Calls for Minister for Portsmouth role to be axed as ‘job is redundant’

The Minister of Portsmouth Matthew Hancock
The Minister of Portsmouth Matthew Hancock
Chancellor Philip Hammond holding his red ministerial box outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget

City Labour MP slams budget for ‘failing Portsmouth’

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CALLS have been made for the minister for Portsmouth role to be scrapped.

Labour believes the job carried out by MP Matthew Hancock is redundant since nothing has happened to help bring shipbuilding back to the city.

And the group says the final straw was Mr Hancock’s failure to protect the city in negotiations over Sir Ben Ainslie race base.

The council was left with a £863,000 bill clearing up the Camber Dock for the development and the government refused to pay costs, despite the department which Mr Hancock works for putting together the £7.5m package for Ben Ainslie Racing’s scheme.

Cllr John Ferrett, Labour group leader, said: ‘The minister for Portsmouth is not only failing to deliver a benefit to the city, it’s actually proving to be counter-productive.

‘The final straw for the Labour Party was the decision of the government not to reimburse the council nearly £1m that had been promised as part of the Ben Ainslie Racing project.

‘This is a gross breach of trust by the government yet the minister for Portsmouth has done nothing to rectify this.’

He added that his visits seem to be ‘more about photo opportunities’ rather than the needs of the city.

Labour will urge members of the council at a meeting on November 11 to agree to chief executive David Williams asking the prime minister for the role to be taken away.

But Councillor Donna Jones, Tory leader of the council, said the role has been essential since the shipbuilding decision.

‘Mr Hancock is working on a number of projects with me, including looking closely at the City Deal and he has visited Portsmouth on several occasions,’ she said.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem leader, said: ‘If we have got somebody who is doing anything for Portsmouth and doing anything to bring jobs here then we should keep them.’

Mr Hancock criticised Labour for its comments and said the party should be joining the campaign to support the city.

‘Labour should be backing Portsmouth like this government is, not running the city down,’ he said.

‘They should step up to the plate and appoint a shadow minister for Portsmouth.’

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock has apologised for a letter sent from his office to Milton resident Janice Burkinshaw mistaking Milton in Portsmouth for Milton Keynes.

City minister role was created after shipyard closure

THE minister for Portsmouth position was created on the back of BAE Systems’ 2013 decision to move its shipbuilding division from the city to the Clyde in Scotland.

The government appointed Tory MP Michael Fallon to the position at the start of the year and was tasked with helping attract businesses to the shipyard and bring more jobs to Portsmouth.

Offers from prospective tenants are being considered.

He was influential in getting Sir Ben Ainslie to choose Portsmouth to become the home of his America’s Cup headquarters. Matthew Hancock replaced Mr Fallon as part of the government’s cabinet reshuffle. Work he has done since includes signing off a £124.8m Solent Local Growth Deal which will create thousands of new jobs. He announced a £5m fund for the development of unmanned vessels