stating the Secretary of State’s proposal to issue a new direction, which replaces one of the original directions, issued on December 17. This intention is subject to consultation and the council will respond within the timetable set out.”