Call for future annual reports to be ‘more balanced’ at West Sussex County Council

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After weeks of hitting the headlines for its bad news, West Sussex County Council has published an annual report which concentrates on its good news.

The report gave month-by-month highlights for 2018/19, including a drop in sugar in school dinners, £750,000 used to support homeless charities, and almost £148,000 secured to support armed forces veterans.

Of the latter, David Edwards (Con, Bersted), who served in the Royal Engineers, said: “I now feel more confident that veterans in West Sussex are able to get better help than they could before.

“We’re not there yet but we’re heading in the right direction.”

The report was tabled at a meeting of the full council on Friday (July 19), where leader Louise Goldsmith was particularly pleased with the success of Your Energy Sussex, which helped more than 1,000 homes switch to a cheaper energy tariff in its first four months.

But members of the opposition were less than impressed.

Dr James Walsh (Lib Dem, Littlehampton East) said the report showed a ‘fundamental disconnect from reality’ and that it ‘takes spin doctoring to a new high and has clearly been written by a leader and cabinet who seem to be permanently wearing rose-tinted spectacles’.

He pointed out that no mention had been made of the millions of pounds in budget cuts which have affected the likes of the homeless charities.

Dr Kate O’Kelly (Lib Dem, Midhurst) was more tactful, suggesting next year’s report could be ‘more balanced’ and include the council’s problems as well as its successes.

The report did include pages of information about the targets the council had failed to meet and the work being carried out to put it right.

Responding to the criticism, leader Louise Goldsmith said: “Mr Walsh, watch my glasses – there’s no rose-tinting in there.”

And Bob Lanzer, cabinet member for corporate relations, asked: “What on earth is wrong with good news? Can’t we be a little bit cheery now and then?”