Council leader warned over new Lib Dem leaflet

ALLEGATIONS Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson

ALLEGATIONS Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson

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PORTSMOUTH’S council leader has come under fire for using politically impartial officers in a Lib Dem leaflet.

Portsmouth City Council’s solicitor, Michael Lawther, wrote to Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson warning him about the use of ferry port workers in a photograph.

Council employees must be politically neutral under local government rules.

A recent leaflet produced by the political party included a picture of the leader along with Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder, and officers Kalvin Baugh, deputy ferry port manager, and business manager Mark Wilcox.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We had a member of the European Parliament come to visit the port.

‘It is very important that we have this visit because we have got a real issue with some European Union legislation that could have some impact on the port.

‘It is very important to know about that.

‘We took a photo and we need to let people know what the MEP is doing to work on that issue. I think it would be very bad if we did not tell people about that.’

He said the leaflet was produced on behalf of the political party.

Cllr John Ferrett, the leader of the opposing Labour party, said: ‘Gerald Vernon-Jackson and the Liberal Democrats in Portsmouth have shown a complete disregard for propriety in the way they have sought to compromise senior employees of the council but using them in this way.

‘I will be making a formal complaint on this matter.’

In his letter to Cllr Vernon-Jackson, city solicitor Michael Lawther said: ‘The use of the photograph of officers in an overtly political publication places them in a difficult situation and could possibly give a perception their impartiality is in question.

‘It is important we are seen to maintain the highest possible standards in public life and I hope this will act as a timely reminder of our joint obligations.

‘Whilst I understand the officers were unaware of the intended use of the photograph I have reminded the officers involved of their obligations.’

However, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said he asked the officers if they were willing to have the image used in the leaflet, and they agreed.

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