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West Sussex County Council
Coat of arms or logo
Council logo
Chair of the Council
Pete Bradbury, Conservative
since May 2021
Leader of the Council
Paul Marshall[1], Conservative
since 18 October 2019[2]
Chief Executive
Becky Shaw (jointly with East Sussex County Council)
since 6 January 2020[3]
Seats70 councillors
Political groups
Administration (48)
  Conservative (48)
Other parties (22)
  Liberal Democrat (10)
  Labour (9)
  Green (1)
  Independent (1)
  Local Alliance (1)
Length of term
4 years
First past the post
Last election
6 May 2021
Next election
May 2025
Meeting place
County Hall, Chichester (geograph 4025876).jpg
County Hall, West Street, Chichester, PO19 1RQ

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) is the authority that governs the non-metropolitan county of West Sussex. The county also contains seven district and borough councils, and 159 town, parish and neighbourhood councils. The county council has 70 elected councillors. The Chief Executive and their team of Executive Directors are responsible for the day-to-day running of the council.

The county elects eight members of parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.[4]

Since 1997, West Sussex County Council has been controlled by the Conservative Party. In 2019, the council's Children Services department was described in a Children's Commissioner's report as "clearly failing across all domains in the strongest terms" leading to the resignation of then council leader Louise Goldsmith.


Further information: History of local government in Sussex

The Local Government Act 1888 created the administrative county of West Sussex, with its own county council, from the three western rapes of the ancient county of Sussex, that is the rapes of Chichester, Arundel and Bramber. Except for the three county boroughs of Brighton, Hastings and Eastbourne, the three eastern rapes of Lewes, Pevensey and Hastings came under the control of East Sussex County Council. Until 1898 it existed alongside the Urban and Rural Sanitary Districts when these were abolished in favour of a new network of urban and rural districts.

The Local Government Act 1972 abolished the previous structure of local government in England and Wales. At this time West Sussex became a non-metropolitan county, divided into districts. This act created the two-tier system of government that exists in West Sussex to this day.

Chairmen and chairwomen of West Sussex County Council

Since 2011 most chairs of the council serve a two-year term, previously the term was more usually four years though before 1962 the position could essentially last almost a lifetime. Peter Mursell was the only individual to serve two non-consecutive terms, the second being after his 1969 knighthood. Cliff Robinson (died 2009[5]) was the only chairman elected as a Liberal.

Chairs of West Sussex County Council in date order[6]
Years Chairperson
2021 – _____ Mr Peter John James Bradbury
2019 – 2021 Mrs Janet Elizabeth Duncton
2017 – 2019 Mr Lionel Harvey Bernard
2015 – 2017 Mrs Patricia Annette Cooper Arculus
2013 – 2015 Mrs Amanda Jane Jupp
2011 – 2013 Mr Michael William George Coleman
2001 – 2008 Mrs Margaret Delia Johnson, DL
1997 – 2001 Mr Ian Richard Wellesley Elliott, DL
1993 – 1997 Mr Clifford Robinson, DL
1989 – 1993 Mr Martyn Howard Long, CBE, DL
1985 – 1989 Mr Peter Geoffrey Shepherd, CBE
1981 – 1985 Mr Christopher Stewart Buckle, DL
1977 – 1981 Mr Charles James Lucas, DL
1974 – 1977 Mr Edward John Frederick Green, DL
1969 – 1974 Sir Peter Mursell, MBE, DL
1967 – 1969 Brigadier L. L. Thwaytes, DL
1962 – 1967 Mr Peter Mursell, MBE, DL
1946 – 1962 Lt Col Sir Herbert Shiner, DSO, MC, DL[7]
1917 – 1946 Charles Henry, 3rd Baron Leconfield, GCVO
1907 – 1917 Charles Henry, 7th Duke of Richmond & Gordon, KG, GCVO, CB
1903 – 1907 Edward, 5th Earl of Winterton, DL
1889 – 1903 Charles Henry, 6th Duke of Richmond & Gordon, KG, LLD

Political control

Paul Marshall (Conservative) has been leader of West Sussex County Council since 2019. He replaced Louise Goldsmith who had been leader since May 2010.[8][9]

West Sussex County Council since 1973
Years Political Control
1973 – 1993 Conservative
1993 – 1997 No Overall Control
1997present Conservative


The council is responsible for public services such as education, transport, strategic planning, emergency services, social services, public safety, the fire service and waste disposal.

