Louise Goldsmith has announced she is to step down after almost ten years as Leader of West Sussex County Council.
The announcement this morning comes a week after we revealed that chief executive Nathan Elvery is ‘currently away from duties’ with no further explanation provided as to why.
Meanwhile reports have now been published by the BBC and Local Government Chronicle suggesting the authority is facing losing control of its children’s services after not improving enough since receiving an ‘inadequate’ rating from Ofsted in May.
Ms Goldsmith took the top political job at the council in May 2010.
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.”
During her leadership Mrs Goldsmith secured economic growth deals with district and borough councils across West Sussex, backed a number of solar energy initiatives, and supported projects that saw thousands of new homes and businesses benefit from superfast broadband.
In her final leader’s blog published on Friday, she said: “West Sussex County Council is made up of staff whose dedication and commitment shines through in so many ways. I thank them for all they do.
“In standing down as leader there is going to be a big hole in my life. I will certainly have more time for other things - gardening, catching up with friends and campaigning on environmental issues to tackle climate change.”
Ms Goldsmith will continue to represent residents in her division of Chichester West.
It is expected that a new leader will be elected at the next full council meeting on October 18.
Reacting to the announcement Labour group leader Michael Jones said: “After last night’s shocking article from the Local Government Chronicle, it is right that Louise Goldsmith has now stood down as leader of West Sussex County Council. It should have happened months ago, after the initial Ofsted report, instead of clinging on to power until now.
“This is a discredited Tory administration that has lost all credibility to run West Sussex. To lose children’s services to an external trust which is now a likely outcome is an utterly devastating blow to this council and its political reputation. Her resignation should be the first of several in my view. This failure runs deep.”
Meanwhile Kirsty Lord, the Lib Dems’ education and children’s services spokesperson, added: “For Louise Goldsmith to not even refer to the current systematic problems at WSCC in her resignation statement but instead state she’s looking forward to doing more gardening and wants to give the new leader time to prepare for elections in two years’ time is both shameful and shameless.”