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Elections: Lib-Dems have a battle on their hands in Portsmouth

The Pyramids centre

The Pyramids centre

Cuts to children’s centres, parking problems, the decision to keep pouring taxpayers’ money into The Pyramids Centre and a probe into a councillor’s conduct, and the regeneration of Southsea seafront.

These are just some of the issues that have affected people of Portsmouth in recent times and will ultimately end up influencing the way they vote at the local elections on May 22.

While the city has had some problems – given the decision by central government to cut its financial contribution to Portsmouth City Council by £30m over the next five years – there’s plenty to shout about as well.

And as political parties go out in force across the city ahead of the big day promoting their message and distributing leaflets about the benefits of voting for them, The News talks to everyday people in the city about what they think of how it’s being run – and who will get their vote.

Lisa Fletcher, 38, a mum-of-three from Landport, was the lead campaigner in the fight to save Sure Start centres.

Thanks to pressure she put on the council, it agreed to save the city’s 16 children’s facilities – but in return job cuts were made elsewhere to ensure money was still saved.

Looking forward to the elections, Lisa feels the council is ‘out of touch’ and politicians need to listen more to the needs of working people.

‘I feel like the politicians should speak more to the people about what they need, rather than what they think they need,’ she says.

‘The council is very out of touch with what the people need.

‘ I have just started to support Labour.

‘I believe they are becoming more understanding to what people need and they are starting to listen to the people more now than before.

‘I don’t feel the other parties will make any more positive change to the city.

‘It seems like we’ve been stuck in a timewarp with the Lib Dems, and it’s time for change.

‘I think Labour come closest to sorting out the issues that need fixing.’

As reported, one seat in each of Portsmouth’s 14 wards is up.

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See a full list of candidates here

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Labour has a stronghold in Paulsgrove and hopes to protect that, while hoping to pick up more seats across the north of the city.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party is focusing its efforts on picking up a seat in St Jude ward and keeping supporters of Ukip at bay.

The Lib Dems have an overwhelming majority and want to make sure their numbers don’t fall.

Meanwhile, music promoter Nick Courtney, who has set up a Facebook group called The People’s Plan for Southsea which promotes the seafront, compared local politics to a ‘kick in the leg or a punch in the face’.

He said parties need to concentrate less on taking stabs at each other and promote the good things that are happening.

But he praised the work of Councillor Lee Hunt, Lib Dem cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, for helping to raise awareness of the need for change in Southsea.

Cllr Hunt has been a big supporter in recent times of the redevelopment of Coffee Cup in Eastney and has welcomed the introduction of a new gourmet cafe near South Parade Pier that’s due for completion later this year.

‘I’m non-political, I don’t normally vote for anyone because I consider politics to be a kick in the leg or punch in the face,’ he said.

‘But I think that Cllr Hunt has put in a lot of work to enhance the culture of the city, and I find the work that he does to be extremely beneficial for the live music scene.

‘In order to entice people to vote, there needs to be more positive promotion rather than negative comments about parties you don’t like.

‘I think you vote for the leaders not the party, and that’s why I don’t vote.

‘Cllr Hunt has been more accessible and has spoken to local people – I like him, not necessarily the party.’

Vince Faithfull, chairman of the Southsea Association, believes the Lib Dem-run council has done a ‘poor job’ of managing the city and won’t be supporting the party.

He said: ‘I love the seafront and I like Southsea Common and the many different things Portsmouth has to offer, there’s quite a lot of diverse areas.

‘But there is a lack of interest in the seafront by the council, the lack of housing for the amount of people coming into the city, and this needs to be reduced.

‘I don’t think any of the parties are addressing any of the issues I have and I certainly won’t be voting for the current party that is running the city.

‘I think they’ve done a very poor job since they’ve been in control.

‘The main focus should be supporting small businesses and doing away with residential parking schemes in certain areas.’

Ellie Savidge, 41, of Cosham, is leading the drive to ensure a dementia day care facility stays in the north of Portsmouth once the Patey Day Centre closes – and feels Labour is best suited to protect people’s needs.

‘I’m very concerned about care for people with dementia, particularly because the council has agreed to close the Patey Day Centre,’ she said.

‘I’m also concerned about the public money being wasted subsidising The Pyramids Centre.

‘The council at the moment spends too much money on this, while essential services such as Sure Start and dementia care are being cut.

‘I feel Labour would be suited to address these issues.’

Helen Downing-Emms, vice-chairwoman of Hilsea Lido Pool for the People Trust, which runs Hilsea Lido, said she doesn’t think the potential of young people is maximised enough.

‘We need to work harder recognising and harnessing their skills and providing the jobs that will inspire those not achieving at school, and provide opportunities for those with ambition,’ she said.

‘The party that can best sort out these issues is the one that encourages larger businesses to move to the city and provide more jobs and the party who works with our schools to help inspire their students to achieve.

‘This boost to the economy would help the city enormously.

‘I would want this to assist in better local authority provision of services for those in need, and I would support the party who I felt I could trust, and if I felt confident that they would work with and for all the people living in Portsmouth.’

The leaders of political parties fielding a full slate of candidates in Portsmouth’s wards will speak at a local election debate at 1000 Lakeside, in North Harbour, on Thursday at 6pm.

They will talk about the candidates standing for election and why people should vote for them.

 

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