Looking at the priorities in Portsmouth South

Old Portsmouth and Gunwharf Quays, part of the Portsmouth South constituency. Picture: Hedley Potts
Old Portsmouth and Gunwharf Quays, part of the Portsmouth South constituency. Picture: Hedley Potts

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It’s the seat in the general election everyone is talking about.

As the race to polling day on May 7 hots up, a lot of the discussion is around Portsmouth South and whether Mike Hancock will hold on to his seat as MP.

Parties have been busy on the campaign trail, with ministers coming down to champion their message and meet residents in a bid to get them on side. Portsmouth South has been shown in a bad light in recent times – but candidates are sending the message they will do all they can to improve prospects for people living in the area and show it’s a place open for business.

Political reporter Miles O’Leary takes a look at some of the key issues surrounding the constituency and what the priorities are for the next MP in the coming parliament.

The Mike Hancock situation

IT is a constituency which has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in recent times.

Portsmouth South’s reputation has been hampered largely by the scandal surrounding independent candidate Mike Hancock, who has been MP for the seat since 1997.

The allegations surrounding his personal conduct hampered the Lib Dems, the party he formerly represented, and knocked people’s confidence in politics.

The national focus was on Portsmouth at a time when Mr Hancock admitted to behaving inappropriately towards a vulnerable female constituent during his time as a Fratton councillor.

He also spent months in hospital recovering from multiple health issues, leaving people confused as to whether they still had a voice in government.

So it will be down to the next member of parliament to restore the image of the constituency and people’s confidence they have someone who will stand up for them – whether that be Mr Hancock himself or not.

Voters will want to see less talk over personal issues and an end to controversies and more action being taken to improve the area and get on with the job at hand.

Restoring faith in the constituency is a win-win situation that will not only help to bring residents on side – but attract bigger business and improve tourism.

The seafront

MUCH has been said about the need to regenerate the city’s seafront.

The council’s masterplan for the area identifies the need for more cafes, restaurants and other attractions to boost tourism. But residents will want to see action being taken in the next parliament by their MP to get things going.

While the local authority has decided to spend £100,000 from its capital budget on improvements, no commitment has been made that more will be added due to budget constraints.

So it will be the MP’s task to try to lure in additional funding from outside organisations and the government for the big projects.

And people will be turning to the MP to help come up with ideas for what more can be done.

Already we have seen plans turned down for flats on the site of the former Savoy buildings as campaigners felt they were too lacklustre for such a prime location.

There has been talk of trying to attract a five-star hotel to the seafront area, and that will also be of the things people hope an MP can help make a reality.

Yet it is encouraging to see work finally taking place to transform South Parade Pier, which has been a blot on the landscape for years. And people will want to see their MP supporting this and capitalising on the America’s Cup coming to the city this summer to lure in more business.

The roads

TRAFFIC congestion and parking are some of the biggest bones of contention in the Portsmouth South constituency.

Southsea is the most densely populated area in the city and getting around by car is difficult at the best of times.

There is also the ongoing issue of traffic entering the city via the M275 and how best to improve the flow of vehicles coming in to work and visit.

It is a situation that hampers everyone including residents, visitors and local businesses – and could become even worse if more and more cars are added to the roads.

Working with the city council, there will be a need for the local MP to help better promote public transport and get people to use initiatives like park-and-ride and get into cycling.

And because money locally is tight, voters would hope the seat’s next parliamentary representative joins in the fight for funding to improve bus and cycle routes.

One of the big changes being made to parking locally is the removal of free parking permits and the removal of restrictions in areas where people do not want to pay.

Opinion is divided over the issue and people will want assurance their MP will put pressure on the council to make changes if the scheme does not work out to be a success – regardless of whether the administration in charge represents the same political party as they do.

St James’

ADDRESSING the future of healthcare in Portsmouth is critical at a time when the city’s population continues to grow and people live longer.

One of the big talking points has been the future of St James’ Hospital, in Milton, and how the land could potentially be transformed into a new care home.

The proposal has been put on the table by the city council which is wary about the land being turned instead into hundreds of new homes by developers.

It appears the plans will not be revisited until after the election - and the newly-elected MP will need to address whether it is the best option.

It’s been estimated the city council may need to pay up to £8m to buy the site and use it to create a care home - and that figure will need to be looked over to see if a better deal can be found.

Critics have also voiced concerns putting people back into an ‘institutionalised’ form of care which would be a major step backwards - and that too needs considering.

Another major issue is the uncertainty over the future of St James’ Baytrees unit, which has 23 beds for people to stay in and recover from using drink and drugs.

It’s the only NHS centre of its kind in Hampshire yet has lost out on major funding - much to the dismay of former patients. People will look to their MP to see if there is a way they can secure money from the government or elsewhere to stop it from closing.

