A Tory police and crime commissioner candidate has warned he can’t promise to find £130,000 to protect a domestic abuse service – despite assurances he would secure the money if elected.
Portsmouth City Council’s Tory administration justified its decision to take the money out of a budget supporting victims by saying Michael Lane would find the cash if he’s appointed to the post in Hampshire come May.
I am minded to say that this is a great thing to do, yes, but can I say there’s definitely £130,000 available? I can’t say that until I have got an idea of what commitments have been made across the patch.Hampshire Tory police and crime commissioner candidate Michael Lane
The Tory group put the guarantee in writing in a document approved and voted through at the latest full council.
But when asked by The News if he has made the guarantee, Mr Lane said: ‘No, what I have guaranteed is, I will look at it urgently when I get sight of the budget.
‘The current commissioner has said he has spent all of the money, and he is not willing to share – unless I put in Freedom of Information requests – the kind of information that will allow me to see what there is. It’s a high priority.’
When told the Tories had put in writing that he would cover the £130,000 shortfall, Mr Lane said: ‘I am certainly minded to have a look at that.
‘I am minded to say that this is a great thing to do, yes, but can I say there’s definitely £130,000 available? I can’t say that until I have got an idea of what commitments have been made across the patch.’
Yet Portsmouth Tory council leader Donna Jones is confident Mr Lane will deliver. She said: ‘I’m pleased Michael Lane is committed to working with the council to support domestic violence support if elected. He has given us an undertaking that he will make domestic violence in Portsmouth a top priority, that’s great news.’
But city Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson says it is a ‘disgrace’ the council led people on.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It’s disgraceful. How can the leader of the council come and say “we don’t need to worry about this, we have got this commitment that this money will be found”?
‘We now find that isn’t true.
‘How can we trust anything that is said now? Maybe people would have voted differently if they knew what the real position was?’
The council has said any cuts to its domestic violence service would be frozen for 14 months.
In response, Simon Hayes said: ‘I’ve never had a conversation with Mr Lane on this issue, so I am both surprised and disappointed by his statement. I appreciate he’s coming to this subject from scratch, but it doesn’t help to fabricate remarks in this way, nor does it do his credibility good whatsoever. Whoever is advising him to campaign in this way should be asked to leave his team.
‘The fact is, I’m close to agreeing a partnership with Portsmouth City Council, in the same way I have with Southampton City and Hampshire County Councils, to create good support services to victims of domestic violence in the city. If there was no money then such arrangements clearly would be impossible.’
THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STRATEGY APPROVED BY COUNCIL
Below is an extract of a statement issued by the Portsmouth Tory administration at the latest full council debate about its domestic violence strategy, which was voted through.
It says: ‘I am pleased to confirm that before you today in our capital budget is a proposal to increase the council’s property investment fund.
‘The reason for the recommendation is to create new income streams for the council.
‘We are proposing to use £50,000 of new income this administration to fund domestic violence support, therefore putting the money back into the council revenue budget. I am pleased to also confirm that we are in advance talks with the police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes about a jointly-commissioned service to cover this area of work from April 2017.
‘In addition, we have received confirmation from Michael Lane, one of the police and crime commissioner candidates in the election in May, that if elected, he will fund the remaining £130,000 gap.’