County council leader resigns after leak of damning new children’s services report

Louise Goldsmith
Louise Goldsmith

The leader of West Sussex County Council has stepped down on the day a damning report into the future of children’s services was leaked.

Mrs Goldsmith has been leader for ten years and said she put her ‘heart and soul’ into the job.

But, with the care of the county’s most vulnerable children likely to be taken over by some one else, she apologised in her blog that the service was a ‘very long way off from being good enough’.

Children’s services were rated inadequate by Ofsted in May, with the Department for Education appointing a commissioner to oversee improvements.

Despite the council showing early signs of confidence that things were heading in the right direction, the leaked report said an alternative way of delivering the service needed to be found because ‘the corporate conditions are not conducive to support and sustain genuine improvement’.

Kirsty Lord, the Lib Dems’  education and children’s services spokesperson in West Sussex, said: “It is a huge relief that it looks like children’s services will be run in a trust while the problems at the very top are sorted out.

“The operational and cultural problems cannot be allowed to slow down the improvements our children desperately need.”

Ms Goldsmith will continue to represent residents in her division of Chichester West.

She said: “I have put my heart and soul into being the leader of a county that I am so proud of. It is has been an honour and a privilege and I have loved every minute of it.

“However, it’s important to know when the time is right to take a step back and I want to hand over to a new leader so they can prepare for the next round of elections in good time.”

It is expected that a new leader will be elected at the next full council meeting on 18 October.