District councils

Parish councils

See List of civil parishes in West Sussex

The Council

West Sussex County Council offices in Horsham
West Sussex County Council offices in Horsham

The whole County Council is the ultimate decision-making body and the principal forum for major political debate. Its 71 members meet six times a year. The County Council reserves to itself decisions on key policy plans, questions members of the Cabinet, debates major pieces of work by Select Committees and notices of motion.

It appoints the Leader who decides the composition and areas of competence of the Cabinet, to which responsibility is delegated for carrying out many of the County Council's existing policies. It also appoints the Select Committees which examine and review decisions and actions of the Cabinet and Cabinet Members, as well as some non-Executive committees and a Standards Committee. The current leader is Paul Marshall.


The West Sussex Cabinet has eight members selected from the Conservative majority. The Cabinet proposes the key policy decisions of the Council, which are subject to agreement by the full County Council of 71 members. Each member has a portfolio of work for which they take personal responsibility.


West Sussex County Council is divided into five directorates:

Adults & Children

Provides social care services to West Sussex children, young people, their families and communities; and services for older people and adults with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, sensory disabilities or mental health needs.

Finance & Performance

Provides the following services: Business Change & Information Management, Capital & Asset Management, Finance, Internal Audit, Performance, Procurement & Market Development, Delivery Team.

Communities and Public Protection

Provides the following services: Community Services (Community Safety, Sustainable Development, Library Service, Record Office, Registration Service, Trading Standards), Fire & Rescue Service, Infrastructure (Environment & Heritage, Highways, Planning), Resources & Performance (Business Management, Communications, Major Projects) and Wastes Management.

Customer Services

Provides the following services: Customer Services, Operations Support Services, People Management, Resources & Performance.

Policy & Partnerships

Provides the following services: Communications, Democratic Services, Emergency Management, Legal Services, Policy & Partnerships (Arts Service, County Strategy, Europe Office, Local Area Agreements, Sustainability, Youth Cabinet).

Children's Services department performance

In 2019, a Children's Commissioner's report for the Department for Education described the council's Children's Services department as "clearly failing across all domains in the strongest terms" and said the deficiencies were "systemic and prolonged". It recommended, "the government should take immediate steps to remove the services from the council". The report said there had been "inadequate and ineffective leadership of children's services for some years".[10][11]

The commissioner also found there was a "strong and pervasive" "bullying culture in WSCC, starting at the top of the organisation, which is especially destructive". It recommended a review of the council's leadership and culture.[12] Earlier in the year, an Ofsted report had found "widespread and serious weaknesses" in the children services department and rated it "inadequate".[11][13]

The report led to the resignation of Louise Goldsmith in October 2019, who had been the council's leader for nearly ten years.[14] The report may also have influenced the departure of Nathan Elvery, council chief executive - who had also been embroiled in an expenses scandal around the same time. Elvery left his £190,000 p.a. role "by mutual consent" in November 2019.[11][15]

Goldsmith was replaced by council Conservative party group leader, Paul Marshall, although as of 9 October 2020 continues in her county councillor role.[16] Elvery was replaced by Becky Shaw, who took over as joint chief executive for both East Sussex County Council and West Sussex County Council.

The council has often been accused of malpractice by service users and has a long history of having been identified as engaging in inappropriate and bulling behaviour as well as defamation on multiple occasions.


