Children’s services report to be released after general election

A report into children’s services at West Sussex County Council won’t be made public until after the general election.

Children's services in West Susses were rated inadequate by Ofsted back in May
Children's services in West Susses were rated inadequate by Ofsted back in May

Ofsted rated the services inadequate in May and the Department for Education appointed Hampshire County Council chief executive John Coughlan to oversee the necessary improvements.

A report leaked to the press in October suggested things were not going well, with a recommendation that the service should be taken over by a trust.

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Some councillors took to social media today to say they had now seen the final report, with one saying its publication would be ‘an extremely dark day in this council’s history’.

A county council spokesman would not comment on the contents of the report but said leader Paul Marshall had agreed to hold a cabinet meeting in public once it was published.

They added: “We can confirm the report has been given in confidence to all members.

“It is a Department for Education report and it is for them to decide the date for publication. We understand it will be after the general election.”

Labour’s Michael Jones has called for an extraordinary full council meeting to be held so councillors can discuss the report in depth.

He said: “The report contains devastating conclusions on this county council which are too important not to be debated and at a time as urgently as we can following the official publication of the report by the Department of Education.”

James Walsh, leader of the Lib Dem group at County Hall, questioned why it had taken more than two months since the draft findings were shared with the county council for the full report to be published.

Since then, leader Louise Goldsmith has resigned, while chief executive Nathan Elvery has left the authority.

Dr Walsh felt the report would be ‘buried’ if it was published between the election and Christmas.