THE leader of Portsmouth City Council has dismissed calls for Mike Hancock to step down from his cabinet position.
As previously reported in The News, Portsmouth’s Labour and Conservative parties asked Gerald Vernon-Jackson to suspend Mr Hancock from his role as cabinet member for regeneration and economic development.
They felt it wasn’t appropriate for him to carry on doing his job while an investigation is being carried out into claims made about his private life.
Mr Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, has been accused of subjecting a mentally-ill woman to ‘upsetting sexual treatment’ over the course of 10 months after she approached him for help with a neighbourhood dispute in 2009.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson has now written a letter to Labour group leader Cllr John Ferrett and Conservative group leader Cllr Simon Bosher giving Mr Hancock his full support.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘Their reason for saying that Mike should not do planning, regeneration and economic development is because he would have access to information about vulnerable adults, which he would not get if he wasn’t in the cabinet.
‘It’s not a reason that I can think of that has any justification.
‘It’s just them trying to get rid of Mike. The opposition has been trying to do that for 40 years.
‘He has done an extremely good job in that portfolio.
‘There is no possible connection between the work that he is doing and information about vulnerable adults.
Cllr Ferrett said: ‘If it was a council employee in the same situation they would have been suspended while an investigation was taking place. The decision is extremely disappointing and not one that the people of Portsmouth would expect.’
Cllr Ferrett has also written a letter to national Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg asking if he still supports a right of recall law, which would allow voters to call for a by-election if they believe their MP has misbehaved.
Cllr Bosher said: ‘I am pretty disappointed that it takes several weeks for Gerald Vernon-Jackson to reply to a letter which is that serious. Quite frankly it beggars belief. Mike Hancock is a city councillor and is a corporate parent, he is expected to carry out his work with the highest of morals.’
Mr Hancock has always denied the claims, which are centred over a series of text messages allegedly sent to her and claims of unwanted sexual advances.
He said: ‘I will not listen to advice from Bosher or Ferrett.
‘I will continue to work hard for my constituents in Portsmouth South and Fratton.
‘I am sure there are bigger issues in the city than my future that they should be concentrating on.’