A FORMER Liberal Democrat councillor blames the party’s decision to cut public loos for his defection.
Alex Bentley, who was a member of the Lib Dems for 20 years, said he had to quit because axing 12 of the city’s 25 public toilets was a terrible mistake.
The 61-year-old, who served the Milton ward until he lost five years ago, said the move to demolish ones at Highland Road and Bransbury Park was ‘short-sighted’ because the buildings were modern and could have been reused.
Mr Bentley now plans to join Portsmouth’s Labour group after he gave up his Lib Dem membership a month ago.
He said: ‘Closing toilets and then knocking some of them down is a bad investment. It’s one of the reasons why I left.
‘I know things are tight but there are other ways those cuts could have been made.
‘Closing the loos is one aspect of the financial pressures the council is under.
‘But selling them off is completely different.
‘We had toilets built to the highest standard in the last 20 years, ones that were designed by our city architect.
‘These loos could have been mothballed until other means were provided.
‘I am sure there were people who were more than willing to sponsor them.
‘It is difficult to leave a political party that I have believed in and supported for 40 years, but the Lib Dems have moved away from the traditional liberal values that I believe in, so I have decided to join Labour.’
Mr Bentley, who was the city’s Lord Mayor from 1993 to 1994, also attacked the council’s decision to continue subsidising the Pyramids Centre, in Southsea, at a time when it needs to save £30m across all its services.
And he said local shops would be adversely affected if plans were approved for the Tesco superstore at Fratton Park.
‘My thought on the Fratton Park Tesco is, the leader of the council is absolutely wrong to say it won’t have an effect on local businesses.’
Labour group leader Cllr John Ferrett said: ‘The fact that traditional liberals like Alex are now quitting the Lib Dems is a sign that their national leadership has abandoned principles for limited power in a Tory-led coalition.’