Demand for answers over council’s boss Nathan Elvery’s absence

Nathan Elvery, chief executive at West Sussex County Council
Nathan Elvery, chief executive at West Sussex County Council

Answers have been demanded over the absence of West Sussex County Council boss Nathan Elvery.

The council confirmed on Friday its chief executive, who is on a £190,000 a year salary, is ‘currently away from duties’ and provided no other details.

Both James Walsh, leader of the Lib Dem group, and Labour group leader Michael Jones have called for answers from the council’s Tory leader Louise Goldsmith.

The county council has been approached for further comment to explain why Mr Elvery is ‘away from duties’.

According to an internal email Lee Harris, executive director of place services, is covering the day to day running of the council.

Meanwhile at the weekend Mr Elvery took to social media to share several cryptic messages.

He retweeted a cartoon which depicts two stalls one labelled ‘comforting lies’ and ‘uncomfortable truths’, with the former much busier than the latter.

He also tweeted: “Is this cup half full or half empty? The correct answer is both, but only one perspective will enable you to lead by your values, passion and create the culture needed to do great things.”

He added: “For anyone struggling to know which direction to go at the moment, follow the path your heart tells you, not the one you might be told to follow.”

During his time at the helm of the county council, the authority has received an ‘inadequate’ rating for its children’s services in May, and a critical report of its fire and rescue services months later.

Repeated questions have also been asked about a £47,500 payment made by the county council to Mr Elvery originally believed to be for his relocation to West Sussex.

However after it was revealed that he still owned his family home in Surrey alongside a new flat in Chichester, the county council said it had waived any requirement to permanently move to the county in his case.

Meanwhile last year he was challenged by a library assistant about the £3,288 cost of 5,700 new lanyards for staff to promote the council’s core values.

Responding on an internal messaging board, Mr Elvery said: “Thank you for reminding me how far we still have to go in tackling the ugly underbelly of our organisational culture.

“This ‘passive aggressive’ nature of our current culture has the potential to blind our organisation from the reality we face, the changes which must come about if our organisation is to be successful and indeed survive the challenges which local government faces today and embrace the opportunities which are evident for us to improve as one organisation.”