The decision to drop Mr Cairns after five years' service was made by an all-party sub-committee, which will shortly decide the fate of four executive directors.
Mr Cairns' contract expires at the end of March 2001 and he is negotiating with the council about whether he will continue until then.
A spokesman said the decision was not linked to management or political restructuring: 'The only restructuring per se is in one directorate - leisure and community services. There has been no wholesale restructuring.' Despite having a cabinet, members have made no decisions as to whether this requires a different officer structure, he said.
'This has included successfully overseeing a smooth transfer to a new, much larger unitary authority, the implementation of key medium and long-term strategies and major developments in the city centre.'