Main article: West Sussex County Council elections

County council elections took place on 6 May 2021. For detailed results for each electoral division see 2021 West Sussex County Council election

West Sussex County Council election, 2021
Party Seats Gains Losses Net gain/loss Seats % Votes % Votes +/−
  Conservative 48 3 11 -8 68.5
  Liberal Democrats 10 4 3 +1 14.3
  Labour 9 5 1 +4 12.8
  Independent 1 1 0 +1 1.4
  Green 1 1 0 +1 1.4
  Local Alliance 1 1 0 +1 1.4

Elections took place on 4 May 2017. Results are below.[17]

West Sussex County Council election, 2017
Party Seats Gains Losses Net gain/loss Seats % Votes % Votes +/−
  Conservative 56 11 1 +10 80.0
  Liberal Democrats 9 1 0 +1 12.9
  Labour 5 0 1 -1 7.1
  UKIP 0 0 0 -10 0.0
  Independent 0 0 1 -1 0.0
  Green 0 0 0 0 0.0
  Other parties 0 0 0 0 0.0

Since the divisions had been slightly reorganised and there was one less division than previously the gains and losses are not strictly meaningful.

County council elections took place on 2 May 2013. For detailed results for each electoral division see 2013 West Sussex County Council election.

West Sussex County Council election, 2013
Party Seats Gains Losses Net gain/loss Seats % Votes % Votes +/−
  Conservative 46 13 16 -3 64.8
  UKIP 10 10 2 +8 14.1
  Liberal Democrats 8 1 11 -10 11.3
  Labour 6 4 1 +3 8.5
  Independent 1 1 0 +1 1.4
  Green 0 0 1 -1 0.0
  Socialist Labour 0 0 0 0 0.0
  BNP 0 0 0 0 0.0
  Patria 0 0 0 0 0.0
  Justice Party 0 0 0 0 0.0
  Peace 0 0 0 0 0.0

Criticism of council spending

In October 2019 it was revealed the council had spent £36,000 on a drone, but not used it for operational purposes once in 18 months. In its response to a written question by Labour councillor Michael Jones, the council disclosed they had spent £20,850 on the drone itself, £12,353 to train 15 staff – one of whom had since retired, and £2,753 on its insurance.[18]

At the time of its purchase in 2018, Louise Goldsmith, the then council leader announced: “I’m really excited we have bought this ... to expand on the really fantastic work our fire and rescue service does. I know by investing in these ... they will help save lives. There are also some really exciting opportunities for us to use the drone across the council."[19][18]

Cllr. Jones called the drone's purchase a "publicity stunt" and remarked, “I was genuinely staggered when I was told that it had never been used, particularly as it had been bought with such fanfare. I think it’s certainly an insult to taxpayers." Cllr. Jones said he would rather it be donated to an organisation that can use it if the council is unable to use it itself. The council said it was reviewing the drone's future.[18]


  1. ^ "West Sussex County Council names new leader as Paul Marshall". 14 October 2019. Retrieved 16 September 2020 – via
  2. ^ "New Leader of West Sussex County Council elected". West Sussex County Council. 18 October 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  3. ^ "Appointment of a new Chief Executive at West Sussex County Council agreed by councillors". West Sussex County Council. 17 December 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  4. ^ "MPs for West Sussex". West Sussex County Council. Retrieved 8 June 2020.
  5. ^ Death of Robinson's wife Mima in local press report
  6. ^ Names and dates as listed on the carved boards in County Hall, Chichester
  7. ^ West Sussex Records Office
  8. ^ "West Sussex County Council names new leader as Paul Marshall". BBC News. 14 October 2019. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  9. ^ "Ms Louise Goldsmith". West Sussex County Council. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  10. ^ Coughlan, John (October 2019). "Report into Children's Services in West Sussex County Council following inspection" (PDF). Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  11. ^ a b c "Failing West Sussex children's service 'should be removed'". 17 December 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  12. ^ "Entire county council 'was under threat of being taken over'". West Sussex County Times. 15 January 2020. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  13. ^ "West Sussex Council - Ofsted Inspection Report comments".
  14. ^ "BBC News - 4 Oct 2019".
  15. ^ "BBC News - 27 Nov 2019".
  16. ^ "Chichester Observer".
  17. ^ "Results Summary" (PDF). West Sussex County Council.
  18. ^ a b c "The Evening Express - 22 Oct 2019".
  19. ^ "West Sussex Council - Drone investment".