Former council leader calls for ‘radical overhaul’ – as she announces she won’t stand for re-election

The former Conservative leader of West Sussex County Council, who has recently been representing Chichester West as an Independent councillor, has said she will not be standing in May’s elections.

Former leader of West Sussex County Council, Louise Goldsmith
Former leader of West Sussex County Council, Louise Goldsmith

Cllr Louise Goldsmith, stood down as leader in 2019, before leaving the Conservative party last year. She was not reselected as a candidate by the Tories.

This week, Cllr Goldsmith said ‘after much reflection and taking into consideration some health issues’, after 20 years on West Sussex County Council, she would not be standing again.

“I started out as a Conservative councillor and ended up as an Independent – the freedoms that has given me over the last year has brought me to the conclusion that party politics should be kept well out of local Government getting things done for the community should not be a political football for point scoring but a genuine call to respond to residents needs,” Cllr Goldsmith said. “Much has changed over the last 20 years, greater central control by a succession of governments has rendered councils almost powerless.”

She listed planning and schools as two examples where the Government had taken power away from local authorities, leaving them ‘greatly diminished’.

“What is now urgently needed is for a radical overhaul of local government introducing unitaries across the country. This would give residents a far better service where one council provides all services.

“Government should be bold and listen to the communities: giving people a greater say in planning and where they live will provide better outcomes for all involved but I am not hopeful that this will happen.”

Cllr Goldsmith said she will continue as a ‘community environmental activist’, working with Stand Up for Chichester SU4C and the Manhood Peninsula Action Group, ‘making the case that while development is needed in Chichester it is not on the ruinous scale as directed by the Government’.

On her time as a councillor, she added: “It was 20 years ago when I was first elected onto WSCC, and I can truly say it has been a very busy and fulfilling time with some highs and lows. The knowledge gained over that time is huge and diverse which makes the role of a councillor so interesting. Chichester West is a very special division made up of various villages, and I include Parklands which although is part of Chichester City behaves very much as a village with a strong community - as do all the villages.

“It is from these communities I have learned so much. Their sense of identity, the need for their voices to be heard, their sense of justice together with the need to get things done and their willingness and commitment to work together over issues to make a better place to live that makes this division so very special. This has been very much evident over the last year when Covid has locked down life but it certainly has not locked down the community spirit - quite the reverse. It is truly inspiring to see how these communities have responded to challenges and how they have coalesced to make changes. Working with such communities is a delight and I believe devolving more power to communities is definitely the way forward in these current times.

“I wish my communities well and from the bottom of my heart thank them for the considerable support that they have shown me over the last 20 years.”