County council’s Labour group appoints interim leader

The longest-serving Labour member on West Sussex County Council has been named interim leader of the group.

Chris Oxlade who has been a member of the council for 12 years, has taken over from Michael Jones, who lost his seat during this month’s elections.

While the group may have lost its previous leader, it gained several new councillors – one of whom is expected to take the top job in due course.

Mr Oxlade said: “We have a fantastic new team of Labour councillors, with a wealth of talent and a wide range of skills.

Labour county councillor Chris Oxlade

“It is my privilege to lead the group while the new councillors learn the ropes.

“We will review the leader position regularly and will elect a permanent leader as soon as possible.”

The front-runner for the job seems to be Caroline Baxter (Worthing East), who was named as Mr Oxlade’s deputy.

Looking at the group’s aims and priorities over the coming years, she said: “As councillors from Crawley and Worthing, we are very aware of the deficiencies of county provision along our beautiful West Sussex coastline and in our urban areas.

“We will be looking closely at the budget allocation across our different geographical areas, as well as poor financial decisions that have seen significant reductions in our frontline services.” 

Mr Oxalde said Labour would be reviewing the county strategy and budget allocation and putting together an ‘alternative approach based on the priorities of residents across the county’.

Issues such as the proposed closure of come children’s centres, care for older people and the state of the county’s infrastructure are also on the ‘to do’ list.

As for Mr Jones, he continues to serve on Crawley Borough Council and adopted a ‘never say never’ approach when asked if he would stand for county election again. 

Describing his loss to Zack Ali as ‘a little disappointing’, he added: “I look back with a great deal of pride and accomplishment, given what has happened at the county council over the past few years, and naturally I wish my successful opponent all the best for his four years ahead.”

The new Labour councillors are:

Caroline Baxter (Worthing East)

Henna Chowdhury (Tarring)

Dr Beccy Cooper (Worthing West)

Alison Cornell (Langley Green and Ifield East)

Natalie Pudaloof (Northgate & West Green)

Dawn Smith (Broadwater)

John Turley (Worthing Pier)

They join Mr Oxlade, who represents Bewbush & Ifield West, and Brian Quinn  (Broadfield).