Louise Goldsmith said she was ‘devastated’ by calls for her to resign as leader of West Sussex County Council.
The calls came after a disastrous Ofsted report rated the county’s children’s services inadequate.
Despite harsh words and opposition from some of her own party, Tory Mrs Goldsmith survived the challenge to her leadership abilities at a meeting of the full council today (Friday June 7).
Fighting back tears after the meeting, she said that she did not know the ‘no confidence’ call would be tabled but admitted it was not ‘too surprising’.
She said: “It is what it is. You stand as leader and sometimes you’re in the sun and it’s lovely but sometimes it’s just horrible.”
Among the Tories who added their voices to the calls for her to resign were Andrew Lea, Heidi Brunsdon and Andrew Baldwin.
When asked about their views, Mrs Goldsmith was tight-lipped.
She said: “There were a few who made some comments and I’m not going to comment about what happens internally within my party.
“In the end we have freedom to speak and if they chose to speak that’s their option.”
She was critical of the debate held during the meeting saying it was more about politics and not enough about the children in the council’s care.
There are 727 such children.
Mrs Goldsmith was also confident that she had the support of most of her party, describing some of the things said to her when the meeting broke for lunch as ‘heart-warming’.
She added: “I know that people really felt quite strongly about today and wanted to tell me how much they supported me and appreciated the work that I’ve done and how much they were behind me.”
The council must now work with a government commissioner to bring children’s services up to scratch – and if he or she is unimpressed with the efforts made, control of the services could be taken out of the council’s hands.
Mrs Goldsmith said work had already started apace and was accelerating.
She added: “It is going to be a very, very arduous, tough journey but I think we can do this, I really do.
“The best thing will be when we come out of it, and that’s what we’ve got to work towards.
“We’ve got to think about that child that’s coming into care today, the child that’s coming into care tomorrow, that they have the best experience that we can provide and not a lottery.
“That’s what I’m going to be focusing on.
“People can say what they want. Everybody has to get behind this and make the voice of the child and experience of the child their number one priority.
“Because it hasn’t happened, it just hasn’t happened, and that’s part of it. When you’re silent things happen and that’s exactly what’s happened.
“I can’t tell you how devastated I am about this, I’m equally determined to sort it out.”