Fresh calls for changes at County Hall after council leader’s resignation

Council chamber at County Hall
Council chamber at County Hall

Calls to change the leadership structure of West Sussex County Council are set to be debated at the same meeting a new leader will be chosen.

While the idea of switching back to a committee-based system was branded an ‘expensive distraction’ by some, for others the departure of Louise Goldsmith from the top job breathed new life into the suggestion.

Mrs Goldsmith announced on Friday (October 4) that she was stepping down as leader, hours after a damning report was leaked to the press recommending children’s services be taken over by a trust.

Dr James Walsh, leader of the Liberal Democrats, criticised Mrs Goldsmith for failing to apologise for leaving behind an ‘omnishambles’ at County Hall.

As well as the looming loss of children’s services, he highlighted the hugely critical report into the county’s fire and rescue service, the millions of pounds cut from budgets, the high turnover of senior staff and the currently unexplained absence of chief executive Nathan Elvery.

On Friday October 18, at a meeting of the full council, a motion will be tabled to scrap the one-party cabinet system ‘where an all powerful leader and cabinet members take all the decisions’ and replace it with a cross-party committee-led system.

Dr Walsh predicted change was afoot at County Hall and said: “Residents just have to look around for more evidence of neglect, in potholes, absent road markings, grass growing out of pavement verges everywhere, civic amenity tips shut two days a week, and most shameful of all the slashing of grants to look after homeless people and mother and children centres.”

In her final blog as leader, Mrs Goldsmith said children’s services was ‘a very long way off from being good enough’ adding: “This service has had a long history going back to 2000 of deep-rooted issues which despite various interventions, we have never been able to put on a course of long-term sustainable improvement.  For that, I offer a big apology.”