Sussex

West Sussex council leader Louise Goldsmith steps down after report leaked

Louise Goldsmith
Image caption Ms Goldsmith apologised about the failing children's services department in her final blog

The leader of a council has stepped down after a leaked report suggested the authority should lose control of its children's services department.

West Sussex County Council's Louise Goldsmith is stepping down after almost 10 years in the role.

The leaked document was a summary of a draft report of findings by Children's Commissioner John Coughlan.

However, Ms Goldsmith said she was resigning so a new leader had time to prepare for the next elections.

An Ofsted report earlier this year said children's services at the council had "widespread and serious weaknesses".

After finding the council was unable to guarantee the safety of all the children in its care, it then ordered a review of the children's services department.

The leaked report by Mr Coughlan, seen by BBC Sussex, was presented to senior figures within the Conservative-led council.

'Devastating' report

It claimed bullying allegations - which had not been proven - had a "significant ring of truth" about them.

It also said the authority had an "apparently casual disrespect for individuals" and a "hero-to-zero" culture, where those who angered senior leaders were ostracised.

The management of its services should be given to another organisation, such as a children's trust, it added.

James Walsh, Liberal Democrat leader for the opposition on the council, described the report as "devastating" but added it was "no surprise".

"The buck must stop with the leadership of the council," he added.

In a blog post on Friday, Ms Goldsmith said the children's services department was a "very long way off from being good enough" and apologised.

"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," she added.

In a council announcement of her resignation, Ms Goldsmith said she had put her "heart and soul into being the leader" but it was "important to know when to step back."

She added: "I want to hand over to a new leader so they can prepare for the next round of elections in good time."

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