AFTER a very heated meeting the amount of cash given to Langstone Harbour Board by local authorities is to be slashed by almost £60,000.
The board looks after the area between Portsmouth and Havant which includes a highly protected Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The board is made up of staff members, the public and members of both local authorities.
But Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson refused to agree the latest budget proposal seeking a council tax precept of £127,000 for the harbour– a 10 per cent reduction on the previous year to be split equally between Portsmouth and Havant council taxpayers.
In angry exchanges he said: ‘The only organisation whose budget looks like this is the football club (Pompey) and we see where that gets to.’
He compared the harbour board to others such as Littlehampton and Crouch which, he said, are larger but get by without precepts and on a third of the salary budget.
His original recommendation was a precept of £70,000 this year reducing to zero for 2013/14.
But Councillor Ken Smith, from Havant Borough Council, said: ‘Since 2006 this harbour board has reduced the precept by half with a proposal to reduce it by another 10 per cent this year.
‘Our objective is to turn it into a profit-making harbour and not be a burden on the taxpayer. To have an allegation that we have not paid attention to this I find derisory.’
The board had until the end of the month to set a budget.
Councillors eventually agreed to a £70,901 precept, by 13 votes to two, but also agreed to carry out a major review and restructuring of the organisation before next year’s budget was set.
Portsmouth’s Cllr Lee Mason said board members had been ‘bullied’ by Councillor Vernon-Jackson into agreeing something they did not agree with to protect the harbour.