VIDEO: Portsmouth council leader hits back over plan to close door on asylum seekers

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THE leader of Portsmouth City Council says she stands by the decision to try and get Portsmouth removed as an area that takes in asylum seekers.

But Councillor Donna Jones said there had been a ‘massive overreaction’ from political rivals following the majority of full council approving the plans.

Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones in Guildhall Square yesterday

Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones in Guildhall Square yesterday

It comes after Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the decision was ‘spitting in the face of the people of Portsmouth’.

The Tories had put forward a controversial proposal demanding Theresa May takes the city off the list of ‘cluster areas’ that takes in families from war-stricken countries for the time being due to the strain it would have on local services.

It was passed following a vote which saw 21 councillors vote for and 16 against.

Cllr Jones said local people had to come first, and wants Portsmouth to be able to control the level of asylum seekers that can be taken in future years as opposed to specific numbers being imposed on the city.

She said: ‘There has been a massive overreaction to this request to the Home Office to consider removing Portsmouth as a cluster area.

‘As per usual in Portsmouth, there has been an extreme overreaction, particularly by the Lib Dems who will stoop to any level to try and claim the upperhand.

‘This is me, as the leader of the city council, making a simple request to the government, to reassess our status as a cluster area, to ease the pressure on school places, children’s services, social care and we have a very long housing waiting list.

‘If I don’t speak up for the people of this city, in the way I have done, I wouldn’t be doing my job.

‘While people are twisting this as the Tories being anti-asylum seekers, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

‘We have compassion and care deeply about the atrocities that have gone on under the Assad regime in Syria.

‘We are not saying we don’t want any more asylum seekers in Portsmouth.

‘We simply want to be in the same position as the rest of the towns and cities in the UK where we are in a position to offer help, as opposed to it being imposed on us.’