Portsmouth council boss dismisses union claim she hired ‘personal policy advisor’ commanding bumper salary

Cllr Donna Jones
Cllr Donna Jones

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THE leader of Portsmouth City Council has been accused of ‘double standards’ by unions who say she slashed their budget while taking on a personal advisor with a bumper salary.

Councillor Donna Jones and her Tory administration decided to take away about half of the £75,000 fund the council gave unions to represent workers in this year’s budget.

The policy and strategy advisor is a political role and I have no politically appointed staff working for me. I do my own policy and strategy work.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council

The fund enables trade union representatives to be released from their day jobs to represent members.

But union bosses say it’s an outrage as internal data reveals Cllr Jones appointed her own ‘leader’s programme manager’ advising her on policy and strategy in 2014, a position they say pays more than £40,000 a year.

But Cllr Jones has denied the claims.

Unite regional officer Richard White said: ‘What we have here is a case of double standards – council leader Donna Jones has described facility time that promotes good working practice across the council as a luxury, while liberally splashing out council taxpayers’ cash on her own policy advisor. I will let the citizens of Portsmouth decide which is the better use of public money – a long-established system that provides a smooth-running employment structure for the 3,600-strong council workforce, or the ego boost of having your own policy advisor as council leader?

‘Cllr Jones seems hell-bent on halving the budget in a self-defeating fit of anti-union pique.’

Mr White said unions sat on a panel in 2014 to talk about the new appointment in Cllr Jones’ office.

He said the role was initially on a band nine pay group – £29,800 – but it has now risen to a band 12 – between £40,000 and £45,000.

Cllr Jones said: ‘The policy and strategy advisor is a political role and I have no politically-appointed staff working for me. I do my own policy and strategy work.’

She added: ‘The council has had to put forward £900,000 of savings; over the past three years GMB have had a vacant position and not used their allocation of union facilities funding.

‘Therefore, as part of the £900,000 we are saving, we have reduced the majority allocation of the GMB union support from £75,000 to £37,000.

‘The Conservatives were the only political group to propose any funding for the unions.’