Local election 2015: Will power change hands at Portsmouth City Council?

Political reporter Miles O'Leary takes a look at some of the issues the next administration needs to address
Political reporter Miles O'Leary takes a look at some of the issues the next administration needs to address

Portsmouth MP flies out to storm-hit islands on first trip as development secretary

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Political groups are once again eyeing up taking control at Portsmouth City Council as the local election draws nearer.

But it is suspected no single party will have a majority on the council come May 8.

A minority Tory administration has ruled the roost since last summer despite only holding 12 of the 42 seats, because they are backed by Ukip and Labour.

And as more voters turn to alternative parties, it is likely the situation will not change any time soon.

Smaller parties have already talked of a possible ‘watershed’ moment happening at the general election in that they could hold the balance of power, and the same could happen on a local level.

Whether we see left or right-wing coalitions, or parties on both sides of the spectrum coming together to lead the council is anyone’s guess.

Plus parties such as the Greens, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and the Justice and Anti-Corruption Party may gain their first seats, changing the make-up of the council even more.

One of the big talking points is whether veteran politician Mike Hancock will be re-elected as councillor for Fratton. The former Lib Dem is standing as an independent, and if he gains a seat there’s the question of whether members who have long been supporters of Mr Hancock decide to go independent too, forming their own party.

Politics reporter Miles O’Leary looks at some of the issues the next administration needs to address.

Councillors’ behaviour

ONE of the biggest controversies surrounding Portsmouth City Council in the past 12 months has been the issue of councillors’

behaviour.

The public will insist that petty arguments and strained working relationships with outside organisations are resolved to help the city

move forward and restore people’s faith in local

politics.

Solicitor Richard Lingard, who investigated whether there was a culture of bullying within the authority, concluded improvements needed to be made in the member training programme, despite finding no evidence to show bullying was rife.

So constituents will want to see newly-elected councillors on May 8 being brought up to speed and made aware of the way they should conduct themselves – with each other and the public.

The council’s head of scrutiny, Simon Bosher, has already described how some councillors feel like they are thrown in the deep end from the minute they are elected, and don’t necessarily have the skills to get to grips with everything that is expected of them right away.

Much has also been said about the ‘childish’ way councillors take to social media at council meetings - and voters will want confidence that too will be brought to an end,

with action being taken against those who cause offence.

Balancing the budget

REDUCTIONS in government funding forced Portsmouth City Council to make tough decisions over the budget.

But each party has its own spending priorities and the Tory administration has come under fire since taking power last summer for hitting the most vulnerable hardest.

There have been big cuts in areas such as social care, but the council has been keen to get more third-party partners on board to take over services and stop them from being phased out. And after the elections, discussions will start up again as to where savings have to be made as it’s recognised public funding will continue to decline. It could result in more of the services the public expect from their council to be squeezed, or even wiped out completely. Should there be no majority on the council, it will be important for political groups to try and work together, if possible, to come up with solutions that will affect people the least. There has been a lot of talk about how the council can generate more income to avoid the need for big cuts – with one of the main ideas being buying properties and taking a rent. If that is to be pursued, the public would hope the council will get a big return on its investment and not result in more costs and therefore more cuts.

It remains to be seen whether a decision will be made to increase council tax as opposed to freezing it once again in 2016 in order to help subsidise services.

Regneration

MUCH has been said about the need for more regeneration in Portsmouth to bring in more visitors, jobs and improve overall prospects for people living in the city.

But residents will want to see more action being taken to encourage developers to get their act in gear and make use of sites that have been left derelict and or unused for some time.

Proposals have been sat around for big development sites such as Brunel House at The Hard and Europa House, and should they get planning approval, then the council should be helping to push things along.

One of the big setbacks in recent times has been the collapse of the multimillion-pound Northern Quarter shopping scheme, which would have been central to the redevelopment of the city centre.

But the council has said that it is trying to work up new plans - and hopefully we’ll see talk turn into something concrete.

And councillors, working with leaders across the city, should capitalise on the global exposure Portsmouth will receive hosting the America’s Cup World Series this summer to encourage spending and building.

The transformation of the former Savoy buildings on the seafront is also up in the air pending the outcome of a public planning enquiry which could give McCarthy & Stone permission to build flats and a Co-op store on the derelict site.

Transport

TRAFFIC congestion and transport are usually the most fiery issues that crop up in Portsmouth.

And it remains to be seen how the council will strike a balance between encouraging more use of public transport and improving the roads for cars.

Already, we have seen a decision by the leader of the council, Donna Jones, to scrap part of a bus lane off the M275 to accommodate more vehicles.

Yet should the Tories lose power, the bus lane could be reinstated by another political group eager to discourage more people being tempted to use their car to get to the city centre, Southsea and Gunwharf Quays.

The city’s park-and-ride strategy, and how it is taken forward, is also one for discussion.

The service, under the Tory administration, has been extended to Southsea on a six-month trial; and a decision will then be made whether to continue it, and if it could be rolled out elsewhere.

