Portsmouth City Council leader vows to clean up politics and restore trust

Councillor Donna Jones
Councillor Donna Jones
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TORY Donna Jones has vowed to stamp out ‘petty politics’ in Portsmouth if she remains leader of the city council.

The Conservatives are on course to remain in charge of the authority after picking up five extra ward seats at the local election.

As leader of the council, my aspiration will be to end political mudslinging, bring in a more professional feel and outlook, and stop the petty politics, which puts people off engaging with public democracy.

Tory councillor Donna Jones

The Tories now hold 17 seats out of a possible 42 on the authority, more than any other political group in the city.

But that still does not give them a majority – as the Lib Dems, Labour and Ukip have more councillors between them combined – meaning they will need support to rule or form a coalition.

A decision will be made over the leadership of the council after the annual mayor-making ceremony on May 19.

Cllr Jones says she will hold talks with group leaders to discuss the situation – but remains confident she will stay in and wants to clean up bad behaviour.

The Lib Dems meanwhile say it is ‘highly unlikely’ they will partner up with Labour and Ukip to take over, and the Tories will remain in charge.

Cllr Jones told The News: ‘As leader of the council, my aspiration will be to end political mudslinging, bring in a more professional feel and outlook, and stop the petty politics, which puts people off engaging with public democracy.

‘I will be speaking to other parties about the image they are portraying of Portsmouth when they put forward highly political motions at meetings.’

She said a revamped council training programme has been worked up, with members now needing compulsory training to get places on committees.

But Cllr Jones still took a pop at former Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock, saying the city is better off without him.

Cllr Jones said: ‘The public have spoken loud and clear.

‘Mike Hancock lost his seat on the council last year, has now lost his seat as an MP and his wife Jacqui failed to win her seat back on the council.

‘The Hancock dynasty has gone in a campervan to Europe – that’s probably the right place for it.’

Cllr John Ferrett, Portsmouth Labour group leader, warned there are ‘huge political differences’ to come given the Tory government’s plans to impose more cuts.

And he ruled out his group having any ‘working relationship’ with Ukip.

‘We need to have a constructive approach,’ Cllr Ferrett said. ‘But we have got quite a vigorous political culture in Portsmouth, as we have four political parties that have some representation.

‘There are going to be huge political differences over the next year given the scale of the cuts we are facing and the cuts that will be imposed by the new Tory government.’

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who has been re-elected leader of the Lib Dems following the elections, said lessons need to learned following his party’s poor showing at the polls.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson, who stood for the Lib Dems in Portsmouth South, said he wants to do his utmost to hold the city’s two newly-elected Tory MPs to account.

But he admitted his party is ‘tired’ after running an ‘energetic’ campaign.

‘The council has been run for the last year by the Conservatives with support from Labour and Ukip,’ he said.

‘The Conservatives gained seats so I am not sure if that is going to change. We continue to oppose the Conservatives because that is our job.’

But Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘We will need to go away and look and think about what to do, but that will take some time.

‘We need to take away the lessons from this.

‘We are tired. It’s been a long and energetic campaign, but the general feeling is in the council elections we did better than last
year.

‘Last year we hit rock bottom, and now we are getting going again.’

The Conservatives are on a roll after securing a majority of seats in government and Tory MPs increased their majorities at the polls across the Portsmouth region.

At the Havant local elections, the party held on to all their seats – seeing off the threat of Ukip.

Cllr Colin Galloway, Ukip city group leader, said they need to think about what position to take.

‘For us, it essentially business as usual,’ he said.

‘But we will look more closely at what the Conservative administration will offer, but I wouldn’t necessarily say we would support them in everything it does.’

Meanwhile, the Lib Dem Portsmouth North candidate in the general election believes the Tories nationally will be prisoners to ‘the right wing of their party’.

Cllr Darren Sanders said: ‘The Tories will face real problems from the right wing who will constantly want to bang on about Europe instead of our public services.

‘We are very concerned the Tories will deviate from the path, going back to the bad old days of the 80s and 90s, while the people in this city want more jobs and power to control the things that matter to them.’

Cllr Sanders won 2,828 votes, well behind winning candidate Penny Mordaunt, who landed 21,343 votes.

Cllr Sanders added the loss of once-safe Lib Dem seats across the country was disappointing, but defended his party’s decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives.