Political rivalries could block unity among Portsmouth councillors

Portsmouth Lib Dem members are calling on the council to ditch its cabinet system
Portsmouth Lib Dem members are calling on the council to ditch its cabinet system
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FEARS have been raised strong political tension among councillors will prevent decisions from ever being made collaboratively.

Portsmouth Lib Dem members are calling on the council to ditch its cabinet system which sees members of one party dictating what happens in the city.

They instead want to see a committee come in with cross-party membership and have a ‘shadow committee’ oversee the cabinet’s work for a year before it comes into force permanently.

And while an agreement has been made to explore how the idea would work, critics say a committee structure would cost upwards of £300,000 – and councillors do not get along well enough for them to work as one group.

But supporters say it would be ‘cost neutral’ and help to bring people together and enable them to improve their understanding of topics.

Speaking at this week’s full meeting of the council, Councillor Luke Stubbs, Tory deputy leader, said: ‘It would be great for all 42 members of the council to utilise their talents.

‘However, we do not have a collaborative political culture, as we can see from this meeting.

‘We have had major disagreements and seen people shout each other down.

‘Committee systems would be used to gain political advantage at the cost of putting off important and unpopular decisions.’

Lib Dem councillor Darren Sanders admitted members needed to ‘grow up’ – and a committee would enable that to happen.

‘The political culture of this city is really bad, the political fighting is wrong and we all need to grow up.

‘But I believe having a committee system will enable things to open up.’

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem group leader, said the Tory administration has the opportunity to do something ‘better than we did’ while in power.

‘We didn’t get everything right by any means, and here we have an opportunity to do something better than we did,’ he said.

‘There would be no extra meetings. There is a cost neutral way of doing this and would help people to become experts in particularly fields.’

But Cllr Donna Jones, leader of the council, said costs would spiral as extra council officers and a lawyer would need to be hired to oversee decision-making to ensure it is done legally.