Cyclists will also want to ensure their voice continues to be heard; and continue to push for better cycle routes through the city to ensure people are safe. And at the same time, hackney taxi drivers have already spoken of how they want more road space. Given resources locally are tight, councillors have already acknowledged they will need to lobby the government for funding to make drastic improvements.

Healthcare

GETTING a grip on the future of healthcare in the city will surely be a top priority.

One of the big tasks the new administration will face is whether to pursue the option of buying up the St James’ Hospital site, and using some of the land to create health services and a new care facility for the vulnerable and elderly.

Campaigners are mainly concerned about the impact building homes on the site will have – but they also feel pressure at Queen Alexandra Hospital would be eased should beds be taken up at St James’s.

At the same time, the council would be making a positive step, doing more to promote healthier lifestyles in order to relieve the strain on GP surgeries, and pointing out the alternative services that are out there to A&E.

Politicians have pointed out there is a 10-year difference in the life expectancy of someone living in the north of the city compared to built-up areas in the south - and it remains to be seen whether they can do anything to bridge that gap.

But the good news is a £16.8m fund pooling together NHS and council funds is now in place to provide help and support to the frail and elderly and to keep them out of hospital. The aim of bringing together the cash has been to ensure those who need help only tell their story once, and there is more unity between the health service and social care services.

The candidates

BAFFINS

Matt Ainsworth (Ukip)

Sarah Coote (Green)

George Edgar (Conservatives)

Wendy Hamm (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

Lynne Stagg* (Lib Dem)

Michelle Treacher (Labour)

CENTRAL SOUTHSEA

Suzy Horton (Lib Dem)

Ian McCulloch (Green)

Benjamin Perry (Labour)

Daniel Sutton-Johanson (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

Derek Wareham (Ukip)

Kevin Warne (Conservative)

*Margaret Adair standing down (Lib Dem)

CHARLES DICKENS

Yahiya Chowdhury (Labour)

Hannah Mary Dawson (Green)

Jacqui Hancock (Lib Dem)

Christopher Hirst (Conservatives)

Carl Paddon (Ukip)

Chris Pickett (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

*Steven Wylie standing down (Lib Dem)

COPNOR

Terry Chipperfield-Harrison (Ukip)

Terry King (Labour)

Robert New* (Conservative)

Mick Tosh (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

Mark Townsin (Green)

Alan Webb (Lib Dem)

COSHAM

Adi Graham (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

Graham Heaney (Labour)

Kirstine Impey (Lib Dem)

Mike Jerome (Ukip)

Lee Mason* (Conservative)

Ash Potter (Green)

DRAYTON & FARLINGTON

Andreas Bubel (Labour)

Ken Ellcome* (Conservative)

Gavin Ellis (Green)

Simon Wade (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

Tom Wood (Lib Dem)

EASTNEY & CRANESWATER

Jennie Brent (Conservative)

Garth Hessey (Ukip)

Paul Pritchard (Lib Dem)

Paul Smith (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

Katie Worsfold (Green)

Julian Wright (Labour)

*Terry Hall standing down (Lib Dem)

FRATTON

Dave Ashmore (Lib Dem)

Sue Castillon (Labour)

Martin Cox (Green)

Massoud Esmaili (Conservative)

Mike Hancock (independent)

Paul Lovegrove (Ukip)

John Pickett (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

*Eleanor Scott standing down (independent)

HILSEA

Kevan Chippindall­-Higgin (Ukip)

Joshua Dulberg (Lib Dem)

Abbie Eales (Green)

Sue Greenfield (Labour)

Scott Harris (Conservative)

Doug Willis (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

*Alistair Thompson standing down (Conservative)

MILTON

Alex Bentley (Labour)

Stuart Crow (Conservative)

Jay Dunstan (Green)

Sean Hoyle (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

Robbie Robinson (Ukip)

Gerald Vernon­Jackson* (Lib Dem)

NELSON

Barry Davies (Ukip)

Nicholas Doyle (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

Ian Lyon (Conservative)

Leo Madden* (Liberal Democrat)

Rob Smith (Labour)

Bianca Vermeulen­-Smith (Green)

PAULSGROVE

Maria Cole (Lib Dem)

David Cox (Ukip)

Phil Dickinson (Green)

David Horne* (Labour)

Stewart Hurdle (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

Gemma New (Conservatives)

ST JUDE

Michael Andrewes* (Lib Dem)

Tony Chafer (Labour)

Bev Hastings (Ukip)

James Quinn (Green)

David Tompkins (Conservatives)

Andy Waterman (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

ST THOMAS

Ryan Brent (Conservatives

Jason Fazackarley (Lib Dem)

Aron Fielder (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

Anna Koor (Green)

Barbara Spiegelhalter (Labour)

Paul Sweeney (Ukip)

*Les Stevens standing down (Lib Dem)

To find out which issues are most important to people in the lead-up to the election - both regionally and nationally - visit www.whatmatterstome.co.uk/home