Care for elderly and vulnerable people is a postcode lottery according to inspectors.

Vulnerable people over 18 living in Brighton and Hove get a three-star service from the city council, according to the Commission for Social Care.

But in West Sussex, care is rated at two stars, while East Sussex managed only a single star.

The commission said that although East Sussex County Council had begun to improve, it still had a long way to go and had failed to reduce significant long-term problems with bed blocking.

The commission praised Brighton and Hove City Council's leadership and management. It said the council worked well with health colleagues, served most well and had "excellent" capacity to improve.

West Sussex County Council was praised for "transforming its social care services for adults, putting users firmly at the centre of the process".

Pat Arculus, cabinet member for adult services, said: "We are pleased we have gone up from one to two stars. It demonstrates the hard work and commitment shown by our staff to provide a good service to some of the most vulnerable members of society"

In East Sussex, the commission said some people were being served well but there was "uncertain" capacity for improvement.

The council - which blames its problems on insufficient Government funding - has set up an adult social care directorate, which is providing "effective leadership", and has created a three-year plan with an extra five per cent budget a year.

Bill Bentley, cabinet member for adult social care, said: "This is what we expected and we think there's significant reason to be heartened.

"We will not be satisfied until we are demonstrating wholesale improvement in the way we deliver services.

"But the rating suggests that we are heading in the right direction and I am confident our three-year plan will deliver real improvements to the lives of vulnerable people across the county."

Of 19 local authorities in the South East outside London, six were given three stars. None had zero stars.