East and West Sussex county councils to share chief executive

West Sussex County Council could share a chief executive officer with East Sussex from the new year in an attempt to improve the services it provides.

Becky Shaw, chief executive of East Sussex County Council
Becky Shaw, chief executive of East Sussex County Council

If approved at a County Hall meeting tomorrow (December 17), Becky Shaw will take the reins of both councils from January, with the east acting as corporate improvement partner for the west.

Ofsted rated West Sussex children’s 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.

The report is expected to be presented in full at a County Hall meeting tomorrow (December 17).

As if the problems with children’s services were not bad enough, June saw a highly critical inspection report published regarding the fire and rescue service.

Paul Marshall, leader of West Sussex, said: “East Sussex County Council will provide us with the support and expertise we need to move forward and improve the services we offer our residents.

“Becky is a trusted and well-established chief executive with a great track record in public service and a fantastic reputation both locally and nationally.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Lee Harris for stepping up as Acting Chief Executive and for his valuable contribution in recent months as well as his efforts to support Becky Shaw as the incoming chief executive.”

In September, West Sussex announced its CEO Nathan Elvery was ‘away from his duties’, with Lee Harris, director of place, acting as a temporary stop-gap.

The council refused to answer any questions on the matter for two months until finally announcing he had left ‘by mutual consent’.

It stayed tight-lipped, though, about the reasons and whether any taxpayers’ money was spent on a severance package or even compensation.

It did however acknowledge that he had been paid during those two months – on a salary of £190,000 per year, that was around £30,000 for being away from his duties.

The start of Mr Elvery’s time at West Sussex was as controversial as the end.

In 2016, a £47,500 ‘incentive’ was paid to help him relocate to the county – he had been in the same post at the London Borough of Croydon – only for it to be revealed that he still owned the family home in Surrey as well as a new flat in Chichester.

The proposals for a shared chief executive will also be recommended to East Sussex County Council’s cabinet when it meets on Wednesday.

Keith Glazier, leader of East Sussex County Council, said: “We all benefit from stronger local services and good management which is why we’re confident this partnership would be valuable for East Sussex as well.

“Working effectively with other organisations has always been one of our strengths and I’m proud of a track record which means that our neighbours see us as ideal improvement partners.”