Councillor Louise Goldsmith has announced she is to step down after almost ten years as leader of West Sussex County Council.
Cllr Goldsmith took the top political job at the council in May, 2010, and during that time spearheaded a number of new initiatives to boost the local economy, to create a more environmentally friendly county, to build strong communities and to increase the number of visitors to West Sussex.
The leader stepped down on the day a damning report into the future of children’s services was leaked.
With the care of the county’s most vulnerable children likely to be taken over by someone else, she apologised in her online 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’.
Cllr Goldsmith 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, Cllr 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, Cllr Goldsmith said: “Making the decision to stand down as leader has been an incredibly hard and emotional one for me. I have loved the job even though sometimes it has been really challenging and difficult.
“In those dark times you are very much on your own. I have tried to do my best to promote the council and put our amazing communities at the heart of all the work it does.
“I have been so fortunate to have excellent cabinet members and members of my party who have supported me. They in turn have done so much for their communities and I have been truly inspired by their commitment.
“The 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.
“I’ll be able to spend more time in my division, do some volunteering and start writing my book. There’ll be no more of the leader’s blog from me but I will be setting up my own personal one.
“My thanks go to all those who have shown me kindness, support and respect and to those who have helped me when I have needed it most over the years. There are too many to mention individually but thank you once again.”
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 Friday next week.