Northern quarter

RESIDENTS will want some form of guarantee from the future Portsmouth South MP that they can help salvage plans to transform the Northern Quarter.

The city’s retail economy was dealt a blow after long-awaited plans to create a multimillion-pound shopping centre on the site of the former Tricorn Centre were pulled last year.

Frustrated constituents would surely hope to see their next MP getting around the table with stakeholders to sort out how the land can be brought back into use, and work out what needs to be done to encourage developers to spend.

Collaborative working with the council’s cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development will be crucial to ensure well thought out plans are put on the table - and there isn’t a rush to fix the situation by putting scores of houses there instead.

Meetings also need to happen with city centre shops to see what extra support they need in the meantime which will help boost footfall, and how they can be included in future plans.

Rhoda Joseph, centre director for Cascades Shopping Centre, has already spoken of the critical need for shops to be involved.

It comes after Councillor Donna Jones, leader of the council, said she didn’t think Cascades would have benefited from the previous proposals, which had been about 10 years in the making.

The candidates bidding to be the next MP for Portsmouth South

SUE CASTILLON - LABOUR

Sue Castillon is a mother, grandmother and wife of 47 years; and has a background in youth and community work.

She has lived and worked in Portsmouth for 21 years and was previously involved in regeneration work after the miner’s strike in the 1980s within the community of Bolsover, Derbyshire.

She helped raise, alongside Dennis Skinner MP, £100,000 to renovate an old school into community facilities, an IT suite, a youth club, and an arts wing.

FLICK DRUMMOND - CONSERVATIVE

Flick Drummond lives in Southsea and is married with four children. Ms Drummond used to work as an insurance broker, Ofsted lay school inspector and was a member of the TA Intelligence Corps.

She has been a school governor at Milton Park Primary School for six years, and was a Winchester city councillor before moving to America in 1999 until 2004.

She stood in Portsmouth South at the last general election.

GERALD VERNON-JACKSON - LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Gerald Vernon-Jackson is councillor for Milton ward, Liberal Democrat group leader and was leader of Portsmouth City Council for 10 years up until last summer.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson is also a vice-chairman of the Local Government Association, representing Liberal Democrats nationally. He has been involved in campaigns to keep the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, build new council homes and under his watch £1.45m of taxpayers’ cash was loaned to Pompey Supporters Trust to help it take over the club.

SEAN HOYLE - TRADE UNIONIST AND SOCIALIST COALITION

Sean Hoyle is 50 and has lived in Portsmouth all his life. He is married with two daughters.

Mr Hoyle has spent the last 25 years working at Wightlink and is currently a team leader.

He has also been elected to the governing body of the RMT union, which represents transport workers across the city, and is the regional branch president.

Mr Hoyle is also standing as a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate in Milton ward at the local elections.

DON JERRARD - JUSTICE AND ANTI-CORRUPTION PARTY

Don Jerrard was born in Southampton and educated in Hampshire, where he has lived for most of his life.

After graduating from the University of Cambridge, Mr Jerrard qualified as a solicitor and became a senior partner of an international law firm in London.

In 2010, he co-founded The Justice & Anti-Corruption Party, an independent party which seeks to obtain justice for victims of abuse of power, and to expose political and other corruption.

MIKE HANCOCK - INDEPENDENT

Mike Hancock has been MP for Portsmouth South since 1997 and had a career in politics for more than 40 years.

He is a former leader of Hampshire County Council, and was first elected onto Portsmouth City Council in 1971, representing Nelson ward. He was elected in Fratton two years later and represented the area until he lost his seat at last year’s local elections. He has campaigned on issues such as a better NHS in Portsmouth, more police and a better deal for local schools.

IAN MCCULLOCH - GREENS

lan McCulloch lives in North End and is a supermarket delivery driver. He is also running for the Green Party in Central Southsea ward at the local elections.

He believes money needs spending on proper jobs, and supports local businesses and paying a minimum wage.

Earlier this year, Mr McCulloch launched a crowdfunding page online to raise funds for his campaign as he said the Greens are not backed by big corporate or trade union backers.

STEVE HARRIS - UKIP

Steve Harris is a retired officer of the US Navy. He was born in Aldershot, and spent time living in the Sudan, the USA and Hong Kong. He attended Valley Forge Military Academy, and enlisted in the US Navy in 1966.

Mr Harris undertook three tours of Vietnam, completing a degree in history, political science and international relations between the first and second tour. He retired as a naval officer in 1992, and was in Hong Kong to witness the state’s handover to China in 1997. He joined Ukip in 2001, and has formerly been its south east counties organiser.