THE new leader of Portsmouth City Council has vowed – let’s make this work for the sake of the city.
Councillor Donna Jones, at the helm of the Conservative group, has clinched power despite fronting just 12 out of 42 councillors on the local authority.
Her bid to lead a minority administration went through after getting the support of Ukip and Labour.
While Ukip and Labour have not agreed to a coalition, they feel Cllr Jones and her team are best placed to lead the city because they say they have similar aims of ensuring the council becomes more open and transparent.
But critics believe the new structure is fragile and could collapse at any time because there isn’t a coalition in place to ensure strong leadership.
Yet Cllr Jones, the first woman to lead the Tories in the city, says she’s up to the job and the co-operation of parties will be key to success. To ensure that, she wants to hold regular briefing sessions with leaders and scrap private meetings.
‘It has to be a collective approach and I don’t want parties being left in the dark,’ Cllr Jones said.
‘Other councillors that weren’t part of the previous administration sometimes didn’t find out about some things until the same time as the public.
‘Openness and transparency and working with group leaders is the key to success. I will do my best to create a new culture in this city. It’s going to be tough, but I know that I have an amazing team and I couldn’t do it without them.’
The Lib Dems voted against Cllr Jones as they didn’t have confidence in only 12 councillors being in charge.
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem leader, said he didn’t have confidence in the new regime.
‘We don’t think it’s good enough to run the city successfully,’ he said.
‘If another party had voted the same way as us then we would have called for an adjournment to see if we could have talked about getting a stable administration for the city.’
The Lib Dems tried doing a deal with Labour beforehand to run the council – but Cllr Vernon-Jackson said it never happened because of ‘personality’ differences between him and Labour leader Cllr John Ferrett.
While the Tories can make decisions at cabinet level without needing approval from other parties, key decisions like the annual budget need to be voted on by the full council. That’s when the ruling party will need the backing of others to get proposals through.
Cllr Ferrett said: ‘Donna Jones has stood side by side with me in terms of campaigning for transparency and openness within this council.’
‘For a minority administration to have trust and the confidence of the majority of councillors, then Cllr Jones knows she will need to be far more inclusive.’
Colin Galloway, Ukip group leader, said: ‘I am convinced that this will work – it has to.’
Cllr Jones has drafted an apology on behalf of the council to pensioner Les Cummings for the abuse he suffered while in a council-run care home during the 1950s.
She is due to meet council officers today over reopening public toilets.