A budget deficit of£780,000 prompted Mr Cawthorn to e-mail his staff warning there was 'little prospect of achieving a balanced budget without an effect on staffing'.
He proposed a list of options including a 10% pay cut all round and voluntary redundancies. Employees were furious at the proposals, and 105 of about 150 staff turned up to a meeting where 84 to 18 voted for a motion of no confidence in senior management.
Berwick mayor Bill Ferguson said Mr Cawthorn had requested early retirement because his position was 'intolerable'. He said the budget had been redrawn and although some people had taken voluntary redundancy no-one had been forced to resign and there were no pay cuts or reduced working hours.
considered for voluntary redundancy [or] early retirement in accordance with the council's scheme and I expect the council will consider the request along with similar requests from other members of staff.'
Unison said: 'We were unhappy because we were being asked to take these cuts when really the budget had been mismanaged.'
Independent group leader Ted Clemit said: '[Mr Cawthorn] was put under pressure by the Lib Dems. My impression was they said you should go, and he said you do not have the power to do that.
'It's a clash of personalities. They're saying there are several people who are not too happy with him, but that's no reason to take this action. There's no indication of who's going to do his job.
'The council is a tight ship, the officers do a tremendous amount of work. He's served the council for 26 years, he's very effective.'