County councillor quits as deputy leader

Leading West Sussex County Councillor Peter Catchpole has quit his position as deputy council leader and cabinet member for health.

Mr Catchpole says he has taken the decision for ‘personal reasons.’

His resignation follows his earlier stepping down from his council post as cabinet member for adult social care following revelations of an investigation by police and council officials into services run by care home provider Sussex Health Care, of which Mr Catchpole is a paid adviser.

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Serious safeguarding concerns over two of Sussex Health Care’s homes - The Laurels in Guildford Road, Broadbridge Heath, and Orchard Lodge in Dorking Road, Warnham - were first raised in June.

Sussex Police confirmed they were investigating as West Sussex County Council suspended placing people at both homes which care for young adults with physical and learning difficulties. Police enquiries are still ongoing.

Originally, Mr Catchpole’s role was that of cabinet member for health and social care, but the role was split earlier this month with council leader Louise Goldsmith taking on responsibility for social care.

A county council spokesman explained at the time: “The portfolio has, until now, been held by Peter Catchpole. Mr Catchpole has, for a number of years, formally declared a personal interest in the private care home organisation Sussex Health Care as he acts as a professional adviser to its board.

“Throughout that time Mr Catchpole has avoided any decisions or briefings that may relate to Sussex Health Care, the council’s leader stepping in whenever required.

“Due to the ongoing investigation concerning Sussex Health Care which the county council is assisting, the responsibility for safeguarding and adult social care has transferred from Mr Catchpole to Ms Goldsmith to ensure that there is no risk of any actual or perceived conflict between his cabinet role and his declared work with the company.”

Announcing today that Mr Catchpole has now also relinquished his posts as deputy leader and cabinet member for health, Louise Goldsmith paid tribute to his work.

She said: “I am immensely sorry to lose Peter in both roles. Since joining the cabinet under the previous leader in 2009, Peter has been an exceptional cabinet member and through his stewardship the service has gone from strength to strength. He has my thanks for how he steered the service through the implementation of the Social Care Act, particularly support for carers and his determination to ensure that Meals on Wheels remained available for our elderly and vulnerable in West Sussex. He leaves an excellent legacy.”

Mr Catchpole remains as local county councillor for Holbrook, Horsham.