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Portsmouth City Council Lib Dems under fire for letting Mike Hancock keep his place on cabinet

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SCANDAL-HIT Mike Hancock is to keep his job on the city council’s cabinet after local Liberal Democrats agreed he should carry on.

All bar two of the ruling party’s councillors held a three-and-a-half-hour meeting at the civic offices and decided he should stay, despite now being an independent.

As reported, Cllr Hancock, who is also MP for Portsmouth South, was suspended from the Lib Dems after party headquarters obtained a copy of a report by QC Nigel Pascoe into his conduct.

He faces civil court action over allegations from a female constituent who says he made ‘unwelcome sexual approaches.’ He denies the allegation.

Deputy leader of the council, Cllr Hugh Mason, said Cllr Hancock was ‘best placed’ to keep the planning, regeneration and economic redevelopment job.

He said: ‘The city is in a state of regeneration, a state of flux.

‘Cllr Hancock has many years of doing this, heading up regeneration. Unless things were to change rapidly, we consider he is the best placed person.

‘He claims, he tells us, he has the capacity to do it, and all the evidence which we have seen is that he has the capacity to do it.’

He said the discussion, which Cllr Hancock attended, was not based on Mr Pascoe’s report into his conduct.

Cllr Rob Wood, chair of the Lib Dem group, said there was a frank discussion.

He added the group made up its own mind, despite its national leader Nick Clegg saying he was ‘appalled’ by the allegations.

‘We made up our own mind here locally,’ said Cllr Wood.

‘I didn’t hear what Mr Clegg had to say, and I don’t think many of the other members of our party heard.’

Conservative opposition group leader Cllr Donna Jones was critical of the decision.

She said: ‘I am astounded that the local Lib Dem party has shown complete disdain for the people of Portsmouth by leaving Mike Hancock in his privileged position.

‘The very serious accusations against him of sexual assault and indecent exposure call into question the integrity of the entire cabinet but in particular the leader of the council.’

Cllr John Ferrett, leader of the Labour group, said: ‘No-one is prepared to show leadership and take the decision that is necessary, and that is to distance Mike Hancock from the running of this city.

‘The city’s reputation is just being ripped apart.’

Cllr Mason told The News both city council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson and Cllr Hancock had prior engagements and could not speak to press after the meeting.

Neither were available for comment last night.

But Lib Dems contacted by The News said the group had come to its decision.

Cllr Margaret Adair said: ‘We came to a group decision, so all was well.’

 

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